First Ride Review: 2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro

Team Green Takes Aim At the Honda Grom

Having a blast on the 2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro
Thanks to the open-faced helmet, we can see how much fun Ari's having on the new Z125 Pro.©Motorcyclist

The ability to attract new riders is one of the reasons I get really excited when I see a bike like Kawasaki’s new Z125 Pro. Another reason I get excited is because I know that riding small bikes is a blast, and brings you right back to being a kid when the simple joy of twisting the throttle was enough to put butterflies in your stomach. (See idiotic grin, above.)

The Z125 Pro delivers fun in spades. The bike is light and super easy to handle, sports sharp styling and awesome features, and has a high-revving single-cylinder engine that just begs to be flogged.

2017 Z125 Pro wheelies
This is what happens when you release journalists on Z125s for an hour of "free riding." Three-wide stand-up wheelie with friends Bradley Adams from Cycle World and Rennie Scaysbrook from Cycle News. Yeah, we were having a blast!©Motorcyclist

After spending a day on the new Kawasaki Z125 Pro exploring San Francisco and then ripping around the urban playground that is Treasure Island, I’m here to tell you that The Z125 is not only an ideal beginner’s bike, but that it’s also got enough performance and capability to keep experienced riders thoroughly entertained. The day I just spent on the Z was one of the most fun days I’ve had in recent memory!

The heart of the bike is a 125cc four-speed engine with a redline right around 9,500 rpm. The motor is smooth and tractable, with linear power that picks up ever so slightly in the upper revs. How it compares to the Honda Grom's engine (which has identical displacement but different bore and stroke) is hard to gauge given the overall modest performance, but a 30-second sprint at wide-open throttle put 61 mph on the dash, which is faster than I've ever gotten a Grom to go. And the Z is happy to cruise along at 45 or 50 mph, sipping gas at what Kawasaki says is around 100 miles per gallon.

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2017 Z125 Pro engine
Nope, the Z’s engine isn’t a derivation of any of the KLX dirtbike engines. Kawi says it’s a new design, specifically built for the Z125 Pro and its duties as a streetbike. The Pro suffix comes from the presence of a clutch lever. In Asian markets the standard Z125 has a four-speed automatic transmission.©Motorcyclist

You’d expect a little budget bike like this to have components that show the cost-cutting efforts, but that’s not the case. The front brake lever is firm and there’s ample stopping power backed up by good grip from the IRC tires. And the suspension is surprisingly good. Even when provoked with potholes, aggressive cornering, and wheelies and jumps (what can I say, I’m hooligan), the little 30mm inverted fork and offset shock never allowed the Z to feel loose or bottom jarringly, which is more than I can say for the Grom’s suspenders. That composure means a comfortable ride on the crummiest of surfaces, as well as the ability to enjoy aggressive cornering and some more advanced maneuvers, if you’re so inclined.

After bopping around San Fran and cruising down the chicane that is Lombard Street’s summit, taking in the sites from Twin Peaks, and cruising by the Golden Gate Bridge in the Presidio, we loaded up and headed east to Treasure Island, the seemingly abandoned man-made island situated in the San Francisco Bay halfway between the peninsula and Oakland.

2017 Z125 Pro braking
Brake test! I have to admit, my first thoughts when I saw the Z’s meager front brake were not optimistic. But as it turns out that tiny caliper and 200mm disc work well together. Lever feel is firm and there’s plenty of stopping power and feel.©Motorcyclist

There, we had time to romp around and release our inner hooligans, which the Z125 seems designed to do. Kawasaki had a tight and fun “track” chalked out on a beat-up parking lot, and we got the chance to test the small Z’s sporting chops. It didn’t disappoint. In fact, it impressed! The Z’s ZX-6R-style knurled footpegs felt high when I first hopped on the bike in SF, but at the track that meant ample cornering clearance. And the suspension, brakes, and tires once again performed better than expected. This bike is ready to attack apexes at your local kart track, right out of the box.

2017 Z125 Pro cornering shot
Kawasaki let us go nuts on a super-tight closed course to test the Z125 Pro’s sporting prowess, and I was impressed. I mean, look at the focus on my face! This little bike is surprisingly sporty. Oh yeah: Closed course, professional rider!©Motorcyclist

Few people who buy a Z125 Pro are going to take it to a kart track (though honestly, they should) or stunt it like I did, but the fact that the bike is capable of spirited riding says a lot about the effort and thought that Kawasaki put into the small Z. From the fit and finish to the handling and brakes, this bike delivers tons of fun, style, and performance. And for just $2,999, it’s totally affordable. Honda’s $3,199 Grom now has some stiff competition in the “mini street” segment, and I for one think that’s a great thing. The more the merrier in this category.

2017 Z125 Pro dash and gauges
Check that out! I fell in love with the Z125’s dash, because it has my favorite combination of analog tachometer and digital readout. Every bike should have a gear-position indicator, and the Z does. It also has a gas gauge, trip meters, and other data points not often found on $3,000 bikes.©Motorcyclist

With the addition of the Z125 Pro to the motorcycling world, I have high hopes for the next generation of riders. The Z125 is an excellent way to get your feet wet in the world of motorcycling. One ride and you'll be ready to dive right in.

2017 Z125 Pro beauty shot
Kawasaki sprinkled a fair amount of sugomi styling on the small Z, shaping it with the same sharp lines, pointed tail, and a sloping headlight as its bigger Z siblings. The under-engine exhaust and chin fairing keep the bottom of the bike looking clean. It’s a good-looking little ride, very clearly a member of the Z family and distinctly Kawasaki.©Motorcyclist

TECH SPEC

EVOLUTION
An all-new bike, styled after the Z1000 and Z800 but sized for smaller riders.
RIVALS
[Only one—the Honda Grom][]
TECH
PRICE $2,999
ENGINE 125cc, air-cooled single
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 4-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER NA
CLAIMED TORQUE NA
FRAME Tubular-steel backbone
FRONT SUSPENSION 30mm fork; 3.9-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Single shock adjustable for spring preload; 4.1-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Nissin one-piston caliper, 200mm disc
REAR BRAKE Nissin one-piston caliper, 184mm disc
RAKE/TRAIL 26.0°/2.7 in.
WHEELBASE 46.3 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 31.7 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 2.0 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 225 lb. wet
AVAILABLE Mid May
CONTACT [kawasaki.com][]
VERDICT
Whether it’s your first bike or your 20th and you just want to feel like a kid again, the Z125 Pro is the way to go.

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