2010 KAWASAKI Z1000 It’s lucky for U.S. Streetfighter fans that Kawasaki’s Z1000 sells so well in Europe, or we wouldn’t be looking at a 2010 model with such extensive investment. The model simply did not sell well enough over here to justify a complete makeover. And now that Kawasaki’s sportbike range is focused unequivocally on track performance—which nobody can exploit on the street—the Z1000 zeroes in on real-world priorities. Just with a strong sporty emphasis. There’s no carryover technology on this bike. The engine is an all-new unit displacing 1043cc that was developed for this model alone. Its crankshaft is mounted at a lower level relative to the old engine, so that the overall height can be lower despite a 4.1 mm longer stroke. It is mounted into a new aluminum perimeter frame with solid mountings, and used as a stressed member of the chassis. Previous models suffered from pronounced vibration, particularly at high revs, so this one wears a balancer shaft to counteract the second-order vibes that afflict inline fours (because of connecting-rod angularity differences in the up/down cylinder pairs). This has smoothed the Z1000 out considerably, particularly at low and mid-range engine speeds, but a persistent tingle can still be felt through the bars and seat at high rpm. Kawasaki claims 138 horsepower at 9,600 rpm from the new engine, versus 125 at 10,000 for the previous mill. More important to a Streetfighter-type bike like this, the torque peak is now 81.8 pound-feet at 7,800 rpm instead of 72.7 at 8,200, and the graph shows torque to be substantially higher throughout the engine’s operating range. Fed by a quartet of Keihin downdraft throttle bodies, the engine has had its natural sound enhanced by the use of an acoustic induction resonator situated in the bike’s cool air induction system. As the revs rise, this circular aperture adds a howl for extra auditory excitement. With any luck, it may discourage riders from fitting loud aftermarket pipes. The new frame is comprised of five main pieces, and it’s said to be about 9 pounds lighter, but with 30-percent more torsional rigidity. The rear sub-frame that mounts the seat is now also a die-cast aluminum unit, and it features built-in sidecover-like designs, eliminating the need for separate sidecovers. The exhaust system uses a large underbelly “pre-chamber” so that the separate quad-style shotgun mufflers can be smaller and lighter. Both pre-catalyzer and catalyst matrices have been incorporated into the exhaust system, along with an exhaust valve in one muffler to modulate noise levels. That big underslung pre-chamber necessitates the use of a horizontal rear shock for space and heat considerations, and this piece features both spring preload rings and rebound adjustment. A 41 mm inverted Showa fork suspends the front wheel, and it allows compression and rebound adjustment as well as preload adjustability. Although the fork is a good-looking piece, it has been shrouded with styling panels that seem a touch superfluous even though they provide excellent protection from stones and grit. Cast aluminum wheels with machined edges add a “mag-wheel” look to the Z1000, and they mount Dunlop Sportmax D210F tires in full 17-inch supersport sizing, with a 190/50 tire on the back and a 120/70 on the front. Braking is provided by serious radial-mount 4- piston calipers up front, pinching 300mm petal rotors. The rear brake is a single-piston caliper on a smaller, 250mm disc, with its caliper now relocated below the swingarm. Capping off the Z1000’s unusual design is an electronic instrument panel with an LCD bar-type tachometer, digital speed display, dual trips, a clock and a fuel gauge. Beginning riders Literbikes are not for beginners. But even if this machine was limited to a fraction of its potential output, the relatively high seat (at 32.1-inches) and 481-pound ready-to-ride weight makes it unsuitable for inexperienced riders. The $10,499 pricetag may make it attractive to buyers who’d like to gain experience and not have to buy another bike, but we repeat: Don’t go there. Intermediate riders This kind of performance is too much of a temptation for riders whose right hands could easily call up speed that the rider’s cerebellum may not be able to manage. This is not a slow motorcycle in anybody’s book, and the wonderfully elastic low- and mid-range acceleration can easily mask the rate at which the bike gathers momentum. Obviously, even relatively inexperienced riders would not mistake the rapidly escalating pace of acceleration as the revs rise toward that 138-horsepower, 10,000 rpm zone for anything but wicked speed. The trick is to keep them away from that particular flavor in the bike’s array of tasty temptations. As with all modern motorcycles, the integration of controls and the ease of their operation makes the new Z1000 easy to ride and manage. The clutch is hydraulically assisted, and the gearshift is relatively smooth and light. Equipped with those tubular handlebars, the Z1000 steers quickly and easily, and SmartCycle contributor Neale Bayley and I competed at every U-turn we made for the photographer to execute the turn as slowly as possible. With one’s foot on the rear brake and a spot of clutch slip going on at the left hand, turns out you can creep through a U- turn at a snail’s pace. Some of that is from the mass-centralization Kawasaki has tried so hard to incorporate into this design, and some of it is how well the fuel-injection system meters gas to the husky inline four. All of it speaks of how well balanced the bike feels underneath you. Expert Riders Not only does the new Z1000 bring a newly invigorated engine and chassis to the party, it conveys with it personality and flavor; critical elements of what makes a motorcycle fun to ride and enjoyable to own. The seating position is a reasonable compromise between the aggressive crouch of a sportbike and the lounging attitude of a tourer. While the force of the wind on a long freeway ride isn’t much mitigated by the Z1000’s little nosecone, it isn’t too bad for an essentially unfaired bike. The riding position itself isn’t as contorted as that on modern sportbikes, promising to keep you in the seat a few miles more. Even that seat, which felt firm and unyielding at first contact, failed to crush the life out of the old editorial glutes for quite a considerable period of time. The bike itself feels responsive and nimble, with well-calibrated throttle response, and a smooth and torquey drivetrain character. You hardly need spin the engine hard, but when you do, it pulls with an impressive surge of acceleration all the way to its pretty lofty ceiling. There are some high-frequency vibrations noticeable along the way, but since they mainly punctuate forays to the 11,000-rpm redline, they just serve to add to the intensity of that experience. As befits a bike more-or-less in the Streetfighter category, the Z1000 is pretty much a sportbike with a more tolerable riding position and without full bodywork. There’s certainly a lot of ground clearance to exploit before the footpeg feelers touch down, and the bike itself feels short and nimble, even though the wheelbase was, in fact, lengthened slightly in this new version. We can believe the claim about a stiffened chassis; there’s no lost motion when urging the bike to change direction, and it keeps its line faithfully through corners. There’s plenty of braking power available at the right-hand lever, but it takes a firm squeeze to call it into play. And the initial bite at the front brakes isn’t quite what we’d like it to be. However, experience with other Kawasaki models tells us that a switch to EBC sintered brake pads (or equivalents) will sharpen front brake response right up. Other than that, there’s little to find fault with. We’d guess that the rear seat isn’t the most comfortable place to spend a long day, but who can tell without trying it? We can tell that the LCD tachometer display isn’t particularly easy to read in the bright sunshine, when you’re likely wearing a smoked face shield, but since the available powerband is so wide and readable, it doesn’t really matter. Rev it until it tingles and you’ll be in the ballpark. This is a very likable machine, made more so by the way it delivers literbike performance and handling for a price ($10,499) that is in the 600cc sportbike league. Who knows, the lack of bodywork might even bring the insurance premiums down. Whichever way you look at it, the Z1000 is a pretty good deal. .
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