2008 Kawasaki Z1000

Blending just the right amount of brawn and finesse.

Kawasaki upped the ante in the naked bike arena with the entrance of the Z1000. Beyond its muscular torque delivery and radical styling, the Z1000 dishes out a visceral riding experience. This purpose-built Kawasaki is equally at home in the garages of both practical motorcyclists — simply seeking a smile-producing weekend ride and owners desiring a bike that doesn’t fit the norm.This Kawasaki version of nakedness has been tuned to satisfy the most demanding musclebike riders. The Z1000 features serious low-rpm grunt courtesy of focused engine tuning and gear ratios ideally match to serious street riding. Not only does the Z1000’s 953-cubic centimeter four-cylinder torque curve provide low-end get-up-and-go, but the pull continues through the mid-range, giving the rider extra thrust for conquering road challenges and providing the great exhilaration expected from a liter bike.


That’s what Kawasaki told us at the recent U.S. press introduction of the new 2008 Z1000. They’ve redesigned almost every component of the big liter-sized machine, with the aim of making a good-handling, comfortable and fast-as-hell naked standard for real-world conditions.
Z1000
Little man on a big bike…despite the bike’s hulking, tough exterior and triple-digit horsepower, on the street it was unintimidating and relaxing to ride.

To do this, they decided to keep the same basic motor, but the old 953cc mill was buzzy. To make it smoother they installed a heavier crank, lowered the gearing and moved the rigid motor mounts closer to the bike’s center of gravity. They also improved the transmission for smoother shifting and made myriad changes to the fuel-injection, cylinder heads and exhaust. The result is smoother running, bigger power down low in the rev range and cleaner emissions at the price of a few peak horsepower. Claimed power is 123 hp at 10,000 rpm, and torque is 73 ft.-lbs. at 8200 rpm.

There are chassis and styling changes, too. There’s now a cast-aluminum frame brace to firm things up, and a new swingarm and stiffer swingarm bracket. The new fork is a 41mm inverted unit with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping. Braking is now handled by four-piston, radial-mount calipers and petal-style rotors. Kawi made the bike bigger; the steering head is now 10mm further forward and the wheelbase is an inch longer, but the seat is narrower, the bars are closer to the rider and the footpegs are closer together to make the bike feel smaller. It “increases man-machine synchronicity,” which makes the Z “a bike to put the fun factor back into motorcycles,” so says Kawasaki.

Styling might be termed controversial. Despite the upright ergos, it’s aggressive, with lots of pointy bits, and Kawasaki keeps the old model’s signature four-pipe exhaust theme, now with twin-outlet endcaps on the mufflers. The bodywork is new, as are the instruments; the tach now has an actual needle.

We got to ride the Z1000 on some local winding backroads near Infineon Raceway. There, I found a low seat and comfortable riding position that made even 5-foot-6-inch me confident. Handling was easy and predictable, if not exactly light. The rubber-mounted bars and footpegs made the bike feel a little gummy, but it wasn’t glaring, and the vibe-free ride made it worth it. Brakes were strong to the point of grabbiness, and the new transmission felt light and precise. Is it fast? Oh, yes.
Z1000
On the track, the Z was a lot of fun, although its weight and limited cornering clearance demanded restraint and respect.


We also got a chance to ride it on the racetrack. There, the motor was very useable with torque right where I needed it, especially on a twisty, technical track like Infineon. It was actually a lot of fun and the Dunlop Qualifier tires are good if you don’t push too hard. The only real limitations are a lack of cornering clearance—although it has more than you think—and suspension that is pretty soggy for track use, although fiddling with the adjusters helped a lot. For the occasional trackday blast to sharpen skills or just have fun, the Z1000 is fine.

Engine Type 4-Stroke, Liquid-Cooled, DOHC, 4-Valve, 4-Cylinder
Displacement 953 cc
Bore & Stroke 77.20 x 50.9 mm
Maximum Torque 72.8 lb/ft @ 8,200 rpm
Compression Ratio 11.2:1
Fuel Injection DFI® with four 36mm Keihin throttle bodies, oval sub-throttles, ultra-fine atomizing fuel injectors
Ignition TCBI Digital Advance
Transmission 6-Speed
Final Drive X-Ring Chain
Frame Type Backbone, high-tensile steel tubes and cast aluminum engine sub-frame
Rake/Trail 24.5 deg. / 4.0 in.
Front Suspension/Wheel Travel 41mm inverted cartridge fork with stepless rebound damping and adjustable spring preload / 4.7 in.
Rear Suspension/Wheel Travel Bottom-Link Uni-Trak® with gas-charged shock, stepless rebound damping and adjustable spring preload / 5.9 in.
Front Tire Size 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire Size 190/50 ZR17
Wheelbase 56.9 in.
Front Brake Type Dual 300mm petal rotors with radial-mount four-piston calipers
Rear Brake Type Single 250mm petal rotor with single-piston caliper
Fuel Tank Capacity 4.9 gal.
Seat Height 32.3 in.
Overall Length 82.3 in.
Overall Width 30.7 in.
Overall Height 41.9 in.
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