A few years back, Kawasaki embraced motor-cycling's problem child—the hooligan bike—with the introduction of its Z1000, and garnered the manufacturer a solid foothold in the emerging naked bike category. The original Z1000 was a stripped down, upright machine that quickly found its place on the upper tiers of the streetfighter mantel. It merged the omnipresent aspects that inspired the movement—a rebellious spirit and damaged bodywork. Now, Kawasaki's resident bad boy has undergone its first major overhaul to ensure continued membership in this rough-and-ready club.
The wedged, sharp angles of the bike have been exaggerated, giving the Z1000 a stealth fighter appearance that is also controversial. An orange seat and copper-chrome megaphone exhaust system contribute to the polarizing design cues, helping to nurture the inherent, almost mandatory rebelliousness of the hooligan devotee (even if the rowdy disposition is a weekend disguise).
The increased low-end and mid-range performance of the engine is complemented with lower gearing to give the Z1000 exceptional snap and crisp response. It is perfect for tight canyon running, while also accommodating the real world situations of around town stop-and-go riding. A lower clutch spring rate requires less effort at the lever, and accentuates the butter-smooth transmission that responds to the slightest twitch of a toe on the ball bearing shift lever.
Chassis stiffness has been reduced with the intent of helping the rider interpret what the bike is doing. This combination of rigid and rubber engine mounts help eradicate some of the vibration issues of the previous model. The new cast aluminum engine sub-frame is augmented with load bearing frame spars that wrap around the engine at the cylinders, adding to the "Transformers" appearance of the Z.
Although the Kawasaki handles turns with confidence, it is somewhat rebellious in its response to mid corner line changes or abrupt throttle input, and results in a bit of unwelcome instability. Careful inputs at the controls are necessary.
Dual 300mm front brake rotors are mated to radial-mounted four-piston calipers, delivering superlative stopping power. The rear brake rotor gained 30 mm (bringing it up to 250 mm) to accommodate some of the bike's weight balance being shifted slightly to the rear.
If they gave awards for the cleanest, most condensed dashboard, the Z1000 would win handily. The easily readable tachometer face and needle, digital speedometer, clock, fuel gauge, and trip meters, are all contained in a relatively small piece of dashboard real estate. A bikini fairing does its best to disburse windblast. But, the Z1000 is, after all, a naked bike, so consider the fairing to be more looks than function. The seat is as stiff as the proverbial board, which will not distress sporting riders.
Aesthetically, the Kawasaki Z1000 arouses passionate responses—both positive and negative. That's a good thing—causing a huff is always better than going unnoticed! An aggressive demeanor, plenty of bottom end torque, and a raspy growl all the way to redline are the essential, base attributes that make up the pathos of any legitimate streetfighter. The Z1000 is a dagger that requires a minimum of sharpening.