This weight saving, together with a powerful new engine which started to get serious at 4500 rpm, lifted the front wheel merely by snapping open the throttle. The only real criticism testers of the day had, was the lack of a seventh gear!
We shouldn’t really be surprised at the whole super naked explosion. As pure sport bikes have become faster and more focused, traffic has become more congested and slower.
By all means, have 200 horsepower on tap, held in check only by a host of complicated electronic controls, but when you’re stuck in traffic with all of your body weight on your wrists, the novelty wears off quickly.
Re-worked versions of these engines are designed to give more low and mid-range. And this, mated to an upright riding position and stand out styling just makes perfect sense. Rocket science it isn’t.
This is why the Z1000 stands out amongst the ranks of the super naked. Drop the clutch from a standing start and 2.5 seconds later, you’ll be traveling at 60mph, eight seconds more and you’ve just covered a quarter-mile. Do you need more than 147mph without a fairing?
The Kawasaki isn’t all about speed, though. Styling-wise it cuts a serious dash and throwing a leg over, see you looking out across the 4.5-gallon tank and leaving you feeling like you’re sitting in the bike, rather on it. This is due to the large capacity gas tank curving over the top of the twin-spar frame.
Incidentally, the frame is cast as a single unit along with the swinging arm pivot. This cuts down on welds, with the engine suspended below and secured in three places. The subframe is still an aluminum construction but now is a three-piece design which allows for a narrower seat.
Up front, the new Zed retains its 41mm separate function big piston Showa’s. These feature compound and rebound damping in the right leg, whilst the left, handles the spring preload adjuster. Separating the controls like this is designed to smooth out fork travel during braking and was first seen in off-road bikes.
Like several of their new models including the Z900 launched recently, Kawasaki has repositioned the rear shock to lay horizontally, to keep it away from the exhaust and subsequent overheating problems. The Showa unit features strapless rebound damping and a remote preload adjuster.
The bike now rolls on six-spoke cast aluminum wheels which adds to more weight saving. Upfront, differential piston diameter Tokico calipers are controlled by Bosch ABS.
Now, this is where the new Z1000 differs from the rest of its peers. With electronic rider aids, the ABS unit is linked to selectable traction control parameters metered out by the bikes ECU. These are usually accompanied by wheelie control and ride by wire. The Kawasaki has none of these.
So, does it need them? In my opinion, no it doesn’t. Admittedly, with its Sugomi style design, which is supposed to conjure images of a crouching predator, coupled with a hint of the terminator, the bike looks capable of ripping your arms out of their sockets. However, in reality, the bike’s super-smooth throttle response makes town riding and more spirited open road riding, equally as pleasurable. It is, therefore, more pussycat than panther.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a sporty machine in every sense of the word. The 1043cc four-cylinder DOHC engine is only user-friendly because of the extensive re-working of its internals.
New intake camshafts give less lift and duration, and a re-worked ECU and crank drove balancer smooth out the lumps still further. Fuel injection is by four 38mm Keihin throttle bodies. All of which adds up to a controlled linear wave of acceleration right up to the 11,250rpm redline.
Riding pleasure is enhanced audibly, with the addition of two passages drilled into the airbox, to give an old school induction roar under hard acceleration. Something else that got lost along the way in the endless search for sanitized engines.
Styling wise, the bike’s instrumentation consists of a single centrally mounted digital clock that’s about the size of a smartphone. This is incorporated into the handlebar clamp. Speed comes up as a digital readout with RPM’s indicated by a row of horizontal lights.
Now, unfortunately, out of the entire bike, this is where Kawasaki and I have to agree to disagree. The Big K says, that the new four LED headlight is a standout design feature and I’m sure that on paper, it certainly is. Out on the street, I say it looks like it slid down the fork legs. I’d dump it and find myself a nice rectangular headlamp and mount it conventionally onto the fork top brackets. And this, ladies and gentlemen is probably why I’ll never get a job in the Kawasaki design department.
Big and Bold
Overall, the Kawasaki Z1000 is one of the best super naked street bikes on the market. It’s big and bold. And with its love, it, hate it looks, it isn’t afraid to make a statement. It is so well balanced and responsive, it simply doesn’t need to follow other manufacturers, with electronic rider aids.
Lots of motorcycle manufacturers these days will badge-up new models with a nostalgic nod to their own back catalog but invariably, the only thing they’ll have in common is the name.
In this case, however, the resemblance in spirit at least remains credible. The very first Z1000 was a big, brash bruiser of a bike that stuck its middle finger up to anyone who didn’t like it and I’m pleased to announce, that the 2017 Kawasaki Z1000 is carrying on that fine tradition in spades.
And talking of nostalgic model names, Kawasaki has just launched an R version of the Z1000. Is it just me, or did Kawasaki miss out on the headline bonanza of the year by not calling it the Z1R?