Review Kawasaki Zephyr 550

Review Kawasaki Zephyr 550

aviation

In the language of the poets, the Zephyr is a mild west wind. The Zephyr 550, on the other hand, blows from the Far East and, despite all the modest cubic capacity, wants to be more than a mild breeze.

Seven years ago, a wave of small, four-cylinder, undisguised motorcycles with 50 to 60 hp splashed onto the German market – and largely fizzled out.

In retrospect, it is hardly surprising that the Kawasaki Zephyr 550, of all things, the technically simplest and nominally weakest machine was able to outlive its former comrades-in-arms – the Honda CB-1 and the Suzuki Bandit 400. The Kawasaki was able to highlight advantages that are still popular in naked bike circles to this day: a compact, stocky build with no toy-like cuteness factor, elaborate structural details in the viewer’s field of vision, plus a performance package that is more about displacement than speed is laced.
The Zephyr engine, strictly speaking, makes a virtue out of the distress of its old age. With air cooling, two-valve technology and a comparatively conservative bore / stroke ratio, the unit from the blissful GPZ times cannot help but seek its salvation on this side of five-digit speeds. And to find: On the one hand, the test machine with 54 hp was much better in the feed than the factory specifications allow it, on the other hand, the wide, flat curve of the torque curve signals that the Zephyr is more for adornment than a six-speed gearbox out of necessity.
Signaled? It is more of a suggestion, because with a long final gear ratio that stamps sixth gear to overdrive, the Zephyr keeps braking itself in the way. In any case, when it came to the maximum speed measurements, which were carried out in an aerodynamically unfavorable, but all the warmer outfit due to the weather, the 550 remained below its potential and starved to death at 168 km / h – far this side of its rated speed. Under more favorable conditions – riders in tight leather and big ears – the machine is good for more than 170 km / h, as previous tests have shown. Even when pulling through in high gear, the mistranslation clings to you like a braking parachute: 16.4 seconds for the intermediate sprint from 60 to 120 km / h is not a glorious note – an ER-5 needs three seconds less for this exercise.
Nothing stands in the way of the hope of lolling through the country with a calm left foot: The four-cylinder hangs cleanly on the gas from idle speed, does not shake or shake, revs up well and without hesitation – even if not with particular penetrating power. Those who like it hotter and prefer to dance on the gear stick will not be disappointed either: the transmission shifts accurately, the drive train has no load change reactions, and the rubber-mounted engine retains its vibrations even when driving at high speeds. The end of the high speed song are pleasant dynamic experiences without side effects.
And without risk – which is the responsibility of the Zephyr landing gear. The basis is a classically knitted steel double loop frame, which is equipped with a high-quality aluminum swing arm with a rear axle clamped in eccentrics. “Backpack” spring struts with adjustable rebound and compression damping control the rear wheel with its restrained tires, while a simple telescopic fork with 39 stanchions guides the vehicle at the front.
A suspension package that works. With its easy but precise handling, the Zephyr is a fine curve finder – a machine that obeys gentle steering commands without resistance and without arbitrariness. Except for a slight but uncritical sensitivity to longitudinal grooves, the tracking at high speeds – whether straight ahead or in long bends – is impeccable. A powerful, easy-to-dose double disc brake acts as a confidence-building bonus, which is effectively seconded by a rear stopper that can be used with feeling. In this context, it is pleasing that the front section is unmoved and takes note of deceleration in an inclined position.
The Zephyr chassis shows light and shadow on a bad surface. Light insofar as the machine does not get out of hand, pumping excitedly, even on bad roads. Shade, because the word “suspension comfort” is written in small letters: the fork does not respond particularly well, and with less than nine centimeters of travel to work, the suspension struts are inevitably of the tight type.
A.Speaking of legs: For drivers with long legs, the Zephyr quickly becomes a dilemma due to the tightness between the seat and footrests. For them – and for the crew of the tight pillion space – the motto applies on longer journeys: over the cramp to the goal. Otherwise, there is pure joy in the command post: the very best rests on a wide, soft surface, the hands fall naturally on the handlebars, the need for the knees to lean on, the well-shaped tank flanks take into account. So the bottom line is a very agreeable climate on board the Zephyr – a motorcycle that knows where the wind is blowing from, but otherwise has nothing windy about it.

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