Blog by Madmechanic
Let's look back and remember the muscular Kawasaki ZRX1100/ZRX1200 Part 2
5d ago

Let's look back and remember the muscular Kawasaki ZRX1100/ZRX1200 Part 2

However, there was one small problem – as brilliant as the ZRX1200R was, it arrived on the market at the same time as the Yamaha FZ1, which changed all the rules of the game. Everything that the Rex did well, the new super-naked did even better, whether it was quarter-mile acceleration or comfort on long rides.

To make matters worse, the swift and modern style of the FZ1 made the green machine... uh... look a bit silly, especially in the eyes of young riders who didn't understand the difference between Eddie Lawson and Eddie Felson (likely referring to the American pool player – ed.). Although the updated ZRX1200R was very cool, it couldn't outshine the sleek and vibrant Yamaha in showrooms. Kawasaki ceased production of the Rex for the U.S. market in 2005, and three years later, you could still find new ones in dealerships. The retro party was essentially coming to an end...

Looking back, it's clear that the ZRX was born in a situation described by Dr. John in his hit – I been in the right place, but it must have been the wrong time. This bike was never forgotten by its devoted fans and owner communities, and it remains thrilling and accessible to ride to this day. This is especially true for the 1200 version, which in stock form lacks the noticeable flaws of its predecessor and boasts many noticeable advantages. The 1100 version is great for tuners, thanks to its sleeved engine and many interchangeable parts from the ZX-11.

The arrival of the Z900RS caused some grumbling among ZRX loyalists, and there were reasons for that. The new bike wasn't as fast as the ZRX1200R and noticeably smaller and tighter. The Z900RS had the audacity to claim lineage from Lawson's replica, while abandoning the canonical cowl with a square headlight like the KZ1000R in favor of the familiar retro design of the 70s, reminiscent more of Portland's The One Show than anything Lawson rode in the 80s. Is this truly Kawasaki's retro or just a competitor to Yamaha's XSR900, more retro-versatile than a mere replica?

But none of that matters. The ZRX 1100 remains uniquely itself. From nose to tail, you'll find many intriguing details: gold badges, finely ribbed engine covers by today's standards, and a tank and fairing with surprisingly sleek contours that made Lawson's old bikes resemble pinewood derby cars. Neither version of the Rex feels left behind when it comes to acceleration and speed. And both models have proven themselves sturdy and reliable even in the less-than-gentle hands of second and third owners.

The irony of the ZRX and their early market arrival is this: there's already a whole generation of riders who know nothing about 1982 and simply see these bikes as part of the landscape. For them, the Kawasaki ZRX 1100 and ZRX 1200 are just cool UJMs with their own atmosphere and style, setting them apart from ordinary naked bikes from Yamaha, Ducati, and all the rest. How about a replica like this, which, by simply being itself, has had a significant influence on this class today?

You could say it's a tribute bike that people buy for its modern virtues. When Jimi Hendrix took Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" and turned it into a psychedelic pop anthem, Dylan did a smart thing, adapting the arrangement for his future performances of the song (I recommend listening to both versions for a better understanding of this comparison).

Do you think we'll ever see our own ZRX1100 replica?

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