Honda CB1000R vs. Kawasaki Z1000 | Ultimate ’Fighters! | MC Comparo

Two Hard-Hitting Streetfighters Take It to the Ring

By Brian Catterson, Photography by Kevin Wing

The Honda, by comparison, has softer springs with more preload, which lets the suspension ride higher in its stroke for better small-bump absorption. The softer springs also let the bike pitch forward under braking and entering corners, effectively reducing rake and trail and easing handling. The downside to those soft springs is a rough ride over bigger bumps and while braking on rippled pavement.

The brakes on both of these bikes are superb, by the way, with excellent feel and stopping power—which makes sense considering they both use Tokico components. What is surprising is that while both bikes use Showa suspension components, the Honda features a 43mm fork and a shock with a 10-position stepped preload adjuster while the Kawi gets by with a 41mm fork and a shock with a stepless, threaded preload adjuster.

While both the CB and the Z have agreeable riding positions—fairly upright with ample legroom and at least some hint of wind protection—neither can truly be called comfortable, for a reason that’s not apparent in the dealer’s showroom: excessive vibration. Rev either one beyond 4000 rpm and the bars, pegs, seat and tank vibrate annoyingly, blurring the images in the rear-view mirrors. The Honda’s is more of a coarse buzz, the Kawi’s a higher-frequency tingle, but they both get old, and can put your hands to sleep on long rides.

A note on that subject: The Honda scores a minor victory here in that its gas tank is a half-gallon larger, letting it go 15-20 miles farther than the Kawi. Neither bike goes particularly far on a tankful, however, as their low-fuel lights routinely illuminated with little more than 100 miles showing on their tripmeters. On a related note, filling up the Honda is complicated by a metal pipe that bisects the fuel tank opening; presumably part of the vapor-recovery system.

That’s picking nits, however, and the truth is these are two very fine motorcycles. Any rider could truly be happy on either one, and given that they’re priced within a few hundred dollars of each other, cost isn’t a factor. The most surprising discovery in this comparison is how different two seemingly similar four-cylinder sporting standards can feel.

The Honda, as is often said about Big Red’s products, is a model of refinement. Its fit and finish are a cut above the Kawasaki’s, or any other maker’s save for some boutique European brands. Smaller, lighter riders—particularly those moving up from a middleweight motorcycle—would do well to consider the CB1000R. It defines the term “user-friendly.”

The Kawasaki, in best Team Green tradition, is all about its engine—it’s brute force on wheels. It’s not for the faint of heart, nor the inexperienced. The Z1000 is aimed at the veteran sportbike pilot who has grown tired of crouching over clip-ons and rearsets, and helping to finance his chiropractor’s luxurious lifestyle though regular visits.

Pick a winner? Not a chance. Two bikes: two winners! You could call that a cop-out. We call it being spoiled for choice.

Off The Record

Joe Neric

AGE: 36 HEIGHT: 5’9”
WEIGHT: 230 lbs. INSEAM: 30 in.

Why don’t Americans buy standard-style motorcycles? These “naked bikes” offer performance and comfort. Sportbikes are a hoot for a half-hour, but I’m 20 years away from a cruiser. Who am I kidding? I’ll never buy a cruiser! A Gold Wing maybe—when I’m 60.

Both of these motorcycles are incredible, but I’m favoring the Honda, simply because it’s more fun to ride. Sure, the Kawasaki has more poke, but you’ll never notice because the buzz beneath your man-berries is so unbearable, it forces you to shift halfway to redline!

Just look at the CB1000R: What a sexy bike! Single-sided swingarm and futuristic design place this bike on my “Top 10 Coolest Bikes” list. Get it going, and it shines even more. It loves to be flicked into corners and is one of the easiest literbikes to ride.

Off The Record

Brian Catterson

AGE: 50 HEIGHT: 6'1”
WEIGHT: 215 lbs. INSEAM: 34 in.

If I had to choose between these two naked bikes, I’d pick neither. Give me a Kawasaki Ninja 1000, Motorcyclist’s 2011 Motorcycle of the Year, which for a few hundred dollars more would give me commodious wind protection and a passenger seat big enough to actually accommodate a passenger. The pillions on both the CB1000R and the Z1000 are so small, only a size-zero supermodel can fit. Which on second thought may not be all bad…

If you told me I had to choose between these two naked bikes, I’d choose the Kawi. Never mind that I’ve got one for a long-term testbike; its more powerful engine simply makes it more exciting to ride. With or without a supermodel on back.

By Brian Catterson
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