2016 Kawasaki Z1000 Review: Test of the Naked Cult
If you haven’t heard yet, I’m telling you now. The naked sport bike market has exploded. Not only here in the US, but across the globe, riders are turning to upright sport bikes—and with good reason. The Kawasaki Z1000 is one of those reasons.
With its compact dimensions, sporty suspension, powerful brakes and bucket loads of torque, combined with low-slung footpegs, wide handlebars, and upright seating position, it’s easy to understand why the Kawasaki Z1000 has achieved cult-like status over the years.
After spending the last 500 miles on a superbike, the ergonomics of the Z1000 have been a welcome relief. No more aching wrists, no more stiff neck or strained knee joints. This is a bike you actually want to ride—all the time.
Astride the bike, the Kawasaki feels very short and gives that seated-in feeling. The bars are close, and the tank that rises up reassuringly sits mid-chest height, making the bike feel low and easy to control—which it is. Kawasaki has managed to hide the (claimed) 487-pound curb weight by keeping that weight low, so the bike feels light and nimble in most situations.
From the start, I did find the motor to be quite buzzy. Cruising at highway speeds in top gear with the revs sitting around the 5000 mark, cars in the rearview mirrors are blurred. The buzz, however, doesn’t seem to transfer through the grips or pegs, so the ride remains comfortable. The motor is geared for torque and there is a flood of instant grunt on hand from idle, and it is very manageable power.
Despite a lack of power modes, including a rain mode, pulling away cleanly from a traffic light on a wet road is no issue whatsoever, and neither is hoisting the front wheel far off the ground if the mood strikes you.
However, the power tails off very quickly as you get higher up in the rev range, and the last few thousand rpm don’t make any real difference at all. Some riders may find it geared slightly too short, so a simple sprocket resizing can tailor the ratios to your preference. The Kawasaki Z1000 suits my riding style perfectly, and the lack of top-end power helps me keep my speed out of triple digits and the hope of keeping my license a little while longer.
Even though gear selection is typical Kawasaki precision and the selector clicks up and down with very little effort, you won’t need to be searching for the right gear with the kind of low-down drive you get from this engine. I found rolling on and off the throttle in 4th gear is absolutely perfect for spirited passes through the mountain roads.
Although it has a neutral feel overall, the Z1000 can feel a little nervous. It turns in quickly, for sure, and is a little sensitive. The Z can be skittish holding a line through quicker bends, with a tendency to push wide on exit if you come on the throttle hard.
The Showa Separate Function – Big Piston fork works well and give good feedback, but it is also too stiff on standard settings. Although it makes the bike feel flighty out of the corners, the heavily sprung forks cope well under hard braking.
Overall, the suspension struggles to balance the scales of performance and comfort; it proved to be more rigid than I would have preferred—surprisingly for a bike of this caliber, the rear shock doesn’t have any compression damping adjustment—and the bike can be a bit fatiguing on long rides on bumpy roads.
The ABS system is near state of the art, and has an updated pump with a pressure sensor that reduces rear wheel lift and maintains even pressure under heavy braking. The stopping power of the radial mounted mono block calipers is exceptional, as is feel at the lever. Petal brake rotors and braided lines keep with the high standard of the Z1000’s quality finish while providing outstanding braking performance at the same time.
Its modern look may not for everyone, but like it or not, you’ve got to admit the Z1000 has a very powerful image.
I didn’t want to like this bike initially, due to its styling. Its slightly quirky, futuristic looks had put me off for some reason. I wasn’t sure about the long flat headlight shroud that protrudes over the front wheel or the huge quadruple exhaust pipes weighing heavily on either side, but I’ve got to say, the aesthetics have really grown on me.
The details the designers have put into the finish of this bike are impressive, from the clear brake fluid reservoir to the Z pattern seat cover—almost nothing has been overlooked. The rear view mirrors are encased in a wind proof stem, a simple but very much appreciated feature.
Hand and foot levers are all powdercoated black. Raised Kawasaki Z1000 logos sit neatly above the high quality metallic paint, as green anodized fork caps poke out from behind the tapered bars. Green rim tape adds a finish to the black wheels, and the brake calipers are edged with Kawasaki lettering.
The hand controls are familiar and simple, as is the well-lit dash with a tachometer that only lights up after 3000 rpm. There are no fussy modes to configure or settings to adjust. Simply turn the chunky key, drop it into gear, and off you go.
The combination of that thumping midrange, agile handling, and powerful brakes, gives the Kawasaki Z1000 plenty of potential. A replacement rear shock would help the handling and comfort, but depending on your type of riding and distance, even that’s not a given. Beyond that, the 2016 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS needs nothing more; it is a brilliant all-rounder with a slightly raw edge to it that will appeal to many.
Action photography by Arthur Coldwells
2016 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS Specs
- Type: Inline-four
- Displacement: 1,043cc
- Bore x stroke: 77 x 56mm
- Compression ratio: 11.8:1
- Valve train: DOHC; 4 vpc
- Cooling: Liquid
- Fuel injection: Four 38mm Keihin throttle bodies w/ oval sub-throttles
- Ignition: TCBI with digital advance
- Transmission: Six-speed
- Final drive: Sealed chain
- Frame type: Aluminum backbone
- Front suspension: Fully adjustable 41mm inverted Showa SFF-BP forks; 4.7 inches of travel
- Rear suspension: Horizontally mounted shock w/ spring-preload and rebound damping adjustment; 4.8 inches of travel
- Front brakes: 310mm petal-type rotors w/ radial-mount 4-piston monobloc calipers
- Rear brake: Single 250mm petal-type rotor with single-piston caliper
- ABS: Standard
- Front tire: 120/70×17; Dunlop Sportmax D214
- Rear tire: 190/50×17; Dunlop Sportmax D214
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- L x W x H: 80.5 x 31.1 x 41.5 inches
- Wheelbase: 56.5 inches
- Rake: 24.5 degrees
- Trail: 4 inches
- Seat height: 32.1 inches
- Fuel capacity: 4.5 gallons
- Curb weight: 487 pounds
2016 Kawasaki 1000 Colors:
- Golden Blazed Green
- Metallic Matte Graphite Gray
2016 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS Price:
- $11,999 MSRP
- Warranty: 12 Months