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Kawasaki Z 250 SL First review

Review Date July 2016

By Sharon Parker

So I have finally put over 1000 Miles onto the Kawasaki and she is therefore officially run in. How did her running in period go? How do I fell about her she a keeper or not?

At 600 miles the first service was done without any problems. The mechanic said he expected none as these bikes are usually bullet proof. I certainly hope this proves to be true as time goes on. Also if I ever get shot I shall be having words with the mechanic :-). But mechanically the bike has been well...perfect and indeed no problems at all so far. The build quality appears to be what you what expect from a Kawasaki. The Z 250 SL feels and looks like a quality bike and I have to admit it feels more refined than my trusty Keeway RKS 125cc. But then it was double the price.

My Kawasaki Z 250 SL was on offer at £3000 (Non ABS version). ABS versions are also available if that is what you prefer. The Z 250 SL  is a sexy (owners opinion) street-fighter. It is a slimline bike accentuated with sharp angular styling to the tank and body work.

 The tank pad on Sharon's bike has an image of a female samuriSharp angles for a mean streetfighter look so got a tank pad to match her fighter spirit. 

The SL stands for superlight. At around the 148kg mark then yes compared to other bikes this is a light bike. The weight is kept to a minimum by its lightweight wheels and the original trellis frame. Being so light it was championed as a great bike for smaller riders. However why then have a seat height of 785mm? Ok it is not super tall but neither is it small, it is just average. As I am not average then I had to have it lowered using a Lust racing lowering kit. However this still leaves me unable to flat foot. This terrified me initially. After 1000 miles is still leaves me unsettled. I now have to be careful where I park and look carefully at road surfaces and cambers. All a bit of a chore when I would rather have the comfort of knowing my feet can touch the floor easily if needed. However the suspension has softened slightly from new and my feet are closer to the floor than when I first got on the bike so maybe if it softens even more I might be able to touch down? Time will tell. Meanwhile despite the super light claims I still find manual handing of the bike heavy going. It is not made any easier by not having a grab rail of any kind to help hold and steady the bike. It does have a fabric handle attached to the seat but you can not grab that with your gloves on and it does not give you the same comfortable feel and stability as a grab rail. However once again as time goes by the weight is getting easier to handle as my strength and probably more likely confidence grows. What once took me 5 heaves to get the bike over the lip in my shed now usually only takes the one.
Please note the above are my problems due to me being of Hobbit proportions. The height is average so most average people will find it fine. The bike is lighter than most other bikes of its cc. So if you are average please do not take the above points as a negative ... these are small people problems. If like me you are small please bear these points in mind. It is a good bike for the smaller person but it is not perfect. 
( For those of you who do not know I am 5 foot tall and weight around 7 and half to 8 stone depending on how many cakes I had that week)  

The instrument panel is digital and has all the usual things you would expect, the speedometer and clock etc but sadly no gear indicator. When I first rode this bike I missed the gear indicator terribly having had one of my previous bike. I could not judge what gear I was in and seemed to be always in the wrong one when it came to corners. However what initially felt like a disaster began to get better with time and miles. My ability to select the right gear and know by instinct rather than instrument panel what gear I am in has improved. However I still remain a big fan of gear indicators and although not now a deal breaker I would have loved this bike to have one. The gears themselves are super slick and smooth through 1st to 6th.

The dash, clocks or instrument panel, a clear LCD displayThe dash easy to read but where is my gear indicator ?

The suspension felt like a rock when I first rode it but is now softening up as the miles add up. It is still far more at home on smooth tarmac than on lumps and bumps but take it easy and it can handle it.

The rear shock tucked down low in the bowels of the bikeMono shock suspension , yet another detail to lighten this bike. But it is a bugger to clean

The brakes are petal disc brakes front and rear. They are extremely effective. They are certainly far more responsive than on my Keeway 125cc. This took me a bit by surprise at first but once I got use to them I am most impressed by their smoothness and response. The Dunlop tyres grip well both in the dry and in the wet. Thus giving a feeling of safety and stability both when braking and cornering.

The See her pretty Petal Disc brakes. Think delicate flower and be easy on these brakes because they are very effective.

The mirror's viewing angles are adequate. The right hand mirror gives a much better side and rear view than the left. I personally have to move my head and lean over a bit while tucking in my elbow to get a rear view from my left mirror. The Keeway RKS 125cc mirrors are superior as far as viewing angle goes. However the Keeway mirrors become difficult to see clearly in when reaching higher speeds due to vibration. Here the Kawasaki excels. The mirrors reflect a nice sharp image even at speeds of over 70mph. The stability of the mirrors amaze me when you consider the fact that this bike is a single and therefore one would expect it to suffer somewhat in the vibration department ... no not at all.

The front view of the Kwakker clearly showing the great mirrorsRock solid mirrors even at speed

The Kawasaki Z 250 SL has a liquid cool 4 stroke single engine. But this is no thumper. The balancer shaft works wonders to control the vibrations. So much so that cruising on a motorway at speeds of between 60 mph to 70 mph is a surprisingly smooth and comfortable affair. It makes more of a content purring noise than a huge roar but I like that because my Kawasaki is a lady you know. I like she keeps on purring even at higher speeds and she is not gasping or running out of breath. You can of course coax a small satisfying growl out of her if you give the throttle a little blip. So the bike can please both for a grunt and smoothness. What ever happens to take you fancy really and  however you like to ride.

Close up image of the exhaust on Sharons 250The exhaust kind of purrs rather than roars but I like that. 
The radiator up close and you can see a piece of metal below it to deflect stones from the front wheelJust below the radiator is a handy piece of err metal (sure it has a technical name) that keeps most of the dirt and hopefully stones off the radiator. 

Ride did I just say ride .... yes I did and that is why I kept the best until last ... this bike can ride and ride bloody well. Once I got over my initial terror I discovered that the Z 250 SL is an absolute joy to ride. It is a bike that brings a huge grin to your face and surprises you again and again. 
Firstly It packs loads of torque into its small frame. Definitely enough to see you off for a quick start at the lights and it keeps on pulling right on through, getting up to 70 mph with ease. Its acceleration can take me by surprise, a quick twist of the throttle and its off. You know you could wheelie this thing if your not careful. While riding even at higher speeds such as 60mph a turn of the throttle finds it right up to 70mph with little effort. In fact I have to be careful I do not go over the speeds I hope to be at because 55mph can become 66mph in a 60 limit speed zone all to easily with the grunt on this little pocket rocket. 
Secondly speed, I have so far taken the bike up to 82mph. This was not its top speed, it still had more left but what stopped me was fear of my license and not wishing the wind to succeed in ripping my head from my neck. Yes without a screen on the Kawasaki you do get the full force of the wind blast. But it is still such a joy to ride, I keep thinking it can't have more to give and so far it has proved me wrong and I love it. Even in 6th gear and at 70mph it does not require a down shift to pick up speed for an overtake. Just twist the throttle and it says ok is that 77 mph you want? Ok I am right there.  Haa haaa amazing performance for a single 250 cc. Am I impressed? ... damn right I am. I am bloody blown away ... literally. Up to date I have not got near its 10 and half rev limiter. So there is still more to discover as yet.
Thirdly you will see in the advertising for the Kawasaki Z 250 SL the word NIMBLE is used a lot. Well for once the advertisers are correct. This bike is nimble and incredibly responsive. It was made for curves and bends. It is so responsive that at first you have to be careful it does not catch you out. Shift around in your seat and the bike moves with you. But once you know this you can work it to your full advantage. The bike and you really can become one. You do not have to steer this bike around corners. You simply look at them and the bike is sweeping around the curve seemingly through mere thought transference. You don't even need your hard earned counter steering skills. In fact too much effort to try and push this bike into a corner would probably result in your head being put into the hedge. You do not drag this bike into a bend, you think it into them. The bike's ability to corner far exceeds my current levels of skill and confidence, I know it is capable of far more. But I am more than thrilled with the potential I have discovered so far. 

Sharon with a nervous smile when she collected the new bikeSharon sits on the Z250SL smiling up at Honister passFrom nervous first smile to another slightly less nervous smile at Sky Hi Cafe on the Honnister Pass

Another joy comes in realising just how frugal this bike is on fuel. At running in speeds and keeping the revs around 6000 with speeds of 60mph and below the bike returned an impressive 100mpg. Taking the bike to Wales with stretches of motorway and occasional speeds of 70 mph found it still returning 95mpg. I did think once its little single engine was pushed its fuel consumption would increase far more than it did, so another plus in the growing list of positives. The small tank size of just 11 litres initially disappointed me but due to the excellent fuel consumption its range is not as low as I feared. So far I have managed 165 miles on a tank of fuel with the fuel gauge still showing one bar of fuel left. So on rough estimate a full tank should get you around 185 to 200 miles. far so good. Am I happy to call the Kawasaki Z 250 SL my bike? Yes I am. I still need to learn more about the bike and for my confidence in it to grow but we are off to a great start. Once my body adapted to the slightly more forward position of the bike I have found it comfortable to ride. Although fairly thin the seat is surprisingly comfy even on a full days ride. The leg position for myself is also spot on comfort wise.

I think Kawasaki have put I lot of thought and engineering into the Z 250 SL to manufacturer a small single that can deliver big in lots of ways.

The Z250SL Kawasaki seen from the left sideLook how lovely she is, lean green street-fighter machine 


Reader's Comments

Doug said :-
Nice insight, spec wise it ticks a lot of boxes for me - capable of 100mpg, unstressed at 70mph, lightweight - would be interesting to see by how much how my lardy 17.5 stone would affect that :-) I might have to see if there's anywhere local with one and check out the riding position.
13/08/2016 04:30:48 UTC
Doug said :-
...and I just noticed your review date is July 2017 :-)
13/08/2016 10:02:35 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You're going to have to sit on one Doug, it is tiny. At 5'8" I fit on it OK but it does have very small proportions, it feels much more akin to a 125.

I had a little blast on it tonight, it's a hell of a toy! It doesn't FEEL fast but the numbers on the dash rise remarkably quickly. The handling is sublime and the suspension is taught without being harsh. It's a little cracker.

13/08/2016 10:07:17 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Haha Cheers Doug. We're future proofing. I'll correct the error, whoops!
13/08/2016 10:22:57 UTC
Sharon said :-
Hi Doug,
Most Kawasaki dealers I have been in seem to stock a Z250SL. So you should not have too much of a problem getting to sit on one. However none had a demo bike so taking it for a test ride may prove difficult. I have noticed though that in the last week or so some secondhand ones are coming onto the market so a test ride may be possible on one of those?

14/08/2016 09:39:37 UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Hobbit proportions... hm you have met your Hobbit match in paula. She,s 4'10" ok she claims an extra half inch but now you know why we live in a bungalow she struggles with stairs lol. She needs a step ladder to get know my bike.
21/08/2016 08:41:39 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
When does she stop being a Hobbit and become a Dwarf? Hehe.
22/08/2016 08:28:48 UTC
Harp said :-
I am in a state of confusion. I have enough money for a Yamaha MT03, a Kawasaki Z300 or a Kawasaki Z250. I have not ridden a bike for 19 Years until last summer when I just needed to ride again. I purchased a new Honda CB125F to settle me back in to riding again. Now I want to increase my power needs, hence the difficulty in choosing.
A full licence is held by me. My height is 5ft 9inch. Can you please make a recommendation.
Thank you very much and happy and safe riding.
04/12/2016 06:49:05 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Harp. There are reviews of all the bikes you mention on this site.

It is of course a personal choice. I thought the Yamaha had the most accessible power and was easy to ride. The Kawasaki Z300 was ok but it had to be revved quite hard before it would pick up speed. I think the Z250 is the lightest, most economical and most fun but not the fastest.

If you want a big bike feel with a little more power then I'd choose the MT03. If you want light and funky fun still with plenty of power to break the speed limits then the Z250SL.

Whichever bike you choose you won't be disappointed. They're all smashing machines they just have different characters.
04/12/2016 08:11:21 UTC
Jon Harris said :-
Hi, if you're still looking and you move quick the last remaining Z250SLs in the country can be had for £2800-£3000 as they are not Euro4 compliant they have had to be registered prior to 1st Jan '17.

This is probably £1000-1500 less than a Z300 or MT-03. The Z300 is much more like a 500-650 sized machine but then the weight jumps too and they lack the gutsy torque of the 250 so they actually feel slower of the line initially.

As for fitting on them I'm 6' 3" (don't laugh!) and for the short commute to work the Z250SL i picked up yesterday does just fine though it would be a little cramped for extensive touring lol.
08/05/2017 08:50:55 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
6'3"! I'm a mere 5'8" and I find the Z250SL is fine for myself although I'm aware it's not exactly roomy.

It's a terrible shame these smart nippy 250s didn't sell more. Here in the UK at least we're still obsessed with bigger is better. You're spot on with the Z250SL being quicker off the mark than it's bigger, more powerful yet more peaky and heavier Z300 brother.

What's even more frustrating is they've created the Versys 300. Adventure styled motorcycles with a degree of off road ability would be more suited to the 250 single punch as opposed to the 300 twin's revvy nature. After all the 250 motor is derived from Kawasaki's 250 crosser. Kawasaki are chasing performance figures for sales I'm afraid.
09/05/2017 09:47:36 UTC
Sharon said :-
Hi Jon,
The 2015/2016 models of the Kawasaki Z250SL have no abs and therefore as you say none Euro 4 compliant. I managed to pick mine up a year ago at £3000.
As you pointed out these models are still available at around the £3000 mark.
There is a 2017 Abs version available now which is priced at £3,649. Not that you would know anything about these bikes at all these days.
Two years ago the dealerships in their showrooms were displaying the 300s and 250s with pride.
The Kawasaki stand at this year's Manchester Motorcycle Show had none of them on display. The lowest cc on display was their new 650cc.
This scene was repeated at the Kawasaki showroom in Northwich. So unless you actually looked through the Kawasaki catalogue you could at present be totally unaware these fantastic bikes even exist.
It seems the UK brief affair with smaller cc bikes is over before it ever really had a chance to begin. Maybe low sales figures deem it unworthy of floor space but how the hell can anyone buy it if they don't even see it? If I had never seen the Kawasaki Z250SL in the showrooms and had a chance to sit on one I would not own one today, simple as that.
So it makes me wonder is it really we the public that dictates what is sold to us or is it the manufacturers themselves that dictates to us what we should buy?

09/05/2017 11:01:14 UTC
MP said :-
12/08/2017 11:49:31 UTC
Sharon said :-
Hi MP,

Have you got a full licence or CBT.
12/08/2017 09:19:25 UTC
MP said :-
I give my answer at chit-chat.thanks for replay.
15/08/2017 01:10:45 UTC
Prof Kök said :-
How do you top up the radiator water on KAWASAKI Z 250 SL without breaking the fairings?
19/03/2018 08:28:47 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Prof Kök. The water tank and the radiator cap are under one of the side pods. The manual that comes with the Z250SL has very good instructions on how to remove the covers.

If I recall there's about 3,4 or 5 little trip clips where the push the centre in to get them out and one that is turned 90 degrees with a cross-head screwdriver. Once they are out then the cover can be carefully pulled off.

Sharon and I ought to do a video covering this...
19/03/2018 12:17:53 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
In case you haven't got the manual...
19/03/2018 12:19:34 UTC

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