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Living with a 2004 Kawasaki Z750

September 2004

This may be controversial, but I feel the best thing to do with a bike is ride it.

Forget Sunday afternoons spent studying dyno graphs or grazing knuckles fitting anodized bolts that look like a packet of Dolly Mixtures has been shotblasted at the bike - just ride it!

That's why with a total daily commute of 3.6 miles I have somehow managed to rack up nearly 4000 miles in three months. And you know that would never have happened if I didn't love riding the Z.

In that time, it's taken me all over the South of England as well as the BMF show up in Peterborough and the Beaulieu Motorcycle World down south to work on TWO's stands at the shows - and every ride has been a blast.

Quite literally, with the total lack of any weather protection as standard. So the first mod on my shopping list was an aftermarket screen and French company Ermax came up with the goods. Fitting the screen means drilling four holes into the existing nose cone, which is a shame if you intend to return the bike to standard when it comes to selling it on.

It does make a difference to windblast at motorway speeds and above. Instead of having to hunker down on the tank with the mirrors looming above your head to get out of the full force of the wind, you've got about another 15cm of height to move around in before your head starts to get buffeted. This makes long distances much less tiring.

Not only is the screen effective, it also fills the hole where it looks like something is missing, making the bike look more purposeful and complete.

Fitting a belly pan should offer some protection from road crud to the exhaust system and underside of the engine. Fitting it was a reasonably straightforward job, as long as you make sure all the mounting brackets line up with the pan itself before tightening up. The moulding could follow the engine's contours more closely though - for instance, the cutout around the offside front engine cover is uneven, leaving more space to the rear.

It looks great on a less demanding inspection though. The Ermax unit is slightly chunkier than most and this suits the brutish looks of the Z - it makes the bike look broader and more macho.

While we were getting slap-happy with the plastics, our friends at Ermax also supplied a number plate support and seat cowl, both of which serve absolutely no purpose other than to look cool - and why not? The undertray loses that sail of a number plate assembly and the standard indicators, thanks to the replacement units that are neatly tucked up under the tail.

It sharpens up the rear end and improves the angular good looks from the rear, even if a standard number plate obscures half the indicators - not so good.

It's just a shame that the connectors for the indicators are different to the standard kit, so you'll need to splice the wires together. Also, the bulbs are a different wattage to standard, meaning you need to match front and rear yourself to avoid the indicators flashing too fast.

The seat cowl looks good - especially from the rear - but the fit isn't as close as I'd like, with a small gap remaining to one side. I've also had some problems removing it to replace the pillion seat. All of the Ermax parts are colour-matched to the original paint (although you can order them unpainted) and they've got the colour absolutely spot on.

With all that bling slapped onto the thing, it would be a shame to see it disappear overnight and since my bike is parked outside, an alarm system seemed to be in order. Metasystems were happy to fit their new M357TV2 alarm. The immobiliser kicks in after the ignition is switched off, while the movement sensor is only active when you arm it, meaning you can move your bike without waking up the neighbours. A red flashing LED is a clear visual deterrent to any would be tea leaves.

Luckily, I've had no cause to testify to the alarm's effectiveness at discouraging light-fingered Larry, but the Metasystem alarm beeps and flashes when it should do and splits eardrums if it's active when you move the bike. It's never prevented me from riding off and seems to be going about its work as innocuously as possible. There's even a nifty mode that gives you hazard warning lights.

Apart from the largely cosmetic mods, I've left the bike standard so far. And I've been happy to do this, because I reckon it's pretty damn good from the get go - certainly far better than its comparatively budget price tag suggests. The engine has plenty of pull in the mid-range and its surefooted handling has egged me on to push it harder and harder as the miles racked up.

Those miles have given me the time to understand the areas where the Z could be improved - and now the thing looks the way I want, the next step is to set about its performance.

The most obvious place to start is with an end can and I'll let you know how many bhp we free up with this simple mod next month. After that will be brakes (which would benefit from more power when braking from speed) and the slightly confused front suspension.

Oh, and a word of warning to any Z750 owners out there - don't keep any valuables under the pillion seat. I'm not going to tell you how, but it is very, very easy to gain access to this storage space without the use of a key, so best keep house keys, wallet and mobile somewhere else!

March 2005

The insurance has finally paid out on my mullered R1 and I've got all the bits I need to get it back on the road. So this is the end of my time spent with the Z which, I've got to say, I'm a bit sad about. With this in mind I thought I'd take her on a blast round some of my favourite local-ish spots.

First-off I hit the 'Pirbright GP' which, handily, is right on my doorstep. It's basically a three-mile stretch of road through MoD land which has a bit of everything: good tarmac, loads of bends and, best of all, hardly any traffic! This was the first time I'd taken the Z750 there and, even while taking it easy, there was such a huge difference in feel compared to the R1 (which, I guess, you'd expect).

The combination of less weight and extra leverage through the wide bars seemed to make it a lot more nimble, and the biggest thing I noticed was how flickable the Z is. It was so easy to pick it up out of corners and get on the power really early. The brakes really started to work with a bit of heat in them, too. The Z750's riding position gives a bias over the front wheel and this gave me loads of confidence in the front end. The only scary moments I had were entering the faster corners. The bike felt a little unstable but I'm sure that's something I could get used to. To be honest this kind of thing isn't what the bike is for, but it copes extremely well.

On one of my 'laps' I came upon a GSX-R1000 rider. Once he was three-quarters through the corner and getting the power down I would struggle to hold on, but I reeled him back approaching the next corner. At the end we stopped and chatted, and he was amazed at the Z's ability.

Adrenalin fix done, I set off for Newlands Corner. It has amazing views over Surrey and the North Downs and there are always a few like-minded bikers up there to chat to, but the best bit is definitely the ride up there.

Then I headed down the A25 to Dorking/Box Hill. There are loads of ways to get to Box Hill from here and it's fun to criss-cross through the lanes, and Box Hill itself was heaving. Great atmosphere, but with the heavy police presence you're always paranoid about breaking some law or other.

A lot of people admire the Z750's styling. They all think that the back end is aftermarket and are surprised to learn that Z's pretty standard apart from the end-can and Ermax screen.

Looking back on my time on the Z750 it has really opened my mind up to non-super sports bikes and how much fun they can be.