Used Bike

Used Review: Kawasaki ZX-12R

It arrived on the scene in a blaze of green and tantalisingly promised 200mph motorcycling. It didn't quite deliver that, but it did become a well-loved machine with a loyal cult following.

Visordown Motorcycle News


Back in 2000 the ZX-12R arrived with huge claimed power-figures, aerodynamics from a jet aircraft, a 200-section rear tyre and a ram-air snout that could snaffle a pigeon whole.

It also came with the worst looking mirrors in the universe, a thirst like George Best and rumours of a 500-mile rear tyre life if you were particularly ham-fisted with the throttle.

Riding the ZX-12R was a strange sensation. Here was a bike with sporting attitude but without the requisite handling as standard. Still, for big blokes it provided a welcome alternative to the sports bikes that seemed to be shrinking in the wash year on year.

Now of course the 12R is overshadowed by the ZZR1400 and is on its way out. Kawasaki UK has announced that the last 20 bikes in the UK will be with dealers for the end of the summer. New or used, there are few machines that offer as much bang for yer buck as the ZX-12R - for so long the most powerful production bike in the World.

ENGINE
A veritable powerhouse. Initial models had jerky throttle response and were easy to stall, but from 2002-on the bike was more refined (some say neutered - it came with a heavier crank, which absorbed some power). Either way, you've got between 155-180bhp (depending on model) which provides plenty of instant urge from as little as 2000 revs, before dipping at between 5-7000 and then taking off again at 8000-9000rpm. Max power lurks around 10,000rpm. Owners report the ZX-12R runs fairly hot compared to other big-inch Jap fours. Servicing falls generally every 4000 miles.

KLEEN AIR REMOVAL
Some owners have removed the KLEEN air injection system in the notion they're going to gain a few bhp. This obviously means the bike won't pass an emissions test. Ask the owner if this or any other engine mods have been done. You want something standard, you do.

GEARING
Most are left well alone, but some owners prefer a little more pep down below at the expense of rarely-used top-end. Standard gearing is 17 teeth on the front and 46 at the rear, so a couple up on the back should be enough for road use.

STALLING
Pre-2002 machines were hard to get off the line. From 2002-on a heavier crank made it easier, and smoother, to pull away. A narrower flywheel was also used, as were oval throttle pulleys, which help in the low to midrange. The ignition was also altered to help low-down feel.

CLUTCH
No problems from the standard clutches, despite the monster power these machines kick out. Some serial modifiers swear by aftermarket kit, but only if you've got all manner of daft bits in your motor and an output approaching 200bhp.

HANDLING
Speed wobbles are quite common. Either the head bearings need an adjustment or replacing, or the front tyre wants balancing or possibly replacing.

SUSPENSION
Stiffer on '02-on models. Make sure you know what you're looking at.

BRAKES
Pretty good on all models, but better on the radial-equipped '04-on bikes.

TYRES
OE Dunlop 207s come in for a bit of stick, while Pirelli Diablo Corsas and Metzeler Sportec M1s are held in high esteem. Other faves include the Bridgestone BT-014s. Remember, the softer the tyre, the sooner the replacement.

TYRE VALVES
See recalls for the details, but remember to make sure the previous owner of the early models knows about this one and had the mods done. Kawasaki UK will have records of recall work carried out on each bike.

COMFORT
One of the 12R's plus points is that, ergonomically, it's a scaled-up sports bike. Big lads after something sporty will be right at home here, so if you can't fit on the latest sports missile give one of these a try. But it's no Blackbird, so when it comes to touring the missus might not be as happy on the back.

FINISH
Generally, pretty good on these machines, as befits what was the big K's range-topping machine. Better than the Hayabusa, too.

FUEL ECONOMY
The tank holds one to two litres less than a Blackbird or a Hayabusa and this, coupled with a thirst for gas, will see a max of 130 miles between fill-ups, but more likely you'll see as little as 100-110 miles.

AFTERMARKET PARTS
Gear indicators are oddly prevalent - perhaps cautious owners want to see what gear they're in before they get hard on the gas. Aftermarket pipes aren't so common - there's plenty of power on tap for most anyway. Huggers are the most popular add-on in our poll of owners.

RECALLS
In December 2000 the ZX-12R was recalled to replace the overflow pipe inside the fuel tank as it could crack and leak. In October 2001 another recall addressed tyre valve nuts, which could crack from corrosion or stress leading to a loss of pressure. In January 2003 it was found that oil could seep through the electrical harness connected to the stator, in turn dripping oil on the rear tyre. That was sorted too. If you're unsure whether recall work has been carried out, contact Kawasaki UK. They'll be able to tell you.

WHAT WE SAID AT THE TIME

"The only thing holding the ZX-12R back from being the bike of choice was fuel consumption, erratic fuel injection and top heavy handling. Shame, as it looks the best of the bunch." - John Cantlie, The Art of Speed, October 2001

"I can see why this bike appeals: big capacity, big bhp, decent handling. And you'll arrive at your destination without the aches and pains sometimes encountered on sportsbikes." - Niall Mackenzie, launch report, June 2004

"The Kawsaki steers quickly and accurately but demands a strong, decisive hand thanks to top-heavy weight distribution. It's the most sports bike-like machine here but demands a comitted rider." - Wozza, Three go mad in Cannes, Aug 2004

HOW MUCH MISTER?

All our second-hand prices are sourced from trade and private ads in a variety of 'real-world' publications. Read it, believe it.

Kawasaki ZX-12R (2000-2001)

Colours red, green, silver, black

Price new £9380 (2000)

Price now £3200-£4900

Comments Introduced with slippery wind-tunnel aerodynamics, large, protruding ram-air snout and 155bhp at the rear wheel. The ZX-12R's frame is a tall, up-and-over aluminium monocoque. The bike also comes with a strict running-in schedule.

Kawasaki ZX-12R (2002-2003)

Colours: red, green, silver, blue, black/gold

Price new £8995 (2002)

Price now £3700-£5500

Comments Mild updates to suspension and engine now sees a heee-uge 178bhp matched to swoopier, curvier bodywork. Huge ram-air snout now looks a good deal sleeker as well as feeding 30 per cent more air into the motor. Best news is that a heavier crank and other mods mean the bike is less likely to stall. Gearchange was also slicker and suspension stiffer with milder geometry.

Kawasaki ZX-12R (2004-on)

Colours silver, green, blue, black/gold

Price new £8995 (2004)

Price now £5500-£7999 (new in some shops - last batch in UK now)

Comments Minor updates include radial brakes and neat 'sub throttles' to further smooth-out the power delivery. Arrival of ZZR1400 means the ZX-12R is being dropped. Snap up the last ones while you can.

BACK IN 2000 the ZX-12R arrived with huge claimed power-figures, aerodynamics from a jet aircraft, a 200-section rear tyre and a ram-air snout that could snaffle a pigeon whole.

It also came with the worst looking mirrors in the universe, a thirst like George Best and rumours of a 500-mile rear tyre life if you were particularly ham-fisted with the throttle.

Riding the ZX-12R was a strange sensation. Here was a bike with sporting attitude but without the requisite handling as standard. Still, for big blokes it provided a welcome alternative to the sports bikes that seemed to be shrinking in the wash year on year.

Now of course the 12R is overshadowed by the ZZR1400 and is on its way out. Kawasaki UK has announced that the last 20 bikes in the UK will be with dealers for the end of the summer. New or used, there are few machines that offer as much bang for yer buck as the ZX-12R - for so long the most powerful production bike in the World.

ENGINE  A veritable powerhouse. Initial models had jerky throttle response and were easy to stall, but from 2002-on the bike was more refined (some say neutered - it came with a heavier crank, which absorbed some power). Either way, you've got between 155-180bhp (depending on model) which provides plenty of instant urge from as little as 2000 revs, before dipping at between 5-7000 and then taking off again at 8000-9000rpm. Max power lurks around 10,000rpm. Owners report the ZX-12R runs
fairly hot compared to other big-inch Jap fours. Servicing falls generally every 4000 miles.

KLEEN AIR REMOVAL  Some owners have removed the KLEEN air injection system in the notion they're going to gain a few bhp. This obviously means the bike won't pass an emissions test. Ask the owner if this or any other engine mods have been done. You want something standard, you do.

GEARING  Most are left well alone, but some owners prefer a little more pep down below at the expense of rarely-used top-end. Standard gearing is 17 teeth on the front and
46 at the rear, so a couple up on the back should be enough for road use.

STALLING  Pre-2002 machines were
hard to get off the line. From 2002-on a heavier crank made it easier, and smoother, to pull away. A narrower flywheel was also used, as were oval throttle pulleys, which help in the low to midrange. The ignition was also altered to help low-down feel.

CLUTCH  No problems from the standard clutches, despite the monster power these machines kick out. Some serial modifiers swear by aftermarket kit, but only if you've got all
manner of daft bits in your motor and an output approaching 200bhp.
HANDLING  Speed wobbles are quite
common. Either the head bearings need an adjustment or replacing, or the front tyre wants balancing or possibly replacing.

SUSPENSION
  Stiffer on '02-on models. Make sure you know what you're looking at.