ZZR 1200 – A bike so powerful I can’t even think you a witty way to relate how powerful it is.
In riding this bike I gave in to peer pressure, a number of friends (thought very few of my family), vague acquaintances and even total strangers were suggesting I hop on this bike and take it for a spin. Peer pressure is a great way to get into trouble - I highly recommend it in well-timed doses.
Until this recent wave of word of mouth media this bike was not even on my “radar”. Kawasaki has successfully made this the least publicized sport-tourer/super-tourer I had never heard of; maybe I missed that months bike mags while on the road or something.
On paper the bike makes a mixed impression. My riding takes me over mountain passes in questionable weather at times so carburetion had me concerned as well as requiring a bit more tune up time to synch carbs. Plus in mankind’s race to digitally re-master the world it seemed a bit old school in comparison to fuel injection. And on top of that everything else on the spec sheet seemed borrowed from other Kawasaki bikes… namely the ZX-9 and ZX-12. So it had the feel of a parts bin bike.
Parts binner it is not, think of the ZZR-1200 more as a ZX-12 all dressed up and ready to go out for a night on the town. The styling is, distinct with smoothed lines and headlights that many have commented resemble a certain well-trademarked cartoon mouse, a Mercedes C-type, or a Power Puff girl all grown up. But strange as it is I think the looks could grow on me – I tend to like bikes that stand out in a crowd.
And it stands out in 160 ways at the crank and 130’ish at the back wheel. Those ways are of course horses and that puts the ZZR right up there with the likes of the Blackbird and Hyabusa for output, but it does so in a much more comfortable and relaxed fitting wrapper.
Once on the road the true nature of this bike was revealed. Test riding this was sort of like going to diner with a charming, relaxed well dressed stranger and then realizing that the person is actually an assassin with a mission and you may be on the receiving end. It may all be bright conversation now, but in an hour you’ll probably be dead.
This bike has a comfortable chasis, good suspension that makes for a solid ride and a front end that soaks up the road but still gives you a good feel, and 130 horses in the rear that are read to go at a moment notice with a pull that comes in strong from the merest twist. The transmission needs a bit of work, shifting into first occasionally ground just a little – this might have been a lack of breaking on the part of the test bike that had only 145km’s on it.
The ZZR like the Blackbird falls into the license killer category for me. The vast, huge, massive helpings of power are smooth but come on strong, kudos to anyone who uses the full range of this throttle. I have been riding a K bike for some time and am used to liberally applying throttle when coming out of the corners. With this engine a gentle dab will do you lest you unsettle the rear tire, in a straight line however feel free to revel in the bass of the engine note and the occasional sonic boom.
So given the power to the rear wheel you may conclude I scared myself on the ZZR. The answer is yes. For the entire duration of my test ride I left nothing but a trail of pee. This bike is fast, and it handles well; though the handling would have been helped if my ankle was fully healed on the right hand side so I could properly weight shift or hang off (this is a sport tourer where you can do this without looking like a poser).
Sportbike style front break only stopping is a little soft and I found myself needing to use the back more than usual to haul the bike down from speed in panic stops. There was however no fear of stoppie-ing (no hope of the spell check catching that one) with the bikes longish wheelbase (
So Kawasaki certainly got the sport part right, twisties, cloverleaves and any other asphalt beware the ZZR is out there and chewing you up. So what about the touring aspect?
Well the ergos are good, the bars positioning left my wrists were ache free after about an hour out. Vibration was minimal thru the bars and the suspension compliant to the road without being soft. The seat was comfortable, but then this was not a month long tour so I can’t really say if that would maintain. And of course there is hard luggage available, colour matched Givi or Givi alike. Unfortunately the wind noise was overwhelming, the aero dynamics of the are such that my head and chest were completely exposed and no amount of laying on the tank or shifting about could rectify it.* I found it too uncomfortable for any duration with the stock screen and would probably have to seek and aftermarket solution (and/or a different helmet).
This bike is closer to being my choice than the Blackbird simply because I found the ergos better suited to my frame, and both would require aftermarket screens for my use. The price point is also alluring, this being an unsung sport tourer in Canada ensures that bargains are to be found or created in the purchase dealing. Unfortunately the power for me is actually too much (gasp - there I put it in print), this bike I would need to build up to, especially after my recent accident. But once I’m there I most certainly would consider another date with the assassin, I mean I survived the first one – that’s a good indication right? Maybe it likes me?
* For these rides I take what I have dubbed “the Worlds Loudest Helmet”, the Schuberth Concept. This ensures an exceptionally subjective and possibly hearing damaging assessment of a bike’s wind and engine noise.