2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro - FIRST RIDE REVIEW

Little bike, big fun.

When a certain manufacturer with a name that starts in H and ends in A introduced a small, 125cc, single-cylinder streetbike three years back, I questioned how many people would actually go out and buy one. I, just as much as the next motorcycle enthusiast, want to see the industry grow and new riders come into the sport, but would people really see the allure of a little street bike like the Grom? A budding group of mini-bike owners that ride past my house every other weekend, booming aftermarket, and continually growing mini-bike race grids answered my question.

2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro jumping action
Kawasaki’s Z125 Pro is as much fun as it is practical.Kevin Wing

Now Kawasaki wants in on that action, and plans to grab a piece of the two-wheel small bike pie with the Z125 Pro. An all-new, global model for Kawasaki, the Z125 Pro features a low, 31.7-inch seat height and 225-pound curb weight, in addition to a 2-gallon gas tank and LCD dash with everything from gear indicator to dual tripmeters.

2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro cockpit view
The Z125 Pro gets an LCD screen with as much information as the next bike in Kawasaki’s lineup, plus Z-family mirrors and turn signals. Seat height is a short-rider-friendly 31.7 inches.Kevin Wing

The 125cc, SOHC engine borrows parts from Kawasaki’s KLX models that came before it, yet is different enough in its design for Kawasaki to refer to it as all new. Even still, Kawasaki folks with a finger on the mini-bike pulse and history kitting small-bike models of yore, suggest that there will be overlap between engine kits that were already available, and that you could easily get more power out of the Z125 Pro. Likewise, the aftermarket has already got its hands on the bike, with companies like Two Brothers Racing already getting anodized parts and an exhaust ready for the bike.

rider crunched on a 2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro
Being tall is only bad when it comes time to step on a dance floor, or pretend to fit on a bike like the Z125 Pro. Unfortunately, at 6-foot-3-inches, I hit my knees often on the bar and would probably want to upgrade to a taller handlebar.Kevin Wing

In stock trim, the Z125 Pro’s engine runs and fuels smoothly, as a powerplant housed in a new-rider-oriented bike should. All the same, clutch pull is light (though admittedly not entirely linear in its pull, which causes some less-than-smooth starts from a stop for less-experienced riders) and the four-speed transmission easy to work. Kawasaki noted that there could be some extra slack in the shifter due to the fact that, in other markets, the bike will be made available with an automatic transmission that uses the first bit of travel to engage the clutch, but we never had a problem and were pleased with the overall shift feel.

2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro cornering action
Chances are high that a good number of Z125 Pros will at one point or another end up on a kart track, entered in a local mini bike race.Kevin Wing

Ergonomics are tight for anyone more than 6-feet tall, and at anything near that height you run the risk of hitting your knees on the stock bars while turning, an issue I don’t remember having when riding a Grom with a stock handlebar. There’s not much you can do about your inseam, but I imagine a set of taller handlebars sourced from an aftermarket catalog will help. All the same, the seat is nice and supportive and good for logging all the city-street miles that the 2-gallon gas tank and impressive fuel economy numbers will allow for.

2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro static side view
Aggressive, unique styling with influence from Kawasaki’s other Z models (Z1000 and Z800) help the Z125 Pro to stand out.Kevin Wing

I say this assuming that you’re not already planning on turning the Z125 Pro into a little roadrace bike, but knowing good and well that this is a possibility—and not all that bad of an idea either. After all, the bike surprised with its solid handling on the narrow, cone-lined course that Kawasaki laid out for us later in the day on Treasure Island (video above). Steering is communicative and light, the brakes offer up admirable stopping power with a firm pull, and there’s zero twitchiness.

2017 Kawasaki Z125 pro going up a banked wall
Step 1: Find abandoned area with banked walls. Step 2: Ride in abandoned area with banked walls.Kevin Wing

After the races, we toyed around with the Z125 Pro in and around the shunned grounds that make up the rest of Treasure Island, and walked away equally as surprised by the bike’s willingness to get a little loose. Wheelies, stoppies, and even jumps were no match for the little Z125 Pro, which took all of the hooligan riding in stride, with only a little clatter here and there to remind us of our immaturity. Consider the bike something fun for the experienced rider, something practical for the guy who’s already got a bigger bike in his garage but wants something for running to the store, and at the same time something user-friendly and affordable for the newer rider.

riding the 2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro around town
The Z125 Pro will make for a great around-town bike, with decent power, a smooth transmission, and faultless fueling.Kevin Wing

All that, of course, for $200 less than Honda’s Grom ($2,999 for the Kawasaki versus $3,199 for the Honda).

Honda, you’ve officially got competition.

ENGINE TYPE Air-cooled, SOHC single
SEAT HEIGHT 31.7 in.
PRICE $2,999
doing a wheelie on the 2017 Kawasaki Z125 Pro
Apparently there are some cool views in San Francisco, all of which I was too busy having fun on the Z125 Pro to check out.Kevin Wing