Your first bike is always something special, yet many experienced bikers soon turn their noses up at basic standard machines like the Suzuki GS500, Kawasaki ER500 and the Yamaha Diversion 600 four.
What makes these motorcycles special is the fun you can have on them whilst you learn a little of the craft of riding; speed, handling, braking, don´t come naturally – you have to develop such skills and forgiving motorbikes like these make the job that bit easier, and safer.
Jamie Oliver´s Pukka Novice Bike Recipe; Take one GPZ500S sporty twin from the 1980s, detune the engine to around 50bhp, add a retro style chassis, natty three spoke wheels, then stand back and wait for the orders to come flooding in from CBT instructors/schools all over Europe.
Yeah OK, life is rarely as simple as that. But Kawasaki certainly have cracked the formula as far as the UK is concerned, with the ER5 (and the old GPZ500S) selling quite respectably and pleasing all sorts of bikers who just don´t need to venture beyond 100mph, ever.
Personally, I can´t really get my head around that concept, but I do love the ER5 all the same. Why? Because it´s fun, lightweight, slick handling and the engine loves being revved in the same way that some MPs like backhanders and fact-finding trips to exotic destinations. The ER5 is a bike you can jump on and within ten minutes you´ll be grinning like a loon, caning the nuts off it, yet still feeling safe because you´re only doing 75mph.
Like the Diversion 600 or the GS500, the ER5 is a bike with historic roots, in this case stretching back through the GPZ500, 450LTD cruiser and GPz305 from the 1980s. That said, the water-cooled, four stroke parallel twin feels a little smoother and more refined than the GS500, and even lacks the buzziness that the Diversion emits above 8,000rpm. It makes a claimed 50bhp, which is almost identical to the GS500, yet the Kawasaki feels like it has a bit more urge throughout the entire rev range.
What´s more important is that the ER5 has an adroit little chassis which can handle the power in any situation. In a nutshell, it has balance.
The twin tube frame isn´t hi-tech, nor are the 37mm non adjustable front forks, or the old fashioned twin shock rear end. Yet the Kawasaki has a firmness that the Yamaha lacks, a little hint of sporty ability that encourages any biker who wants to explore their cornering skills. To me, that´s a good thing – I don´t subscribe to the theory that novice class motorbikes should be as dull as cold porridge.
The Kawasaki feels really compact, easy to manage, regardless of the speed. Turning the bike at tickover in first is particularly simple, it is much more confidence-building that the Suzuki, or the Yamaha, which feels like a 750 class machine by contrast. Such low-speed handling might not matter too much to experienced bikers, but for relative newcomers, it is crucial and Kawasaki have got this detail spot-on.
Ditto the brakes, which are a good combination of progressively powerful single disc front and a very decent drum at the back. The front is better than the GS500, but not as good as the Diversion´s twin disc front end set-up. However, the Diversion is probably overbraked for many novices, whereas the ER5 offers braking you can learn to use gradually.
The only weak areas for the Kawasaki are the questionable finish of some parts, which look less durable than bits on the Diversion, plus the small mirrors and the relatively hard saddle. The Diversion beats both these twins easily for comfort, but the Suzuki somehow suited me better than the Kawasaki in terms of riding position, but only just.
At around three thousand pounds (depending on the best deal you can find), the ER5 is a cheap bike, no question. Yet its abilities put it well above the Diversion, in my eyes, when it comes to novice biking. It´s addictive, buzzy nature wins you over and it even looks good from some angles too. One of the nicest bikes that Kawasaki have ever made and definitely playing at the same level as the Honda CB500 twin – previously my fave middleweight standard machine.
Get Kawasaki motorcycle insurance for the kawasaki middleweight er5.
|Engine||Four stroke, twin cylinder, watercooled|
|Claimed power (bhp)||50bhp|
|Front suspension||37mm forks, non adjustable. Rear suspension Twin Kayaba, adjustments for preload only.|
|Front brake||Single 280mm discs, twin piston calipers.|
|Front wheel/tyre||110/70 H17 inch|
|Rear wheel/tyre||130/70 H17 inch;|
|Fuel capacity||17 litres|
|Current price||£3,295 (plus OTR)|