Test ride: Z1000SX (2017) on the Col de l'Espigoulier

First impressions count: despite high bars the Z1000SX was easy to handle around the dealer’s yard, slow speed manoeuvring like on a bike skills test. Out on the road, a smooth gearbox and of course lots of power. Surprisingly little wind noise, which, together with the riding position, gives a deceptive impression on speed. Not that easy to read the speedo and rev counter in sunlight nor the various other indications about ABS and traction control; big and stupid displays work best when you’re a rider working hard, the SX display is cluttered, small and dim.
Still riding urban style, the SX isn’t great for manoeuvring past traffic at the lights, I couldn’t pinpoint it to one characteristic but it’s not a bike I’d like to ride for commuting; I’m not thinking of an SX for that but I do visit towns and cities in between mountain pass roads.

Riding the Col de l’Espigoulier, the route that I’ve been practising on again these past couple of days, I was very agreeably impressed at how easy the SX is to throw in to the corners going up and how steady and supple it handles. It’s worthwhile shifting the upper body to ride with the curves and (in the limited time of the test ride) I was beginning to want to start hanging off as well. On the other hand, after riding nicely though several interesting curves, I realised that I hadn’t needed to change gear. That’s less work for my clutch hand and gear shift boot but less rewarding riding. Yes I’m moaning about there being lots of power. I regularly change my 600RR at up to 9,000 revs, pro-rata for the litre bike that’s changing at 6,000 revs, and that was about as high as I buzzed the SX.
Riding up pass roads is the easy part, going down is what sorts out the riders. It also showed the limitations of the Z1000SX ABS and traction control: they work mainly on the engine power and torque and were excellent controlling any tendency to slide going up the hill. Different matter coming down, I didn’t have time to repeat several times but set on 3 (the most electronic control), a definite tendency to snatch on the rear, both power and brake. Also not a lot of engine braking so mostly controlling the entry to descending curves on the brakes, which do feature ABS.
Back at the dealer’s (narrowly avoiding running out of fuel on the road because the fuel warning indicator is so dim) the price is attractive and you can opt for matching luggage, performance accessories and so on.
As I feel about the Z1000SX, this is a high performance touring bike. It’s easy to ride medium and rewards trying to ride it hard. There’s more far power available then is needed for sporty riding on the roads which makes it an “easy” bike compared to a sports bike. What it’s not is a sports bike that tours: the riding position is upright, it’s a bit heavy but it conceals that until you need to stop because you’ve over-cooked it coming in to a curve (so there’s a lot of momentum to dump somehow) and it’s only “nimble” at speeds that are too high for the public roads.
So I told the dealer I was going to Cassis for lunch at the seaside and would have a think about it. Actually I rode the route of the Espigoulier one more time on my RR and it was lots more fun: I’m not yet a “former supersport rider”, the demographic for whom Kawasaki aims the Z1000SX.
Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to try this ride, I might still hire an Z1000SX for GLME Summercamp 2017 in Imst just to get there less knackered than on my CBR600RR.