TESTED: Dec '03
A chunky lump of a bike that’ll do your street cred all manner of good down the local and which can do a little bit of everything
If you expect the Z1000 to be a 1000cc superbike performance tool without a fairing, the chances are you’ll end up being disappointed.
However, take it for what it is – a very competent and striking big motorbike with more poke and handling than most will ever want or need and it all begins to make sense – and it looks horn, especially in the green.
Despite not being a sportsbike, the Z1000 isn’t short on new parts or technology, which is why you’ll find an updated ZX-9R motor at the heart of things. It’s bored out to 953cc, and now comes with fuel-injection, more mid-range and less top end. Which makes sense when you take into account the upright nature of the beast – 170mph in the breeze anyone? Err, no thanks, I’d rather drink paint.
The motor also comes complete with some very nice points. The fuel-injection and throttle response are as snatch-free as an all-boys public school while the mid-range is, true to its claims, smooth, fat and fun. These two good points make surfing said mid-range for svelte and swift progress almost effortless, so that down the über-windy coast roads of the launch the Zed could be held in second or third while gentle rolling on and off the throttle blatted you in and out of knee-down blind hairpin after knee-down blind hairpin very healthily anywhere between 20 and 90mph.
However, beneath 4000rpm the Z1000 isn’t really doing very much. There are no fuelling glitches and nor is there any nasty kick as you pass the 4000 watershed, it’s just that the whole plot feels a bit listless at the bottom end of the tacho. Like eating a diet yoghurt when what you really wanted was a Mars bar.
Checking the spec sheet you’ll find peak power way up at 10,000rpm with peak torque not far in front at 8000rpm. I guess this is down to the motor still being very similar to its ZX-9 donor, and on the road you’ll find you need to keep the thing spinning in the top end like you if you want to really want to get a serious shift on. This isn’t a problem, and there’s plenty of speed to be had from the Zed with a pleasing dose of ZX-9 top end rush thrown in, but you do need to readjust slightly to get your head around riding a muscle bike this way.
Best you remember your gearchanging boots while you’re at it too, because the gearbox is on the notchy side so a firm click is needed on upshifts to keep ’em clean. Neutral, as it is on the new ZX-6R, is an elusive little bugger to find at a standstill, too.
When you do find it, though, you’ll find the indicator light nestled into the clocks which have come straight off the ZX-6, although
closer inspection reveals the ZX’s lap timer and shift light aren’t to be found anywhere. Then again, these aren’t exactly tools you’ll need daily on a less sporty performer like the Z1000.
One area that is spot-on, however, is the brake set-up. With calipers pilfered off the old ZX-9 biting the new ZX-6-esque 300mm discs, bundles of stopping power is just a swift lever’s stroke away. While the brakes themselves are quite capable of in-yer-face rolling stoppies or howling the front hoop, depending on how warm your rubber is, the beefy upsidedown forks not only look trick but they help make the stopping package a comprehensive one.
They may dive a little too eagerly as you get on the anchors and 198kgs of motorcycle is pushed on to that front tyre’s contact patch, but they don’t bottom out, even under severe provocation, so you’re always in control.
As with the forks, the rear shock is racy looking with a budget twist – you get preload and rebound adjustment, but no compression damping. No matter because the suspension/ frame combo is well balanced and lets you happily take the bike to the edges of the tyres and the limits of its ground clearance (pegs deck first, but not too early) quite happily.
The Z1000 doesn’t throw oodles of feedback at you while on its ear, but there’s enough to give a reassuring feel to the whole plot. It tells you everything’s going to be just fine and lets you press on happily.
When it comes to getting into and around corners in the first place, you’ll find steering that’s neutral and which lets you put the bike where you want it without being razor-sharp or startlingly accurate.
Where many muscle bikes live up to their name by requiring a workout of some degree to get them on their ears in the first place, the Z1000 actually turns in with an agility belying its size.
Finishing the job off are the very roomy and comfortable riding position and handy touches like the headlight cowl/bikini fairing that gets rid of an impressive amount of windblast, the pillion seat that is at least comfortable despite the lack of grabhandles and the underseat cubbyhole for locks, lagers and the like.
From speedy backroad hustling and stunty showboating to crosstown moody posing and even a bit of distance or two-up trundling, all of these are within easy reach on the big Z.
I can’t help thinking that Kawasaki couldn’t have made it just a little badder in the riding experience, though, to go with that mean styling. If the Zed were mine I’d be looking for some pokier exhausts and a power commander to free up a bit more shove and then some lower gearing to bring the meat of that torque a bit further down the tacho. Now that could be very interesting indeed.
Source: TWO Online