2003 Kawasaki Z1000 Motorcycle Preview

Thirty years after the legendary Z1, Kawasaki comes out swinging with its latest 1000cc motorcycle, the Z1000

With its ZRX retro-sport looking a touch, well, retro these days, Kawasaki introduces the Z1000--a naked bike with the heart of a ZX-9R and a steel-tube skeleton with plenty of appropriately belligerent avant-garde style. Actually more scantily clad than buck naked, Kawasaki's counter to the Yamaha FZ1 slots in as a feisty, up-to-date alternative to the ZRX1200--which returns for 2003--for literbike fans who think the fetal racer-replica tuck is a pain. Seating arrangements are comfortably sporty; there's plentiful legroom and a humane reach to the gold-anodized aluminum handlebar. As on Kawasaki's '03 600s, instrumentation lives in a nicely turned out circular pod, wrapping a segmented LCD tachometer around the digital speedometer. In recognition of those who like showing up on time, there's also a digital clock. That swath of aluminum angling down from beneath the fuel tank is a bolt-on facade. Underneath, the Z1000 frame is comprised of thin-wall steel tubes arrayed in what Kawasaki calls a diamond configuration, welded to a pressed-steel section rising vertically from the swingarm pivot. The swingarm itself is extruded aluminum, lifted directly from the '01 ZX-9R.

Rolling stock is 9R spec: 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels are shod with Bridgestone BT-012R radials--a 120/70 front followed by a suitably fat 190/50 rear. Suspension bits split the difference between super-sport and standard: The 46mm inverted Showa fork is adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping, as is the piggyback-reservoir Showa shock. Braking hardware is serious: ZX-9R rotors grab quad-pot Nissin calipers that look suspiciously like CBR954RR bits.

Power comes from a fuel-injected, 953cc, torque-tuned version of the 899cc ZX-9R motor. Dual-stage 38mm throttle bodies use two throttle plates--one servo-actuated and the other via cable--and aim down horizontal intake runners. New 77.5mm cast pistons bump displacement and cut compression slightly--from 12.0:1 to 11.2:1--inside reshaped combustion chambers. New cams marshal each cylinder's quartet of valves, which are closed by one spring each rather than the 9R's two. More flywheel mass smoothes the flow of power to the six-speed gearbox.

Because nudity only works if what's revealed looks good, Z1000 engine externals are appropriately done up with a coat of black paint and faux cylinder fins. In the spirit of affordability, thin-wall aluminum side covers replace pricier magnesium 9R pieces. A stainless steel 4-into-2-into-4 exhaust system finishes off the swoopy, post-modern, bad-boy image. Now would be a good time to find an extra $8,499 lying around, because something tells us these bad boys are going to go fast.

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