First Ride Review
It’s a naked baby Z, it’s a real motorcycle and it costs $2,999. Is it for you?
The bottom line is, there are things that the Z125 Pro does do, and things that it doesn’t do. In discussing what it does do first, the 2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro is multifaceted, utilitarian and, best of all, emotionally fulfilling. It’s simply a totally effective happy-making device: it’s lightweight, easy to ride, easy to master and easy to be cool on. Plus, there’s room for two.
The media had the chance to ride the Z125 Pro in San Francisco, which just might be the perfect town for this bike. With 125cc in a single-cylinder package, a 4-speed transmission, fuel injection, electronic TCBI ignition, inverted fork (hell yeah), preload-adjustable single shock, and a disc brake front and rear on 12-inch wheels, the Z125 Pro gets the job done in an urban environment. With a single rider on board it climbs steep hills without issue, crosses cable-car tracks with aplomb and stops on the smallest amount of change. Never once during our day in San Francisco was this not enough of a motorbike.
Because the Z125 Pro is so short, it wheelies effortlessly on aggressive launches, and its single-piston front disc has no problem managing a stoppie, if the rider so desires. So yeah, if you want to do more of that type of stuff—stand-up wheelies, rolling stoppies—the Z125 Pro can deliver.
Most importantly for the rest of us, however, is the Z125 Pro’s practicality. It handles predictably and exhibits no twitchiness in either shopping-cart-slow corners or fast sweepers. It has a claimed 224.8 lb. wet weight and 26 degrees of rake that provide stability without need of a steering damper, and the approximately 4 inches of suspension travel on each end give the bike a smoother and better-controlled ride than some motorcycles that are seven times the Z125 Pro’s price. And it’s far, far easier to park, push or hide behind some bushes.
On top of delivering miles of easy fun, the Z125 Pro also delivers the mail. This naked baby Z is powered by a brand new engine with an amazing 9,500-rpm redline, producing a claimed 135-point-whatever miles per gallon. That kind of mileage will get a rider to work for two weeks, through the woods to Grandma’s house, up to Castle Black and once around Mount Doom in Mordor, before needing to fill up the 2-gallon tank for just a fiver, at today’s prices.
Despite the Z125 Pro’s tall rev range, the power curve is flat from top to bottom, producing a predictably smooth feel in every gear. It is designed to carry two-up so it has a long seat and passenger pegs, and don’t forget to pop the shock preload up a few clicks. A very snazzy dashboard features an analog tachometer, digital gear indicator and speedometer, fuel gauge, and the usual indicator lights, but after riding the bike for a while it became clear that there’s really no reason to look at the dash, except for maybe once every couple of weeks to verify that you still don’t need fuel. You learn the engine’s sound for shift points, the odds of speeding are nearly nil and just hit the blinker cancel button a couple times if you’re OCD.
What the Z125 won’t do is get you out of San Francisco, or pretty much any city for that matter. It’s an urban motorcycle and it eats traffic in urban settings, but it’s not recommended to take this bike on open highways with speeds of 55 mph or higher. Although the Z125 launches fast and flies up to 45 mph faster than most coffee-sipping, cell phone-gabbing car drivers do, any speed higher than that is a feat of effort. There’s no reason to list the Z125 Pro’s top speed because it’s not a matter of terminal velocity, it’s a matter of how much spare time you have to get there. That said, do not think it’s enough to flunk this bike; as per above, in urban traffic it runs with or ahead of traffic with ease, while also being ultra nimble, light and friendly good fun. In the nest of urban confinement, the Z125 Pro can be instant escape.
Speaking of fun, Kawasaki has already lined up an array of aftermarket providers for the Z125, such as Two Brother Racing and Takegawa. Two Brothers has a full exhaust system (it sounds great but they didn’t let us ride a Z125 Pro fitted with it), adjustable footpegs, fender elimination kit, engine dress-up kit, air filter, rear sprocket, chain, high-rise handlebars and a fuel controller. Takegawa offers adjustable footpegs, fender elimination kit, braided steel front brake line, floating front rotor, fork preload adjusters, windscreen, anodized chin-fairing washer kit, clutch-cable adjuster, ignition cover plugs and a helmet lock.
The Kawasaki Z125 Pro is available in Kawasaki Candy Lime Green or Metallic Graphite Grey, for $2,999. Wherever the city scene is tonight, the Z125 Pro is a cool way to get there.