KAWASAKI Z1000 - The Return of the Zed

When Kawasaki introduced the Z1 motorcycle in 1972 after initially planning it for 1968, they wanted to take on the CB750 head on. We all know the Big K delayed their secret project because Honda announced that the CB750 is going to be a landmark bike even before it was launched. Kawasaki, as there by wanted to take Honda by the horns. And it did with the Z1, ‘The King’ Four years later they introduced the KZ a.k.a. Z900. These four cylinders, dual overhead cams 903 cc menaces were the most powerful motorcycles and set multiple world records. Remember the ZX or Ninja series was not thought about that time and actually the Z series gave rise to ZRX and the ZX Ninja series was a derivative from the ZRX. And then the Ninja took over the world. 30 years later, in 2002, Kawasaki thought of bring back ‘The King’ and then they did. In an all new avatar the Z1000 was given a modified motor from the Kawasaki ZX-9R. It was clear Kawasaki wanted to keep the Ninja series separate, but also wanted to give streetbikers the feel of the gem-of-an-engine from the ZX-9R, so the ZX-9R was bored out by 2.2 mm and added lower end torque albeit a slight power loss of 4bhp to make it a menacing street bike.
4 years later, Kawasaki released a newer Z1000 and in between in 2004, also released the Z1000’s younger brother, the Z750. Also In 2007 Kawasaki released an updated version of the model with a detuned version of the ZX-9R engine. This detuning, in addition to the design of the exhaust, provides less top end compared to the super-sport ZX-9R engine, but more low to mid rpm range. This gave the ‘07 Z1000 a top speed of about 220kmph and 0-60mph acceleration in less than 3 seconds and good power output of about 125bhp at 10,000rpm. These newer version also took care of some engine vibration issues which came with the first model. And also in a return to the past, the digital tachometer was replaced by an analog meter. Of course the most marked change and noticed feature in the ’07 model had to be the exhaust, have you seen anything like that before? The new 2009 model has just new colour schemes. The other feature of the bike is that this is probably this is the only Japanese streetfighter in its class, I mean the Yamaha Fazer is more like a tourer and road bike. Of course now Honda has a streetfighter in the guise of the CB1000R, but overall streetfighters are more associated with Italian breed. And Kawasaki has done a good job in keeping it revitalized with youthful looks.
In terms of look, the stand out feature for the Z1000 is of course the bikini fairing. The styling was done by a team who had previously worked on the Mazda Miata. And to compliment the tail section that was resourced from the 2003 ZX6R 636cc, the team took inspiration from the Giant Asian Hornet for the atypical bikini fairing. As such, you can also see the gold tinted lines. There was some heavy criticizing about the styling, more in the US than Europe, where bikers welcomed the radical styling. But you just can’t ignore the Kawasaki heritage. It carries the past beautifully woven into a modern style icon. And it has an international design award to boast of. It is a true street fighter with those twin bulb multi reflector headlamp, those massive upside down front forks and the sweet looking spoke aluminium wheels with twin petal disc brakes. It has the right amount of angular and aggressive fuel tank to the upswept seat finishing off with those big twin mufflers on each side. You would notice that the new model in 2008 carries all the 2003 looks but more progressive in terms of better looking mufflers which also had to meet Euro 3 norms and the dash board looks very stylish compared to the outgoing one. Fit and finish are of high degree and the paint quality is excellent. Kawasaki also gives its riders the benefits of a host of accessories to choose from to make their ‘Zed’ as unique as you would like.
The bike is also very easily demountable, so it’s easy for maintenance. The motor is used as a stressed member for the backbone support that provides optimal chassis flex during high performance riding. It is really very well engineered. Engine mounts are located behind the cylinder, closer to the engine’s center of gravity to reduce vibrations and there is also a subframe so that engine vibrations do not reach the rider. To further assist the rider of a vibration free ride, the swingarm bracket and engine mounts are combined for a less rigid frame which also allows better chassis feedback. The 41 mm inverted front fork compliments the Z1000 overall looks and they are not only good looking but they are very functional too. While one fork handles compression damping duties, the other manages rebound damping, a technology from the dirt bike world. Radial-mount brake calipers and a radial-pump front brake master cylinder offer precise brake control. A very good ride quality is in the offering thanks to the bottom-link Uni-Trak (Kawasaki patented) rear suspension which has a nitrogen gas charged shock with piggyback reservoir with settings that balance the front fork and the setting is excellent for inter-city riding. Tyres are of very good size to hold on to the road at 190 at the rear. The look will tell you that its mass is centralized and has excellent ergonomics which are major factors in a streetfighter. All in all, these characters provide the rider great stability with sharp, nimble, handling.
This naked street bike from Kawasaki is very purpose built and very practical. It can cater to weekend riders and hardcore riders with equal aplomb. This muscular and radical styled bike main character as mentioned is the low-rpm grunt to satisfy even the most demanding bikers and it’s not only the impressive torque curve at low rpms, it’s pull continues through the mid-range, for that exhilarating experience.
In terms of performance, you will never be left wanting. At 220 kmph, it is anyway getting to be difficult to keep riding with that small wind blaster in the front. And with the front sprocket being small, you cannot expect to reach top speed immediately or burst out of the blocks. But the Z1000 has enough low end torque to actually burst out if not like a superbike, at least like a supersports. Anyway top speed in these kinds of bikes are not the be-all-end-all and also gearing is also high. Kawasaki has of course given all the whistles and bells to make it a full performance bike. You get liquid cooling and then you have the fuel injection which will work without a hitch. Wheelies and all are very welcome and it doesn’t mind to be abused, after all streetfighters are meant to be ridden hard.
It has a solid set of gear box and the ratio has been kept between hooliganism and track racing to satisfy both territories. But there seems to be a significant disadvantage with its weight. The chassis and swingarm is steel made, not of aluminum. This must have added up quite a lot as the weight of the bike scales at almost 200kg. But as mentioned Kawasaki has given its share of whistles and bells with Ohlins, Brembo, etc and the wheels are pretty light weight. Wheelbase is short at 1420mm bringing agility to the bike and the ease of wheelies even at higher gears. Seat height is at 820mm with relatively high handlebars which are wider than the ones you generally find in a sportsbike so your arms won’t be numb even after a day’s riding. You can look that the seating posture is quite comfortable. Anyway you look at it, this is going to be a great fun bike to ride. What really do you seek in a streetfighter? All sportsbike features with naked aggression, right! It’s all there in the K1000. And the better thing is that its weight brings in a lot of stability to the bike which I believe is very very necessary on roadbike, so probably to compliment the sports character of the Z1000, they are still doing with the steel frame and the weight does help you in potholes and bumps. This is a total package bike for mature riders who look out for real thrills, cheap thrills, and the occasional burst from one one crossing to another. It will wheelie past that beautiful girl and beat her boyfriend on the sports bike. So ultimately, you will be the winner anyway! Yes, the colour is bright and not really subtle but hey, you do want to be noticed, right, or else why would you be riding a Z1000? The 2009 edition is priced $8899 / £ 7,149.
Engine: 953cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled In-Line Four, DOHC, 16 valves
Bore x stroke & Compression ratio: 77.2 x 50.9 mm & 11.2:1
Maximum power & torque: 127 PS@10,000 rpm & 95.6 Nm@8,000 rpm
Fuel supply/Carburetor & Ignition/ Starting: Electronic Fuel Injection (38 mm x 4) & TCBI Digital Advance / Electric
Transmission: 6-speed, return
Frame type: Diamond, high-tensile steel
Rake/Trail: 24°/101 mm
Suspension, front & rear: 41 mm inverted cartridge fork with & Bottom-Link Uni-Trak with gas-charged shock, with both rear and front stepless rebound damping and spring preload adjustability
Wheel travel, front & rear: 120mm & 138mm
Tyre front & rear: 120/70ZR17 & 190/50ZR17
Brakes front & rear: Dual 300mm petal rotors with radial-mount four-piston calipers & 220 mm disc with single-piston caliper
Dimensions (L x W x H): 2,080 x 770 x 1,055 mm
Wheelbase & Seat height: 1,420 mm & 820 mm
Dry weight & Fuel capacity: 198 kg & 18 litres
Find out more about the K1000 in the Kawasaki US & UK official websites


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