Kawasaki GPZ500. Late 1980s. My son-in-law had one of these for a while, so I had a few rides. (That isn't his in the photo, by the way). They were a sports-tourer style, with a twin-cylinder 500cc engine putting out a claimed 44kw. With a weight of just 170kg, it performed quite well as a sporty tourer of this era. My son-in-law certainly found it a big improvement over the 250 he had previously! It was also styled on the sporty side of touring too. And it seemed a good bike; it did everything well (went well, handled well, stopped well) without being particularly brilliant at any one thing.
I don't know why exactly, but I've never been a big fan of Kawasakis. It's not that there is anything wrong with them (in fact they have made, and do make today, some great bikes!), it's just personal preference; I prefer other brands. This was an older bike, and showing some signs of it's age, so I couldn't really get too excited about this one either. I was riding the XJ600 Seca when he had this, and the performance of the two bikes seemed fairly similar. (Although from the specs, the Kwaka should probably have been just slightly faster). As a sporty mid-size tourer from the late 1980s, it was a good bike!
Kawasaki KL250. 1980s. I don't remember a lot about these, but I did have a couple of brief rides. One review I read summed it up as, "Trail-bike alternative to buses"; and that, from what I remember, is probably a good summary. Although it shouldn't be discounted as trail-bike; the owner of the one I rode certainly showed it had capabilities off-road.
However the similar offerings from the other manufacturers (Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha) all had a bit more power (although the Honda was also a touch heavier).
Kawasaki Zephyr 550. Early 1990s. A mate had one of these for a while, and I had a couple of rides. I owned a 250 Yamaha at the time, and riding this was to experience everything that was good about "big" (actually "mid-size", of course!) bikes. It was comfortable to ride, it performed well, the 4-cylinder motor was smooth, and it also handled pretty well too. Even gear-changes seemed impressively smooth. Despite what I said about brand preference in my comments on the GPZ550, I could have happily owned one of these. The slightly retro-styling actually appealed to me, although I tend to prefer bikes with some sort of fairing.
In retrospect, 38kw pushing a bike weighing just on 180kg would produce performance that would be "adequate" rather than "quick", but I still recall riding it being a very pleasant experience. And there are a worse power-to-weight ratios around!
Interestingly, I have a "Two Wheels" road test comparing the Zephyr with the Yamaha XJ600, and the XJ comes out as the better bike - better in performance, steering, riding-position and comfort. They praised the Zephyr for it's handling, but criticised it for a lack of mid-range power. So I reckon if you're in the market for an early-mid 1990s mid-size commuter-tourer like this, the Yamaha would be the better choice. But the Zephyr was still a good bike.
Kawasaki Z900. Late 1970s. These have become a bit of an icon in the history of motorcycling, in Australia particularly. (In Australia their profile was lifted somewhat by being featured in the iconic bike movie "Stone"). To a fair extent, they were the next big thing (pun intended!) after the Honda 750. A mate of mine had one of these for a while. I don't recall much about riding it, but I do remember it seemed big, heavy and powerful. At 256kg I suppose it was reasonably big and heavy; and 59kw was probably pretty powerful for the early or mid-70s when these first came out. I seem to recall hearing criticism of frame flexing; a criticism directed at a lot of the Japanese bikes in the early days.
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