Motor Cycle Monthly and MoreBikes.co.uk editor John Milbank rediscovers the joy of two-up rides on his long-term test Kawasaki Z1000SX
Rider: John Milbank Bike: 2014 Kawasaki Z1000SX
Miles this month: 560 Miles in total: 560
Cost when new: £9699
Highlights this month: Getting back on the road with my wife as pillion
Lowlights this month: Finding the panniers a little short on space
“It’ll help you stay together and enjoy each other’s company more.” To remember to ‘cross circles’ was the sage advice my wife and I were given when we were married, ermm, about 15 years ago.
Like many bikers, I stopped riding for about three and a half years, after the birth of our daughter. I was convinced I’d never ride a bike again, but of course, the bug bit, and I found myself with a full garage once again. My own 2000 Honda CBR600 is fun on the road and track, while a Yamaha WR250F fulfils the need for the odd dirty weekend. But it’s the new Kawasaki that’s really bringing the magic back for Helen and me. The comfortable seat, fast, but oh-so-smooth power delivery, and confidence-inspiring stability make her happy to tag along when I’m out for work, and eager for trips while little Georgie is at school.
It’s not always been like this – when we met, I couldn’t get my old bike over 60mph without her screaming, and a punch in the kidneys was a regular occurrence for a long time if my speed crept up too far. Now though, a quick twist of the mirror and I can see the smile. If she catches my eye it’s a happy thumbs up, and after pulling up for a coffee on the green tourer, there follows a frantic babble of excitement: “I love it; It’s really fast; Was I a good pillion?; How fast did we go?; It’s really comfy; Sorry I bumped your head; What’s it called again?”
Helen’s not a biker. She took her CBT years ago, but never bothered to carry on. She’s a horse rider before all else, and where I can, I head out to the field to help with the feeding and muck clearing. The Z1000 is giving us another hobby that we can enjoy together. It’s always harder when you have a small child, but it makes those moments – crossing circles – all the more enjoyable.
First riding impressions
There are two power settings on the bike, and in the wet weather, the de-tuned low mode is great, delivering drive just that little bit more gently. However, with the full 140bhp on tap, it’s still a civilised, and very fun ride. Being used to a 100bhp 600cc bike, the Zed is great for leaving in third and pottering around. Get a wiggle on, and the bike surges forward, always composed. Taking it easy, I see around 45mpg, but when things get a little more spirited, I tend to see about 35mpg.
I’ve got a lad’s holiday lined up to Scotland later this year, so with my commute, and weekend scratches, the bike’s going have its work cut out to prove its ability as an all-rounder.
Accessorising the Z1000
I love hard luggage. For years, my mates used to take the mickey about my passion for top-boxes (and centre stands), but now, in their later years, they understand it.
The panniers fitted to the Z1000SX are a £461.95 option, and offer 56 litres of space. You can fit a full-face lid in each one, but the funky shape – which beautifully compliments the design of the Kawasaki – isn’t the best for convenience.
I regularly need to carry camera kit with me, but I can only just cram in my smallest bag, with the minimum of kit. Anything like a laptop computer or similar either needs jiggling in at an angle, or carrying in a rucksack. They panniers are also a tad on the wide side, making filtering a bit more of a worry than usual.
A 47 litre top box is capable of taking two lids, and has the added bonus of offering a comfy back-rest for Helen, so I hope to give that a try soon. You can’t use it with the panniers, but it might just give me the space and versatility I need.
Engine: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke four cylinder
Power: 140bhp (104kW) @ 10,000rpm
Torque: 82lb-ft (111Nm) @7300rpm
Weight: 230kg (kerb)
Seat height: 820mm
Tank size: 19 litres
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