Kawasaki ZRX 1200R – Motorbikes Reviews, News & Advice – bikepoint.com.au

15 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Kawasaki ZRX 1200R – Motorbikes Reviews, News & Advice – bikepoint.com.au
Kawasaki ZRX 1200 R
Kawasaki ZRX 1200 R

Kawasaki ZRX 1200R (February 2003)

When I was a wee lad and cutting my teeth on two wheels, Kawasaki Z1s ruled the roost. They were big, they were mean and they dominated Production racing in Oz – right from their launch on to the local scene in 1973. And I wanted one

However, it was 1976 before I had the readies to buy a hotted secondhand Zed, and then 1979 before my piggybank had swelled enough to throw my leg over a brand new one (a Z1000 MkII). Truth be known, I should have waited another couple of years.

Why? Because in 1981 American Eddie Lawson won the US Superbike Championship on a KZ1000J (known in Australia as the Z1000J), and that inspired Kawasaki to come out with a roadbike version for 1982, based on Eddie’s winning steed. Well, cosmetically at least.

The Eddie Lawson Replica roadbike was in essence an optioned-up KZ1000J, with lime-green paintwork. Only 750 ridgey-didge ’82 Lawson replica roadbikes were ever produced, and these days they fetch big bucks.

The model finally made it Down Under in 1983, but by then my piggybank was empty again.


So what’s this got to do with the latest ZRX1200R that I found myself aboard, en route to the recent Kawasaki Z1000 launch in Queensland? Probably a lot more than you suspect.

Not only is there the braced aluminium swingarm, the cutdown seat and the four-into-one pipe reminiscent of Eddie’s steed. But the 2003 ZRX-R now comes in a similar colour to a genuine ELR, albeit metallic rather than the in-you-face lime green of Kawasaki’s racebikes.

It’s a point I commented on back in AMCN’s 2001 Dumb Dumber yarn (Vol 51 No 3) when the ZRX1200S was on test – how could Kawasaki sell the R model without a lime green version in the range. Well, that’s been addressed for 2003.

When it was released a few years back the ZRX1100 (tested in Vol 48 No 21) was not just another nakedbike, as Kawasaki’s own Zephyr 1100 (1992-94) could be categorised as. The ZRX was a bike which evoked emotion and passion among those who cut their two-wheeled teeth in the early ’80s. However, the only throwback to the ’80s are the dual rear shocks, but in this case fully-adjustable KYB units.

Fully-adjustable 43mm-diam cartridge forks take care of things up front.


Everything else is current technology. The ZRX-R powerplant is based on the GPZ1100 sportstourer mill, which was in turn derived from the famed ZZ-R1100 powerplant.

Two years after its launch, the ZRX model was split into two in 2001 – the half-faired 1200S model (as tested in Vol 51 No 3) and the more ‘Lawson-esque’ bikini-clad R version. The main mechanical change since the ZRX1100 launch has been a capacity increase to 1164cc (from 1052cc).

Like the engine, the R’s chassis is very much 2003 in its spec – well, at least for a big, brawny nakedbike. A rake of 25 degrees is not far off most sportsbikes, and some two degrees quicker than the original Lawson replica of 1982.

Since its 1999 launch in 1100 guise the latest R has undergone a number of refinements, such as a stiffened aluminium swingarm, the Tokico calipers have scored new pad material that’s not as ‘grabby’, and fork offset has been reduced – trail is now 106mm as against 104mm on the 1100.

The ‘S’ version differs from the ‘R’ via its dual headlight with the half-cowl fairing, as well as new mirrors and instruments. The ‘S’ also features slightly heavier spring rates over the ‘R’ to cope with its slightly heavier kerb weight (4kg).

The 1200’s suspension damping settings are also revised over the 1100, and the wheelbase increased by 12mm to 1465mm, courtesy of a smaller rear sprocket to raise the final gearing on the gruntier 12 compared to the 11.

The ZRX1200R also gets a re-padded seat over the 11, together with a wider rear rim, up half an inch to 5.50.


As I found on my 240km run southwards along the coast road from Brisbane, then a 320km return route through the hinterland via Mount Tamborine, comfortable highway and backroads travel is the domain of the ZRX. The extra bulk of the big Kwaka (compared to its ZX-9R-based Z1000 stablemate) isn’t noticeable when straightlining, although it’s more of a handful through the tight stuff.

Kawasaki ZRX 1200 R
Kawasaki ZRX 1200 R

The torquey ZRX powerplant makes overtaking a simple twist-and-forget affair – from 5500rpm to just over 8000rpm it holds a healthy advantage over most other Nakeds in both power and torque.

It’s only from 8200rpm onwards that bikes like Yamaha’s FZ1 or Kawasaki’s Z1000 develop more rear-wheel ponies than the ZRX, but by then the Kwaka is sitting on close to an indicated 240kmh in top (fifth) gear. Don’t ask me how I know.

The ZRX spins at 3400rpm at 100kmh, making for relaxed open road sportstouring. And that’s the key – the ZRX1200R/S is not a sportsbike without a fairing (as the Z1000 most certainly is) – it’s a sportstourer par excellence. I ncidentally, that engine speed equates to a healthy 9.42kg-m when you want that instant roll-on acceleration to overtake a long line of traffic.


Speaking of instant, the ZRX1200R anchors are nowhere near as ‘instant’ as those on the ZRX1100 testbike of a few of years back. A change of pad material has taken away that initial bite, which necessitates a stronger pull on the lever, albeit with a more woody (© Iain Aitken) feel.

A few brain-out laps of Mount Cotton’s Driver Training Centre south of Brisbane soon confirmed my on-road findings of the ZRX-R – the R felt like a ‘supertanker’ compared to the Z1000 I’d been punting earlier. Big and stable in comparison to the $15,490 Z1000, the R felt heavy in both steering and change of direction. However, given that a ZRX won the Formula Xtreme Nakedbike category in 2000 and 2001, that says more about the Z1000’s nimble sportsbike performance around a twisty circuit rather than any undue criticism of the ZRX.

It also says a bit about the current direction of the Nakedbike category, and where the ZRX-R now sits in comparison – an initial sports Naked that has now become a great sportstourer Naked.

The ZRX-R has a high quality of finish, compliant suspension, great luggage capacity (plenty of attachment points), and luxurious loungechair comfort compared to many Nakeds – even that bikini fairing does a commendable job of keeping buffeting to an acceptable level. I even got over 19km/lt during one stint of highway travel, although my average was closer to 16km/lt. Pity the R hasn’t got a clock though.

What it has got though is that stonking powerplant. Plus the ZRX has a ‘heritage’ other Nakeds lack. At $14,990 the R is $1000 cheaper than its S cousin, $809 cheaper than Yamaha’s FZ1, but $2000 dearer than Suzuki’s Bandit 1200.

Personally, I reckon it’s the best looker of the lot. And now that it’s in Eddie’s colours for 2003, it’s even better.

Published. Monday, 17 February 2003

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Kawasaki ZRX 1200 R
Kawasaki ZRX 1200 R
Kawasaki ZRX 1200 R

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