The 2014 Kawasaki Z1000 gets some major changes in the looks department, as well as all the parts required to take it to the competition.
We have a saying in the office for what happens when a manufacturer does as little as possible to a motorbike for it to be classed as an upgrade. ‘BNG’ stands for Bold New Graphics and is, essentially, a set of new stickers that are slapped up the side of last year’s bike in an effort to lure you into showrooms. It’s not that we don’t understand the financial pressure that’s currently forcing manufacturers to make sure that staff are turning unused lights off and not stealing the company toilet paper, it’s more the furore and trumpet blowing that surrounds such a small effort. Do you feel the need to email your mates when changing your profile pic on Facebook? Unless you’ve had facial reconstruction surgery and changed your name by deed pole to Spartacus Ramthruster, you just change it and crack on. The 2014 Kawasaki Z1000 is the polar opposite to BNG.
Off the back of the recent addition of the Z800 to Kawasaki’s line up, they’ve done a clever clean sheet design job on the new 1000. Retaining the best parts from the outgoing version, adding better component parts from other bikes in their range and upping build quality to an unexpectedly high and very welcome level.
Sugomi is the philosophy that the project was based around. Sugomi embodies both design and engineering, moulding them together to enhance your ownership experience. Now, before you start wondering what the hell I’m banging on about. Consider this. Whenever an Italian bike comes out, it’s inevitable that you’ll read about passion, emotion and all the other things that girls like. The Japanese have always been regarded as clinically efficient and stony faced when it comes to their products. Devoid of emotion, unlike the Italians, they need an ethos, a code to work to that defines exactly why they’re doing what they doing. That’s what Sugomi is. I see it as the flow diagram for free thinking and it’s about as emotional and passionate as you’re ever going to get from these boys.
Separating looks from ability, let’s address the design elements of this bike. It’s clear from the front that this hasn’t been thrown together using old ZX-10 headlights and a cast off Skidmarx screen. LED headlights sit low and the surrounding fairing carries an angry frown. The entire front end is sure to divide opinion, mine was swayed in a good way the second I saw it in the flesh. The profile of the tank manages to flow in both directions, working with the angular front and the sculpted skinny rear. Kawasaki have done a sweet job of changing the colour on the pillion seat, until you prod it you’ll think that there’s already a seat cowl on it. It’s one of a host of changes, all considered and all very much welcome. On the side stand, this bike says a lot about its rider as well as itself and I think that the Z1000 is the boldest and bravest design we’ve seen on a super naked bike since the Suzuki B-King. Kawasaki hinted that this design could well be adopted into other models in their range, who wouldn’t want to see a ZX-10R with these aggressive design elements? One final plus point for me in the looks department is the decision to drop some of the Z shapes that Kawasaki worked into the design on the Z800. I can remember liking them at the time, but after seeing this bike and how much more subtle the design team has been with it, I think the overall look is far more classy and appealing here, than on the 800 version.
Nestled neatly behind the angry face is a pair of 41mm re-valved Big Piston Forks. They’re the Separate Function version as found in the current ZX-6R and over the couple of days that I spent wazzing round Southern Spain they were faultless. At one end was a grinning idiot, at the other a pair of ABS friendly monobloc Tokico calipers. The performance from which was perfectly balanced with the suspension (unlike the grinning idiot) and the promise of super strong one-finger braking in the press presentation was duly delivered with time after time consistency. I spent some time riding the ABS version and thought that the lever felt dead in comparison to the non-ABS variant. The performance was no different, but I left thinking I’d rather leave ABS on the table if it was at the cost of that lovely feeling the regular brakes have. Though there’s little change in the frame, the shock at the other end has new damping settings (spring rate remains unchanged) and revised linkage ratios to help sharpen things up. The riding position has changed slightly, allowing you to tuck into the changes. Though the tank size has increased to 17 litres, the seat height has been lowered a tiny amount to accommodate and ensure the reach for the ground is about the same as the old model. ZX-10R style foot pegs have been added, the knurled profile of which is perfect for digging your feet into. Up top, a set of fat bars are rigid mounted and offer leverage in spades. I’d want to bend them forward slightly to suit me perfectly, as stock I found my diddy wrists cocked, rather than straight.
The 1043cc motor has been thoughtfully reworked. The focus is on improving that feeling of big torque and instant usability that the current Z thou has. ECU upgrades, uniform intake funnels and downdraft throttle bodies all play a part in offering up 140bhp at 10,000rpm and 82ft-lbs of torque at 7,500rpm. Though not vastly different to last year, the combined changes in addition to the extra tooth on the rear sprocket equal a bike that comes alive from as little as 2k rpm, even in top gear. I’ve written that about other bikes, but I can’t remember the last time I rode a big bike so slowly in top gear and didn’t feel like I was riding along a cobbled street when winding gas on. If your ride is predominantly town based, you’ll quickly get used to snicking into top and rolling round on that fat, usable wave of torque. If your ride is one that involves motorways and prolonged periods at a high constant speed, you’ll find yourself searching for another gear when you’ve already hit top. Don’t get me wrong, the Z1000 doesn’t run out of puff until you’re tapping on 150mph, I just found that the cruising speed I was comfortable at on fast straight roads seemed to be one that made the bike feel a little bit short of gear. It’s a different experience at the same speed on the SX and the outgoing Z and you’ll know exactly what I mean once you’ve had a ride.
Often with big bore Kawasakis, I find the motor is the overriding factor. Suspension, brakes and handling all doing their best, but failing to hit the high notes that the engine is capable of. This new Z is so much more rounded in that respect. Those new forks and brakes are capable not only of offering the kind of performance that handles second and third gear attacks across unknown Spanish national park twisters, they’re also capable of keeping that motor in check and that alone is worthy of high praise. When I’m out on a ride on unknown roads and the pace is hotter than it should be, I find I keep with other riders by braking later than usual and making the most of the corners, rather than setting fire to the throttle on the straights and wobbling everywhere else. It’s a riding style that didn’t necessarily suit the virtues of the outgoing Z1000. It suited this bike perfectly and the bike and I got into a lovely rhythm. Strangely, I didn’t find the lack of traction control to be an issue, even thought I thought I would. The brakes and suspension really complement each other, even when I ran too deep into a blind second gear right and had to leave the (non ABS) brake on for longer than I’d planned they held my line without fuss or consequence. The run back to the hotel at the end of the first day was a fast one. The group scattered itself along an incredibly fast and open section of road that lasted for nearly twenty miles. Three of us tucked in and went looking for rev limters, while looking I found the bike was happy to smash gaping holes in the light traffic. The leverage that helps on unknown roads is still there at high speed and the bike needed barely a touch to get it to change direction. I did think that I’d probably soften things up a tiny bit if I were to ride that fast on regular roads everyday, but like I said, the pace was go to jail fast and not the kind of riding that you can get away with all the time. It reminded me to mention the great thing about adjustable suspension is that you can do exactly that. The adjusters aren’t just for show and it’s completely logical that you’d set the thing up to suit the kind of ride you want. Off the shelf, I’d class the Z1000 as the firm side of comfortable and wouldn’t change a thing for the kind of riding I do everyday. If I could add anything, it’d be a gear indicator. It wouldn’t change my enjoyment of the bike in any way, I’m just the kind of rider that likes to know.
Is this the best Z bike I’ve ever ridden? Yes, without a doubt. The dynamic upgrades combined with that crazy new face help it feel much sharper than the outgoing bike. I think 2014 will be the hardest year to be top dog in the naked big bike class. The new BMW S1000, the upgraded Aprilia Tuono and the KTM SuperDuke are going to be tough to tame. If Kawasaki hadn’t upgraded the current bike, it would have been left for dead. With this new model, I genuinely think it has the presence and the performance to go toe-to-toe with anything else out there.
Kawasaki likened the overall feel of the bike to a panther about to attack. I immediately thought of Sex Panther aftershave and Ron Burgundy. The new Kawasaki Z1000, 60 per cent of the time its wheelying most of the time. Ride one, you’ll love it.
Words: @Johnatsuperbike Images: Double Red
Type: 1043cc, liquid-cooled, inline four, DOHC 16 valve
Bore x Stroke 77.0 x 56.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.8:1
Fuel system: Fuel injection: ?38 mm x 4 (Keihin) with oval sub-throttles
Transmission: six speed, wet clutch.
Final Drive: chain
Frame: Twin tube aluminium
Front Suspension: 41mm inverted fork with stepless compression and rebound damping and spring preload adjustability
Rear Suspension: horizontal back link, gas charged with stepless rebound damping and preload adjustability
Brakes: (F) dual semi floating 310mm discs, radial mount monobloc 4-piston calipers (R) single 250mm disc, single piston caliper (ABS available)
Tyres: (F) 120/70/ZR17 (R) 190/50ZR17
Wheelbase (A) : 1435mm
Head angle (B) : 24.5 degrees
Trail (E) : 101mm
Seat height (C) : 815mm
Weight (claimed, full fuel load, ready to ride) : 220kg (221kg ABS)
Fuel capacity (D) : 17 litres
Peak power (Claimed): 140bhp @ 10,000rpm
Peak torque (Claimed): 82ft-lbs @ 7,500rpm