Driving report Kawasaki ZRX 1200 S and ZR-7 S

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Driving report Kawasaki ZRX 1200 S and ZR-7 S

Driving report Kawasaki ZRX 1200 S and ZR-7 S
Partly cheerful

With the ZRX 1200 S, Kawasaki is not relying on revolutionary innovations for 2001, but on targeted model updates and expanded all-round qualities. With the new S-Class you want to attract touring customers. Also with the ZR-7 S.

Gerhard Lindner


There is hardly a comparison test in which Kawasaki’s ZRX 1100 has not shone in recent years. The classically sporty styled naked bike always delivered a clean, and in terms of chassis, even excellent performance. Nevertheless, the potent four-cylinder slowly got into trouble. The latest competition from Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha shows off performance or a low price. Now pulls Kawasaki after, the ZRX 1200 S donated more displacement and a frame-fixed half fairing. This ensures, on the one hand, an increase in power and, above all, torque, and on the other hand, better wind and weather protection and thus a significantly larger field of application for the new ZRX.
As simple as these measures sound, the project was implemented by the Japanese engineers with great effort. In order to achieve an increase in performance from the previous 106 to 122 hp, they increased the displacement by 113 to 1165 cm3. It was not enough just to work with a larger bore; the stroke of the four-in-line also grew by 1.4 millimeters. Accordingly, the ZRX 1200 S has a new engine housing, new crankshaft, cylinder, piston, connecting rod and, last but not least, a new cylinder head. In short, with the exception of the gears and the clutch, everything on the 1200 unit is new. This fundamental modification can hardly be seen on the ZRX. Only the engine cover painted in magnesium color and the new stainless steel exhaust muffler point to the new inner values.
Characteristic of the new S model is the voluminous half fairing, which bears the facial features of the super sporty ZX model series. There were also small changes on the landing gear side. Longer wheelbase, greater caster and a swing arm that is offset downwards at the pivot point and welded from newly profiled aluminum tubes should ensure more stability and better response of the rear suspension, which is still taken over by two fully adjustable spring struts, brand Kayaba.
After the first few meters on the ZRX 1200 S in Jerez, Spain, it is clear that there will be no big surprises. The new one is too similar to its predecessor. Even from idle speed, the 1200er pushes the ZRX confidently, pulls evenly and easily controllable up to 10,000 rpm, but always accompanied by fine vibrations on the chain, in order to appear a bit listless on the last 1000 revolutions before the red area. The driver notices surprisingly little of the increased power of the engine. There is something missing in the sovereignty of a Yamaha FZS 1000 Fazer, the Kawasaki cannot be rocked through the country as lazy as this Kraftmaier.
It is noticeable that the transmission would have done a little fine-tuning. It can be shifted through the five gears briefly and crisply, but sometimes only with a hard load change blow. Another drawback: The fifth is translated for a long time and is therefore not necessarily suitable as a constant speed level on narrow country roads. Torque back and forth, a more closely spaced six-speed gearbox wouldn’t hurt.
The five additional kilograms that were burdened on the S model by adding the cladding with the integrated open-area floodlights are not very annoying. On the contrary, once in motion, the new one looks more agile and manageable than its predecessor despite the extended wheelbase and wider 180 mm tires on the rear wheel. The big bike, which weighs 252 kilograms with a full tank, does not fall into the corners of its own accord, but it impresses with its pleasantly direct and precise steering behavior. A slight tendency to pendulum can only be felt in the top speed range.
The fork and shock absorber are fully adjustable and do their job quite well, provided that the rear shock mounts are on the softest level in solo mode and the rebound and compression damping wheels are turned to position three. In the standard set-up, one misses the negative suspension travel so necessary for driving comfort, which leads to unnecessary hopping of the rear end on poor ground. After the small intervention, the Kawa easily copes with such inconveniences, pleasing with a sporty, tight set-up and sensitive response behavior. It is certainly no coincidence that enough spring reserves were provided with ample payload. After all, the ZRX 1200 S is intended to increasingly win the favor of touring motorcyclists in the future.
They will hardly be bothered by the fact that at least the test copy cannot come up with the extremely snappy response of earlier Kawasaki models when it comes to brakes. At first glance, the two 310 millimeter discs in the front wheel leave you in no doubt about their performance when you grasp them with courage. The rear disc decelerates rather inconspicuously as long as it is not downshifted too early and too brutally and this triggers annoying brake stamping.
Despite all sorts of little things that should make touring more pleasant ?? Fuel gauge in the new cockpit, luggage hooks on the retaining brackets, excellent wind protection, super bright headlights or the long-term comfortable bench ??, the Japanese couldn’t have really meant it seriously. At motorway speed 180, no problem thanks to good wind protection, you have to switch to reserve after 160 kilometers at the latest. For a speed level of just over 6000 rpm, the ZRX is obviously quite thirsty. A real drawback in combination with the 19 liter tank. In view of this, the U-Kat and the secondary air system for exhaust gas cleaning appear only half as praiseworthy.
With significantly less effort than with the ZRX model series, Kawasaki has also made its smallest four-cylinder fit for the tour. The ZR-7 will also be in the shop window of Kawasaki dealers as an S model with a frame-mounted half fairing. Although known by the competition for years, it is always astonishing how much such a small fairing improves driving comfort, especially on longer journeys. Although the driver’s and passenger’s helmets are still properly shaken by the wind in an upright, comfortable sitting position, the pressure on the upper body at higher speeds is almost completely eliminated. And when it really comes down to scurrying very quickly over the autobahn, the small pane offers enough space to duck completely behind it.
With its 76 hp, the air-cooled two-valve engine is of course not intended for stormy adventures on the autobahn, but rather as a playmate on winding country roads. Here the ZR-7 S can be driven to the edge of its speed reserves. Those who are not in such a hurry can do without such speed orgies, but then have to be content with only moderately spirited acceleration due to the lack of torque.
Aside from this slight lack of torque, you’d think you’re on a significantly larger bike. Because the ZR-7 S offers even tall people a comfortable place in the long term and, due to its high weight, also conveys a decidedly grown-up, full driving experience. With a full tank of 235 kilograms, just 17 lighter than the ZRX 1200 S, it demands an active driving style when changing lean angles. Although the curves are not always as round as with the ZRX due to the somewhat softer chassis tuning, the sevens has quite decent manners for a motorcycle in the lower price range. Unfortunately also a good thirst. If the speed is right, up to ten liters of gasoline run through the four 32 mm Keihin carburettors. It’s a good thing that a full 22 liters can be taken on board so that the little Kawasaki is not only good as a short-distance sweeper.
There are similarities in the two sports tours not only in terms of drinking behavior, but also in terms of the brakes. Except that the ZR-7 S is not able to gain too much after a rather restrained grip. It takes a strong hand to only partially force the front tire to its grip limits. However, this characteristic also has its good sides and protects less experienced drivers from unintentional locking in the event of panic braking. ZR-7 S and the large 1200 models are also offered by Kawasaki as a 34 hp version. For the first stage of motorcycle life.

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