2004 Kawasaki ZZR1200 Review | Gentleman’s Express
When Oscar Wilde said, “I have never allowed my duty as a gentleman to interfere with my pleasure,” I would highly doubt the pleasure to which he was referring to was of riding the 2004 Kawasaki ZZR1200. Yet this superb machine allows self-indulgence in an unruffled, sophisticated way. The ZZR1200 has a calm, smooth solidity as part of its overall character, yet it also delivers jet-like raw power from its liquid 1164cc DOHC inline-4 so effortlessly that I can easily relate to Wilde’s statement.
For a machine of this bulk and brute force, the 2004 Kawasaki ZZR1200 handles the slow turns with alacrity and the fast sweepers with precise elegance. If you choose to move your weight around and ride it hard then the compliant, but not soft, suspension and excellent Dunlop Sportmax D220 ST tires will reward you with quick handling and a surprisingly nimble feel.
If you choose to simply sit still and cruise fast then the Kawasaki won’t wallow, the hardware won’t ground out, and you will find yourself loving the ride without any undue drama.
Make no mistake, the 2004 Kawasaki ZZR1200 is a big bike at 520 pounds (claimed dry), and its robust stance makes the ZZR feel so unhurried even at great speeds. The way it stays glued to the blacktop gave me a great sense of control. The brakes are excellent and the riding position is gentle on the back and shoulders—for me, that is a factor not to be underestimated with my 40-something aches and pains.
The build quality is, of course, excellent. The red-at-night analog instruments are easy to read, and the deep metallic monochromatic paint scheme gives the Kawasaki class and a ‘take me anywhere’ attitude. Whether you’re pulling up at the local biker hangout, or staying overnight at the Ritz-Carlton—yes, it comes with Givi hard bags if you wish to exploit the 6+ gallon fuel tank—this machine exudes quality, and procures admiring, if not envious, glances.
As good as the ergonomics and chassis are, it is the engine that makes this Kawasaki so seductive. The CV carburetion is perfect and ensures that transitions from off throttle to on are predictable and smooth.
Still, when asked, these atomizers will unleash the power in a mighty rush of 87 ft/lbs of torque that’s as smooth as a dram of Glenfarclas single malt. In fact, this powerplant is so smooth it seems unnecessarily heavy-handed to take it to the limiter. Instead one can enjoy the light clutch and seamless gearbox to appreciate the huge spread of torque that is as astonishing as it is addicting.
This 145 horsepower machine is certainly not for the beginner. But for the experienced gentleman who likes some real substance behind a sophisticated front, then the 2004 Kawasaki ZZR1200’s mix of brute force and elegance will deliver everything he could wish for.
What rider doesn’t love a look back at the motorcycles that preceded today’s tech-savvy creations? Welcome to the Ultimate Motorcycling retro review archives; we’re revisiting some of our favorite reviews from year’s past, highlighting the machines that laid the rubber for what’s on the today’s showroom floors. Enjoy. – Ron Lieback, ed.