There’s a reason why naked sports motorcycles are sometimes referred to as a “Streetfighter”. This is because they are designed to tackle canyon (read: twisty) roads and the occasional ride to the city. Put such motorcycles on the highways, and the brutal reality of why they are not that suitable became apparent, particularly if the bikes are of twin-cylinder design.
Kawasaki had introduced two new naked sports in 2017 – the Z650 and Z900. The Kawasaki Z650 features a twin-cylinder, 649cc engine while the Z900 is an inline four configuration with 948cc. The Z900 is the one with more power and smoother power delivery than its Z650 sibling so it has no issue to be taken anywhere – twisty roads, city ride and the highways.
Both the Kawasaki Z650 and Z900 are successors to their respective predecessors, the ER-6N and Z800. The older models were also of similar engine configurations at 649cc twin-cylinder and 798cc inline four. However, the ER-6N has a much stronger torque and midrange feel over the new Z650 due to the difference in engine tuning.
The Kawasaki Z650 is designed to be more economical than the ER-6N, and this is probably the reason why the former’s engine feels like hesitating when riding the bike on the highway as compared to the latter. Overall, the new Kawasaki Z650 gives extra mileage from its tank capacity of 15-litre over the 16-litre version of the ER-6N.
My previous rides with the Kawasaki Z650 were a combination of twisty roads and the highways but for this round, I am taking the motorcycle in a journey consisting of just twisty old roads and long straights with a few bends in-between. Certain parts of those long straights were bumpy and uneven terrains, making the ride more “enjoyable”, at least for me.
Compared against its similar capacity sibling, the Ninja 650, the Kawasaki Z650 is said to be less comfortable over long distances. This is quite true to a certain extent – riding non-stop for close to 2 hours on highways with long straights and almost zero bends. As a streetfighter, the Kawasaki Z650 excels in tackling short straights, multiple S-Curves and navigating thru the city’s traffic rush hour.
Such environments make the Kawasaki Z650 feels more nimble and agile over riding on long straights hence the question of “being comfortable” is the least of the rider’s concern.
The journey with the Z650 this time around started with a ride to the New Village in Kundang, a small settlement consisting mostly Chinese Malaysians for a noodle breakfast. Two of my riding buddies had joined me for this trip, and we rode from our RV (Rendezvous) starting point at Petron station located next to the LDP Toll Plaza in the morning of January 21, 2018.
My biking buddies, Clement Gan, has a Kawasaki Versys 1000 complete with original panniers and a Shad Top Box installed while Jesse Lee, rides a Versys 650 fitted with a Top Box and two panniers, also from Shad. Our journey from the RV point to the breakfast venue took us 25 minutes, passing thru the LDP stretch to its Damansara ending point, and into Sungai Buloh town. To get into Kundang New Village from there, there are two options for us to consider – ride thru Taman Setia or use Kampung Gombak/Kundang Jaya segment, a modern-day residential area.
We decided to choose the latter as traffic is less than riding thru the former. Our trip is to ride all the way to Teluk Intan, a southern town in the neighbouring state of Perak after breakfast.
The roads to be taken from Kundang New Village to Teluk Intan would be Route B29 to Route B27, which by itself merges with Route 3209. Route 3209 is a twisty stretch, with the beginning segment consisting of uneven terrain as well as monkeys from the nearby jungle. upon completion of Route 3209, we took a shortcut to Route B33, which is a 43km stretch passing thru several areas like Felda Sungai Tengi and Felda Soeharto villages before continuing into Route B44, a 60km stretch of long straights but quite bumpy road.
The Kawasaki Z650 is very agile and easy to ride on these routes easily. Although I had maintained the riding speed of the Z650 to not more than 105km/h along those routes, most of the time, the bike and me were some 200-300m ahead of my two riding buddies after clearing some bends along the way. I was riding at similar speeds of between 85km and 105km/h, and took the corners and bends at the same speeds with the Kawasaki Z650. Being lighter than both Versys, this enabled the Z650 to widen the gap at each bend, hence the overall 200-300m “advantage” over the two touring motorcycles.
All the routes described so far are located in the state of Selangor, with the last route being B53 just before we enter into the state of Perak. From there, it’s another 35km away from Teluk Intan via Route 5, which is a coastal road that originated as Jalan Kapar from Klang in the state of Selangor. Route 5 is one of 3 major access roads to get into Teluk Intan, the other being Route 1 and the North-South Expressway, commonly known as PLUS Highway.
We arrived at Teluk Intan approximately 20 minutes after completing Route B53 at the junction of Route 5/B53 not far from Sabak town. As Route 5 is a the main coastal road, there were a couple of traffic lights junction along the way, and sharp corners too. All these were not an issue for the Kawasaki Z650, as it could take whatever the road gives out.
The first thing to do when entering Teluk Intan is to pose for a photo with the town’s famous Leaning Tower. And I had this Selfie together with the Kawasaki Z650 and the said Tower (shown above). Riding the Kawasaki Z650 for approximately 2-1/2 hours since we resumed our ride after breakfast from Kundang New Village, I am surprised to find myself still fresh and lively without any feeling of being tired or uncomfortable once reaching Teluk Intan.
This was against the stark difference between my previous ride onboard the Kawasaki Z650 which left me feeling least comfortable from a 100km along the PLUS Highway between the capital of Alor Setar in Kedah and Bukit Mertajam town in the state of Penang. In addition to feeling a bit numb on the right hand for staying within the speed limit of 110km/h back then, the backlash from the wind whenever I tried to ride the Kawasaki Z650 above 175km/h was very strong that the strain on the neck was incredible.
However, having rode the Kawasaki Z650 at touring bike’s speed starting from Kundang until Teluk Intan, the feeling was completely different from that previous northern journey as I was more alert this time around due to the uneven terrains encountered, and the multiple S-Curves toward Batu Arang area.