2011 Kawasaki Z1000 | Doin’ Time

Kawasaki

By Brian Catterson, Photography by Joe Neric

Wrist: Brian Catterson
MSRP (2011): $10,599
Miles: 2267
MPG: 35
Mods: California Scientific windshield, Vibranator bar-ends, Kawasaki Ninja 1000 rear sprocket

“Antici…pation.” When last we checked in on my long-term Kawasaki Z1000, I was growing weary of waiting to modify the bike while we concluded a naked-bike comparison for a future issue. Now that’s over, I have free reign at last!

First order of business was making the Z my own. I’ve never been big on customizing bikes, but there are a few things I can’t stand to look at. Warning labels, for one: I understand the potential legal issues that warrant these eyesores, but do they have to be so damned hard to remove?! I parked the Z out in the driveway for a few hours one sunny Sunday, then used one of those plastic spatulas that come with dirtbike graphics to lift the decals off without damaging the paint. Dab with Goo-Gone to remove the remaining adhesive.

With the orange-and-white warning labels removed, the bike was already looking cleaner, but I wasn’t done yet. Next up: the reflectors. The bracket securing the red rear side reflectors to the license-plate bracket came off with two bolts, but unscrewing the yellow reflectors in front left unsightly stand-offs poking through the fender. I solved that by ordering another pair of bolts and washers like the ones in the lower holes ($5). California state law requires a rear reflector, so I’m leaving that for now. Last, I removed the passenger grab strap, as my girlfriend never holds onto it anyway. That done, the bike looks much more menacing and purposeful.

Functionally, I had two objectives at this early stage: improve wind protection and reduce vibration. Searching the Internet for aftermarket windscreens turned up no shortage of options, from Kawasaki’s slightly taller accessory screen through Puig’s Stealth Fighter-looking piece to MadStad’s multi-adjustable police riot shield. I may revisit those in the future, but for now I’ve settled on one from California Scientific ($125; www.calsci.com). Smoke-tinted and measuring 12 inches taller than stock, it bolts on using the same four screws to greatly increase wind protection. With the handlebar and levers in the stock position, the screen barely clears the front brake master cylinder at a standstill, but flexes enough at speed to make light contact; so far, the only fallout is a trace of white dust. At a long-legged 6-foot-1, I find the CalSci screen maybe a tad too tall, as there’s significant buffeting at head level. Slouching down, the windblast rattles my faceshield, but if I sit bolt-upright, the blast passes just over my shoulders, which seems about right. A few readers wrote in bemoaning my desire to improve a naked bike’s wind protection, but we’ve had a particularly cool, damp spring here in SoCal (“June gloom,” the locals call it), so I’ve appreciated staying a touch warmer and drier.

As noted, vibration is a major issue on the Z, my hands sometimes starting to tingle before I conclude my 20-mile commute to work. So as I did with my previous long-term Harley-Davidson XR1200, I got ahold of a set of Vibranator bar-ends ($109.95; www.vibranator.com). These “tuned-mass dampers” use the same technology that keeps helicopters from shaking apart under their huge rotor blades to “cancel out” vibration. That’s probably too strong a statement, but they definitely attenuate the vibes; the bars still tingle, just not as badly, particularly at high rpm.

Curiously, the new-for-2011 Ninja 1000 uses the same basic engine and chassis as the Z, but doesn’t vibrate as badly. Giving one a look over, I noticed that it had a 41-tooth rear sprocket, as opposed to the Z’s 42. Installing the smaller cog (around $60) further reduced vibration, making for a sweet spot around 70-75 mph. I’d tell you how many revs’ difference the gearing change made, but the digital bar-graph tach makes that virtually impossible to discern. The only downside is the new sprocket is silver instead of black, and not as attractively hewn.

By Brian Catterson
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