Has the modern-day one-litre superbike become too focused for road use? Cramped riding positions, little weather protection, ultra stiff suspensions and fireball engines that take no prisoners… Kawasaki thinks so and has released a 1 000 cm3 super sport machine for the road.
A quick glance at the aggressive styling of the bike (particularly in the Kawasaki trademark green-and-black livery) will con you in thinking it is a full-on superbike. Only a closer look will reveal that the handlebars have been raised and foot pegs lowered for a more upright riding position. Another ingenious idea is the generous screen with three manual-adjustment settings from superbike look to touring special (panniers are available as standard on the touring model). The bike is actually based on the naked Z1000 street fighter machine and slots in perfectly below the track-focused ZX-10R.
Suspension-wise, Kawasaki has not deprived owners who like to attend the odd track day and the bike is fitted with fully adjustable inverted forks up front and a horizontal back-link shock is also fully adjustable. The rear suspension setup and location ensure that it is unaffected by the heat from the twin exhaust system.
The super smooth engine is tuned for mid-range torque rather than outright power as this is much more important in everyday riding. Our test example was fitted with twin Leo Vince pipes that complements the look of the bike as well as enriching the exhaust note without causing irritation or problems with the neighbours.
How does the bike perform on the road?
This really is a bike for all seasons – we used it to commute to work, the odd blast on a mountain pass as well as covering some distance at speed. The bike performed admirably in all situations. Yes, it is heavy at 231 kg (with ABS as tested), but where this would be negative on a hardcore superbike, it actually adds stability to the package. The suspension setup is much more comfortable than a superbike without diluting the handling aspect too much. The torquey nature of the engine means that any gear will do and the rider can concentrate on traffic or cornering lines rather than aiming for a “power band” at the same time to keep progress rapid.
Is the excitement factor of a litre superbike lost with the Z1000SX?
We asked the same question and decided to slap our test equipment (Racelogic's Vbox) onto the bike. The docile engine under normal use is transformed into an animal at large throttle openings. After a few acceleration runs, the answer to the above question is a definite NO! In first gear, the balance between clutch control and throttle usage needs to be perfect and yes the front hoop will reach for the sky if you are too aggressive. Hook second gear and warp speed continues and forces you to swop cogs on regular intervals to avoid hitting the rev limiter. The amazing 0-100 km/h time of 3,4 seconds and 0-200 km/h in 11,7 seconds (see table) are testament to the performance of the machine. A drag-race specialist will be able to improve on those figures but we cannot think of any reason to own a faster machine on the road. Braking is immensely powerful – even from high speeds.
Kawasaki has managed to create a new bike category where one was urgently needed. A perfect everyday bike that can be used for touring, commuting or even scaring a few superbike owners on a track day. Big power has never been so useable on the road.
*Special thanks to Kawasaki South (021 761 0157 or www.kawasakisouth.co.za) for this test bike.
Engine type: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke in-line four
Displacement: 1 043 cm3
Maximum power: 101,5 kW/9 600 r/min
Maximum torque: 110 Nm/7 800 r/min
Bore x stroke: 77 x 56 mm
Compression ratio: 11,8:1
Valve/Induction system: DOHC, 16 valves
Fuel system: fuel injection φ38 mm x 4 (Keihin) with oval sub-throttles
Lubrication: forced lubrication, wet sump
Final drive: sealed chain
Clutch: wet multi-disc, manual
Frame type: aluminium twin-tube
Wheel travel, front: 120 mm
Wheel travel, rear: 138 mm
Tyre, front: 120/70ZR17M/C (58W)
Tyre, rear: 190/50ZR17M/C (73W)
Rake/Trail: 24,5°/ 102 mm
Suspension, front: 41 mm inverted fork with stepless compression and rebound damping and spring preload adjustability
Suspension, rear: horizontal back-link, gas-charged, with stepless rebound damping and cam-style spring preload adjustability
Front: dual semi-floating 300 mm discs, dual radial-mount, opposed 4-piston
Brakes: Single 250 mm disc, single-piston
(L x W x H): 2 105 x 790 x 1 170/1 230 mm
Wheelbase: 1 445 mm
Ground clearance: 135 mm
Seat height: 820 mm
Curb Mass: 228 kg/231 kg (ABS)
Fuel capacity: 19 litres
2 year unlimited mileage warranty
5000 km service intervals