Wrist: Brian Catterson
MSRP (2011): $10,599
Mods: Galfer brakes, Givi luggage, MadStad windshield, Öhlins suspension
Having gotten my long-term Kawasaki Z1000 running (mostly) better than stock, it was time to turn my attention to the chassis. The Z handles pretty good up to a point—that being when it’s pushed hard on a twisty backroad. Then the budget suspension and brakes spoil the ride.
Sometimes the planets line up just right, and that was the case when Öhlins announced its new line of Lite shocks, which cost about half as much as their racing equivalent ($617; www.ohlinsusa.com). Nicely machined from aluminum and fitted with a trademark yellow spring (now copied by almost every other suspension manufacturer), the shock boasts spring preload and rebound-damping adjusters but does not have a reservoir, thus it has no compression damping adjustment.
I ordered one for my Z and it bolted right in place, but because the preload adjuster is on top (instead of on bottom like stock), you have to remove the shock to adjust it. This isn’t that big of a deal unless you occasionally ride two-up and/or with luggage; then you’ll long for something more accessible.
To complement the new shock, I had Öhlins slide in one of its 20mm Fork Piston Kits along with stiffer 1.0Nm springs ($599 installed). The result is a much sportier ride—perhaps a tad too sporty-stiff for everyday commuting, but much more composed for weekend duty.
With the suspension sorted, I turned my attention to the brakes. The stock Tokico four-piston front calipers and 300mm wave rotors do a fine job of stopping the Z, but the rubber hoses expand too much, the heat from repeated actuation resulting in excessive lever travel. Installing a set of Galfer stainless-steel lines ($98 front, $54.40 rear; www.galferusa.com) and the recommended sintered front pads ($86.30) and semi-metallic rear pads ($28.87) eliminated that sponginess and boosted stopping power, even if the front pads lacked initial bite until they got some heat in them. Semi-metallic pads would have been a better choice for all-around use.
More go-power creates a need for more whoa-power, and Galfer’s brake lines and pads proved
You can’t see it in this photo, but Ohlins’ new Lite shock features adjustable rebound dam
So, now that I had my Z dialed-in as a sportbike, what did I do? I set it up for sport-touring! Givi to the rescue here, with a T480 Easylock tankbag ($149; www.giviusa.com) that cleverly snaps onto an unobtrusive ring around the gas filler cap ($16). Slick setup, and so easy to use with the bag literally popping onto the tank and a small lever releasing it. A nice touch is a GPS holder inside the map window, giving you the choice of high- or low-tech navigation. My only nitpick is the pocket for the tankbag’s waterproof cover gets in the way of the bike's ignition key; it’s arguably easier to take the bag off to access it.
Out back is a Givi FZ Monorack ($178) that holds my faithful Voyager T450 Trolley bag (since superseded by the T457; $222). This, like an airline carry-on, features two small, rubber wheels and a telescoping handle. A tankbag and tailpack may not seem very capacious, but they expand to 22 and 37 liters, respectively, which is more than enough capacity for a long weekend. Plus they don’t make the bike wider like saddlebags do, so you can still squirt behind cars and park in bicycle-size spaces.
Having experimented with no fewer than a half-dozen windscreens, I took this opportunity to try the biggest one yet, from MadStad Engineering ($289.95; www.madstad.com). Truth be told, I first sampled one of the Florida-based company’s windshields months ago, but found it shook too much—the Z’s stock mounts are meant for a tiny flyscreen, after all. A subsequent cooperative R&D program with company namesake Mark Stadnyk (a “mad scientist” if ever there was one!) resulted in a much more secure setup. Fully 14 inches taller than stock in its highest setting, the Madstad windshield offers superb wind protection no matter where the multi-adjustable “RoboBrackets” are set.
I was all set for a long-distance adventure when Greg Lasiewski of Kawasaki started leaving voicemail messages for me, trying to secure the Z’s return. I can only dodge him for so long, so next time we’ll tie up loose ends and wrap this thing up for good.