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2010 Kawasaki Z1000: MD First Ride

When you think of naked or standard bikes, you probably think of compromise. With a few exceptions (primarily from Europe), they are not known for outstanding performance, light weight, or quality components. The Japanese manufacturers would typically strip down and detune a more racetrack oriented machine, while replacing the adjustable suspension components and top-drawer brakes with something cheaper. Kawasaki has decided it is time to change that line of thinking.

For 2010, Kawasaki has introduced us to an all-new Z1000, with an entirely new engine design. The new engine allowed the engineers to manipulate power characteristics to achieve the exact results they were looking for. Kawasaki is claiming a respectable 139 horsepower and a whopping 81lb/ft of torque. While the numbers aren’t earth shattering, the manner in which the peak numbers occur are. The peak numbers happen right in the middle of the rpm range, which is where they are most usable. You need not rev the Z to the moon to achieve rapid acceleration.

The chassis for the new Z also received major updates. With increased rigidity, lighter weight, and a new three piece detachable subframe, more emphasis was placed on improving the overall handling and balance to take advantage of the increased power. The front forks (now fully adjustable for compression, rebound and spring preload) and brakes are very similar to the components found on the ZX-10R, while the rear shock (adjustable for rebound and spring preload) is tilted forward instead of straight up and down to aid in mass centralization and to mimic typical sportbike linkage characteristics.

Although recent weather conditions were sure to have negative effects on road conditions, I could hardly wait to get out and experience the new Z in the real world. Pulling out of the staging area for our ride, I could instantly tell the new engine made massive amounts of torque.

Cold tires and the damp pavement could have equaled a recipe for disaster if not careful with throttle inputs, but I managed to keep my hooligan side in check for the time being. The first leg of our ride didn’t give us an opportunity to get a feel for what the bike was all about. After we got out onto an open road I began to push a little harder and see what I was dealing with.

Akrapovic achieved stock wheel horsepower of 128 (131 with thier new slip-on). Note torque curve expressed in Newton/Meters.

The power delivery from the new engine is nothing less than incredible, with the real meat of the power coming between 5,000 and 8,000 rpm, which is where it’s most usable in everyday riding conditions. The bike also revs out well . . . pulling hard all the way to 11,000 rpm. At one point I lofted the front wheel into a nice third gear power wheelie with a mere twist of the throttle. Needless to say, this bike has power to spare.

The remainder of our ride took us through just about every type of road you could expect to see, and the bike performed extremely well. The chassis never appeared to show any signs of nervousness and yet steered with sportbike like precision. I never ground any hard parts on the pavement and clearance doesn’t seem to be an issue. The brakes are what we have come to expect from Kawasaki’s top-drawer ninja sport bikes, offering excellent feel and power.

Although the new Z1000 isn’t, and shouldn’t be, classified as a super sport, for day-to-day road use, its power characteristics and ergonomics are superior. At $10,499 U.S. MSRP, the 2010 Z1000 is not the cheapest Japanese naked available, but it is a bargain when you consider the fact that it is fully capable of giving the pricier European competition fits. For additional details and specifications, visit Kawasaki’s web site.



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MD Readers Respond:

  • I have always really wanted to like this bike but I just can’t.The idea of a 1000 cc four with ELR-ish ergonomics weighing just over
    400 lbs. should be irresistible to me. That and the fact that I’ve
    been a Kawasaki fan since the days of the triples. But generation
    after generation, the Z1000 has missed the mark for me. The awkward
    humpbacked profile. The contrived engine styling touches. The cant-
    replace-it-fast-enough exhaust systems. And then there’s the styling.
    Every pointy body piece competing with the others. Angles all over
    everything. No flowing lines. It looks like it was designed by someone
    inspired by the anime robot toys of his childhood.

    So now it’s in its third iteration. Apparently the bike is lighter,
    more powerful and better handling. Great! Costs more, you say? OK,
    that’s inevitable, I guess. But when I look at the photos, all I can
    think is, as soon as I got it home I’d be removing this and that and
    that and what can I do about that faring? The thing is, even though a
    motorcycle is about getting you there, it’s still a toy too. You want
    to look at it and admire it and make it into something that reflects
    something about you and your personal aesthetic.

    And this bike is just too damn ugly to be a good starting point for me
    to make it into something I can enjoy on that level.

    Now I understand that often, new designs that are unappealing at first
    become familiar and you end up wondering why you disliked it so
    strongly in the first place. In fact, going back and looking at photos
    of the first gen Z1000 just now, I find myself thinking, “that’s not
    so bad, maybe I should look around at what these things are going for
    on the used market”. But looking at the 2nd gen Z1000 still has me
    wondering what in the world were they thinking when they designed that
    mess. And I expect that a couple of years from now, my reaction to
    this 3rd generation will still be “If you stripped of the this and
    this and this…”

    It’s just disappointing.

    //end rant//   Bud

  • Sounds like nice bike/concept indeed, but, why haven’t bike manufacturers
    learned what car ones did a couple of decades ago? Digital dashes SUCK,
    particularly bar-graph style tachs. Sigh; the one on this bike looks like
    it should be in a LeBaron.
    The exhaust is bad too, but ugly seems to be the only path to “different”
    these days.   Tim
  • Blah – stop with the Transformers aesthetic already. Look, this bike may have been engineered with a really great motor for a “naked bike” . . .but it is hardly a naked bike with all that foldy-plastic crap. For a proper Naked bike celebrate the exposed engine and keep everything else simple. Is that so hard?   Dave