I took some time off work in August to take advantage of some great weather to head out on a motorcycle trip. I've been doing trips like this for the last 4 years and won't be stopping any time soon. I wasn't too worried about packing up stuff on the Z650 and heading out because people have been doing this sort of thing for decades on machines with a lot less power and worse handling. It was 2500km (1550 mi) of riding on pavement...no offroading was done. I was actually quite excited to see the strengths and the weaknesses I could find for this style of riding with this bike so that I could plan what upgrades I will want to do over the winter for next years trip.
Here are some of my takeaways from taking the Z650 on this type of a trip:
Handling - The bike handled so amazingly well with an additional 60lbs of pack on the back as well as 15lb bag on the fuel tank. It was very nimble going into the corners and the front end was very steady at high speeds (170km/h or 105mph)
Power - The range of power in this motor is unbelievable. It is always right where I wanted it whether we were riding in bumper to bumper traffic in Vancouver, or banging gears around twisties and passing the odd camper as well.
Comfort - My last bike was a 2005 Kawasaki Ninja ZX6R which was terrible for comfort on long trips. In contrast, the Z650 is a very comfortable machine for long periods of travel. On my ZX6R I would experience extreme amounts of pain in my lower back after an hour on the road. With the Z650 I found that I could ride for around for hours and had no problems hopping back on after filling up the tank with more fuel. By no means is it as comfortable as a larger touring bike, but as far as a naked sport bike goes, I was very surprised how long I could stay in the saddle day after day.
Economy - Unbelievable fuel economy. Even riding hard through the twisties with the added weight of my luggage, the bike had amazing fuel economy. I was riding with a 1997 Yamaha YZF750 and a 2014 Victory 8Ball, and when we would stop to fuel up, everytime I was just blown away by how little fuel I would have to put in the tank. I was averaging 4.5L/100km (52 mpg US or 63 mpg Imperial).
Not so awesome
Wind - Without a proper windscreen I was getting beat up by a lot of wind. This will be my first purchase this winter. Looking at the MRA windscreen right now, but I have to wait until the Canadian importer can bring it in.
Power - I know I had power in the "Awesome" section, but this is my one thing against the power. Not a huge thing, but I feel it should be mentioned. I used to ride a ZX6R 636 and between the YZF750 and Victory 8Ball I ride with, I used to have no problem passing multiple vehicles at the same time with those bikes. The Z650 doesn't have the power that my old bike did so I found I couldn't catch the other bikes right away. They would lose me for 5-10 seconds, but I would catch up once I got up to the same speeds they were doing. This seemed to be only a problem when riding with other larger bikes while attempting to pass multiple vehicles on the highway at the same time. Every other circumstance the Z650 held its own against the larger bikes.
Luggage - Now this one is tough because I know the Z650 isn't meant for touring. I made it work, but I had to scramble at the last minute to make something for the bike because there are just no accessories available for this bike in Canada right now. I'm really hoping that changes next year. I couldn't even order the awesome OEM luggage brackets. Those are currently only available in the UK from the looks of it. As you can see in the photos I went to Home Depot and picked up some materials to build a luggage holder that actually worked quite well.
Photos from the road
The years trip was really amazing, and after a few upgrades to the Z650 I am looking forward to planning the trips I would like to go on next year.