A few years ago, many of us wondered when some of the trick-looking naked bikes sold in Europe might make their way to the U.S. market. I suppose we could say that Suzuki’s Bandit 1200 really got the U.S. motorcycle consumer salivating for nakeds in the late 1990s. Patience has rewarded us with a number of models to choose from these days, including Kawasaki’s Z750S.
Although Kawasaki calls the 2005 Z750S new, a version of this machine has been available in Europe, but it is new to the U.S. market this year. The 2005 model features some changes over last year’s Euro model, particularly, with regard to wind protection.
The Z750S creates a niche between the 600/650 category of nakeds populated by Suzuki’s SV, Honda’s 599 and others, on the one hand, and the open-class nakeds such as Honda’s 919 and Yamaha’s FZ1 on the other. Based to some extent on it’s bigger brother the Z1000, the Z750S hopes to find that sweet spot where some of the engine performance of the larger machines is combined with a price comparable to some of the smaller machines.
Naked bikes typically feature budget equipment, such as carburetors and non-adjustable suspension. To its credit, the Z750S has a modern fuel-injection system with 34mm throttle bodies combined with a high-speed digital ignition – both controlled by a modern ECU.
The 748cc inline four-cylinder engine is based on the larger Z1000 unit and could be considered overbuilt for that reason. This is a good thing from a reliability standpoint. For example, the Z750S features the radiator of the Z1000, which should keep the operating temperatures of the smaller motor under good control. Likewise, some of the engine internals were built to deal with the larger 953cc motor in the Z1000, and will therefore be more than strong enough to handle the power pulses from 748cc. So if you are looking for a naked bike that will stand plenty of abuse, from an engine standpoint, the Z750S should do just that.
Tracing its lineage back through the Z1000 to Kawasaki’s ZX-9R sport bike, the Z750S also features a six-speed transmission. Given the displacement advantage the Z750S has over some of the competition, this motor has plenty of torque and midrange. With six gears, you will not have trouble finding one appropriate for the circumstances you face.
To keep unsprung weight down, the Z750S features new six-spoke wheels that, according to Kawasaki, are very light. They certainly look up scale for this category of bike – more like the wheels you would find on a modern sport bike.
The 41mm forks are non-adjustable, but the shock features both 7-way spring preload adjustability and 4-way rebound damping adjustability.
The Z750S also features pretty good brakes for this class of bike, including dual 300mm front discs squeezed by four-piston calipers and a 200mm single disc rear brake.
As we discovered, the impressive mini-fairing not only looks good, but provides a surprising amount of wind protection and minimal wind buffeting.
Kawasaki invited us to ride the Z750S roughly 200 miles through Southern California with a group of other journalists. We sampled freeway cruising and canyon carving, as well as everything in between.
One of the first things we noticed about the Z750S was the powerful engine response. The fuel injection is well sorted out, and this bike pulls well from the lower midrange until it flattens out just before redline at 11,500 rpm. The Z750S definitely has a broader spread of useable power than the smaller-displacement nakeds. Enough power to easily haul around a passenger, for instance, without constantly shifting to stay in the meat of a narrow powerband.
These engine characteristics also make the Z750S fun around town where a squirt of throttle in the midrange allows you to blast between and around the cages. The upright seating position is ideal for seeing, and being seen, in city traffic, as well.
After a day of riding, one of the most impressive aspects of the Z750S is its comfort. Most nakeds have a relatively upright, comfortable seating position, and the Z750S is no different. We also liked the firmness of the seat, and the fact that it gives you some room to move around. Most significant, however, is the wind protection provided by the mini faring.
That fairing has been re-designed for 2005, and includes an air duct near the base of the wind screen. This is designed to reduce wind buffeting at helmet level, and it works quite well.
We don’t want to make too big a deal about wind protection, but in living with a bike like the Z750S on a daily basis, it is a big deal. The Z750S combines the good looks of a naked bike with the practicality of comfortable, high speed cruising ability.
As we suspected, the broad spread of power made gear selection something we rarely had to think about, with six speeds almost overkill. Sixth gear does provide a comfortable, low rpm cruising experience on the freeway, however.
The brakes worked very well. Good power and good feel. Some of the bikes in this category have brakes with a wooden feeling, and, although the Z750S does not have the outright braking power of modern sport bikes, the brakes are very, very good for this category of machine.
Instrumentation is thorough and includes not only the usual speedometer and tach, but a clock, dual trip meters and a fuel gauge.
The relatively low seat height makes the bike friendly for novice riders, as well as shorter, experienced riders. The bike combines good straight line stability with reasonable competence in the twisties. It will not change directions like a modern 600 sport bike, of course, and we wanted to play with a little more ride height in the rear to quicken steering (by adding preload), but the chassis is clearly more than competent for general use, and a little bit of fun in the twisties.
The suspension is on the soft side, particularly for heavy, faster riders. It does add to the comfort quotient, however, and is in keeping with the goals Kawasaki set for this machine. We did slow the rebound in the shock by one click (a nice feature to have), which made the rear of the bike feel a bit more planted.
At higher rpm levels there is some vibration and blurring of the mirrors. This wasn’t so much of a comfort issue as it was an issue with visibility out of the rear view mirrors. Nevertheless, sixth gear is tall enough that freeway cruising at sane speeds will allow the bike to lope along with little or no vibration.
All-in-all, Kawasaki has done a great job with the Z750S. Keeping in mind what people are looking for when they buy a bike in this category, Kawasaki nailed it with the ergonomics and comfort offered by this machine. Together with the broad, smooth power delivery, the Z750S is a very easy bike to live with that offers more than adequate performance. Wind protection alone will drive some customers frustrated with the wind buffeting associated with other nakeds onto a Z750S. The modern, fuel injected 748cc power plant also offers an excellent platform for upgrades down the road for those who want more performance.
At an U.S. MSRP of just $7,099, Kawasaki finds itself in the same price range as the smaller displacement nakeds (a few hundred dollars more than Suzuki’s SV650S and Yamaha’s FZ6, and the exact same price as Honda’s 599). This is definitely a bike deserving of a close look when shopping in this category. For additional details and specifications, visit Kawasaki’s web site here.