Kawasaki are returning to the learner bike fray with a pair of exciting-looking 125cc machines for 2019.
The race-rep Ninja 125 and naked Z125 take styling cues from larger-capacity Kawasakis and signal the company’s return to fight for the learner rider’s money.
The Japanese firm have historical form – ask any rider who was a teenager in the 1980s and the old AR50/80/125 range will bring back misty-eyed memories – but they’ve watched on from the sidelines recently as Yamaha and Honda dominated the learner-legal category.
The two new Kawasaki 125s share the vast majority of parts, with the same 14.75bhp fuel-injected motor squeezed into a steel trellis frame with 37mm forks and Uni-Trak suspension at the rear. Wheels on both models are 10-spoke 17-inchers wearing 100/80 front tyres and 130/70 at the rear.
The ABS-equipped bikes both draw their go-go juice from 11-litre tanks, with Kawasaki saying the motor has been designed to deliver its best performance at the low to mid-range. They reckon the 125s are both good for 68mph.
While the majority of parts are the same, the Z125 is likely to suit bigger riders better than its sportier sibling. The naked bike has a seat height of 815mm, which is taller than higher-capacity bikes like Triumph’s original Street Triple, and there’s 185mm of ground clearance.
Compare those figures with the Ninja, which has a seat height of 785mm (still, that’s as tall as a Suzuki SV650) and 170mm of ground clearance.
If it’s all about cutting through the city traffic, or nailing the U-turn required to pass the riding test, then the Z125 has an additional advantage – 35° of steering lock from the Z’s conventional handlebars compared to 30° for the Ninja’s clip-ons.
Kawasaki say the Ninja and Z125 are both the result of extensive research that found potential 125cc machine buyers will put style and brand image at the top of their priority list, with performance sitting further down the list of desirable factors.
Revealing the 125s at Cologne’s Intermot show, European PR boss Martin Lambert said the project had been led by Kawasaki’s European team – including the research and development – with back-up from Kawasaki’s engineers in Japan.
He said: “We think these bikes will bring the new riders into this world that the rest of us all enjoy.”