This article was originally published in the June 2001 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

The Kawasaki Eliminator series of motorcycles has always been associated with performance. Even the 500 Eliminator is quicker than many larger displacement bikes. However, being the smallest bike in our entry level cruiser comparison meant the Eliminator 125 started out with a 50 percent disadvantage when compared to the other contestants. Still, the little single has strengths that help it to stand up to challenge.

Although the Eliminator name is old, the 2001 version is the only new model in this test. Since the 125 was released this year, its styling most closely follows current trends. From the snazzy tank badge to the chrome gas filler panel (complete with warning lights), the Eliminator shares a family resemblance with the newer members of the Vulcan series.

2001 Kawasaki Eliminator
The Eliminator is a tough name to live up to, but Kawasaki's 2001 small displacement version has strengths that help it stand up to the challenge.Dean Groover

Starting with a base of a backbone frame that cradles the engine, the chassis, like all the others in this comparison, is pretty standard fare. A 33 mm fork holds the 17-inch wire-spoke wheel. Attached to the right side of that wheel, a single disc gets squeezed by a two piston caliper. Atop the fork, a drag-style bar supports the speedo. The shapely tank looks like one from a much larger motorcycle. The one-piece stepped seat gives the bike a sleek appearance. The rear fender adds a hint of sportiness. The rear suspension is a twin shock, preload adjustable affair. A 15-inch rear wheel and a drum brake round out the rolling gear.

The little engine utilizes a single cylinder to generate power. The 55.0 x 52.4mm bore and stroke brings the displacement to a minuscule 124cc. A single overhead cam actuates the two valves. Cam timing is kept accurate by an automatic cam chain tensioner while a counterbalancer negates vibration. The single 28mm Mikuni carburetor handles the mixture. After the electronic ignition has done its magic, a megaphone-styled exhaust empties the cylinder. Both the carburetion and exhaust are tuned for bottom end and midrange power. The fruits of their labors are sent to the chain final drive via a five-speed transmission.

2001 Kawasaki Eliminator Engine
Operating with 50 percent less displacement, the Eliminator could never overcome the performance deficit.Dean Groover

Riding the Eliminator highlights the engine's specific tuning. Pulling away from a stop, the engine feels strong initially, but the power falls off abruptly, forcing the rider to shift into second at about 11 miles per hour. Again, the engine feels strong initially, but just for a moment. Of all the bikes included in this comparison, only the Eliminator struggles to stay ahead of in-town traffic. Out on the open road, without other vehicles to gauge by, the 125 provides a pleasant ride. However, a move to the interstate reveals its dearth of power. The Kawasaki could comfortably maintain 65 mph, but try to go any faster and the engine feels like "it's gonna explode," as one tester put it. Not being able to travel easily on the highway limits the Eliminator's utility, which is too bad since it was the most comfortable bike we tested.

The Kawi’s riding position, ironically, felt like the largest of our quartet, striking an ideal balance between roominess and compact size. Part of the big bike feel to the riding position must be credited to the fact that the Eliminator feels heavier than it is. However, when the time came to apply the brakes, we were once again disappointed with the Eliminator. The consensus was that there’s no there there in the front brake, causing initial concern on the first application of the brake after switching from the other bikes. Once accustomed to the low power binder, we simply exerted extra force on the lever. In addition, the rear brake pedal travel is excessive. From the moment that the drum’s shoes start to drag, the pedal still needs to be pressed several inches to reach full application.

2001 Kawasaki Eliminator Exhaust
This swanky exhaust canister looks big until the outlet is inspected. Try to get more than your pinkie in that hole.Dean Groover

Although the Eliminator has some shortcomings, at a retail price of $2499, it is the least expensive of the bikes in this comparison. Add that with its roomy riding position and good looks, and the little Kawasaki could make a nice economy ride. However, because of environmental regulations, California residents won’t be able to buy the Eliminator at any price.