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Impromptu Kawasaki Z250SL Review

Review Date - 12 September 2020

Foreward By Ren - The Ed.
Ivor never intended to write a review. I'd asked him to let me know how he got on with his Z250SL and I received this email from him with 3 images attached. The thing is I found his casual email to be informative and entertaining, exactly the sort of article I like to publish on here. With Ivor's permission I've made a few editorial changes and here it is.  

By Ivor, Happy Z250SL Owner

Good morning, you did ask me to let you know how I found the bike.

A kawasaki Z250SL in green outside some shops

I've had it for 6 weeks now and to say I'm pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.

The first thing I noticed was how narrow and light it was, easy to manoeuvre whether pushing it in and out of the garage or padding backwards whilst sat on it. Only my little Grom is easier.
Handling and suspension. What a revelation to buy a bike that has a decent rear shock fitted as standard. I weigh 80 kg and although a little firm it handles bumps and undulations very well, even when riding in a spirited way. The front forks are acceptable and in no way spoil the overall riding experience.
Engine and gearbox. The engine has enough shove to make the ride enjoyable without feeling underpowered. The bike will sit happily at 70-75 mph and return excellent fuel economy, with more I reserve if you feel the need to go faster. The only criticism with the gear box is the tiny gap between first and second. No sooner have you pulled away you are snicking into second, a minor irritation. Engine breaking is very prevelant and may be something to do with the fuel injection. It's almost as if someone has turned off the engine, but you do get used to it. 

I don't recommend fitting an aftermarket silencer as it stifles the performance quite noticeably. Yes you save some weight and get a slightly fruitier exhaust note, but I soon replaced it with the standard can, in fact after only a 100 mile ride. 

Switchgear and dash. More than happy with that which Kawasaki have supplied. Switches do what they are supposed to and the dash is clear, even in sunlight. My only gripe is the fuel gauge doesn't seem to do a lot. I've done a hundred miles in one hit and it hasn't dropped a single bar. Then when you fill up it seems to flash for 10 minutes or so before returning to the full reading, all rather odd. Hence the reason I fill up after 100-120 miles so I don't run out of fuel.

Comfort. I actually find the riding position suits me, I'm 5.8. The seat, although it looks most uninviting, is actually surprisingly comfortable and I have no issues with it. 

Z250SL and a HArley Davidson in front of a vast flat field in Lincolnshire

Overall I'm really pleased with the bike, it does everything I require it to do. The finish seems very good and it's easy to clean. The colour is really eye catching, especially when the sunlight catches it. 

I plan to fit a rack at some point, although finding one is proving a tad difficult. I've swapped out the mirrors for slightly smaller ones that actually extend a little further out. Other than that I've left it alone. 

I purchased a 2016 bike that had 1800 miles on it for £2400 in mint condition. Would I recommend one? It depends on what you want one for. In Lincolnshire where I live most of the roads are 50-60 speed limits or little minor roads and for this it's perfect. 

I will be going to Cornwall with my mates next year and fully intend to use the SL250 as there will be several RE Himalayans on the trip and this has just as much go, if not more than they do. 

2 large Adventure style BMWs look huge with the Z250SL

A great little bike that should not be overlooked if you are in the market for a light, fun and practical 250cc bike. 

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Reader's Comments

Bob said :-
On my soapbox again - don't overlook the KLX250, it's the same engine but in a trail bike package (and it actually weighs a little less too).
18/09/2020 10:10:43 UTC
Marv said :-
Nice little review Ivor! Both the KLX250 and Z250SL look great all-round package... and also really good value for money!
18/09/2020 14:09:24 UTC
Snod said :-
Sometimes I feel like I'm on another planet, I find the suspension terrible - the forks are extremely soft/springy at low speed, then become rigid above about 20MPH. The shock seems rigid all the time until you try and go round a corner quickly, when it becomes floppy (just like a Hagon..). The unstable geometry and small wheels mean it always seems to be looking for a nice place to lie down. The electrics burn out or fall to bits. The brakes do their best to stop being separate parts. The can rots off the end of the exhaust in record time.

Bizarre! Maybe the black ones are no good!?
18/09/2020 14:29:16 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Snod - you are living proof that what suits some folks like Ivor and Sharon doesn't suit everyone! It's curious to see your experience with the build quality. I've found Sharon's Kwak to be middling to good. It seems mostly well made save for odd things like a panel rubbing the frame paint away, tight routing of the headstock wires, no cush drive too. In 4 years and 25 thousand miles we've serviced the brakes without issue, no electrical gremlins and the exhaust is gaining a patina slowly but surely.

It has had one hiccup though, details coming soon.
19/09/2020 08:08:09 UTC
Bob said :-
My KLX has done 35K now and I continue to be impressed with the build quality of it.
Ren, no cush drives needed on these engines, the KLX doesn't have on either.
26/09/2020 19:39:39 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I have oft pondered the purpose of the cush drive. Initially I thought it was merely a comfort thing meant to make the transmission smoother for delicate types. I have since learned the common suggestion is that it helps reduce the strain on the gearbox output sprocket. I can see the logic in this.

So Bob, any output bearing problems? I checked Sharon's the other day at 25,000 and there's no hint of play. Is this a myth, a bit of an issue for some models, I don't know.

While sprocket carriers bearings are easy to change, I've been through LOADS of them. Not had to change an output bearing yet.
26/09/2020 21:57:17 UTC
Snod said :-
Ren why are you using these scary words? What do you know??

And I really wouldn't mind some cushies, if only to take away some of the snatch..
27/09/2020 22:21:44 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I await the wisdom of the masses Snod but here's my tuppence. I can imagine when the chain goes from driven to undriven then back to driven there will be shocks (snatches) along the chain. The cush drive cushions these which I would expect softens the impact on the rear wheel. However it's probably not hard to strengthen the rear wheel to cope. The said same shock forces will also be transferred to the front sprocket and therefor the output shaft bearings. Bearings are tough and these shocks will be radial which roller bearing cope with well. These shocks will be an extra strain though and the thinking is they lead to early wear.

I know not enough information. This extra strain could mean rather than lasting 100,000 miles they only last 50,000 miles. Or, instead of lasting 100,000 miles they only last 97,000 miles.
28/09/2020 09:19:43 UTC
Upt'North said :-
I would have thought, probably wrongly, that the main victim of no cush drive would be early and excessive chain wear. Bearings are pretty tough and can be easily over engineered for any particular application, although I wouldn't have thought Kawasaki or any other manufacturer would be too concerned about high mileage failure, especially in Western Europe where yearly mileage is generally low for most.
28/09/2020 09:32:09 UTC
Snod said :-
Mine does certainly seem to hammer chains and front sprockets, the rear sprocket is likely only lasting so long because it has so many teeth.

I do kind of see the logic that the sudden pulling/pushing of the chain could apply forces to the output bearing but I wouldn't expect it to lead to a quick demise, I'd hope the small amount of elasticity in the chain would save it. But we'll see..!
28/09/2020 12:44:51 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
There must be something about Sharon. She is small which reduces strain but we have yet to change the chain and sprockets and I daresay we've barely adjusted the chain. See seemed to be very light on the Keeway RKS125 too.
28/09/2020 16:39:14 UTC
Bob said :-
My understanding is that a cush drive protects the teeth of the gears in the gearbox from shock loads which can shear them off. I guess on the KLX it's such a light bike and the engine has such a low inertia in it's rotating parts that a cush is not necessary.
I remember years ago seeing a trike that someone had built from a shaft drive XJ650, they had fitted large wide rear wheels and the thing had done less than 500 miles before the gearbox let go. We surmised that it was the greatly increased mass of the rear wheels which had overcome the gear teeth.

On the output bearing front, my 35000 mile bike's bearing is still as slick as when new. It has it's own external oil feed straight from the oil filter - Kawassaki thought about that one.

Chains wise - I replace three front sprockets to every one rear, which makes sense since the ratio of teeth is almost exactly three to one. I don't necessarily replace sprockets when fitting a new chain.

30/09/2020 13:53:39 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Having taken a look around the various forums and online "experts" I think we're all sorta, kinda right. The cush drive is there to soften blows through the whole transmission from the clutch basket to the rear wheel - which includes the gearbox.

Sometimes the clutch basket will have extra dampening. It's my experience (mostly Honda) that the clutch basket has some springs in it, this is presumably part of this cushioning. I wonder if the Z250SL has more dampening there? There's even such a thing as sprockets with some degree of "cush" too.

I can easily imagine a bike designed to turn a wheel weighing, I dunno, say 15kg with tyre then being asked to turn one weighing 25kg, is going to be "stressed". The extra grip plus momentum will cause stress both under drive and under deceleration too.

You could spend a whole month going through the internet trying to get a solid answer, all you'll get are opinions. Here's to engineers hopefully getting it right on our behalf.
30/09/2020 15:28:29 UTC

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