Some motorcycles are known for their brute power and ability to make you feel like your genitals are being crushed. These bikes are still awesome in their own way, such as the Ducati 899 Panigale I rode a few weeks ago. Other bikes are just as powerful and crazy when you want them to be, but are much more refined on the everyday grind. Those of us who aren’t 16 anymore tend to gravitate towards the latter. This 2014 Kawasaki Z1000 is one of the most stunning motorcycles I have ever laid eyes on, but it seems to be hit and miss with bystanders.
My 10-year old niece took one look at the Z1000 and said “that thing looks like a Transformer”. She wouldn’t be incorrect; my tester was painted in a nice contrast between metallic grey and the corporate Kawasaki green. It attracted more attention than any other motorcycle I’ve ever brought home before. This is easily in my eyes the best-looking naked street bike I’ve ever seen, and yes, I agree with my niece’s sentiment.
The Z1000 is powered by a 1043cc inline 4-cylinder that has been heavily improved and tweaked for this year. It has a new intake camshaft with 6 degrees less duration and 0.3mm less lift, as well as a more perfected ECU. The new motor tuning means there is better midrange as well as top-end power, meaning the Z1000 is never struggling for breath. In fact, its’ quite the contrary – this naked pulls hard in all gears. Even the factory exhaust puts out a nice burble on roll-off, and provides a mean exhaust note on acceleration.
Throttle response is immediate and there’s literally zero hesitation. Despite the excellent throttle response though, what’s remarkable about the Z1000 is that it’s insanely easy to ride around town. It’s not intimidating in the slightest, and it’s very maneuverable for a liter-bike. Its final-drive gearing is actually significantly shorter than that of its sibling, the Kawasaki Ninja 1000, which makes this a totally different beast to ride. Its weight of 487 lbs may sound a little on the hefty side, but Kawasaki has put a lot of effort into ensuring that the bike’s weight is centralized. This allows even the intermediate rider to be able to put the Z1000 into corners with ease.
Riding position on the Kawasaki Z1000 is surprisingly comfortable. At 6’1/175, I was able to put both feet flat on the ground comfortably and do a few longer highway runs with the utmost ease. One complaint that I have with all nakeds is still in play here; there is a lot of wind at highway speeds, making long hauls tiresome. Also something that I realized while riding the Z1000 through a bit of a rainstorm is that there is no traction control due to it not being a ride-by-wire system. Even still, the smooth throttle means unpredicted weather conditions are a cinch provided you have some riding experience.
There is some engine management in the Z1000 which makes for a useful “Eco” mode. Using this and only 91-octane fuel, I observed approximately 4.0L/100km over the course of my test week. It’s not nearly as inefficient as the smaller-displacement 899 Panigale, and not too far off from the Ninja 1000. This year, the fuel tank is up to 17L as well. The instrument cluster is a bit unusual – the tachometer is a series of bars that goes vertically and then “jumps” into a horizontal LED flow past the 3,000 rpm mark. It’s a bit strange and definitely takes some getting used to at first, but I found it works well once you know what it’s trying to tell you.
With current incentives, a new 2014 Z1000 can be had in Canada for $12,999 plus tax and applicable fees. This isn’t exactly a cheap sum of money, but considering the fact that the Z1000 is an absolute beast and definitely looks the part, it’s actually decent value. Other than the Panigale, this just might be my favourite bike of the season – the improvements Kawasaki has made take an already-great motorcycle and turn it into a whole new animal.
Engine: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke inline 4-cylinder
Bore & Stroke: 77 x 56 mm
Fuel Injection: 4 x 38mm Keihins, oval sub-throttles
Wheelbase: 56.5 in
2014 Kawasaki Z1000 Gallery
*Photos by Ronnie Fung*