Last week we shared details of the sublime new 2022 Suzuki Hayabusa, so we figured we’d visit the opposite end of the spectrum for this week’s retrospective. Read what Zac had to say about the little urban runabout. – DW
The Kawasaki Z125 Pro was originally unveiled back on the 2015 show circuit, obviously aimed at grabbing some sales away from the Honda Grom. Since then, it’s sold in the same price bracket, to the same customers: people who want a pit bike, and people who want a mini-motorcycle for urban hoonery.
While the Grom is ostensibly aimed more at the goofy, carefree skateboard/hacky-sack crowd, the Z125 Pro’s marketing aims to associate the bike more with a gritty, urban aesthetic (see more of that in the video below).
This motorcycle is not a tire-shredding naked bike like Kawasaki’s Z900. It’s powered by a basic 125 cc air-cooled single cylinder engine, with a two-valve head and four-speed transmission.
While previous budget bikes used carburetors, the Z125 Pro is a modern design and uses fuel injection despite the simple engine. The brakes are also up-to-date, with a single disc in front and back, both with single-pot caliper (not long ago, a bike in this category would have had drum brakes).
The Z125 Pro has 12-inch cast wheels front and rear, with 100/90-12 tire in front and 120/70-12 in rear. Suspension comes from sharp-looking 30 mm USD forks and a side-mounted monoshock in the back, looking similar to the arrangement Kawasaki has used on its 650s for a while. The rear shock is adjustable for preload, but the forks aren’t adjustable.
Physically, the Z125 Pro is tiny: wheelbase is 1175 mm. Curb weight is a modest 102 kg. Seat height is only 805 mm. You could easily get this bike into the back of a minivan.
Within seconds of getting aboard the Z125 Pro, I figured two things out. First, this machine is an extremely agile parking-lot-hopper. Second, I was too big for the bike.
I’m six feet tall, and folded onto the bike, my knees were banging the handlebars in tight maneuvers, unless I kept my legs tucked in as tightly as possible — and even then, things were tight.
Getting on to the street here in New Brunswick, the bike had a familiar feeling, with very similar handling, power and braking to its closest competitor, the Grom.
With around 8 hp at the rear wheel, busier streets in Saint John’s industrial east side felt a bit hectic; with traffic moving along at a good clip on the four-lane sections, I had to be quite a bit more careful than I would with most bikes, as I didn’t want to attempt a merge and find I didn’t have the jam to keep up with traffic when changing lanes. I was checking my mirrors much more frequently than usual, to ensure I wasn’t going to be bumped from behind.
As well, I had to pay extra attention to the notoriously crappy city pavement. The bike has 12-inch wheels, so even minor tar snakes had a tendency to grab the small front tire; combine those wheels with short-travel suspension, and potholes became much more of an issue than usual.
However, the bike itself proved to be very good at hacking and slashing through around-town traffic, and like the Grom, it’s small enough that you can sneak through little holes in the gridlock, or maybe even run down a sidewalk and through a parking lot to get around a jammed-up line of cars. Hypothetically speaking, of course! (Of course. All CMG testers are 100% responsible and would never do such things. -Ed.)
When you pull stunts like this aboard the Z125 Pro, you don’t elicit the same sort of anger that you’d see if you were riding a big Beemer adventure bike, or a loud cruiser. (Allegedly. -Ed.) People don’t take you as seriously when you’re riding a motorcycle that looks like it came straight out of a scene from Dumb and Dumber. I wouldn’t recommend pulling wheelies in front of your local law-enforcement friends, but you’re less likely to have an angry soccer mom call your licence plate in for stunting.
But back to the ride … To see how the Z125 handled a spirited backroad romp, I took it on my favourite curvy, hilly section of NB twisties. Once again, the lesson was hammered home: although this bike has many strengths, backroad bombing isn’t one of them, especially with a taller, heavier rider like myself on board. While I was able to hit triple-digit speeds on the downhills, that speed scrubbed quickly on the ascents, and we’re talking km/h, not mph.
On level ground the bike realistically cruises between 65-80 km/h with my 100 kg on board; I was able to get a little more speed by folding my body as tightly behind the clocks as possible, but even that boost was quickly lost if the bike encountered an uphill stretch. And if I encountered a stretch of bad pavement, which describes most rural Canadian secondary highways, I was particularly careful about heeling the bike over in the curves. The last thing I wanted was the 12-inch wheels going squirrelly in mid-corner after hitting a bump.
So for the rest of the time I had the Z125, I kept to urban streets, and enjoyed that quite a bit. The machine really shines the most in a city playground, where parking lots quickly become impromptu wheelie parks. Going block to block in a city centre, the bike’s sharp brakes allow all sorts of locked-up hoonery. The key is to pretend you’re 16 years old, not 40, and ride accordingly.
Would I buy one of these myself? Not a chance, unless I was in need of a pit bike. I do 90 per cent of my riding in rural areas, and this bike just isn’t suited for that. But if I lived in a large city, where most of my riding was stoplight-to-stoplight? Then the Z125 Pro is a lot more appealing. It’s definitely a lot more fun than a scooter, even if it lacks the practicality of luggage space.
Despite its small size, I wouldn’t recommend the Z125 Pro as a beginner bike for a shorter rider, as its lack of power is more likely to get them into trouble than keep them out of it. There are other 125 cc options on the market that have much more functionality, like Honda’s CBR125, Yamaha’s BWS 125 and Kymco’s Campagno 110i. But as a starter bike for a wannabe stunter? Sure. You can do a lot of goofing off on this bike without hurting yourself or the bike too badly. That sort of role plays very well to the Z125’s strengths.
And that, ultimately, should be the deciding factor as to whether or not you buy this machine. Are you in need of a goofy minibike that encourages hooliganism, but won’t take you very far from home? By all means, lay your money down. Do you need a motorcycle that serves as practical transportation outside a city centre? You might want to look elsewhere.
Check out all the pics that go with this story!