What can I possibly add to the ongoing dialogue over recent years regarding the influx of European-inspired ‘naked’ bikes arriving in the North American market that hasn’t already been said? Sure, I could mention how they blend the all-round versatility and comfort of a touring bike with the performance of a sportbike, grumble about how North Americans don’t seem to have the same affection to these fairing-free mounts as our European friends, and of course insert a humorous reference to nudity. All of the boxes checked. The main reason I enjoy this recent influx of Streetfighters however, aside from the opportunity to make endless innuendos regarding nudity, is that while my affinity for speed has not dwindled as I age, my body’s ability to spend an entire day hunched over the handlebars of a supersport has. The competition in this segment is growing fiercer by the day, which means nothing but good things for the consumer.
As I recall, the first time I rode the previous generation Z1000, I debated going to see my dentist afterwards to have my fillings put back in place. Housing a potent powerplant with boat-loads of torque was endlessly entertaining but wasn’t enough to outweigh a suspension setup that was unpredictable and a somewhat disturbing motor vibration that bordered on explicit. A revised model came in to save the day in 2007 by calming the vibration and adding some mid-range gusto but the damage had been done, resulting in a further decline in sales. After riding this all-new-for-2010 naked liter bike however, another trip to the dentist was not required, unless it was to remove the bugs that were lodged in my giant toothy grin. The improvements to this 2010 model are vast and all encompassing, including a new aluminum frame and swingarm that are not only stronger, but lighter too. Centre of gravity has been lowered and the wheelbase has been increased but rake and trail remain unchanged (24.5 degrees and 103 mm respectively) but that’s not to say that handling hasn’t been positively affected.
Kawasaki engineers must have had some seat time on the previous generation bike as they’ve managed to add some much needed personality to the bike in the form of a cold-air induction system which is fed by the massive intakes on each side of the fuel tank. A specially designed resonator chamber provides an eager ‘howl’ as rpm’s climb and the 38mm throttle bodies gasp for air through the intake snorkels. Just in case you needed additional prodding to crack the throttle, this howl easily provides the encouragement.
Spitting out 138 horses at 9,699 rpm and 81.1 ft-lbs of torque at 7,800 rpm, I can’t imagine many people would consider the Z1000 lacking in performance. In short, acceleration is something akin to being launched from a human catapult and the fun doesn’t stop there. Combine excellent braking feel from the dual 300mm four piston calipers up front (250mm single piston in the rear), with a lower centre of gravity, better throttle response, crisper handling and you have yourself something to brag about.
Considering most of us aren’t lucky enough to have the means to acquire, store, maintain or insure all of the specific bikes we would own if given the chance, we need to endure the painstaking task of picking a solitary steed. Does one choose a ride that excels in one area but lacks in others, or opt for a mount that can bridge the gap between most kinds of riding but not do any one of them well. Decisions, decisions. Thankfully in our greedy, instant gratification- obsessed society where we want it all and we want it now, the Z1000 offers exceptional versatility with very little compromise. Rather than fitting into a tiny niche, the Z1000 should appeal to a wide range of riders.
Not only that, but tipping the register at a mere $10,599, means that there are few modes of transportation that can provide the thrills of the Z1000 that are also available to the everyman without being marrying into a cushy trust fund or scouring the tennis club for a wealthy divorcee.
That’s incredible value, but even more shocking when you consider that it’s also more attainable than many 600cc sportbikes on the market today. The Zee One-Thousand is easily thrown deep into turns regardless of the camber or radius and effortlessly attacks highway entrance ramps like child’s play, having me wishing that I’d had the means to take it to a lapping day at the local track whilst it was in my possession.
Displacing 1000 cc, (1043, to be specific) one could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the Z1000 is a bored-out version of the first-gen, or perhaps a detuned ZX-10R powerplant, but they’d be incorrect. Displacing 90 more cubic centimeters than before and gaining a secondary balancer, this is an all-new DOHC inline-Four. The Zee feels much more slender between the legs than its 481 lb curb weight would suggest. This is at least partially thanks to the Showa suspension. The 41mm inverted fork up front features adjustable compression damping, with a horizontally placed rear monoshock out back featuring spring preload adjustability.
Appearances are such a subjective practice, so its up to each prospective buyer whether they like the looks of the Metallic Spark Black or Atomic Silver Z1000 at their nearest Kawi dealer. Color options for the 2011 model will consist of Ebony and Candy Lime Green. Personally, all I can say is that I was on the fence about its looks at first glance but after logging some serious miles, I was warmed over by all of the things this bike does right. At the end of the day, it’s not as much about how the bike looks in your garage that matters, it’s the size of the grin on your face when you’re behind the handlebars. If sales of this latest model are as disappointing as the previous offering, it certainly won’t be due to the Z1000 not being up to the challenge, but because some riders still aren’t interested in a naked liter bike. Their loss.
Liter-bike performance combined with versatility and comfort
Equally at home on the street or track
Howling air intake
Banana seat could have better appearance and comfort
Anything else would just be nit-picking