Mo­tor­ing: De­sign­ers pro­duce a preda­tor on the prowl

Kawasaki’s new Sug­omi-in­flu­enced Z1000 ap­pears ready to bolt, writes Paul Owen.

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

Kawasaki’s press bumf for the new Z1000 ABS street­bike refers to some­thing called Sug­omi as an in­flu­ence on the de­sign of the all-new body­work. Pre­sum­ably this isn’t the drugs that said de­sign­ers were putting in their cof­fee at work, which were ob­vi­ously pre­vi­ously-le­gal brain­warp­ing highs judg­ing from the end re­sult. Ev­i­dently Sug­omi-style bikes are meant to look preda­tory and ready to spring for­ward, like a tiger stalk­ing prey, or Usain Bolt ready to ex­plode from the start­ing blocks. And that’s pretty much how the 2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS has turned out, once you over­look a few ex­cesses like all the Zeds stamped into the seat fab­ric.

This vis­ual ten­sion also car­ries over to the rid­ing po­si­tion of the new Zed-Thou. With the han­dle­bars mounted lower and closer to a rider who now sits slightly higher on a lighter new rear al­loy sub­frame, the er­gonomics have taken a turn to­wards the sportier side of the street­bike sec­tor. As some­one of aver­age height I wel­comed the shift­ing of my up­per body for­ward, as it placed more of my weight on the front wheel, and pro­longed com­fort when rid­ing the Kawasaki at sus­tained open road speeds. How­ever taller rid­ers may feel a lit­tle cramped with the shift, and the in­stru­ment pod isn’t quite as easy to con­sult as be­fore. You take your eyes off the on­com­ing road­scape for a con­sid­er­ably longer pe­riod if you wish to know just what speed you’re trav­el­ling at. Which could po­ten­tially be­come a bit of an is­sue when rid­ing a 147-bhp bike ca­pa­ble of tun­nel vi­sion-trig­ger­ing speeds.

Kawasaki says that the shift in in­stru­ment pod lo­ca­tion was made in the in­ter­est of mass cen­tral­i­sa­tion. Yeah, right. If the com­pany wanted to get so se­ri­ous about mass cen­tral­i­sa­tion that a few grams-worth of elec­tronic in­stru­ments was con­sid­ered worth shift­ing, it would’ve stacked the gear­box above the crankshaft to shorten up pow­er­train length like most of the Z1000’s four-cylin­der com­pe­ti­tion has done. That said, the Z1000 has a pow­er­train that’s so much more than aver­age. It’s ul­tra­r­efined and ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing sear­ing per­for­mance, with only the old-school lin­ear lay­out to put a brake on its bril­liance.

Dur­ing data-ac­qui­si­tion test­ing for New Zealand Au­to­car mag­a­zine, the Kawasaki trumped KTM’s new 1290cc Su­per Duke in the two 0-100km/h and 80-120km/h ac­cel­er­a­tion tests that Fair­fax’s NZ Au­to­car mag­a­zine mea­sures.

The mar­gins be­tween the two bikes were minis­cule but it was still a clear win to the Jappa in such real-world per­for­mance cri­te­ria. Yet the $17,995 Z1000 ABS costs roughly ten grand less than the Aus­trian bike. Sure you don’t get the trac­tion con­trol and se­lectable throt­tle modes of the more ex­pen­sive Ka­toom, but at no time dur­ing my time aboard the Zed did I feel that I needed them.

The ride-by-ca­ble throt­tle of the Kawasaki pre­cludes the of­fer­ing of such elec­tronic tricks, but it also gives ac­cess to one of the smoothest and most pro­gres­sive torque de­liv­er­ies in the street­bike seg­ment.

That there’s more torque and more in­take noise than sup­plied with the last Z1000 up­grade (in­tro­duced in 2010) adds both ac­cel­er­a­tive and au­ral mus­cle to the rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

If a gap opens in traf­fic on busy roads, the Kawasaki can claim it al­most in­stantly thanks to its shorter gear­ing, the wealth of midrange torque, and the flaw­less re­sponse of the bike to any ad­just­ment in throt­tle po­si­tion.

On the op­po­site side of the per­for­mance ledger, both econ­omy and range ap­pear to have in­cre­men­tally im­proved, al­though more of both re­mains on my wishlist for the Z1000. While it’s out, add a slip­per clutch to the list. Al­though the Kawasaki’s six-speed gear­box and well-con­ceived clutch are de­lights to op­er­ate, a lit­tle se­cu­rity to pre­vent rear wheel lockup when down­shift­ing a gear too far would be nice.

Sug­omi-style: Kawasaki says its new bike is meant to look preda­tory and ready to spring for­ward.

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