2011 Kawasaki Z1000

Photography by Kevin Wing

Ringleader: Brian Catterson
MSRP: $10,499
MILES: Zero
Average Fuel Mileage: Zero
Accessories & Modifications: Zero

I've never been much good at making decisions. Ask my ex-wife-either of them. That definitely holds true when it comes to choosing a long-term testbike. Agonizing over which model to spend a year and/or 10,000 miles with has caused me more sleepless nights than the nymphomaniac who used to live downstairs.

Having run the gamut of American and European brands, I knew it was time for a Japanese machine. Preferably one well suited to my 40-mile round-trip commute from my new digs in Long Beach to our new offices in El Segundo. I briefly considered a Kawasaki Versys 650, but Marty Estes beat me to that. And I even considered a Honda NT700V, though Joe Neric really wanted one of those, for reasons only he and his analyst understand. Both of those bikes were a little too pedestrian for my tastes anyway.

Then I rode the Z1000: Bingo! With a retuned (don't you dare say "detuned") version of the rocketship ZX-10R motor, a stout twin-spar aluminum chassis and a sit-up-and-beg riding position, this thing gets my heart racing in the morning quicker than calisthenics. It's no wonder we voted it Best Naked Bike in our 2010 Motorcycle of the Year awards.

Admittedly, the Z isn't perfect. Its most notable flaw is debilitating vibration, as in my hands fall asleep before I get to work. The seat-to-peg distance is a little cramped for my 6-foot-1 frame, the seat foam wears thin and the suspension beats me into submission over Hell A's concrete freeways. But worst of all is its Transformers styling: I love Sci-Fi (my dogs are named Mulder and Scully), but this thing looks like the unholy offspring of Optimus Prime and a Decepticon. That futuristic-origami bodywork; those ray-gun mufflers; and whose idea was it to make the passenger seat white to match the Brand X gas tank? I've never painted a long-term testbike before (well, not without crashing it), but this might be the first. I just can't decide which color: burnt-orange Z1, lime-green Eddie Lawson Replica or red like my old GPz?

Like I said, I've never been much good at making decisions.

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