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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

2014 Kawasaki Z800 - Ride Review

India Kawasaki has got aggressive… finally! For the enthusiasts and the folks willing to spend, now we have a choice of 7 motorcycles: ranging from the pocket rocket 300cc to the evergreen behemoth, the 1400! The one that we are going to thrash this time would be the Zed 800.
The Z800 breaks all the myths that the Z750 had unfortunately created and how! Let us not dwell on past follies. Besides, that product was not even available on Indian soil. So why break our heads when we have a motor to break.

First Impressions:

Looks: the Z800 looks far better than one sees in pictures. As you approach, you start liking the bike increasingly. Very quickly it grows on you and you start liking it increasingly. It looks compact, mean yet submissive to the rider. For the uninitiated, the Z models are the naked variants of Kawasaki. For the sake of information, to design this particular Z nearly 300 sketches were rejected. And the final product is truly impressive in real life.

The front looks strong, built around a really sculpted tank with a rake angle that gives you the thrills, we will talk about that later, and a headlight that looks menacing enough to scare the daylights out of you.

The rear is light, sleek and purpose built for aerodynamics and comfort with a subframe that is tubular.

The instrumentation is light blue with gives you coolant temperature, time, trip meters, fuel gauge and you can toggle between fuel range, average fuel consumption and real time fuel consumption (like we care!!!).

The tachometer is in a very unique V shape that takes some getting used to for someone like me. There are others who get used to it the moment they switch on the motorcycle and feel as if that is the way Tachs should be designed.

Ride Impressions:

Engine: The 806cc engine is so smooth that at times in traffic you wonder if your bike has stalled. This can be a little tricky for some riders who like to hear a loud inline 4 buzz. But this is nothing that a little 2brothers or an Akra cannot amply take care of. I mean a rider rarely keeps stock exhausts on his bike!
I was riding a new bike barely out of the factory with barely a few kilometres on the Odo still smelling of the paint! And it was time to test it out on the road. I shifted to 2nd at 75kmph and I was a good 2K away from the redline. From there on the gearing is quick and short. There is a reason behind this. The Z800 has been built for mostly urban street use. I was quickly on to 6th at a mere 110kmph. And then I suddenly found myself in the middle of accumulating traffic in the heart of Delhi and my velocity rapidly dropped to 37kmph. But I did NOT need to drop the gears at all! I found an opening in the traffic and all I had to do was open the throttle. There was no knocking, no jerks. The engine seamlessly opened the torque tap and in less than the blink of an eye, I was doing from under 40kmph to over 140kmph without a single gearshift!

Now this is what a motorcycle should do in city traffic. My stress is handled by the short gear ratios, Z800 torque curve, which gives me more than enough power at every RPM. However the sweet spot on the Torque curve is a tad under 4K where you get the power burst; the kinds that can bring a biker out of a bad day at the office back to smiling!

Riding through the traffic the brand new engine started to heat up rapidly at every traffic light. And soon I was raking up the temperatures at over 106°C on a hot April afternoon. However, surprisingly at no moment did I even remotely sense this heat. With a regular Superbike, after just three heavy traffic lights, I would be looking like a dressed steamed chicken and all I would wish for is to get off the bike and get into a café with heavy air-conditioning. The cooling fan came on at 100°C. It was so unbelievable that I had to look down at the console to realise that, umm well, the engine was heating and we really did not need to care because
Kawasaki designed it to be thus and all was well.

I moved out of the city on to the highway. As you open the throttle, the bike just pulls at your hands and I had to almost struggle to hold on to the handlebars. On a particular stretch, I was doing 180+ with a pillion and she was still pulling. There was no sensation of engine stress whatsoever. There was absolutely no feeling of harshness of a new unbroken engine. None! This engine is smoother than the legs of the girl who was posing with the bike during the unveiling at Intermot in October 2012!

Chassis and Handling:
The Z800 comes with a high tensile steel tubular chassis like it’s predecessor. Although it is steel, the costs are lower than a twin spar. The flip side is that it is heavier. At 230kilos, this bike is not a lightweight machine. However… while riding this machine, or even sitting astride and manoeuvring it around, one does not feel the weight. The bike geometry is such that it feels like a nimble fleet-footed Supersports, much like it’s younger sibling, the mighty 6R, (not yet available to Indians).

Initially, the riding stance may seem a little strange since it gives the impression of sitting right on top of the rake. This steep on the front wheel riding stance bike geometry gives the rider an enormous amount of nimbleness to the ride quality in urban situations and moving through traffic becomes an ease like the way a true street fighter should.

However, whacking open the throttle on the highway can be quite unnerving with the strong windblast tugging at your chest and body. But Kawasaki has resolved that issue with an OEM screen that fits in neatly on top of the angry headlamps and the rider is happy to cruise at high speeds as well.
The wheelbase is not particularly shorter. But the bike geometry is cleverly done that renders the bike easy to handle and fast to move on city streets.
This bike mostly moves on counter steering. However, if you are in a mood to scratch the canyons, I can personally assure you that the Z800 is more than capable. All you need to do is lean into the corner. The bike will take care of the rest no matter what your speed and lean angle. Of course the Sportmax shod tyres help. But I reckon that it is more to do with the frame design than just the tyre compound.

The Indian version comes with ABS as standard. This is a paradigm shift from what is usually the norm. And I think that one should hail India Kawasaki for making such an intelligent move in the direction of safety for riders in India. Braking I should say is nothing short of outstanding. I even tried hard braking on polished marble and it is nothing short of impressive. Of course, like ABS equipped vehicles, ABS comes on after a few revs of the wheel and is effective only above 10kmph. I tried hard braking at 150 clicks with a relatively heavy pillion. Front braking is excellent.

If you always wanted a good powerful bike, if you like nakeds, I personally feel that this is THE best option available in the country as of today.

You are getting 111Bhp at 10200 revs, 83Nm of smooth torque till 8000 Rpm, an amazing chassis with superb handling, great oomph factor, red light drags with the local brash modified bikes are a breeze as you go laughing into the sunset, urban riding makes the mundane quotidian into an exciting affair everyday of your living existence!

As for fuel efficiency… as Indians always tend to ask; you can easily get 20km/l or more.

At 8.9L, the Z800 has been placed at the market almost as a mocking challenge to the competition. This is quality motorcycling at an excellent price. And this is backed by steady Kawasaki after-sales that has its reputation since the days of KB100! It is a very stable brand that has maintained a clean image over the decades. You will not go wrong. Because Kawasaki has launched its vehicles after a lot of study of the market. You will have their full support. The New Urban Legend begins!

Text: Chief Road Tester:  KEN, Krishnendu. Photographers: Sajal and Ken.

Acknowledgments: We are thankful to India Kawasaki Motors Pvt. Ltd. and Bagga Link Manager Sales Mr Kaul for their support of letting us, Throttle Quest carrying out our independent tests.

Imp Note: We at Throttle Quest have carried out these tests in actual regular street conditions by professionals who are trained to conduct such tests. We at TQ do not support irregular, high speed, high risk and unsafe riding by anybody.

To read more from the same author you can also read the following articles:
1. The X files from 5000 metres!
2. The Indian Chieftain ridden in India.
3. ZX 10R!
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  1. Looking forward to some video reviews on ThrottleQuest's youtube channel.


Item Reviewed: 2014 Kawasaki Z800 - Ride Review Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sajal
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