The big bike segment can broadly be classified into three categories. The first and the most popular, of course, is the cruiser segment. With their raked out fronts, the low seat heights and engine characters that are more relaxed than brutal, these make for lovely machines to go long distance touring on; mostly in a straight line, if I may add. But, take them into the city or on a winding road, and they can be quite a handful.
On the other end of the spectrum are superbikes. Or race replicas, if you please. These have much sharper steering geometry. And, their seating ergonomics are such, only a gymnast can find it comfortable over longer rides. Then there’s the mind numbing performance and handling which only a truly skilled motorcyclist can exploit. So, as you can tell, superbikes are nowhere near ideal for a riding enthusiast in general.
A street naked though, most definitely is. These have upright seating, reasonably large and supportive seats, and their engines are so designed as to give rideability precedence over outright power. And, because they have such little body work (these are naked, lest you forget) compared to superbikes, there’s much less to break if you have a spill. Moreover, increasingly, street nakeds are adopting cycle parts and tech from their way more expensive race replica siblings; and that to me, can only be good news.
What’s also encouraging news is the arrival of the new Kawasaki Z1000. It costs Rs 13.8 lakh, on the road in Pune and it joins the small club of full-blown nakeds that includes the Triumph Speed Triple, the Honda CB1000R and the Yamaha FZ1. Options, in a category we think is perfect for a country like ours, are clearly, very limited.
The Z1000 then better be outstanding. Well, for starters, it is one of the most stunning looking nakeds in the country today. It’s not pretty, but with its space-age looks, edgy detailing and lovely paint scheme; this Kawasaki has all the street creed that one might desire. It’s not a motorcycle you can love, but to peel your gaze off it, requires some effort. Yes, it is that captivating.
It’s not all-show and no-go either. From the moment you get astride and turn on the ignition and watch the instrument cluster go all berserk as if it was encountering serious hindrance from radio waves, to the time you come to a stop all sweaty with the heart pounding at an unhealthy high rate and a grin that refuses to disappear, the Z1000 is all sensation. You will feel apprehension, confidence, fear, happiness, excitement and the constant urge to get back on the bike and wring the throttle to the stop till you can’t stop laughing. It is an absolute hoot, this motorcycle.
We also like the Z1000’s ability to make you feel at home instantly. The seating ergonomics is almost perfect. The tank is just the right size and design to grip well. The visibility is fantastic even through those fancy looking rear view mirrors. The handlebar is high and wide but not wide enough to cause problems when filtering through traffic in the city or high enough to make you look funny while hanging off taking a corner. But, it is high and wide enough to make for comfortable seating. The switchgear is well located and apart from the slightly firm rider’s seat, there’s nothing to complain about here.
Then there’s the engine characteristic. The Z1000 uses a 1043cc inline four. It makes 142PS of max power at a high 11,000rpm but the peak torque of 111Nm comes in relatively early. The torque spread, along with well judged ratios for the Z’ 6-speed gearbox makes this Kawasaki much easier to tame than its looks suggest. The throttle response is a tad snatchy at lower revs but the progression is linear and unless you use the Z1000’s throttle as an on/off switch, there’s no real fear of getting the rear to slide out from under you.
And this progressive power delivery actually allowed us to ride the Z1000 a lot quicker - particularly around a switchback - than we’d initially thought possible. Roll the throttle on well, and it catapults out of corners but without the unnecessary drama. Keep the throttle held, and staying on the bike gets increasingly difficult as it piles on speed fast enough to keep the adrenaline rush going endlessly. We involuntarily burst out laughing after every flat out acceleration run. Yes, it’s that much fun. The engine sounds nice too, but without any heightened drama or aural stimulation, contrary to what Kawasaki claims. In fact, the Z1000 sounds more or less like any other Japanese four; refined, quiet and willing to dial up on the revs.
It’s also quite willing to drop into corners, hit apexes and straighten out on exits in any manner you deem right. And that’s down to the bike’s cycle parts, its steering geometry and its weight distribution. The Z1000 might seem overtly front heavy, visually, but when riding, the weight seems more centered giving it a light and neutral feel around corners. It’s not a light bike, mind, weighing in at 221kg. But, with its aluminium twin-tube frame that’s light on weight but high on rigidity, mass centralisation, and a relatively tight wheelbase with sharp 24.5 degree rake, issues about battling weight or inertia even through quick direction changes never arose.
The thing with the Z1000 is if you want to ride the motorcycle aggressively, it will do that. And it will do it while extending loads of confidence in the rider. Be it the extent of tyre grip available, the ability to alter lines mid corner or plain communication of what the chassis is doing over a series of bumps when leaned over, the Z1000 tells you the whole story. It might not be a fairytale with the bike moving under you and scaring you at times, but then knowing, is half the battle. And when you want it to take it easy, it will happily tootle around as well requiring very little effort to steer or modulate the throttle. The only issue here could be the ride, which many might find uncomfortable at slower speeds.
The Z1000 is a well-rounded motorcycle. It is wonderful for a weekend ride or for showing off at a café. It’s also great for simply indulging yourself in some switchback melody. And at Rs 13.8 lakh on the road in Pune, it’s not bad value either; even though it is more expensive than both the Honda CB1000R and the Yamaha FZ1. Should you buy one then? We don’t see why not.