Kawasaki joined the naked bike mix with the first Z1000 in 2003, which I found to be a fantastic motorcycle. Able to get around a racetrack at a pace that was capable of embarrassing a few sportbikes, it was also mighty comfortable for sport-touring and around-town duties.
Apparently, the American motorcycling fraternity didn't share my enthusiasm, and the bike was discontinued. The good news is Kawasaki wasn't prepared to give up on this class of motorcycle and has addressed the issues that were raised by bringing out the all-new 2010 Z1000.
Styling of the new 2010 Kawasaki Z1000 is definitely going to provoke some conversations at your local bike night. The first time I saw one in the flesh I was undecided. It took me a full day with the bike in California to say, "Hey, this thing looks really cool." It is more of a naked sport bike than a naked standard, although the lines are definitely a little blurred here. But, whatever your opinion, it's going to turn heads.
With a long term Speed Triple in the Bayly garage, and a recent test of the new Ducati Hypermotards, it was a perfect opportunity to test the new Kawi Z1000 against a pair of other naked standards. As the four-cylinder representative in this group, the Kawasaki immediately wins the sophistication award, with its silky smooth 136 horsepower engine and roomy ergonomics.
The Triumph and Ducati feel more raw and unrefined, and there's nothing wrong with either if that's the experience you are after. But, the Kawasaki is so much smoother and, even though it's a bigger, heavier bike, it's more maneuverable at low speed. This is due to a low and narrow seat, and faultless throttle, clutch, and gearbox operation.
On first look, you could be forgiven for thinking that Kawasaki just made some modifications to the exiting Z1000, and then threw on some new bodywork before calling it a new model. Dig around under the aggressive and uniquely styled bodywork and you quickly see nothing could be further from the truth. Calling it a "Supersport-Type" engine, the Z's power plant is not derived from either the old Z1000 or the current Ninja ZX-10R.
Displacing 1043cc, it's 90cc up from the previous model and nearly 50cc bigger than the 10R. Obviously it has more power, but for the new Z the goal was to make this more manageable. To achieve this aim, the new engine uses a slightly smaller bore, with an increase in the stroke size; this not only increases power, but also adds torque to give the bike a more muscular feel.
With the new figures hitting 136 horsepower, it was the bike's level of usability that impressed me most. There is never any sense you are on a ticking time bomb waiting to explode if you are not careful with the throttle. On a full-blown liter-bikes, it's easy to get caught napping and be way over the speed limit with out any sense of how you got there, "Honestly officer."
With the Z1000, the power is always manageable and delivered smoothly and predictably without any unnecessary sensitivity during the throttle application. This smoothness is also in part due to the new Keihin 38mm throttle bodies that use oval-type sub throttles to keep things as narrow as possible and give sharper throttle response and better low and mid range performance.
It's hard to tell without riding the old motorcycle with the new back-to-back, but there are no complaints from me about how strongly the bike pulls from low rpm. It actually is one of the easiest bikes I've ridden in a while in traffic. With the light clutch, and wide bars aiding the silky smooth engine, it is not difficult to modulate the controls to make progress when battling slow moving cages in the city.
Even the dimensions of the new engine are different this year. The crankshaft has been lowered to allow the longer stroke, and this has allowed it to be very close to the size of the original big Z1000. The engine is also smoother thanks to an additional secondary balancer that rotates in front of the crank. With less vibration from the motor, Kawasaki's engineers were able to make the frame more rigid and this gives the bike better handling and a more relaxed ride.
The engineers also put a pair of cool air ducts on each side of the fairing routed through the frame, and they take the air into a resonator chamber inside the air box to give the bike a more muscular sound. It makes a lot of sense, with ever tightening noise-emission laws, pipes are so quiet these days. With this new system, you get the intake growl right under your chest when you yank the throttle cables. You get the sensory stimulation but your neighbors don't, so full marks to the engineers for this cool innovation.
On the subject of exhaust systems, the new Kawasaki uses a unique looking four into two-into-two layout, with a pre-chamber under the bike that allows smaller canisters. They are a modern rendition of the old Z900s' four-into-four set up and are a more attractive evolution of the previous Z's system. I have included a photo of the Roaring Toyz custom Z1000 with the photos, as it comes with a very tidy looking Brocks Performance exhaust to show what the bike looks like when fitted with aftermarket equipment.
With the new engine up over 10 horsepower from the last model, Kawasaki designed a new aluminum frame. Dubbed a supersport-styled chassis, it uses five piece construction and is almost nine pounds lighter, while boasting 30% more torsional rigidity.
The new result is a more stable machine with better side-to-side handling and better ergonomics. The bike has an all-new aluminum die cast sub frame, where the previous model used steel, and it features removable three-piece construction. This new subframe is a fantastic feature that eliminates the need for side covers, loses weight, and makes it easier for the rider to put his feet on the ground.
A great frame needs quality suspension, and there is a set of 41mm inverted forks up front with full adjustment options. The compression-damping feature is the addition for this year and the forks are very compliant over rough surfaces, without sacrificing stability at higher speeds.
They don't exhibit too much unsettling dive under heavy braking, are a very good compromise between handling and comfort, and add sophistication. The rear shock is a horizontal back-link unit with both shock and linkage living above the swingarm. It has preload and rebound adjustment options, and is easily adjusted.
With the bike's increased performance, it's no surprise to find a Ninja ZX-10R style radial brake set on the new Z1000, a pair of opposed piston calipers work with 300mm wave rotors, and take fluid from a radial master cylinder. Action at the lever is precise and progressive, with no unsettling bite.
There is a single piston caliper out back, with a smaller 250mm wave rotor and the caliper is hung underneath the swing arm to accentuate the new five-spoke cast aluminum wheel. The new wheels have machined edges and a two-tone custom mag style for a high-quality appearance.
With its do-all ability, I might not be able to get anyone to go on a riding date anymore, but I could certainly throw on some soft luggage and take the new naked 2010 Kawasaki Z1000 on an adventure. And I certainly wouldn't have any objections to running around town on business, heading to the drag strip for a few passes, or throwing on some race compound tires, dialing up the suspension and heading to a track for the weekend.