It's no suprise perhaps, but the 750 Zephyr functions pretty much as a
quick glance at a picture of it might suggest it does. Its curious blend of
1970s dogma and 1990s technology results in a competent motorcycle, which has
many squealing with delight.
Not me, though. I sort of like it, but hard as I try I seem unable to
generate much enthusiasm. It's all a bit bland and safe and I frequently find
myself reaching for my KLR600 instead. Perhaps I'm not as old as I thought I
I agree that Kawasaki's philosophy of 'getting back to basics' with the
Zephyr is a jolly good idea, but it's not a new one. just packaged differently.
MCN's letters pages bulge perenially with correspondence from people who won't
realise that 'basic' motorcycles always have existed, it's just that they don't
all look like Z650s and cost 2'9d any more.
Not that this fact will stop people buying Zephyrs. Considering the
increasing amount of people who actually choose to live in neo- Tudor/Georgian
houses (these abominations are beyond the comprehension of any right-thinking
Englishman. Shoot the bastards who build them, that's what I say. Let's here it
for Prince Charles hoorah! hoorah! Long live the King! Poop
poop!), then there's probably also a potentially untapped market for the visual
delights of the 1970s. The past is often a very nice place to have been and it's
reassuring to think that you're still there. As a collector of antiques I
certainly don't object to the past, but the business of re-creating its 'style'
is in my opinion naff and unnecessary.
In the best tradition of smug journalists vs reality however, the 550 Zephyr
was, at the end of March. Kawasaki's joint third highest-selling motorcycle
(along with the ZZ-R1100), and the 750 Zephyr to all intents and purposes has
sold out. At the moment (early June) Kawasaki have no 75()s left at their
distribution warehouse in Southampton. We've hardly mentioned the existence of
the Zephyr up to now which just goes to show no-one takes any notice of what we
If you're still wondering what to do with your £4,000 then send it to me and
I can buy a Jaguar. No, um... what am I saying? Er, as I've now done a thousand
miles on the 750 Zephyr I now feel in a position to tell you what to expect.
So, have another look at the pictures. "/ bet those pipes rust like
buggery," I hear you say. Well yes, you're right, they do. It's a pity
they're not made from stainless steel.
"Some bits like the wheels — look quite trick really." Yes, they
are. Those wheels wouldn't look out of place on a proper sports bike, and
they're a suitable size for some serious tyres (Pirelli Demons, for example
-120/70 VB17 MT79 front, 150/70 VB17 MT78 rear). The Dunlops fitted as standard
are perfectly reasonable for normal road use. and can be pushed knee-down hard
in the dry with no problems. They are, however, of the hard-wearing variety and
lack much feel. Something a bit stickier would inspire more confidence.
"Well is it comfy then? " Yes, I'd have to say it is. In fact, compared
with today's sports bikes the Zephyr's squashy seat is bloody comfortable. Wind
speed starts to get a bit much at anything over 85mph depending how
"ard you are — but if you want to stick a fairing on a bike like this then the
'basic' theory goes right out the window and you end up with something that
looks like what comes out the dog's bottom after it's eaten its dinner.
The riding position could be a bit cramped for anyone of 6ft plus but as the
seat height is only 30.7 inches anyone that tall would probably look elsewhere
anyway. I'm five foot seven and I can get both feet flat on the floor on the
"What'llshe do then mate?" About 12()mph if you want it to. Having just
got off the peaky ZXR4IK) skateboard. I found the Zephyr's low-down acceleration
awesome in a squidgy, rubbery sort of way. But next to a VFR750 the Zephyr would
feel a bit flaccid. This is all relative since you can leave behind 90% of
everything else on the road with virtually any 750cc motorcycle.
The Zephyr's 738cc motor is almost identical to the one fitted to the fine,
up and still standing GT750 for longer than I care-to remember. And as
historians already know, it goes back a lot further than that. This bodes well
for long term reliability.
"It's not got one of them tnonoshock things then." No,
it's 'twin piggy-backs' (bet you've not 'erd that said dowt' poob for a while)
all the way with the Zephyr. They're adjustable for preload via the well proven
'bugger-oop-yer-knuckles' screwdriver method, and a useful combination of
compression (rear wheel moving up) and rebound (moving down) damping adjustments
is available by twiddling the little dials at the top and bottom of the struts.
This gives a surprisingly well-controlled ride anywhere between riding solo
round town and 20 stone of hooligan(s) on bumpy roads. The swingarm is, as you
can see, a thing of beauty and has good quality, over-engineered and
long-lasting chain adjusters.
The forks are a bit soft for my liking and, it would seem, everybody else's.
Unfortunately they are non-adjustable. I hope that some time in the future we
will be able to sort this out. The slightly 'rubbery' feeling the Zephyr has
exiting a bumpy corner, or bouncing along a bouncy road, is probably due to the
traditional tube frame design, but this is hard to determine when no adjustments
can be made to the front. It's fair to point out that a traditional cradle tube
frame set-up can never be anything like as good as a modern beam frame design.
"What about all them brakes then? Looks like they'd stop a train." Again
your suspicions are correct. Anybody who needs more brakes than this on a Zephyr
should either seek medical advice or consider building a reader's special.
If you put to one side the controversial styling, you get a very usable
motorcycle with the brakes, wheels, swinging arm, chain adjusters and engine
smoothness of more expensive sports bikes, but with performance and handling
that could hardly be described as state-of-the-art. I can't help thinking of
Yamaha's old FZ750-based Phazer as offering basically the same thing, but with a
far more interesting motor. Unfortunately the styling of that bike would have
even people who wear shellsuits reaching for the Stanley knife. We English are a
bloody provincial lot you know.
Judging by what's being advertised in the American motorcycle magazines, the
generic identity of the 'factory custom bike' seems to be shifting away from the
Harley clone and more towards 1970s Japanese vintage. This is a clear indication
of the success of the Japanese motorcycle industry, as they now appear to be in
a position to re-invent themselves and get away with it.