Saturday, February 13, 2010

2010 Kawasaki Z1000~ Can it compete against the "naked" European market?

With a history that can be traced all the way back to the early 1970's, with its archetype KZ900, Kawasaki is surprisingly reintroducing the Z1000 after a one year absence from their sportbike line-up. A resurrection that could make former Zed owners and those alike, a believer once again!
Kawasaki took that year to do a complete redesign by mirroring the same ideology as the original Yamaha FZ1 and the auspicious ZX-10R, in an attempt to provide the customer with a superbike-class performance in the new innovative 5 piece aluminum chassis, that doesn't require yoga-like contortion to enjoy!
Even though there has been an obvious passion for naked bikes by motorcyclist world wide, the prosaic sales from the Japanese market compared to the European competitors gives a clear indication what riders are universally asking for in a naked bike. To actually deliver a retro naked bike with full-on state-of -the-art technology and engine performance that will look the part as well as act it and not some dumbed down speedster that just looks fast! Clearly the European market has the edge, with manufacture Success stories like Ducati, with their Monster line up, Triumph's Speed Triple and Aprilia's Tuono, to name a few. Could it be Kawasaki has finally stepped up to the plate and quite possibly created the perfect contender for a "naked" competition!

Even though the truth remains, that I have only sat on this bike, but not gone so far as to personally ride this seemingly impressive machine. I cannot ignore the repetitive grand reviews on the obvious transformation of the Z1000's past customary performance!
So why do I, as well as so many other reviewers think the 2010 Kawasaki Z1000, a Japanese heritage naked bike, can contend with the European market?
Lets start with the Chassis and suspension; from years prior, Kawasaki has drastically improved the handling, with an all new five piece aluminum chassis, which is over 8 pounds lighter and 30% more rigid than the former steel frame. The Zed also has a removable 3 piece die cast aluminum subframe that was designed to be an integral part of the bikes retro style. But the main theme in the design was to infuse a mass centralization to the chassis, with a wheelbase of 57 inches, 24.5 rake and 4.1 trail, it does the job nicely.

Kawasaki engineers back-linked the suspension system that places the Showa shock and shock linkage horizontally, above the swing arm, an added feature to make the preload and rebound damping adjusters easily within reach. The Z1000 offers a cushy and controlled ride that doesn't phase the rider even with small bumps to large potholes, reinforcing the "fun" factor in a smooth ride.
Gone are the days of a "mushy" braking system, now the 2010 Z1000's have been fitted with dual Tokico four-piston radial mount calipers on the front wheel, and single Tokico piston caliper on the rear wheel, allowing the braking action to be strong, without being "grabby". A five spoke cast aluminum rim houses the Dunlop Sportmax D210 tires (front:120/70ZR17 and rear: 19050ZR17) that are squire to this particular bike, with precision machined edges and holes in the spokes to enhance the look of the wheel and tire.

With a 6 speed, chain driven, 1043 cc displacement and a 16-valve in-line 4 and almost 50 pounds of torque at 2250 rpms, the Zed will generate plenty of excitement for the rider when rolling on the throttle! The Kawasaki engineers also placed the crackshaft lower in the engine to allow the use of longer rods while maintaining the engine height, delivering a bore and stroke of 77.0 x 56.0 mm. The engine also features a secondary balancer in front of the crankshaft to reduce engine vibration.
The Z1000 exceeds in eronomonic comfort with narrower bars, a smooth clutch action and a seat that forces the rider to lean just a bit further forward for a more comfortable fit for longer rides. Even with a 32in seat height, it's as comfortable for a tall person as well as a shorter stature person. But, not so for the passenger seat, Kawasaki went to great lengths to streamline the look of the Zed's tail section by integrating the grab rails into the tail and purposely making the rear seat white to appear smaller. Based on passenger comfort, you will probably be riding solo a lot more often than two-up!

On the down side, the side mirrors are set to far inward offering a minimal view and mainly of the riders shoulders! the spoiler on the headlight is more of a decoration than a working deflector. And while the 3 point adjustable digital speedometer is easy to read, it's bar graph tachometer is a waste of time, offering more of a "modern" look than a functioning analog tachometer.
I gotta tell ya, even though the right-side "quad" muffler exhaust system is unique in it's design by creating a pre-chamber, routing spent gases from the four head pipes into two pipes, then into it's two "radically" shaped shorty mufflers, keeping the "Z" clean as well as green, it's still blazing ugly!!
But, lets face it, the down side reasons for not purchasing the Z1000, with it's edgy looking character and a razor-sharp powerhouse performance, are few and most definitely not worth mentioning if you base your purchase purely on handling and engine performance. This bike has what you're looking for.
As a strong European contender, you get a lot of bang for your buck, reveling in the euphoria of it's monstrous mid-range torque, frolicking to and fro in it's featherweight handling in the twisties, while simultaneously inflicting a powerful, yet smooth braking action and plush controlled suspension, all for a sticker price of $10.499 msrp.
Kawasaki, consider your proverbial European bar raised!
Footnote: If you are interested in another hypothesis on the 2010 Kawasaki Z1000, I would highly recommend you check out Further on Down the Road, a blog by @Reyzie, who is a former owner of a 2006 Z1000 and impressive when it comes to motorcycles.


  1. I like the Z1000's angular styling, and have read various reviews of it, most of which have reiterated the lack of "naked bike" appeal in America vs Europe.

    What is so glaringly missing in these reviews is the fact that Kawasaki is just now playing catch-up to Yamaha's 2006-2010 FZ1, which has 20 more HP (150 vs 130) fatter inverted forks (43mm), larger gas tank (4.75 vs 4.0 gallon). So, given that the Kawasaki is _almost_ as good, 4 years later, why are we talking about the Z1000 at all? Not a rhetorical question. Really, what's so great at this late date?

  2. As I appreciate your comments regarding this review, I do recognize the publicized comparisons to the 5 year old designed FZ1 and didn't feel it was an equal contender with the new Z1000. With the Z1000 shorter wheelbase and 15lb lighter chassis, it's about the total package and to me, the FZ1 has simply lost it's edge.

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  4. They flew a friend of mine from Florida to California to test ride one of these! The black one is gorgeous!

  5. I saw one of these at the Atlantic Motorcycle Show last weekend, one word - mean! This bike looks like it is ready to scream when it is standing still. I would love to take one for a ride! Overall, I like the look and design of this bike.

    At first, I was not sure how I felt about the look of the exhaust, but after I stood back and looked at the bike as an overall unit, I saw how the design of the exhaust fit with the lines of the bike.

    Nice post of the "naked" nature, enjoyed the read!