Product Type: Kawasaki motorcycles
Newest Review: ... 60 litre panniers. Aside from the poorly designed unitrak rear suspension linkage I reckon Kawasaki created a real bike of worth in the ... more
GPZ500s - Does exactly what it says on the tin.
Member Name: SpannerMonkey
Advantages: Cheap to buy, run, and fix. Pokiest engine of it's class. Very easy to ride.
Disadvantages: Awful brakes. Low quality suspension. Poor quality finish.
After looking at the usual suspects in my price range(CB500, GS500, ER5 ect) i eventually settled on a Gpz500. I picked up a 97 D model in very nice condition with 13000 miles on the clock for £800. So i am writing this review from the experience of a good fresh bike, not a clapped out old shed.
First impressions were good (after moving up from a battered old ns125r). It felt very quick with a pleasing kick at 7000 prm where it then howled to the redline. The engine is lumpy below 3000rpm, it sort of feels and sounds like a chopper but above that it's very smooth for a parralel twin. It wasn't hard to get 200 miles from a tank which at the time cost £13 to fill. But at that time i was still wet behind the ears and cornering at 4-5K, only winding it up on the straights. Now, riding it much harder i manage around 120 miles from a tank. Still not bad compared to a full on sports bike.
The riding position is sit up and beg, and tbh a little cramped for me (6ft and 17 st) but it's still easy to do 200 miles in a day and not ache afterwards. One major downfall is the brakes. Within a couple of weeks i was finding their limits (not too hard to find tbh). I stuck a braided hose on the front (£25) along with some new pads (£15) and some fresh fluid. The back also got new pads and fluid. This made a big improvement but a single tiny disc and caliper on the front is never going to be great. The last ones made and some imports had twin discs on the front. Buy one if possible. It's easy but uneconomical to fit the twin disc front end to single disc models. I know it's not a sportsbike but there is no excuse for lame brakes.
Suspension is also lacking but it's what you would expect on a sports commuter. The front forks are very soft and compress easily under hard braking, especially for heavier riders. This can be improved quite cheaply (£100) with stiffer springs and a heavier fork oil. The rear shock is truely horrible. Very harsh under fast compression so the back skips around when cornering on bumpy roads. Again this can apparantly be massively improved with an aftermarket shock. But at £500 for the cheapest one, i wasn't prepared to find out on a £800 bike.
On to the bodywork. First off the mirrors. Completely useless if you are wider than a beanpole. Get ready to flap those elbows. I had a small off due to the chain snapping and locking the backwheel at 70mph. This cracked the top fairing beyond repair. No problem i thought, i'll get another off ebay for £50. Err..no! Undamaged top fairings for D models are like hens teeth and when they are available they sell for well over £100. All other panels are fairly easy to get hold of. Just bear it in mind if buying a bike with damage. The bellypan is important (but it does restrict ground clearance so is often removed) as it gives a bit of protection to those rust collecting downpipes. In fact the whole exhaust system is a bit mickey mouse. When it finally rots away stick a stainless Motad on there. The only other money i had to spend was when the fuel tank started to leak (internal rust). I used a Frost tank sealing kit £40 and months later it has given no more trouble. And finally the frame. The paint finish is very thin, especially on the swingarm. The whole thing collects a layer of surface rust and after a couple of winters kept outside the bike starts to look very tatty.
Electrics are pretty good. Apart from a faulty side stand switch (i just cut and bridged the wires) and a blown main fuse everything still works fine. Despite being left outside uncovered in all weathers.
When it needed a few things replacing this is where i'm glad i chose the GPZ over a full blown sports. A decent O-ring chain and sprocket kit cost £70 (i also went -1 +3 on the sprockets which makes it feel much livelier in the lower gears). I needed a new front tyre as it was worn (i put the reccommended BT45 on which was £60 fitted). I few miles lated i picked up a puncture in the rear. I wanted a BT45 again to replace the one on it but they only had an Avon in so i had that. Again, £60 fitted (eat that GSXR thou riders :o). Tbh the old Bridgestone felt much more planted and gave a softer ride. The Avon is much more fidgity but also grippier at full lean. The BT45's seemed to last forever, time will tell how well the Avon wears.
6 months down the line and i'm gradually beginning to dislike the bike. I outbrake it into the corners, the riding position is terrible for leaning off and the engine feels very tame now. I find myself riding everywhere at 10000rpm+. Of course this isn't the bikes fault. Naturally i have progressed as a rider and i am asking things of it that it was never designed for. I just mention is as a warning to other adrenaline junkies that you will quickly outgrow the bike. On the plus side, it cost me next to nothing to run and in 8000 miles of thrashing it never let me down.
So don't buy an old shed but also don't throw £3000 into the newest one you can find because you'll probably not keep it more than a year and depreciation is harsh. Buy something around the £800-1200 mark, clean it religiously and you'll not lose too much on it.
Hell, i could have written a book ;). So to sum it up. Arguably the best buy for someone who has just passed their test. Get one with good tyres, chain and sprockets and brakes and it should cost you nothing but petrol money and the odd oil change. Then 6-12 months later sell it on to another noob and move on to something better.
Summary: Buy one cheap, learn to ride, then move on.
|on skiddy terrain:|
|on dry terrain:|