2014 Kawasaki Z1000 Review
It is a great time to be a fan of naked liter- and open-class sport bikes. What was once an afterthought class of bikes that used outdated superbike technology that lagged behind their serious fairing and clip-on equipped brothers, is now a competitive class of its own.
The Europeans have led the way with naked bikes that are track-ready, with blinding horsepower, along with chassis that can handily exploit the onslaught.
Alternatively, the Japanese have been much more conservative with their liter nakeds, focusing on low-rpm torque over horsepower, and handling that is all about the street over the track.
The upgraded 2014 Kawasaki Z1000 follows in this pattern; though it is nudged a bit more toward high-performance, it is still a street bike at heart. It’s heavier than, say, an Aprilia Tuono V4, and puts out about 25 fewer horses from its 1043cc motor (up one millimeter on both bore and stroke compared to the Ninja ZX- 10R).
However, the peak torque output of the two is close, and the Z1000 hits that number 1200 rpm sooner — the sure sign of a bike that is going to work well in a street-oriented environment.
Kawasaki upped the Z1000’s power for 2014 with a variety of mods — torquier intake cams, new cylinder connecting passageways for better high rpm performance, new oval exhaust connector tubes to increase throttle response, and the ECU has a sharper feel, though not enough to ruin streetability.
Further changes include a higher-flow air filter, new velocity stacks, and an airbox that improves the intake sound (you won’t be faster, but sound does count).
To be sure, the Z1000 is no slouch. Around town, the low-rpm grunt means that you can work your way through traffic — on both street and crowded freeways — with authority and confidence. If the motor is above idle, it stands ready to accelerate hard, something you don’t always get from inline fours.
Furthering this capability, Kawasaki geared down the Z1000, enhancing its acceleration at any speed and certainly pleasing for those who like to loft the front end.
Conversely, sixth speed has been turned into something of an overdrive, which you wouldn’t want on the track, but you will find to be a great feature on public roads. Cruising on the freeway is a pleasure, as much of the multi’s business disappears.
Now, being a strictly successful urban bike doesn’t require the size and power of a Z1000, so its ability to compete in the canyons of the world is important.
Again, that low-rpm power is indispensable on the road, where you can’t plan your attack with the same precision as on the track. It’s a forgiving motor that sings when you want it to, though not quite in a soprano range — it is definitely an alto.
Rather than giving the Z1000 a major chassis upgrade, Kawasaki focused its attention on braking, the forks, and new lighter aluminum wheels.
New radially mounted Tokico mono-block front calipers grip the 310mm petal discs predictably and strongly, assisted by a radial master cylinder and new higher- friction brake pads. Initial bite is friendly due to two piston sizes up front, so the new system is a notable improvement.
Up front, the Z1000 gets the latest 41mm Showa Separate Function – Big Piston fork (SFF-BP), which has stepless adjustment for the damping and preload. As is often the case, the standard setting is ideal for the average rider – size and speed — and outliers can customize the ride to their hearts’ content. The horizontally mounted shock only has rebound damping adjustment, and the preload is conveniently adjusted remotely.
When diving through the twisties, the Z1000 is nicely agile for a bike pushing the scale at nearly 490 pounds. A fairly aggressive 24.5-degree rake, compact 56.5-inch wheelbase, and Dunlop Sportmax D214 tires all have their hands in that; Kawasaki clearly has done a good job of centralizing the weight for the rest of the credit.
Given that, it’s not quite the kind of bike that begs you to push harder, as the back end has a tendancy to squat when accelerating out of a turn. This causes you to run wide on exits, which discourages hard charging out of corners. The fix is fit the Z1000 with a shock that is adjustable for ride height. Bringing the rear up a few millimeters should solve the problem.
The new seat with Z-logos embossed on the cover, is comfortable on long rides, and spare enough to allow you to move around on the bike. Whether you like to plant yourself in one spot on the seat or hang your knee off in corners, the Z1000’s ergonomics are satisfying.
While the Z1000 has a well-functioning ABS, there is no traction control, though in practice it doesn’t need one in normal riding conditions. Also, there are no power modes, something we do like. It gives you the opportunity to have a bike with power that is both more, and less, aggressive. At a price point well below the Europeans, something has to give, and less-advanced electronics packages are part of the cost cutting.
No matter where you ride, the Z1000 will turn heads. Kawasaki calls the styling “Sugomi,” which is said to describe the sculpted shapes and the integration of the Z logo throughout the design.
You can decide without our help what you think of the anime-like look, and rest assured that others will be judging the striking appearance in their minds as you ride by and when you pull up to the local gathering spot.
With the high-end of naked uprights well represented across the Atlantic, we found the 2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS to be a more-accommodating alternative. It is a civilized machine around town, and one that will not allow you to pass unnoticed. Take it for a fast spin and, unless you are the most demanding of street riders, it will satisfy your sporting soul with its ability to compete at speed.
- Helmet: Bell RS-1 RSD Flash Bronze
- Jacket: Icon 1000 Chapter
- Gloves: Held Titan
- Pants: Icon Strongarm 2
- Boots: Dainese ST Torque Pro Out
Photography by Kevin Wing
Story from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine. For subscription services, click here.