Reading the reviews of the new, 3rd generation, 2010 Kawasaki Z1000 (Zed,) I again have to ask: why won’t the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers build a TRUE naked sport bike? That is not to say the new Zed is a toad, just that many riders have been waiting for a no-holds-barred, naked bike and no one seems to hear us.
Euros have the Ducati Streetfighter, the MV Brutale, KTM SuperDuke R and a few others, but Japan has yet to offer its best! In America the Buell 1125 was our only possible contender, but “was” is the operative word. Buell is no longer an option. (I’ll spare you and will not go down that ranting, Harley bashing road again!)
To me the perfect naked motorcycle would be any modern, 1000cc inline four, TRUE super sport (R1, CBR, GSXR, ZX10) stripped of the fairing, with a standard top triple clamp for your bars of choice and few, if any, other changes. Leave the engine, electronics, frame, suspension and brakes intact.
But the latter is where me and the manufacturers diverge. What makes the perfect motorcycle for me is apparently an insurance/liability nightmare for them. A true naked sport bike, done to my standards, would have an even more impressive power to weight ratio than your lowly CBR, ZX10, GSXR1000, etc. I can visualize the personal injury attorneys foaming at the mouth.
Seriously though, who needs to do 190MPH on the street? That’s a “throw-away-the-key” stay in jail and a death sentence if Betsy the cow wanders into your path. So here’s another wrinkle. Perhaps we don’t need a 1000ccs? How ’bout a naked 750? To me, and I’ve believed this for years, the power a 750cc inline four makes, is the perfect match of horsepower and torque for the street! They’re quick and fast, and have a wide enough power-band to be “useful” without having to keep it pegged/WFO. And if you’re so inclined, you can still plow Betsy at 170MPH or so!
So what’s a guy/girl to do?
In my case, thinking I had the basis for the perfect naked bike with my GSXR750, I set out on converting it into a street fighter. Two things immediately presented themselves as readily apparent:
1) It was an EXPENSIVE project! And (2) the thing was frickin’ ugly!
The logic began to fail me. I’ll spend enough to buy a complete new motorcycle to net something so fugly not even it’s mother could love it!? Nah, abort! Aesthetics aren’t that important to me, but “rat bikes” don’t really float my boat either. And especially when it takes 20 large to complete them! So, back to the drawing board and research I went.
I soon came to believe — perhaps wishfully so — that a Kawasaki Z1000 would be a reasonably “close competitor” to my GSXR750. I’ll admit it, I liked the way the damned thing looked. I hate it when that happens!
And although I commend Kawasaki for building the new, MUCH improved 2010 Z1000, the prior generations were slow, ill-handling, mushy braked, gutless wonders. “Close competitor” to my GSXR750, not even!!! Yes, I liked the controllable low-end torque and outstanding ergos, but the enemic top-end, grab-n-pray brakes, rubber band frame and hobby horse suspension, TRULY, would have been the death of me! Had I wanted such a lousy handling, poorly performing thing as my 2006 Z1000, I would have bought a Harley. (Just kidding, it wasn’t THAT bad!) ☺
So here I am again, coming full-circle, back exactly to where I was. Going from a GSXR to a Z1000 was obviously setting myself up for failure. But reading the biased opinions on the forums, you’d think the “Zed” was faster than a MV F4 and better handling than Valentino’s M1 Yamaha. Sadly though, that’s not the old-gen Z1000′s reality.
So now, with a CBR1000RR sitting in the garage, but eying the 2010 Z1000, I’m finding myself falling into the same flawed logic as with the last Z1000: I REALLY like the way it looks, but do I want one based mostly on aesthetics? Is the handling really so terrible that it will kill me? It wouldn’t take THAT much money to make it competitive, would it? In street terms, not on the track, the differences aren’t THAT pronounced, are they? Lots of rationalizing going on here, huh?
Well, at least with prior generations of Z1000s, they actually were THAT bad. True liter bikes aren’t just in a different class, they’re on a completely different planet by comparison! But how close does 2010 actually come to a true liter bike? I mean really?Sure, I’ve heard the guys on the forums say they’ll “hang” with R1s and GSXR1000s on their 2003-08 bikes, but I’d have to think, those must be some pretty darned shitty riders if a Z1000 can stay with them! With equal riders, even a 600cc sport bike will leave gen-1 or 2 Z1000′s for dead.
So, back to reality. What about the new one? Is the 2010 Z1000 the right bike for me? Probably not. Is it closer to being the right bike for me than the prior generations? Absolutely!
I’m going to have to seriously test ride the bike before purchase. Those seductive wheelies and great low-end the Z1000 is known for, enticing as it is, are as meaningless out in the twisties as my forum friend’s claims that they’re hangin’ with R1′s. The new bike does appear to have great potential, but I need to know that first-hand this time.