To those familiar with the premium motorcycle pavement draped over the mountains of California's central coast, two roads always seem to be near the top or the bottom of the list, depending on skill and general point of view: Nacimento-Fergusson and Santa Rosa Creek. Rough, narrow, dirty and genuinely twisted in every sense of that word, they doth not suffer fools. Best bring your A-game, even on a nice day. When a cold December storm is lashing the Santa Lucia Range with sheets of cold rain, bring a car. Preferably with all-wheel drive and fresh windshield wipers. Better yet, stay home.
So guess where we got our first crack at Kawasaki's totally new Z1000? Correct: Santa Rosa Creek and Nacimento-Fergusson, with a few slightly less diabolical but equally soggy routes in between. The last thing you need up here is some merciless four-cylinder Japanese assault weapon. Lucky for us Kawasaki's new Z is nothing of the sort. Emphasis on the new part, as in remake instead of rerun. For starters, there's a stiff aluminum frame in place of the 09 steel skeleton enclosing a counterbalanced 1043cc 16-valve four that spits out an alleged 138 lb.-ft. of torque at 8200 rpm, followed by 138 horsepower at 9600. More importantly for this mission, it lays down a mercifully smooth stream of linear power from 2000 rpm. Things get serious above 6500 if there's enough grip. Otherwise, shift early and no sudden moves.