Kawasaki Z1000: Exceptional naked streetfighter

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The 2015 Kawasaki Z1000 is the latest in a long line of “naked” Kawasaki street bikes. This Z1000 draws upon more than 35 years of delivering good-looking, great performing sport bikes.

My very first track day took place at Infineon Raceway, now known as Sonoma Raceway (I still think of it as Sears Point Raceway) in Sonoma Calif. It was during a Keith Code Superbike School. The school bikes were Kawasaki Ninja 6Rs, which were not at all ideal for my physique; my elbows were into my knees, and safe, proficient maneuvering was next to impossible. After a couple of attempts at riding the diminutive Ninja, my instructor opted to allocate a Kawasaki Z1000 as my school steed. Just great I thought, “it’s taller, has a 400cc larger displacement, and is thereby more powerful and faster”.

The Z1000’s riding position was actually considerably more comfortable, and as a result, the bike was much more manageable, and I was able to make it through the day’s exercises without incident and finished unscathed. The Z1000 was a great bike then, but it’s even better today.

Previous Z1000 bikes utilized a steel frame, while the new ride employs an all-new aluminum frame that’s similar in concept to that of the Ninja ZX-10R sportbike. The frame beams curve over the engine, resulting in a narrower bike that’s easy to grip with one’s knees, and the engine bolts-in solidly at three places, and in a rubber mount at the upper rear of the crankcase as a stressed-member for improved torsional rigidity and solid handling.

Serving as the heart of this new naked Kawasaki streetfighter, is the engine: a 1043cc four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve inline-four cylinder with direct fuel injection through four 38mm Keihin throttle bodies, with oval sub-throttles. It gears power through a six-speed sequential manual transmission, routed to the rear wheel via an X-Ring chain final drive.

The exhaust is a carry-over of the quad-pipe theme (a 4-into-2-pre-chamber-into-2 layout), with silencer end-caps maintaining the quad-style image from the last Z1000 (and the first Z1), but with an under-engine pre-chamber that allows the use of shorter mufflers for improved appearance and better mass centralization for light, quick handling.

The Z1000 rides on Dunlop Sportmaxx tires – D210 J 120/70 ZR17 M/C 58W up front, and D210 190/50 ZR17 M/C 75W in the rear, mounted on Mounted on 3-”V”- hollow spoke black painted alloy wheels with a green rim stripe.

The Z1000 is relatively compact with a 56.5-inch wheelbase, an overall length of 80.5 inches, a height of 41.5 inches and a curb weight of 487.3 pounds.

My test Z1000 was finished in Golden Blaze Green and Metallic Spark Black with a base price of $11,999. The rider seat is upholstered in a Z-patterned motif, with the passenger pillion done in a green tone to match that of the bike.

As already indicated, the 2015 Kawasaki Z1000 represents a vast improvement over its predecessors, and the earlier versions were good. It is more compact, sporting a minimally longer wheelbase, but shorter overall length, and weighs a bit more.

The 10433cc four-cylinder motor delivers instantaneous gratification in performance and sound, with its powerful “thrum”, when twisting the throttle. The torque range and delivery are broad and smooth. Gear changes are precise and the bike’s balance is exceptional.

The ride quality is compliant and seemingly just right — not too firm and not too soft — and if the ride isn’t to your liking, both the front and rear suspension are adjustable.

The riding position is more upright than that of an “all-out” sportbike with pegs and controls positioned just aft of the bike’s center. Passenger pegs even have luggage hooks for conveniently securing personal gear. The handlebars feature a width similar to off-road bikes for greater control, and they are rigid mounted. Rear view mirrors are ideally placed for an optimum view rearward.

The Z1000 is both fast and fun to ride — not necessarily for the faint of heart or inexperienced rider, but it can be docile if need be. The instrument panel with its multifunction LCD display covers all major operational information. The tachometer is unique with a vertical bar graph on the left of the panel up to 4,000 rpm, which jumps to an illuminated, horizontal bar graph at the top.

At 6’4”, I was comfortable, but would have appreciated foot controls that were mounted further forward for easier access with my long legs. There are a few less expensive naked sportbikes, and there are more expensive models as well, but the Z1000 is a striking, visually appealing ride that represents an excellent value with a 12-month warranty.