I’ve noticed a trend recently where manufacturers are focusing more on sensible, do-it-all motorcycles—in short, the middleweight class is making a comeback. And I’m all for it.
Middleweights are nice. They have manageable avoirdupois, more power than anyone really needs; reasonable pricing and when the insurance bill arrives, you don’t feel that your broker is pointing a flintlock pistol and yelling, “Stand and deliver.”
The Kawasaki Z750 is a reasonable, albeit scaled-down facsimile of the company’s naked Z1000 only (thankfully) without the quirky, double-decker mufflers. The styling is fresh and aggressive, but from the front, the headlight nacelle seems to have menacing eyebrows that appear to be frowning at you. The steel-grey paint and bodywork is first-rate and flawless. Looks are strictly a matter of personal taste but overall, the Z750’s appearance didn’t exactly float my boat.
The four-valve, four-cylinder mill doesn’t have a lot of flywheel effect so the revs build and drop very quickly. The fuel injection makes for instant starting and provides seamless throttle response but the lack of flywheel inertia makes it overly sensitive at low throttle openings—not to mention very difficult to maintain a steady cruising velocity. The engine has no counterbalancer and after an hour or so at freeway speeds, there’s a high-frequency buzz that quickly becomes bothersome and your hands and feet get all tingly.
The seating position is fine for short jaunts but the hard, narrow seat slopes forward, causing (ahem) certain portions of the anatomy to come in contact with the back of the fuel tank. Plus, as you slide inexorably forward, your jeans cling to the seat cover, lessening the comfort clearance even more on said parts. The handlebars have a good angle and the rise seems about perfect for a nice, upright riding style.
The mirrors are pretty much useless, giving you an awesome view of the inside of your elbows.
To see what’s directly behind requires arm gyrations worthy of the Chicken Dance. Speaking of useless, can we please junk that awful LCD sweeping bar tachometer? I have yet to hear anyone say anything positive about the device.
Power is quite usable with reasonable grunt coming fairly low down the rev range and building until it absolutely screams on top. Or should I say “barks” as the Z750 has the best exhaust note of any stock, factory muffler that I can think of. It’s deep and throaty (no pun intended) without being obnoxious. The six-speed tranny shifts beautifully and is quite enjoyable when rowing through the box. The clutch is light and progressive and the adjustable lever is a nice touch.
Around town, the quick steering, short wheelbase, low centre of gravity and eager, responsive engine make strafing through traffic a blast. Through faster twisties and some less-traveled secondary roads, the Kawasaki Z750’s radical steering geometry combined with the soft front and stiff rear end required constant corrections to hold a line, but overall it handles pretty well for an entry level sport-standard motorcycle.
The 300mm twin-piston front brakes have a firm initial bite and are fairly linear in their response. Overall stopping power is generally very good, although extracting maximum braking force requires a very firm squeeze on the adjustable lever.
The passenger accommodations are quite spartan, and my official pillion analyst wouldn’t even climb aboard, quickly sizing up the hard, thin plank and minimal seat-to-peg distance with a curt, “not a chance.”
On the highway, the headlight nacelle actually deflects more air around your torso than you’d think, although still on the minimal side. For this year, Kawasaki offers a Z750 “S” with a windscreen, half fairing and a seat that’s 10mm lower, but surprisingly, the new model wasn’t included in their press fleet. If you’ve got an extra 500 bucks and are thinking of a Z750, give it a try and get back to us.
The Kawasaki Z750 acquitted itself fairly well on a day trip through the wonderful roads of Ontario’s Prince Edward County, located a couple of hours east of Toronto. The light weight, quick handling and abundant torque made it a joy to explore some of “The County’s” lesser known backroads.
Once I hit the superslab to head home, however, the vibration, overly-responsive engine, hard seat and lack of wind protection quickly grew tiresome.
Overall, in the “new” middleweight standard class, the $8,999 Kawasaki Z750 has the strongest (although buzziest) motor, the sportiest sound and the most radical styling, although it loses major points with me for the hopeless tachometer and lack of a centre stand.
It’s a great bike for city commuting or zipping along your favourite sporting roads—as long as you don’t have a two-hour ride to get there.
by Steve Bond Canadian Biker #216