Kawasaki's big push for 2000 was sportbikes, so it's probably no surprise to see a shift in emphasis for 2001. This year, Kawasaki tackles the standards, which in Team Green's parlance are the Traditionals. Considered a new model (even though it's largely based on a current bike), the ZRX1200R is a hopped-up version of the popular ZRX1100 standard. That bike, whose engine was based on the not-poochy ZX-11's, made headlines for its Eddie Lawson-replica paint and mildly retro appearance coupled with modern handling and performance. (Who could argue with that?)
Now with the 1200, Kawasaki has upped the ante with a 3mm-larger bore and a 1.4mm-longer stroke for an 1164cc displacement. There's a new aluminum cylinder block with electroplated bores that's supposed to be 3.3 pounds lighter than the 1100's. To make room for the larger bores, the camchain was moved 3mm outboard-the bore centers are as before-and all told the engine is 5mm wider than the 1100's. Up top, the 1200's head has additional oil-return passages and the two cams churning away up there are revised from 1100 spec to complement the displacement change. Tuning aimed at low-end and midrange power (as was true with the 1100) should make the bike plenty exciting. Kawasaki says power is up 13 percent.
Chassis-wise, the ZRX1200R is little different than the 1100. A one-half-inch-longer wheelbase comes along with a smaller rear sprocket. The rear wheel is one-half-inch wider, carries a 180/55-17 tire and rides in a reworked box-section aluminum swingarm whose pivot is 5mm lower than before. Fully adjustable suspension remains-a cartridge fork up front and twin shocks out back. The ZRX1200R will be going to California, we're told, and will come in the ELR scheme as well as black/metallic blue-violet. The engine now wears bronze-colored side cases and the bike receives contrasting plastic side panels. The ZRX's weight had not been issued as we went to press, but don't expect it to stray far from the 1100's 545 pounds (with fuel). Price is $7899.
Kawasaki launched the retro-standard ZR-7 last year, and for 2001 the newish chassis carrying a carbon-copy of a 1980s KZ750 engine gets a mini-fairing stuck on its nose, surrounding a multireflector headlight. No word on mechanical changes for this budget bike, dubbed the ZR-7S. Last year's model sold for $5399 and we don't expect a big difference for 2001.
There is one truly new model in Kawasaki's lineup for 2001, and it's a custom-style, entry-level bike called the Eliminator 125. This four-stroke single gets electronic ignition and an automatic camchain tensioner (you were expecting points and exposed valves, maybe?), Kawasaki's trademark Positive Neutral Finder and a knee-bending 26.8-inch seat height. If that sounds like a bid to get into MSF courses, you're right; Kawasaki is aiming this curb crawler at the school set, so you can bet the bike is rugged and cheap. How cheap? Quite cheap, actually. At $2499 it slots in between the $1899 KE100 and the $2999 Ninja 250R