Naked bikes usually fall under one of two strains: the nostalgic, retro-inspired traditionalists (Honda CB1100, Triumph Bonneville), and the radically styled futurists (Aprilia Tuono V4R, MV Agusta Rivale 800), which usually earn the cryptic “streetfighter” label. Falling squarely into the latter camp, the 2014 Kawasaki Z1000 gets a dramatic restyling and a laundry list of mechanical tweaks for its latest update. But is this squat-faced literbike as mind-bendingly modern as its new looks suggest?
Action Photos by Alfonse Palaima
Back in 2003, Kawasaki’s Z1000 broke cover as an all-new bike packing a ZX-9R-based engine, and earned somewhat of a cult following with its then-edgy styling and rose gold pipes. A refresh in 2007 endowed it with meaner bodywork and engine upgrades, while another revamp in 2010 added a revised engine, chassis, and styling, which once again introduced slightly weird exhaust cans, this time with a gold trumpet look.
Most visibly, the latest Z1000 has been slapped with a wild combination of sharp-edged side fairing panels, a mean, squinty, low-slung headlight assembly, and a bulging tank that resembles an anxious feline. Kawasaki’s marketing department calls the treatment “Sugomi”—Japanese for “awe inspiring.” We call it “unrepentantly acute.” Hey, everyone needs a calling card, and this one takes the streetfighter theme to a new level.
Mechanically, the changes are significant enough to live up to the dramatic exterior alterations. The 1,043 cc inline-four gains a sharper throttle response and a throatier intake sound thanks to equal-length velocity stacks and a new 16-hole airbox resonator, respectively. Reduced lift and duration intake cams bump low and midrange output, with the appropriate adjustments to ECU calibration. A shorter final drive ratio further livens acceleration, while sixth gear is slightly taller for more relaxed highway cruising. Connecting passageways between the cylinders assist high-rpm antics, while revised exhaust valve tuning aids power delivery throughout the rev band. The revised powerplant is fed by a larger, 4.5-gallon fuel tank.
Handling-wise, the twin-spar aluminum frame now attaches to a 3-piece die-cast aluminum subframe, whose narrower width enables easier leg reach to pavement. There is a new SFF-BP (Separate Function Fork – Big Piston) Showa front fork spring preload on the left, compression/rebound adjustability on the right. Revised damping on the preload and rebound-adjustable back-link suspension promise reduced squat and dive. Brakes have also been enhanced with new four-piston, radially mounted front monoblocs with higher friction pads and dual 310mm petal rotors. New six-spoke wheels cut over four pounds of unsprung mass, and are now wrapped in Dunlop Sportmax D214 rubber.
Re-shaped aluminum handlebars create a more aggressive riding posture, while revised instrumentation packs a digital speedo along with a dual-stage tachometer with a traditional LCD bar graph for lower rpms, and a bright white sequence of thin, vertical bars from 4,000 to the 11,000 rpm redline.
Don’t let its Tokyo-in-2025 styling cues fool you: the 2014 Kawasaki Z1000’s ergonomics are surprisingly friendly, despite the more forward-tilted reach and bulgier tank. The 32.1-inch seat height feels shorter thanks to the bike’s slimmer midsection, and grabbing the grips doesn’t require too many upper body contortions.
The 1,043cc inline-4 fires up with a growl, and the clutch requires a light touch for its progressive action to take up, though the shifter can feel a tad notchy, especially in lower gears.
At a claimed 487.3 pounds the Z1000 isn’t particularly lightweight, but it roars ahead with smooth, urgent power that’s dramatized by a deep intake whoosh and a soulful exhaust. Pin it to redline, and the twist doesn’t quit; though Kawasaki only publishes torque figures (81.7 lb.-ft. at 7,300 rpm), our seat of the pants suggest that an equally lusty amount of horsepower comes into play at higher rpms. While there, the new tachometer’s bright white vertical indicators add a nice sense of occasion to those jaunts above 4,000 rpm, making it fairly easy to visually process the engine’s proximity to redline despite the small instrument cluster’s out-of-the-way position.
Spin the mill to around 5,000 rpm—essentially where you’ll hover in top gear at 70 mph, and a mild buzz starts to develop at the grips. At freeway speeds, the effect is somewhat countered by the surprisingly tolerable and turbulence-free windflow (despite the lack of windscreen), and the easy ergonomics. The thinly padded saddle feels stiff on longer rides, but it’s not unforgiving enough to cause discomfort on casual commutes.
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