Despite a soft economy this is truly the golden age of two-wheeled performance. There are bargains around every corner, and the current performance bikes all have the capabilities of racebikes from just a few years back.
But you'd be hard-pressed to find a better streetbike than the new 2010 Kawasaki Z1000. Simply put, you won't get this much performance for your buck anywhere else.
How does 138 HP, 81 LB-FT, fully adjustable suspension and killer styling grab you? And the MSRP is just $10,499. When you consider that price is the same as a new 600cc sportbike, you really begin to see the attraction.
Although the US has already witnessed two previous Z1000 models, Kawi has changed so much on the 2010 model that it's literally a whole new bike. "To be honest, so much has changed on the new bike we were reluctant to even call it the Z1000. This bike is the reason why we got into riding-it's fast and fun," said Product Manager, Karl Edmondson.
The guide told us to play...
The guide told us to play "follow the leader" in fog so thick all you could see was the taillight in front of you. when asked what he was following he told us simply, "fate."
The previous Z1000 was a good bike, but its lack of character and somewhat quirky traits earned it a stigma. And sadly, preconceived notions might lead some to discount the new model. But you'd be foolish to judge this book by its cover.
Once in the seat the Z1000...
Once in the seat the Z1000 shrinks considerably and becomes light and flickable.
Under your right hand is a new 1043cc DOHC inline four-cylinder motor that's all its own. Where the previous bike borrowed a stroked version of the older ZX-9R's mill (953cc), this engine is completely specific to this chassis-it's not even based on the 998cc ZX-10R engine.
Designed for a huge midrange hit, it utilizes a "longish" stroke layout of 77x56mm bore and stroke. Atop the stout bottom-end sits a four-valve per cylinder head that squeezes the pistons for a healthy 11.8:1 compression ratio.
Feeding the cylinders are a quartet of 38mm downdraft oval throttle bodies that inhale through a chambered airbox by way of ducts flanking either side of the frame. Kawi motorcycles have always been known for their healthy intake honk, and the Z1000 takes this notion to the next level thanks to a special airbox chamber that amplifies the intake resonance. Much like blowing over an empty bottle, the trick box makes twisting the grip an aural experience all its own.
After the combustion is done the spent gasses exit through the latest version of the distinctive quad tipped dual exhaust. But the new large capacity mufflers are 1.5 pounds lighter per side. In addition to keeping raucous noises in check, a trio of catalytic converters also keep it green without killing the mean.
Other noteworthy engine bits include reduced engine dimensions despite an increase in capacity and a secondary balancer to smooth out the previous gen's finger-numbing vibes.
When the rubber meets the road the Z1000 is good for more than just peak power numbers. The focus is midrange grunt-the kind of thrust that'll send the front wheel flying through the first three gears.
With buff bodywork wrapping the chassis one might confuse the new Z1000 to tip the scales in the neighborhood of a Suzuki B-King. But that would merely be an assumption since the new Z weighs in some 22 pounds lighter than the bike it replaces for a curb weight of 481 pounds, full of fluids.
Backing the new drop in weight and harnessing the brute of a motor is a new aluminum chassis that, like the motor, was designed solely for this bike. The wonder cradle is 30 percent more rigid and 8.8 pounds lighter than the previous frame. Another notable frame feature is a jump from three to four motor mounts to keep the engine more secure for the flogging.
To keep the tires planted the frame is accentuated by all new suspension. This time around the Z1000 gets fully adjustable 41mm inverted forks and an adjustable shock in the rear. By placing the rear shock under the seat it's clear of exhaust heat, promotes mass-centralization and allows for easy adjustments.
When it comes time to haul down the goods the ZX-10R-style radial calipers squeeze 300mm discs up front while a dual piston caliper puts the hurt on a 250mm rotor in back.