I was invited to ride the Kawasaki Z650 by M & S Motorcycles on Westgate Road in Newcastle. Often the middle-weight sector gets forgotten in the rush for off-road or dual-purpose bikes to go around the world or super-powerful naked roadsters. Fashions come and fashions go, but Kawasaki has had for a long time now the Z650 or a similar sports middle-weight bike in their line up. Indeed I can remember going to the opening of the brand new dealership at ‘Kawasaki World’ over in South Shields when I was 19 and had to cycle over as I couldn’t afford a bike then as a student. I had to hide my cycle around the corner and produce my helmet from my haversack to
blag a demo ride. It was the Z650 I tested! At that time it was a 4 cylinder engined baby brother to the renowned Z1.
Enough of my salad days. Gary pulled the bike out of the showroom and it had an alarmingly low 60 miles on the clock and was almost straight out of the box. Sparkling in the sunlight, I did like the styling. It looked stubby, purposeful, and surprisingly svelte in its multi-coloured paintwork and funky styling. Obviously not a commuter then! I thought it had a Starfighter look and the colours really set it off. I particularly liked the curvaceous “wiggly worm” exhaust pipes popping from behind the radiator, twisting and turning on themselves before going underneath and into a slash-cut offside silencer. The bike was in pearl blizzard white with black and yellow flashes and a fluorescent shouty green frame. Nice. The usual progress gingerly around the cobbled streets at the back of Westgate Road being very careful not to drop this brand new bike. Where to go? I thought a mix of town/dual carriageway and then some twisties out to mid-Northumberland might be in order. I chose the destination of Amble to visit one of its foodie eateries.
These types of bikes are very easy to pile the revs on as the rev counter seems to go on forever but the way the bike rode and the mileage displayed on the stunning TFT display, told me to back off. It constantly reminded me that I was using too many revs and at too high a speed and to change up NOW! I had to be careful not to overuse the bike in its infancy. This vehicle will fly after its first service.
No problems in town or on the motorway going north and it was excellent filtering through the heavy, almost post-lockdown traffic. The overall impression was of smoothness throughout the range. Turning off the A1, I decided on a set of B back roads to get me across Northumberland to Amble and to come back via the coastal route.
The bike sounded good and an aftermarket endcan would be even better. This bike, with its slightly aggressive sitting forward stance (which didn’t intrude), was extremely easy to flick from side to side. This bike could do more than its rider could give it to do! Usual excellent Kawasaki build quality and sadly I wasn’t able to howl that engine to hear the exhaust note but I am sure it will deliver. The short dimensions both in height and length of the bike mean that it is very easy to manoeuvre and also for around town and parking up.
I parked up right outside a new coffee shop I had spied on last month’s edition of North East Lifestyle. It was in a footnote to the local butcher’s advert in Amble. I parked up easily outside even though it was a busy Saturday. The manager Angela, who runs it with her husband chef on behalf of her family, was welcoming. I was just outside the times for lunch but I did have a cuppa and a cake on my mind. I plumped for the English Breakfast tea and the towering Victoria sponge cake. The place was a credit to its owners and managers, being squeaky clean and the cake and tea were excellent. It had opened in October 2019 and is called “1911 Coffee Co.” Coffees and teas are sourced from a particular coffee roasterie and all food sourced locally and home-cooked. So easy to park up outside – I could even see the bike from inside.
Satisfied, I decided to take the coastal route back and wound my way back onto the old Spine Road and then back to Newcastle. A great afternoon on the futuristically styled Z650. I am told by Gary that this is also an A2 adaptable bike and the TFT showed 73+ mpg! The bike now has a 650cc parallel-twin engine and, as Gary reminded me, three years 0% APR hire purchase – wow. Kawasaki (and the rest of us) have come a long way since that test ride of (I had to look it up) a KZ 650 back in the late ’70s. However, the legacy of an exciting, well-built and responsive handling bike endures. Is there such a thing as a bad bike nowadays? “Discuss”.
Mark Hipkin practises at Alderson Law LLP in sunny Whitley Bay (it is always sunny in Whitley Bay!), and is a Partner/Head of the Personal Injury and Civil Litigation department. He welcomes your e-mails or calls on the law (or your biking experiences) at wbay@ aldersonlaw.co.uk or call 0191 2533509.