Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Kawasaki KE100

Thu, February 25th, 2010

Featuring a different Kawasaki street bike each day.

1976-2001 Kawasaki KE100
It's only 99cc. It's not supposed to go on the highway. It's not a motocross bike, or even an enduro racer. It's simple transportation for short jaunts to the corner store or casual cow-trailing. If you accept that purpose (and don't weigh 250 pounds) the little rotary-valve motor can keep you happy. It's certainly a whole lot more entertaining than a moped or CVT scooter.
Trials tires, skinny fork and frame tubes and under-damped shocks won't accomodate 10/10ths riding on or off road. But, refer back to the caveat above about the bike's purpose. The whole bike weighs 187 lbs., which makes it effortless to ride.
The KE is plain, conventional, and simple. But its simplicity is honest and charming. In its last years, the colors and graphics got a bit outlandish.
KEs were always built to be sold cheaply, so they weren't manufactured like jeweled Swiss watches. But KEs have performed flawlessly for years despite neglect and continuous thrashing at the hands of countless irresponsible youngsters. The motor is near as bulletproof as an air-cooled two-stroke can be, and everything is cheap and easy to repair when necessary. Thanks to a quarter century in production, largely unchanged, parts are readily available.
This bike can't take care of many transportation needs. But those it can take care of, from zipping around a campground to teaching a kid to love motorcycles, it does very, very well.
Nobody wants a KE100. They aren't big, they aren't sexy, and they are not objects of desire. They were always positioned over in a corner of dealership showrooms, out of the way of traffic. But they sold, reliably, for 25 years They probably would still be in production today if emissions laws didn't prohibit them.
Gee, perhaps KE100s were wanted after all.
Yes, I did consciously choose to run the KE100 the day after the KZ1300. And yes, I deliberately gave the KE100 a right-down-the-middle score of 3 wheels in every category...but that's fair. The KE100 was a rather modest option, but it was manufactured for 25 years because they got it right. I wouldn't want one to be my only motorcycle, but I would love one as a second. A high return on a small investment.