One main reason that I bought a Kawasaki ER5 was a review write up written in 1997. To me each and every aspect detailed the machine as desirable. The machine made sense to me and was exciting as well as attainable. I followed this reading by widening to more reviews and peoples opinions. It all appeared positive and any shortfalls that were described either did not bother me or in fact strengthened my desire. I cross-referenced the ER5 with other machines from other manufactures and it seemed much the same as the others.
The final decision to buy was two fold. One it was the cheapest. Second, and more importantly, a unique gearbox like no other. I have no idea how Kawasaki pulled it off and I am even more confused as to how it has not caught one but when at standstill in first gear and you knock the lever up it goes into neutral; every time. When you are on the move (somehow) neutral is not available and straight into second. No false neutrals are possible. It is an amazing design so simple and is missing on all other motorcycles. Pull up at the lights knock, knock, down and click up; done.
Subsequently the bike was soon delivered and in the garage. Needing some TLC I have completed what could be described as a ‘heavy service’. It has been Insured, Taxed and MOT’d and is now on the road. Prior to this it was a long three months having not ridden the bike. It still had the potential to be an awful and un-wanted motorcycle.
Up to the point of clicking into first and releasing the clutch it was all written information, all thinking and dreaming and therefore I was apprehensive about the first ride. How it would it actually handle, would it be comfortable, everything I wanted it to be? I have spent enough time, money and energy getting to this point for it all to blow up in my face.
Well 10 minutes shut up all of those thoughts and worries. It is like nothing I have ever ridden before. It is an experience! Responding to being trashed, enjoying being thrown around and happily to please during a cruise. The engine eagerly responds as the two analogue dials swing up and down continually. Being directly in the force of the wind adds to the experience and there is no better place. It is easy to find and play with the limit of the tyres as they are relatively narrow. Adding to the handling characteristics and being a feather-weight it is a joy to explore. Diving into corners is rewarding as much as it is exciting. It is loud, basic and forgiving.
I cannot see me riding it for years and years but as an experience of what motorcycling has to offer it is worth sampling. It can be described similarly as to when you discover a band new to you that you fall in love for. Of course it does not take long to discover they already have four previous albums and you are late to the party. The ER5 is one of those early Kawasaki albums. It is raw, unrefined and lacking in many ways that Kawasaki has now built and improved upon. The ER5 is not my favourite album but the brand is now more compassing than it was before.
The sky is grey and damp, the wind is up and unrelenting and I am clicking through the gears just to let the revs build up and rush up to the red line. The machine lurches forward like a greyhound out of the gate as I change up a gear 200 rpm from the red line. The tyres shift their weight as the clouds part and drench the road ahead in sunshine. With a consecutive stretch of corners ahead I drop a gear and hunch myself forward. Tightening up and reactive I carve the bike through a stream of corners as the suspension keeps me informed and planted. The experience is all encompassing and I take a depth breath half a mile down the road and smile.
At a more sedate pace I was leaning forward on the tank thinking that it could with some clip ons. I was perched on the seat thinking that it could be gripper and braking wondering if it could be sharper. The bike does not need any of this to improve but only to make it my own. My taste would be different to that anyone else’s and therefore cannot be counted as improvements to be made.
The bike is completely different to what I expected. I am acutely aware that reading is a poor substitute for experience. Words themselves are limiting and ordered whereas experience and senses are dynamic and overwhelming. My only disappointments are ones that I cannot reasonably expect from the bike. The motorcycle is not designed as a grand tourer or a sports bike and therefore complaining that it lacks these credentials is misguided. It is not all things to all men and nor should it be. It is a basic machine that offers excitement and personal development and little else.
Owning my previous touring motorcycle left a feeling of guilt as it languished in the garage and commuting on it became an insult as it could do and achieve so much more. Now I have machine that is more inline with my needs as opposed to my desires. I can see why these bike where so popular with new riders it is a great choice as a ‘beginners motorcycle’. A beginning that I missed; I jumped too soon. Went too big, too heavy too quickly. Now messing with a lower capacity light bike is fantastic. I am learning to ride differently. I cannot push this bike as much as I have other machines but that is not the point. It is a different animal and therefore should be treated as such.
I am now eager to try the upgraded er6 and the very new naked z650. As the ER5 is it’s predecessor I imagine that the improvements have only continued.