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Kawasaki Z1000: New and Way Better Naked Ride

By Arv Voss, November 13th, 2010

The Kawasaki Z1000 is all-new, the latest in a long line of "naked" Kawasaki street bikes. Old rules and engineering were tossed out and the latest iteration Z1000 actually began with a clean sheet of paper, drawing upon more than 35 years of delivering good looking, great performing sport bikes.

Previous Z1000s utilized a steel frame, while the new bike 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. The engine bolts-in solidly at three places in a rubber mount at the upper rear of the crankcase as a stressed-member for improved torsional rigidity and solid handling. The mainframe and swingarm pivot areas are cast as a single unit, and the rear subframe is a three-piece aluminum, light, smooth die-casting.

There is an attractive new front cowl that slopes back at a sharp angle, highlighting the newly styled nose, which is followed by a tilting instrument panel with an orange lens that may be angled to suit the rider. A long, narrow headlight represents Kawasaki's first use of a line-beam unit. The seat is low and narrow at the front, with a 32.1-inch height making for easy ground contact, flowing beautifully rearward, and ending in a futuristically retro LED taillight behind a red lens.

Serving as the heart of this new naked Kawasaki is a 1043cc four-stroke, liquid-cooled, 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. A solid-mount handlebar and aluminum foot pegs lifted from the Ninja ZX-10R, complete with machined edges, contribute to the Z1000's direct feel.

The Z1000 rides on Dunlop Sportmaxx tires mounted on 5-spoke alloy wheels. Suspension componentry consists of 41mm inverted cartridge forks with stepless compression and rebound damping, adjustable spring preload with 4.7-inches of wheel travel in front and a horizontal monoshock with stepless rebound damping, adjustable spring preload and 5.4-inches of wheel travel aft.

Bringing the Z1000 to a halt are hydraulic dual 300mm petal-type rotors with radial- mount 4-piston calipers in front, and a single 250mm petal-type rotor with a single-piston caliper out back.

My test bike came with a base price of $10,499. Dealer prep and handling can add approximately from $100 to $200.

The 2011 Z1000 Kawasaki represents a vast improvement, even though the earlier versions were nothing to sneeze at. The new four-cylinder motor delivers instantaneous gratification when twisting the throttle, across a broad and smooth torque range. 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 is adjustable.

The riding position is more upright than most sportbikes 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.

The Z1000 is wicked fast and fun to ride and is not for the faint of heart or inexperienced rider, but it can be docile if needed. The instrument panel with its multifunction LCD display covers all systems, but the orange cover can be highly reflective and difficult to read in bright sunlight with shades on, unless angled just right.

There are less expensive naked sportbikes, and more expensive models as well, but the Z1000 is a striking, visually appealing ride that represents an excellent value.

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