This review is part of our 2014 big-bore naked-bike comparison test, featuring the Aprilia Tuono V4R, BMW S 1000 R, Ducati Monster 1200 S, Kawasaki Z1000 ABS and KTM Super Duke R. Read the remainder of the test, and the reviews of the other bikes, here: Beasts, Not Beauties.
Kawasaki’s 2014 Z1000 ABS was updated for 2014 by way of new engine internals, monoblock front brake calipers, a Showa Separate Function Fork, Big Piston fork, and radically shaped fairings that were actually well accepted by our test riders…and general public based on the number of looks we got from bystanders. Wait, maybe they were staring in disgust? Either way, the new Z1000 is a more futuristic-looking motorcycle with great fit and finish—a surprise considering the bike costs just $11,999, or $2,500 less than the next most expensive motorcycle in this comparison test, the Aprilia Tuono V4 R ABS.
Throw a leg over the Z1000 and you’ll be more surprised by its compact rider interface. At the forefront of our ergo-related criticisms are a plywood-thick seat cushion and narrow handlebar, which leaves the palms of your hands resting on the bar ends, lest you fight the 491-pound (!) Z1000 at corner entry. The Z1000’s engine vibrates more than the other bikes, and there isn’t any rubber at its footpeg brackets to quell those vibes. Much to our surprise, the supremely shaped mirrors stay relatively buzz-free and provide a great view of what’s behind you. Moreover, the ultra-small dash display lays information out in a way that makes it easy to access while on the road.
The Z1000’s inline-four engine makes good torque (74.9 foot-pounds at 7,500 rpm) and has short enough gearing to lead you to believe the Kawasaki could hold a candle to the competition in a straight line. Key word is feel, as in reality, the 126-hp four-cylinder can’t. “The engine is versatile, but it doesn’t pick up revs quick enough,” Kent concludes.
Like the rider triangle, the Z1000’s suspension surprised us with how performance- oriented it was (read: stiff). During our street-focused test we removed damping from the Kawasaki’s fork and shock, but even that couldn’t stop the suspension from turning every single bump into a sharp-edged threat to our insides. The Showa SFF-BP fork doesn’t have a very consistent feel through its travel, an indication of its budget-based design, and the chassis fights you as you get the bike on the side of the tire, a combination of the tire profile and curb weight, presumably. Expect to spend some time—and money—on the Z’s suspension if you’re looking for something that provides half as much feel and confidence as the KTM Super Duke R or BMW S 1000 R.
Quite the opposite, you’ll be damn impressed with the Z’s brake package. Updated for 2014 by way of a more aggressive pad compound, different piston sizes (32mm upper, 30mm lower), 310mm brake discs, ABS, and (Kawasaki-badged) monoblock brake calipers, these brakes are not only drastically better than before but better than most any other brake setup in this comparison. Feel, power, and initial bite are all exceptional, and the only real difference between the Z’s brakes and the brakes on the Ducati or Super Duke R is a slightly firmer lever pull, a likely result of the master cylinder piston size. What’s more, the Kawasaki’s ABS unit doesn’t deprive you of feel at the initial part of the brake’s pull. This, as we’d come to find out, is a problem on the ABS-equipped 2014 Aprilia Tuono V4 R ABS.
The Kawasaki Z1000’s price tag, combined with its unique styling and brake package, makes it an adequate option for those looking for a Japanese-built naked bike. Even still, we’d opt for the fully faired variant, the Ninja 1000, as it comes with rubber-topped footpegs (for fewer vibrations) and taller clip-on-style handlebars (for a more upright riding position). Maybe Kawi made too large a sacrifice when engineering a platform that’d worked for both the naked-bike market and sport-touring category…
+ Great brakes
+ Unique style
+ Flexible engine, just revs slow
- Ridiculously heavy
- buzz through footpeg
- Narrow bar
x Kawi entered a cannon fight with a samurai sword
Suggested Suspension Settings
FRONT: Spring preload—6.25 turns from full soft; rebound damping—3 turns out from full stiff; compression damping—5 turns out from full stiff; ride height—10mm showing above top triple clamp
REAR: Spring preload—5mm thread showing; rebound damping—2 turns out from full stiff
Continue reading our 2014 big-bore naked-bike comparison test here: Beasts, Not Beauties.