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Thursday, August 21, 2014

2014 Kawasaki Z1000 - The Power of Intimidation

Sugomi – the word in Japanese simply translates to the intimidation you feel when something with great power stands in-front of you. As Kawasaki describes it, Sugomi can be seen in the crouching form of a hunting predator as it gathers energy in preparation to strike, muscled tensing in anticipation, eyes locked onto its prey. As I’d describe it, you’re 5’ 3” and are battling with a Gurgaon cabbie for space to get through the toll and the cars scrape each other. You get off ready for fight but notice that the other driver is much taller, stronger and probably belongs to a nearby village where since childhood they are not used to reasoning or bargaining with, just provide you with good whooping – intimidation?? 

Kawasaki has tried to incorporate this into the design used to create the Z1000 and yes they nailed that aspect. That said, do the rest of the elements that comprise of a motorcycle come together when one takes this engineering art work on a 3 day trip around Rajasthan, India......let’s find out.

A bit of history
Kawasaki Heavy Industries started out as a shipbuilding company and over the years has earned a reputation in the motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle business. The company also manufactures tractors, rolling stock for trains, and aerospace equipment.  Kawasaki’s 1st Z series motorcycle was introduced into the market in the early 70’s, known as the Z1. The letter “Z” was chosen because this was the last letter in the alphabet and it represented extreme and “1” for being the No. 1 in the world.  Back then this could have possibly been the 1st known true superbike with a 903cc air cooled DOHC motorcycle. What followed until 2010 were a series of changes that did not venture far from the Z series being categorized as a Naked/ Streetfighter. 

Fast forward to 2014 and the new Z1000 takes the Jap way of expressing emotions & motorcycle design and to a whole different level. 

First Thoughts
I was scheduled to ride to Ajmer and Pushkar situated close to each other in Rajasthan. The August heats not bad anymore and travelling on any two wheeler was acceptable during this time. Prior telephonic conversations had me looking forward to riding a complete track bike but a change in last minute plans got me something I was least expecting. The only words that could best describe my first look at the bike were – WOW! Was this really meant to be ridden and not part of the next sci-fi?

It took a couple of minutes for it to sink in that I was going to be riding none other than the mad, mad, mad 2014 Kawasaki Z1000. 

This indeed was crafted with a lot of thoughtfulness and in sync with Kawasaki’s top level to show the world what they were capable of when expressing emotions with engineering and art. I thumbed the starter and immediately the powerful mill came to life and soon settled into a smooth inline-4 idle. 

The twin exhaust on each side kept the power notes down until you decided when it was time to make some noise.

All through my journey, there were very few instances where a person did not stare in awe of what was approaching. Usually, the opposite sex does not care much about two wheels on the road but the Z1000 changed that. This is the only bike that I know of, that probably got equal amount of stares from both sexes – that’s a first.
The Engine - The Powerhouse
The Kawasaki Z1000 is a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve 1,043 cc In-line-4, 6 gear, 140 bhp and produces 111 Nm of torque at just over 7300 rmp. The engines sweet spot when the power kicks in is just above 2500 rpm. Kawasaki has reworked the engine and has come up with the same changes recently made to on the Ninja 1000. Some of these are new intake cams which add to the sweeter exhaust note and overall ride feel, aggressive ECU settings for improved throttle response and more low and mid-range pull for superb acceleration and a tall sixth gear that will keep you happy cruising on highways.  Shift into 1st and release the clutch and almost immediately you’re egged on to shift through the gears as quickly as possible with each gear showing no signs of stress on red lining, if you can gather the strength and courage that is. 87 kmph on 6th gear will have you around the 4000 rpm and from then on you will never need to down shift to overtake anything slower. While I personally found the clutch a bit too hard in stop and go traffic and that’s probably because my test bike had 20 KMs on the clock when I wheeled it out of the showroom, the gear changes were butter smooth. 

Being an old schooler, I don’t really count my gears when I am accele
rating but there were so many times when the bike was in sixth and I would end up trying to shift up once more, thinking there is another one left. (No, I am not going to change this habit, that’s just the way it is). There is so much power on tap that you feel the need for hitting top gear early and staying there especially on your highway runs. I was breaking in this engine and did not really want to go past 4k or 90kmph. The exhaust note is crisp and gets louder as you accelerate through the gears. Closer to red lining, it becomes ear piercing.........i loved it!

Ride & Handling
I am 5’ 10” and on the Z1000 I felt at ease with my feet firmly planted on the ground. I am also very conscious of how small a bike looks under me, but no problems here. 

Swing a leg over and there is an immediate connect. Even though the bike weighs in at just over 220 Kgs (Wet), settle into the seat and you know that this bike is not going to let you rest for a bit. It’s going to want to be ridden hard and fast. I must admit that my first few short bursts through traffic had me laughing inside my helmet. 

The ‘Z’ patterned seat is a bit hard for long interstate runs and will leave you searching the local markets for spare butt cheeks to replace the ones with intense friction burns - although I must point out that I felt this at the end of my 1000 KM journey. The pillion seat was Kawasaki green and at first glance looked like the rear cowl until you touch it and realized its foam. That said forget about long rides with a pillion unless you really don’t care about how your pillion feels. Large hearted wife - buy a Harley, Intruder etc. Petite girlfriend buy the Z1000 – now you get it don’t you?

From the earlier models, significant upgrades have been made to the suspension, brakes and chassis. The Z1000 comes with USD (upside down) forks that are set stiff thereby increasing torso stiffness and are perfect for high speed runs. The Z1000 gives a new meaning to Sony’s ‘Point and Shoot’ tag and literally all you got to do is look, point and pin the throttle. I was impressed by the way this bike performs on turns although you will scrape the exhaust on extreme leans.

The Z1000 runs on Dunlops with the Front tyre size at 120/70 x 17 and the rear tyre size at 190/50 x 17. I can tell you that without getting too crazy and under controlled hard acceleration, these provide enough of grip out of sand and wet roads at an angle. This is a fairly easy bike to ride with moderate throttle twists but will need some guidance when a newbie tries his/her hands on one. 

The front forks are 41mm a new Showa Separate Function-Big Piston Fork with the left tube dedicated to the single spring (with preload adjustment), and the right handles the rebound damping. Two 310mm petal discs at the front with a one-piece mono-block radial-mount, four-piston front brake calipers and a ABS pump aid in awesome braking performance in bringing this beast to a stop. While the rear a single 250mm petal-type rotor with single-piston caliper and ABS provides adequate braking pressure, it’s the front that provides all the bite, enough to push your brains against your forehead.

Electronics and Equipment
This bike is fairly forgiving but note that this bike does not come with any electronic aids. No traction control or power modes which means in the hands of a novice it’s as lethal as it gets. The side view mirrors do not provide a good view of what’s approaching from behind and I noticed a blind spot on each side. Not that anything will be near you given the constant adrenaline rush that one will experience while accelerating, you wouldn’t want to stop. The Z1000’s dash is new with the tach digitally reading upto 3000 rpm and thereafter a series of white lights show up as you move up the rev range. The dash also shows time, ODO reading, Trip A & B, average fuel consumption and range with the regular indicator and parking light signs. 

The ABS sign shuts off after a few seconds of riding time. The toggle buttons on the dash are inconvenient to use while riding. 

The Z1000 comes with reflector-less LED headlights which are quite bright in the day on low beam. Left of the handlebar also holds a dipper switch which is very useful. 

Fit and finish of switches and buttons are good and Kawasaki has put in extra effort to make sure everything on the bike flows into the Sugomi styling including the front brake reservoir which is redesigned to be see through and adds good visual appeal and snob value.

Kawasaki without a doubt has a winner on their hands and I’ll tell you why. Look at the street fighter segment and you know from a price point, this is one of the more affordable big nakeds although some of the competitors in this segment come packed with electronic aids but are also almost twice the cost. I think if you consider yourself a good rider and can do with just ABS backing you up, want something that looks totally radical and up for some fun, the Z1000 is the bike for you.

Questions - that you may have and some that I answered along the way
Kitne ki hai?  (What will one of these set you back by?)
12.45 Ex-showroom
Average kya hai? (Heavy on the pockets?)
The Z1000 returns a decent 22 kmpl and under extreme riding returned 17 kmpl. Remember this is a brand new engine.
Top speed kya hai? (Top Speed?)
Looking at the bikes dash does not provide any answers. All you see are rpm figures ranging from 4k to 11k. On my runs I’d say top end triple digits in excess of 200 were easily achieved.
Race ke liye ja rahe ho? (Headed to a race?)
Hell yea!

These coupled with endless hand signals letting me know that my headlights were on during the day.

Text By : Sheldon D'Cruz
Image Courtesy : William Chang
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  1. Fucking amazing shots and review.....

  2. Awesome ! No words ..

    suggestion : if you can also put some lights on maintenance


Item Reviewed: 2014 Kawasaki Z1000 - The Power of Intimidation Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Unknown
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