2010 Kawasaki Z1000 Unveiled - Motorcycle.com

Pete Brissette
by Pete Brissette

Oh, happy days in 2010, at least if you’re me, or like the type of bikes I’m fond of!

It should be no surprise to regl’r readers of Motorcycle.com that we think highly of the naked standard. After all, the 2009 Triumph Street Triple R easily snatched Bike of the Year in our recent Best of 2009 – Motorcycles of the Year awards, lovingly referred to as the MoBo Awards.

Indeed, this type of scoot just makes sense for a lot of riders here in the U.S., although it seems most of you just don’t know it yet.

They make lots of usable torque, have excellent chassis, and typically provide an open and upright riding position. Best of all, most of ‘em wheelie like the dickens! Sign me up!

Alas, the nakeds see immensely larger sales volume in Europe than here in America, and therefore most OEMs are reluctant to either import them whatsoever, or if they do, they come in relatively small batches.

Yep, with us, it seems its either some type of cruiser, custom, or race-replica sportbike for the street; otherwise, good luck if you don’t fit any of those molds. Boo!

The Z1000 is back in 2010!

Kawasaki gave it the ol’ college try in 2003 when it created the original Z1000 and hoped riders in the states would take to it like the company knew the European market would, and indeed did.

It seemed to have all the right ingredients: Ninja ZX-9R-sourced engine with a 2.2mm overbore for a 953cc inline Four; 17-inch wheels ready for sportbike rubber; upright ergos with a one-piece motocross-type handlebar for a comfortable seating position that allowed aggressive handling; and styling was equally aggressive.

However, it was a sales flop in America. Were it not for the devotion of the powers that be at Kawasaki Motors Corporation, Inc, in Irvine, CA, the Z wouldn’t have seen the light of day in the U.S. in ’07.

Despite big updates to styling as well as various functional items for 2007 for the Euro market, like radial-mount front calipers and improved bottom-end power, the Z wasn’t slated for us. Yet, upon seeing the new bike in Japan during some internal meetings, Kawi’s U.S. execs had to have it.

This is what the Z1000 looked like in 2007.

Regardless of their zeal and stoic confidence that the American market would finally embrace the Z, it was dropped from the line after just two years due to lackluster sales. Shame, really.

Third times a charm, right?

The Z1000 returns for the American market in 2010, and once again we should be thankful that Kawasaki had enough to spare.

Receiving cosmetic updates again, the new Z retains its aggressive but unique styling.

Though the change is subtle, the headlamp/flyscreen is altered slightly, giving the Z an even sleeker, meaner face, and the headlight is Kawasaki’s first use of a “line-beam unit.” A new LCD instrument panel, visible through an orange lens, can be tilted for better viewing angles.

The inverted 41mm fork picked compression damping adjustment for a now fully adjustable front-end, and a new shroud over the fork tubes make it look like one, big stout unit.

Also, a new chin fairing helps camouflage exhaust headers while additional pieces cover the mid-pipe portion just fore of the dual exhaust cans that engineers made shorter than on the 2007-08 Z1000 thanks to the use of an under-engine pre-chamber. Otherwise, the exhaust retains the “quad” look.

But more importantly, the engine is all-new. On the surface it would seem some type of variation on the screamin’-fast ZX-10R powerplant. However, Kawi says the engine isn’t borrowed from the Ninja.

The previous Z had a bore and stroke of 77.2 x 50.9mm, unchanged from the first generation Z’s 953cc displacement. The 2010 model now sports 77 x 56mm bore and stroke figures – exactly 1mm over the ZX-10R’s 76 x 55mm – for an engine displacing 1,043cc. Compression ratio is 11.8:1, and fueling is handled by a bank of 38mm Keihin throttle bodies.

The new Z also has longer airbox intake snorkels compared to those on the big Ninja’s mill, with the benefit being improved mid-range. A secondary balance shaft eliminates excess vibes, but Kawi also says “a little bit of character is designed in.” Hmm…

The Z’s air-intake system uses ducts just ahead of the fuel tank, a placement Kawasaki says lets the rider “savor the bold sound of screaming air being sucked into the engine’s downdraft intakes.” The company claims the Z’s engine to be noticeably smoother and quicker above 7,000 rpm.
A six-speed gearbox utilizes crankshaft and transmission shafts arranged in a straight line instead of a triangular layout.

Kawasaki isn’t able to reveal precise horsepower claims yet, but a safe guess would have the new Z engine turning out well beyond 120 rwhp. Kawasaki did, however, remark that the new Z produces the same torque as the ZX10, but the Z’s peak allegedly is 900 rpm lower.

Look out naked bike open class!

The new Z receives an all-new aluminum frame, a nice upgrade over the steel chassis used on previous Z1000s.

The frame beams curve over the engine, just like on the ZX-10R, creating an overall narrower mid-section. The engine, working as a stressed member of the frame, is solid bolted at three places, with a rubber mount at the upper rear of the crankcase.

Team Green explains that “wherever possible, welds were eliminated for a smooth, organic appearance,” citing the main frame and swingarm’s pivot areas are cast as a single unit as an example of the cleaned up appearance. The rear subframe is a three-piece aluminum die-casting.

A little poking and prodding at Kawi USA corporate revealed the mighty naked has 24.5 degrees of rake matched to 103mm (4.05 inches) of trail, and a 1440mm (56.7-inch) wheelbase.

Though a nearly 57-inch (two more than the ZX-10R) wheelbase isn’t in the realm of supersport machines, the big Z’s rake and trail are notably steeper than the ZX-10R’s 25.5 degrees and 4.3 inches. Spec sheet jockeying would indicate the updated Z should steer quickly yet be stable, too. Just like Kawi implies it will.

Judging by the images provided by Kawasaki, the 2010 Z1000’s radial-mount front brake calipers seem straight off the ZX-10R and 6R. The upgrade to those binders, a set we deemed some of the best in the business for their incredible power matched with brilliant levels of feel, is an update worth shouting from the mountaintop!

New five-spoke wheels, with spokes machined near the rims for a custom-wheel look, a solid-mount handlebar and aluminum footpegs lifted from the Ninja ZX-10R are some of the additional detail changes on the 2010 Z1000.

Lastly, Kawasaki explains the Z’s shock, with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping, is now positioned horizontally, and the seat height is apparently lower than previous models of the Z.

Bang-for-the-buck buyers are going to love its $10,499 MSRP, just $700 more than a 2009 ZX-6R. Estimated delivery to dealers is sometime in December.

Outside of P.R. materials and puffery, Kawi is excitedly proclaiming the 2010 model’s handling to be greatly improved over the last Z, remarking that the new bike should provide a much more confident feel during initial turn-in. And, of course, the feeling of lots more power at the right wrist!

Welcome back, Z, we missed ya!

Related Reading
2007 Kawasaki Z1000 Review

Pete Brissette
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