KAWASAKI Motors Malaysia recently invited the press to sample their recently launched models - the Z650 ABS and ZX650 Ninja ABS.
The ride took place in the environs of rural Selangor, in Sepang, and Morib, on a good mix of highways, B-roads and trunk roads for the intrepid rider. These roads are riddled with ripples, bumps, potholes and dips, quite enough to put the Zed (Z) and Ninja to the test.
We assembled at the Nilai Springs Golf Resort, and were introduced to the two models in great detail by the Kawasaki crew.
But the proof is in the pudding, so they say, and we were finally saddled up and ready to ride, marshalled by the traffic police and assisted by the Kawasaki marshals.
I was assigned the Ninja and would switch to the Z half way along the route.
The Ninja is the sportier of the two, obviously. Dressed to the nines in a full fairing styled after big brother ZX10R, the Ninja certainly looks the part. Its riding position is quite unlike the ZX10R’s though, with raised handlebars and low footrests.
However, it still allows for a sporty riding position and is definitely friendlier to a beginner sportsbike rider.
Since the Ninja and Z are based on the outgoing ER-6, it was interesting to note that the characteristics are similar but in a different manner.
The Ninja (and the Z) make more power in the first half of the rev band and tail off earlier than the ER6.
Interestingly, the ER6 makes more outright power, but while riding, the new engine feels livelier and accelerates harder, which gives the impression of being more powerful than the ER6.
Since the top speeds are quite similar, this is a good thing, because the Ninja and Z will get to top speed earlier than the ER6 in most situations.
The Ninja behaved well during the test, even big dips and humpback bridges failed to frazzle the steady Ninja.
The lighter weight of the new model is noticeable where acceleration and handling is concerned. The handling remained stable even when pushed hard or encountering hazards while cornering. It will take a longer test to truly test the capabilities of the Ninja.
Switching to the Z, it was apparent that is a much smaller machine. The ergonomics are more cramped for a 5’ 8’, 65 kg rider (moi) than the Ninja.
In fact, I double-checked to see if they hadn’t switched a Z250 by mistake. It feels that small. And the diminutive size means it is more accessible to smaller framed riders (read: women).
But make no mistake, the little Z has the same engine as the Ninja, and that means it is just as powerful.
However, the higher handlebars make the Z a bit quick in responses. It will change direction in an instant and that requires a little more familiarisation (especially after riding the Ninja).
However, I soon got used to the Z’s flighty nature and found that in a high-speed situation (ahem!) it is a stable companion.
Both bikes come with ABS and the Bosch units are as sophisticated as the Ninja and Z needs.
It was extremely difficult to enable the ABS to intervene on the front brakes (good) and a bit easier on the rear brakes (normal).
Both the Ninja and Z are able successor to the ER6’s legacy.
And both appeal to a wide, wide range of rider preference and ability. This bodes well for their success in the marketplace.