"Bracksy, have we got a test for you... hehehehe. We haven't toured one of these yet, the Kawasaki ER-5, so you can ride one to the Island to see if it can handle the pace."
Gee thanks Woose! Testing that which the rest reject seems to be my lot in life (Ed: err, don't you mean having the reject test the rest!!!) - so ever-ready for a challenge the ER-5 was prepped to carry me and my kit on the pilgrimage from Sydney southwards to Phillip Island for the final MotoGP of the year.
AMCN last tested the ER-5 in March 1999 (Vol 48 No 17), when Guy Allen put the model through its paces in an urban environment soon after it was launced on the Aussie market.
As he pointed out at the time, the ER-5's powerplant has been around since 1987 when the 498cc liquid-cooled twin appeared in the GPz500, before also doing service in the KLE500 dual-purpose model of 1992.
Now the ER-5 will never win any drag races, but its performance is pleasantly surprising. The engine has a handy mid-range pull, making the ER-5 a zippy steed to traverse an often grid-locked city like Sydney. With a handy 50ps at 9000rpm and 4.5kg-m at 7200rpm the usable power is noticeable right from a closed throttle to the limiter.
While it is marvellous for carving through lines of traffic, the real test would come over the 2000km of highway blacktop that lay ahead.
Many would baulk at riding the ER-5 over such a distance, citing a number of factors no doubt headed by a supposed lack of performance for a long haul plus a lack of luggage space. But at the end of the day you can only motor so fast before the eye of Constable Plod looks at you through the sights of a radar gun. In that regard the ER-5 should ensure you keep your licence just that little bit longer.
Don't get me wrong, this Kwaka can comfortably sit on speeds all day that will see you donate your plastic-coated photo to the Police Library for a few months, no problem, but ballistic speeds were never part of its design brief.
Up to it?
The ER-5 has an easy upright seating position, but lacking even a bikini cowl you soon get turned into a windsock at anything over 120kmh. And while it may return fuel figures over 23km/lt in the city, once it's feeding time for the twin 34mm CV Keihin carbs the fuel economy can take a battering - dropping to around 14km/lt on open roads.
Obviously it's up to the rider to find a happy medium on the long haul, but with a 16-litre fuel tank, even pinned, 230km is still possible.
On the highway the ER-5 has no trouble overtaking cars without having to tap-dance through the lower gears.
There are no real mod-cons, save for a fuel gauge, although this is still combined with the usual fuel cock.
Simple, but effective
Reflecting the simple dash, the ER-5 has basic features like conventional 37mm non-adjustable front forks and twin rear shocks - with five-way adjustable spring preload via the toolkit-supplied C-spanner.
A capable single disc with a twin-piston caliper work the front stoppers, while the rear has a 160mm drum brake, the latter offering good feel and reasonable stopping power. Another nice touch, not often seen on bikes in the ER-5's $7090 price zone is the adjustable clutch and brake lever.
The ER-5 is quite comfortable on the open road, but it comes into its own through the tighter stuff. With a wheelbase of 1430mm a 27-degree rake and 102mm trail, the steering is relatively quick, but at the same time stable enough not to be to daunting for the inexperienced.
The ER-5 remains rock solid and confidence inspiring, even when running over potholes, and with 125mm travel up front and 105mm at the rear I noticed no bottoming out in normal riding conditions - although I am somewhat of a flyweight at 65kg wringing wet.
The standard-fitment Dunlop Arrowmax GT401s (110/70 front, 130/70 rear) offer excellent grip in all weather conditions - and boy did I go through every condition imaginable on the trip southwards!
The only real downside on the long haul was the old-style stem-mounted mirrors, which tend to vibrate when travelling over 110kmh - it makes it hard to determine what's following. But on the flip side, when pottering around town and in built-up areas, they offer good vision with nothing obscured.
After spending two weeks with the ER-5 I was pleasantly surprised. It has a comfy seat, even when loaded with gear, and offers adequate anchor points. However, another at the rear, besides the grabrail, would be a bonus.
A seat height of 780mm is right for most body shapes and with a dry weight of 179kg (claimed) it's not too daunting, even for those smaller in stature.
At a competitive $7090, the Kawasaki ER-5 strikes me as a bike that a newcomer to larger-capacity motorcycling would be more than happy to gain further experience on.