The standard, or naked-bike, class poses somewhat of a conundrum for manufacturers. On one side of the coin is performance, expected in many categories to be close to that of the companies' full-on sportbikes-especially when practically identical engines are used. On the other side is price, which should be significantly less than an equivalent sportbike's-after all, the naked bike doesn't have that expensive bodywork, right? Cost-cutting goes hand in hand with sacrifices in performance, and it is that trade-off that manufacturers constantly grapple with.
Kawasaki's approach with the original Z1000 introduced in '03 was typical: a retuned 953cc ZX-9R engine housed in a steel-tube frame, with loud styling and a reasonable price tag. But four years on, the competition has significantly beefed up their standard models. The FZ1 utilizes a newer generation of the R1 engine than it did originally, for example, and the Bandit has an entirely new motor specific to that model. How, then, to update the Z1000 for '07? The company chose mild rather than wild, with more power for the still-ZX-9R-based engine along with tweaks and updated components for the still-steel-tube frame.
Chief priority for Team Green's engineers was improving maneuverability as well as decreasing vibration, which was a common complaint from riders of the first-generation Z1000. To that end, cast-aluminum brackets run from near the steering head to the rear of the frame, allowing the rigid engine mount that was formerly on the front of the cylinder block to be relocated to the rear. This is cited as the biggest factor in the reduced vibration of the new bike; according to Kawasaki, the closer the engine's mounts are to its center of gravity, the less vibration.
The Z1000 is the last kawasaki...
The Z1000 is the last kawasaki to bid good riddance to the bar-graph LCD tachometer, which has been replaced with a more standard piece similar to the new ZX-6R's.
The cast-aluminum bracket...
The cast-aluminum bracket at the base of the cylinders allows the front engine mount to be relocated from the front of the cylinder block to the rear, reducing vibration and chassis stiffness.
Petal brakes and four-pad...
Petal brakes and four-pad radial-mount calipers provide plenty of stopping power, and Dunlop Qualifiers give lots of grip.
The relocated mount also decreases chassis stiffness, and a new pressed-aluminum swingarm further reduces overall rigidity, improving feedback to the rider. The steering head has been moved 10mm forward and the wheelbase has been lengthened by a full inch, shifting weight rearward. If all this sounds familiar, it should: A similar engine-mount and weight-bias change to the '07 ZX-6R likewise added flex and improved handling.
Further chassis updates include a new fork (still a 41mm inverted unit) that, according to Kawasaki, has "smooth action in the top half of the stroke complemented by firmer damping in the bottom half." New rear suspension settings have a similar setup, and this is said to give a plush initial feeling followed by a firm, planted feel in corners. The binders appear to be lifted from the ZX-6R, with petal rotors (same diameter as the old Z1000's) and radial-mount four-piston four-pad Nissin calipers up front and a larger petal rotor out back.
The engine received a modest makeover with the aim of improving real-world performance (read: more bottom-end and midrange power) while still meeting ever-stricter emissions requirements. Camshafts with revised profiles work smaller valves; the crankshaft is 7 percent heavier; and the EFI's throttle bodies are 2mm smaller in diameter and have oval sub-throttles like the ZX-10R's and ZX-6R's. Second gear and the primary ratio have been changed, with the end effect of lower overall gearing. A revised shift drum and a new shift lever with ball bearings ease shifting, and longer, softer clutch springs reduce lever effort.
While the exhaust may appear...
While the exhaust may appear to have four individual pipes, the single canisters on each side have end-caps and shrouds to give the four-exit look.
It's the Z1000's exhaust-on the old or new model-that generates the most comments. Stylists wanted to maintain the old bike's four pipes, but instead of the original model's 4-into-2-into-4 gatling-gun layout, the new bike sports a 4-into-2-into-1-into-2 setup with three catalysts. The large single canisters on each side are disguised to give the impression of four individual pipes, and the right-side exhaust has a butterfly valve and a larger midpipe than the left side's.
Kawasaki introduced the new Z1000 with a day's ride starting in Petaluma (north of San Francisco) and continuing through some twisty ranch roads along with the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. It had been a couple of years since I had ridden the first-generation Z1000, but the look, sound and feel of the new bike is similar enough to trigger memories of the old. One of our big complaints with the original model was that the seat sloped forward enough to constantly force you into the tank. The new bike's saddle is flatter front to back, nicely rectifying that point. Revised ergos sit the rider more upright and closer to the bars, while the seat/tank junction is narrower and the footguards move inboard for a reduction in width of 40mm in this area. It's a more comfortable position, but the seat itself is still a bit hard for a full day. Surprisingly, there is not much front-to-back room, and I found myself up against the passenger seat quite often-something I normally don't encounter.
The changes to the engine are noticeable after just a few twists of the throttle. A slight hesitation at 3000 rpm is still present, but from there the mill pulls smoothly and strongly right to redline with what feels to be a perfectly flat torque curve. The old bike needed some revs showing on the tach to exit a turn smartly, but the potent bottom-end of the new motor gives more leeway with gear selection. The newfound torque doesn't seem to have come at the expense of top-end thrust, and overall the engine is more user-friendly and nicely suited to the bike's intended use. As advertised, the slick-shifting tranny has a light, short throw; however, it's a bit notchier in some gears than I remember the old bike's transmission being, and I missed a couple of shifts over the course of the day.
Maneuverability & Vibrati...
Maneuverability & Vibration
While the ride thankfully didn't include any freeway sections, there were some stretches of roads where speeds got somewhat, uh...elevated. The work to reduce vibration has paid off, and the Z remains smooth until the footpegs and their hangers begin to buzz at 6500 rpm, or about 90 mph in top gear. The handlebar stays calm at even higher speeds and while the tiny fly-screen does an admiral job considering its size, the windblast is way more distracting than any vibration at triple-digit velocities.
Just as on the old bike, the upright riding position and real handlebar boost confidence and aid steering. The suspension is definitely plush when the pace is relaxed, and the ride is smooth and comfortable. To obtain that plush ride, the spring and damping rates are quite soft, with little preload dialed into the springs. Over the first portion of our ride, however, turn-in was awkward and the bike wanted to fall into corners. At the lunch stop, I made some suspension adjustments (both front and rear are adjustable for preload and rebound damping) that improved the steering and handling overall, but I would have liked to experiment more.
While the suspension does firm up deeper into its travel, the initial plushness unsettles things when the hammer goes down. The soft springs and damping allow a lot of chassis pitch, exacerbated by the more powerful engine. Likewise, the new binders have a good initial bite that progresses nicely to excellent stopping power, but lay into them and there is too much front-end dive and chassis pitch for good control. I'm certain that some tweaking would produce better results, but for that we'll have to wait until we have a test unit here at the shop.
The Kawi has some stiff competition with bikes such as the Bandit, Triumph Speed Triple and FZ1. The old bike's handling was not outstanding, and, if anything, the '07's increased power calls for a significant improvement in the chassis to match. We'll see how the Z1000 fares when we run all the current naked bikes head to head in a future issue.
2007 Kawasaki Z1000 Naked...
2007 Kawasaki Z1000 Naked Bike
2007 Kawasaki Z1000
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC in-line four, 4 valves/cyl
Bore x stroke: 77.2 x 50.9mm
Compression ratio: 11.2:1
Induction: Keihin EFI with oval sub-throttle valves and one injector per cylinder, 36mm throttle bodies
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop Qualifier PT
Rear tire: 190/50ZR-17 Dunlop Qualifier PT
Rake/trail: 24.5 deg./4.0 in. (102mm)
Wheelbase: 56.9 in. (1445mm)
Seat height: 32.3 in. (820mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.9 gal. (18.5L)
Claimed dry weight: 452 lbs. (205kg)