Kawasaki Z750S

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

Many of you who have been riding for a while may remember the UJM days. Universal Japanese Motorcycle, a term often used derisively back in the 70s and early 80s to describe those 'standard' machines that arrived on U.S. shores in droves. Though lacking the mystique of Harley-Davidson or Triumph, they were inexpensive, reliable, user friendly, and most of all, fun. These bikes were literally motojuana, a gateway to a larger addiction. If you took one or two puffs of a KZ400, you probably fell into a lifelong battle with wind dependency. My name is Chris, and I'm a motoholic.

While those salad days are almost gone, they have not been forgotten at Kawasaki. The Japanese standard is back and Team Green has given it a striking coat of blue, along with a host of modern-day tweaks to create a bike sure to appeal to beginners and grizzled veterans alike. Start hoarding your sick days; you'll be using them once the Z750S winds up in your garage.

Engine and Transmission
When compared to some of today's freakishly large displacement numbers, 750cc doesn't sound like much. But think back a mere 20 years and that number had you darn near the top of the food chain. The point is, an inline four is no slouch and the Z's numeric surname does a fantastic job of propelling the blue beauty down any stretch of tarmac.

A double overhead cam, 16-valve mill is mated with a four-into-one exhaust system that allows the 750S a healthy midrange punch without upsetting the neighbors or waking the wife on those quiet weekend mornings. The go-juice is delivered via an electronic fuel injection system armed with 34mm throttle bodies. An electronic engine management system ensures that throttle response is spot-on and delivers the requisite grin when the floodgates are opened.

Like the 750s of yore, the Z (or is it the rider?), just begs to see screaming revs in every gear. Whichever it is, this machine is designed to serve man's every whim in this category. The six-speed tranny works quite well, but shifting occasionally requires a heavier boot. The cogs seem to hit the wall long before the engine does. In other words, higher revs bring about more vibes. Don't ask how I found that out (LA freeways), I'm not at liberty to divulge certain industry secrets. Oh, and finding neutral can be a hassle. Picky, picky, could I get some cheese with that whine? On the whole, however, the drive train is an absolute delight and never fails to entertain.

Chassis and Suspension
Now comes the acid test. All this talk about the Z750S being reminiscent of days gone by should be brought into perspective with just a few curves. All of you old-timers will remember the first time you threw a big ol' 70's-era 750 hard into a corner. You know what I'm talking about, that unforgettable feeling of terror/exhilaration as you realized the power of the motor had far exceeded frame technology. The only thing you could do was to fight to keep your lean and hope those flex-induced gyrations were in your head. They probably weren't. Thankfully, frames and the materials used to produce them have come a long way since then, and Kawasaki has long been at the forefront of those developments. The diamond frame used here is constructed of large diameter, thin wall tubing of the high tensile steel variety. It's not only rigid enough to exorcise those evil corner shimmies; it's lightweight to boot. Riding the Z hard through even the tightest canyon roads resulted in numerous choruses of 'That was cool' as opposed to 'That was close.'

So, at this point, you may be wondering how the suspension holds up. Well, a quality set of legs graces this new generation standard. Performance tuned 41mm forks up front complement the cast-aluminum swing arm with UNI-TRAK® linkage and single shock in the rear. The forks are not adjustable, but the shock gives you four-way damping and seven-way preload options to play with. The dual four-piston calipers up front squeeze on 300mm rotors and do an admirable job of saying 'Whoa' to the Z. They feel a bit mushy initially, but that feeling goes away as you get used to them. Honestly, if you're pushing the Z750S beyond its equipment's means, you probably should step up to the next level of bike.

Accessories and Arrangements
There's one thing about the Z that really sets it apart from its forebears, and that's the cool fairing. Despite its small size, the fairing does a remarkably good job of breaking up the wind before it gets to you. The upright seating position and the nice handlebars work in conjunction with the fairing to offer a pleasant ride even on those longer freeway jaunts. On top of that, it really adds to the bike's sporty, angular look. The red backlit instrument cluster (lifted from the ZX10R) is easy to see in light and dark, and the nifty taillight/turn signal combo 'shared' with the ZX6RR also adds to the Z's aggressive stance. Hmmm, sounds like somebody raided the parts bin. Who cares - if it works?

From the touring aspect, the Z750S holds its own quite well. The seat is the one weakness that should really be addressed. It's not so bad once you get used to it, but the forward angle tends to have you sliding into the steel gas tank. There's an ouch-factor there if you're not careful. The handy passenger grab bars are a welcome addition for a potential passenger and/or to aid in cinching down any gear you may have. Oh, and the steel tank? Always a winner when the magnetic tank bag or map holder comes out.

All-Purpose Accolades

This really is an impressive effort from the folks at Kawasaki. No matter what duty you demand of your ride, the Z750S has you covered. Commuting? The Z's agility and light weight make even the nastiest traffic entertaining. Touring? No sweat, there's room for two and plenty of space for saddle bags and a tank bag. Can you say sport touring? Sport riding? The Z's zippy power and quick handling practically beg you to throw that shoulder down and hit the twisties. If it becomes your first bike, an additional bike, or that step back into riding after a long absence, the Z750S will do you right. Despite my complaints about the seat, I'm sure I could find a solution, considering the smile-inducing entry price. This is a UJM for all seasons and any reason to ride. And once there's a Z in your garage, finding those reasons will be the least of your worries.

RIDER PROFILES

Name: Daniel Neuhauser
Age: 33
Years Riding: 15
Height: 6' 2'
Weight: 198 lbs

I really liked the upright seating on the Z750S; it's good for any type of riding. The inline four-cylinder engine is surprisingly strong and works well with the tires and brakes. The design of the integrated half fairing and the racy taillight fit remarkably well with the cool blue color. Higher speed vibrations are my only real beef with the Kawasaki. Clean those up, and you've got a winner.

Name: Chris Myers
Age: 39
Years riding: 27
Height: 5' 10'
Weight: 175 lbs

There's very little not to like about the Z750S. Its design is such that most any type of riding is possible. The strong engine, capable brakes, and neutral chassis all lend themselves to a bike able to handle the commute, a tour, track day, or a leisurely two-up romp through the country. Other than some mildly annoying high-speed vibrations, I can't find anything not to like.

Name: Christian Neuhauser
Age: 45
Years Riding: 27
Height: 5' 10'
Weight: 169 lbs

The Z750S is a very strong effort from Kawasaki. This do-it-all standard is the perfect bike for almost any two-wheeled jaunt you desire to take. The midrange power and the handling give the bike a sporty attitude, while the seating position and the overall comfort are just fine for touring. Despite occasional difficulty finding neutral and slightly mushy brakes, the Z750S is almost perfectly well-rounded.

Name: Paul Cook
Age: 46
Years Riding: 27
Height: 5' 8'
Weight: 185 lbs

I like the 'retro' feel of this bike. The styling brings back the spirit of the 70s and 80s and combines it with the technology of today. The ride and suspension are topnotch and the look of the engine and the paint scheme work well together. I only have two gripes about the Z750S. The seat can become less than comfortable on longer rides and the rearview mirrors are useless at freeway speeds.

TECHNICAL SPECS:
Kawasaki Z750S

Distributor Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.
www.kawasaki.com
Engine Four-stroke inline fourDOHC, 16-valve
Displacement 748cc
Bore x Stroke 68.4 x 50.9mm
Carburetion fuel injection
Power n/a
Cooling liquid
Ignition digital
Transmission six-speed
Frame diamond, high tensile steel
Front Suspension 41mm cartridge fork4.7in travel
Rear Suspension UNI-TRAK linkagerebound and spring preload adjustable5.0in travel
Rake/Trail 24º / 4.1in (104mm)
Brakes front/rear twin four piston calipers, 300mm discssingle caliper, 220mm disc
Tires front/rear 120/70ZR x 17 / 180/55ZR x17
Dry Weight 430lb (195kg)
Wheelbase 56.1in (1425mm)
Seat height 32.1in (815mm)
Fuel Capacity 4.8gal (18l)
Fuel Consumption n/a
Colors candy plasma blue
MSRP $ 7,099