Somewhere in my heart, I've always been a fan of naked bikes. That's not to say that I don't enjoy other types; far from it. But at the same time, there's a reason that two of my personal bikes (including the one I never intend to sell) are both nakeds. You like what you like, you know? Sometimes, even before you fully understand it.

But the one recurring thought I consistently had as I put miles on the 2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE during a gorgeous day in the San Diego sunshine was this: I sincerely wish this bike existed back when I was shopping for my first bike.

Temporally speaking, of course, it couldn't have. No one was putting lovely, clear TFT dashes on anything in the early-to-mid-2000s, let alone on a small-to-mid displacement bike aimed primarily at newer riders. And to be totally fair, I was also looking for a bit more storage capacity than just strapping a backpack over my shoulders every day would have allowed. 

But I would have wanted it, especially if I'd had the chance to ride it. And I would definitely have given it a good deal of thought, even if it wasn't ultimately what I ended up choosing.

Here's why.

A Quick Outline Of The 2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE

2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE - Right Side

2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE - Right Side.

Photo by Kevin Wing.

2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE - Left Side

2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE - Left Side

Photos by Kevin Wing.

Let's get the specs out of the way, as the 2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE is powered by the same 451cc parallel-twin found in the regular Z500, the Eliminator (or Eliminator 500 in some markets), and the Ninja 500. 

It makes a claimed 51 horsepower at 10,000 rpm and 31.7 pound-feet of torque at 7,500 rpm, all of which is mated to a six-speed gearbox with an assist and slipper clutch fitted as standard. ABS is also standard on the 2024 Z500 SE, as well as the regular Z500.

The Z500 SE has a trellis frame, a 41mm hydraulic telescopic fork up front, a horizontal back-link-type rear shock with adjustable preload, and a pair of 17-inch color-matched alloy wheels. Brakes consist of single discs up front and in the rear with Nissin calipers; you get a two-piston unit up front and a single-piston in the rear. 

And the seat height is an approachable 30.9 inches, though it has a narrow taper to the front to encourage ease of getting into the saddle in the first place. The wheelbase is a nimble 54.1 inches, the fuel tank holds 3.7 gallons, and the claimed curb weight is between 370.4 and 372.6 pounds (California evaporative emissions equipment, says Kawasaki, weighs about 2.2 pounds). 

The View From The Saddle

2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE - Riding

2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE - Riding

Photo by Kevin Wing.

I might be a fairly experienced street rider, but I'm also on the shorter end of the scale. Standing at 5-foot-3 inches and blessed with leg proportions better suited to a corgi (27-inch inseam, baby) makes some bikes a distinct challenge. The 2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE, I'm happy to say, is mostly not one of them. 

Why mostly? The SE comes with a really cool little pillion seat cowl installed over the rear seat. It's extremely visually appealing, and is one of the OEM accessories that comes on the SE (and not the base Z500) that sets the two variants apart. For those of us with extremely short inseams, though, even that little cover can make things a bit more difficult when you're getting on the bike.

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Still, it's nothing that stepping on the left peg to mount the bike (or bending your knee) can't solve. If you have short legs like me, you can easily get used to it and have it become second nature. The side stand is robust, and as long as it's fully engaged and you're on level ground, you should have zero worries about mounting your bike this way.

Once you're in the saddle, you can't help but notice the SE's nice, bright TFT dash. The base 2024 Z500 comes with an LCD dash that's pretty good, but the TFT dash layout is uncluttered and absolutely visible even in bright daylight. Riders have a choice between dark and light modes, and will certainly develop their favorites. I liked the dark mode the best, but both are easy to read at a glance.

All the switchgear is well positioned, located in the expected places, and easy to navigate even for those with smaller handspans. The clutch lever feel is light and easy to engage, and both the brake and throttle responses are crisp, quick to respond, and easy to modulate. 

But, Janaki, What It's Like To Ride?

2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE - Riding

2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE - Riding

Photo by Kevin Wing.

The short wheelbase, light weight, and nimble feel make the Z500 SE seem both simple and effortless to get it to do what you want it to do. From weaving delicately through traffic or in more congested, stop-and-go settings to blasting down the highway and keeping up with highway speeds, the Z500 has plenty of go on tap with a simple twist of the throttle.

The Dunlop Sportmax tires work well with the suspension on both smooth and ridged pavement, and the combined setup soaks up even small potholes with ease. 

Gear changes are extremely easy thanks to the assist and slipper clutch. At the same time, I noted two things. One, I didn't find a single false neutral all day. And two, I had to actively try quite hard to bog the engine down by being in too high a gear. 

For a new rider who's getting used to the hang of things, both of those details should be extremely confidence-inspiring. When you combine them with all the other details that Kawasaki got right on the Z500, they add up to a nice, tidy, inviting package for new riders.

One other thing I particularly appreciated about the Z500 SE is that those mirrors (and the unique mirror stalk shape) remain properly planted and non-vibrational at every speed. Sure, it's a parallel twin, but having a set of mirrors that both look good and work well at all speeds is an important characteristic. You want to see what's behind you, don't you?

The Visual Component

2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE ABS - Left Side

2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE ABS - Left Side

Photo by Kevin Wing.

2024 Kawasaki Z500 ABS Family

2024 Kawasaki Z500 ABS Family

Photo by Kevin Wing.

I haven't said a single word about the styling yet, although I clearly should. To keep things simple, Kawasaki is offering the 2024 Z500 SE in a single colorway in the US (though it may come in additional colors elsewhere in the world): Candy Persimmon Red/Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Matte Graphenesteel Gray.

The color-matched Candy Persimmon Red wheels look perfect on this bike, and there's something particularly striking about the combination of delicacy and strength found in the spoke design. That brings me to some of the differences between the SE and the base Z500.

If you're a fan of Kawasaki green, then the Z500 is probably your bike, as that's the only version of the Z500 that color comes on. Besides the special paint and graphics, here's what the Z500 SE gets that the Z500 doesn't.

  • TFT dash (with smartphone connectivity via Kawasaki's Rideology app)
  • LED turn signals
  • Radiator cover
  • Frame sliders
  • Belly pan
  • Pillion seat cover
  • Tank and knee pads
  • USB charging port (type C)
  • Smoked meter cover

Gallery: 2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE - First Ride Review

They're small things, sure, but that TFT dash alone makes a strong case in favor of the SE (that is if you like the colorway). Additionally, connecting it via the app lets you do fun things like record your route and telemetry on fun rides you want to remember and/or analyze anything. The SE styling elements also add a more finished look to the entire composition, in my opinion (though your visual mileage may, of course, vary).

Price-wise, the base 2024 Kawasaki Z500 ABS starts at an MSRP of $5,599 in the US. If you choose the 2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE ABS instead, that starts at just $6,299, which seems reasonable. For the sake of comparison, the 2023 Z400 ABS starts at $5,399, which is just $200 less than the base Z500 for this 399cc parallel-twin sibling.

The Whole Package

Bikes are like people, in that some take more time to get acclimated to than others. The 2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE ABS was, for me, extremely easy to get used to. The ergonomics worked extremely well for me.

Also, even after a day of riding, the seat hit a nice Goldilocks balance between support and comfort; neither too firm nor too soft. In fact, I'd say overall that was the entire experience I had with the 2024 Kawasaki Z500 SE ABS. In pretty much all respects, it was just right.

If only this bike could time travel. 

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