Improving Z original
Kawasaki has modernised the first superbike, writes Mark Hinchliffe
THE letter Z has been used in motoring to indicate something special since the 1960s British TV police drama Z-Cars. In 1972, the two-wheeled world knew something special had landed when the world’s first superbike was launched — the Z1 Kawasaki.
It was marked by its across-the-frame fourcylinder engine and its four-into-two-into-four exhaust system. Many copied the engine layout, but few followed the radical exhaust format.
Kwaka Z models returned with the Z1000 naked bike a few years ago with the same engine and exhaust configuration. In 2010 it gets a radical makeover, notably stubby exhausts that could leave traditional Z fans a little cold.
Whereas those four big pipes might have looked the business, they unbalanced the weight distribution of the bike. The new model has a prechamber under the bike that allows for shorter mufflers and keeps the weight central.
The result is a bike that feels much lighter than its 221kg weight, and beautifully balanced.
Other big news in 2010 is the addition of antiskid brakes as standard.
The system works well in the wet with plenty of feel in the front with no kickback, though the rear brake feels wooden.
With its low centre of gravity, steep fork rake and wide motocross-style handlebars, the Z1000 is the ultimate tool for carving up your favourite tight and twisting mountain road.
Build quality is a landmark for Kawasaki with no visible welding marks on the frame and the welds on the swingarm beautifully buffed.
Riding position is classic sit-up-and-beg style, though the pegs may be too high for tall people. Pillion riders won’t like the small and hard seat and there are no hand grips or tie-down points.