2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS Review

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2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS Review

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

2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS (side)
2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS (side)

What’s New

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.

2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS (rear)
2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS (rear)

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.

2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS (front)
2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS (front)

The Ride

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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  • Paul Stevens

    I think that this is a good looking machine. Hopefully, there will be a Triumph Speed Triple / Z1000 / S1000R comparison somewhere down the line…

  • Aaron

    Exhaust looks like a robots dickandballs.

  • Pablo Perez

    “Only publishes torque figures” is never a good sign. Almost as bad as the dreaded “slightly detuned for torque.”

    • Ayabe

      That’s SOP for the Japanese MFG’s, they just don’t publish HP.

    • Bruce Steever

      Figure about 125 rwhp.

    • Jack McLovin

      A cursory search online will yield the bhp number. I always wonder for that one guy wanting more power or spec sheet racing or buying a bike based on peak power numbers how many guys are scared off by a bike they might like very much but feel they can’t handle the power?

      • IAmAConservativeICannotBeWrong

        “s how many guys are scared off by a bike they might like very much but feel they can’t handle the power?”

        most of them, hopefully.

        If they are too dumb to realize how to control it

        • Jack McLovin

          Jeezus H Christ. Do you have any friends?
          I’m asking how many guys may like a bike very much based purely on aesthetics but elect not to purchase because it has a reputation for being a wheelie monster?
          But then again what would you know about riding motorcycles since your balls are obviously too big to fit on one? It must cost you a fortune to refuel the Saturn V you ride to work at the chest hair factory.

          • IAmAConservativeICannotBeWrong

            No need to make a big deal out of the fact that a powerful motorcycle scares you back into bed, dude.

            Ask the person who told you that it’s a wheelie-monster. They probably have that answer for you.

            • Jack McLovin

              Look man, I don’t want to be friends with you no matter how hard you try.

  • Kemal Kautsar

    what shoes is that?

    • E Brown

      Says Cortech Vice WP below the verdict.

      • Kemal Kautsar

        ouch, must’ve missed that. thanks, man

  • metric_G

    About Kawi’s styling, I own a 2003 Z1000 and while it is obvious that it is not the latest and greatest, it does not look out of style for a 11 year old bike. If you don’t like the cans, you can always replace it with aftermarket stuff (most riders do it anyway), but if you like it you could not get anything like this from anybody else.

  • Braden

    That headlight arrangement… Yikes. If headlights are analogous to faces, why the piggy eyes, furrowed brow, and sloped forehead? Is futuristic styling pulling from neanderthal facial cues now?

    • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

      Its an alien skull. Its deliberate. Its designed to be an out of the box oldschool streetfighter.

  • John Tiedjens

    I don’t understand why people insist on slamming anything new that is released on the scene. No wonder the American market never see’s some really interesting and usable models the rest of the world enjoys. As for it’s styling they did exactly what they set out to do…. make it aggressive and mean looking. I don’t know that I’d buy one but I applaud Kawi’s commitment to try to do something interesting. It’s a shame that by most of the comments I’ve seen since it’s release they should be made to feel apologetic for it.

    • Doug Erickson

      i love the looks, but even now, i recognize that it’s gonna look dated in even 5 years.

      • John Tiedjens

        I agree Doug. But maybe 10 or 15 years from now it’ll be one of those sought after retro classic’s? Also… mod’s are so easy to make. A standard dual headlight set up would change the face and the rest of the bike is still just naked sport bike stuff and pretty cool as well..

    • JP

      I don’t slam every new bike, but I’m not interested in this one. You say this shows “Kawi’s commitment to try to do something interesting”, but this is the least interesting thing they could possibly do. Every motorcycle that comes out now either looks like a beetle, praying mantis, or a transformer. Tuono, CB1000r, FT-09, Gladius, Street/Speed Triple, etc.

      Before the Street and Speed Triples changed to the new bug-eyed lights and messy fairings, the juxtaposition between the stripped down sport bike and the round-dual headlights WAS interesting.

      • John Tiedjens

        I don’t care for the new spd trpl bug eyes either. I ride a honda 919. What attracted me to it was it’s nice lines that 10 years later are still really nice. But when Mfgs. take creative risks I still applaud them. It cost’s staggering amounts of dough to produce something that fact can’t be discounted.

        • JP

          I love the 919, especially in that green. Nice ride.

          • John Tiedjens

            Thank JP!!…. even 10 years later it never ceases to put a smile on my face riding it. People always ask if I painted it and why a Kawi color… it’s not at all. This is a matte green metallic with a gold underlay. It’s gorgeous and the stock Honda color…”uranium matte green.”

            • Kyle Dugan

              I had the same color 919. Wish I never sold it.

              • John Tiedjens

                I don’t see ever selling it no matter what other bike I get in the future.. It will be just as cool 10 years from now as far as I can tell….. one of those timeless designs.

            • JP

              The 919 and SV650 are bikes I wish were still made today in some form.

              • ih8momjokes1 .

                yeah! the sv650 is unchanged since 2003 and that is really getting on my nerves… you take the world’s most popular sport touring motorbike and leave it hanging? could of made serious progress with that perfection

        • IAmAConservativeICannotBeWrong

          ” It cost’s staggering amounts of dough to produce something that fact can’t be discounted.”

          yes and you’d hope that it doesn’t all come down to looks

    • Adrien Cretté

      There is nothing new with this bike. MV Rivale is new and beautiful. This Kawasaki is just a copy of the late 90′s streetfighter german scene.
      Try to search “german streetfighter” in Google Images and see how it’s ugly.

      • John Tiedjens

        Any rider who would look at this bike is familiar with the Euro street fighter scene… ….of course they took cues from it. Looks are subjective, one man’s ugly is another’s cool and vice versa. I’m sure there are plenty of people who think my 919 or your Rivale ain’t so hot. I just applaud the effort and risk taken by the Mfg. is all.

        • Adrien Cretté

          Yes you are right. I was saying that because you said about people who “insist on slamming anything new that is released on the scene”.
          According to me, Kawasaki do not take a huge risk because they just pick up some elements of an existing scene (please not Euro, just German :) – kidding -). I think it’s not a huge risk because they know that there will be an audience for it.
          Of course MV design is also inspired by existing things. But this Z1000 is just a ctrlC/ctrlV of this german streetfighter scene.
          And yes, you are also right, looks are subjective. So, accroding to me, this Z is ugly.

  • Doug Erickson

    i don’t get why gear indicators aren’t more standard — only suzuki and ducati seem to reliably provide ‘em. i mean, for highways, they’re a non-item, but when you’re short shifting in spurty intraurban traffic, they’re really nice to have.

    • IAmAConservativeICannotBeWrong

      When you say “it’s nice to have”, I say “sure, if you’re that lazy”.

      why don’t you just ask Kawi to put an autopilot on it for you.

      • Doug Erickson

        {imagine a response here that TOTALLY validates you}

        • IAmAConservativeICannotBeWrong

          I don’t need to do that. Maybe you do but that’s your problem not mine.

  • Arno

    Ill stick to the CBR1000, I like that Kawi has been working on new bikes, the other brands need to catch up

  • TheLove

    Cant wait to ride it!

  • Reid

    If this same engine and chassis could be had in a package that looked a little more like the ZRX1200r, oh what a great thing that would be. I’m sure this is a lovely bike to ride and all, but the looks don’t do it for me. I’m usually a fan of “ugly” things, but I think I might need to revise that position. I’m a fan of stodgy-looking things.

  • Justin McClintock

    The original Z1000 was an amazing machine with handsome styling. The second gen machine was a little quirky looking. Fine for some, but definitely not for me. This? WTF Kawasaki? It’s like somebody wadded up their sketch and, just before throwing it in the trash, realized they actually wanted the entire bike to look like the wadded up piece of paper. There is absolutely no way this styling is going to age well.

    • Bruce Steever

      Ignore the styling then, because this bike is one of the best machines Kawi has made in years. Crap rear shock tho…

  • Charles Quinn

    I like the styling, but that’s neither here nor there as I don’t think I’ll ever be in the market for this kind of bike. The ‘problem’ Kawasaki has is that the Z1000 always has to be their most radical-looking bike, and with the new Z800, and the way they’ve sharpened the ER-6n over the years, they’ve had to go really out there with this one.

    • Charles Quinn

      Also, I think there is a change of direction here. The overall effect is angular but there are actually more curves within the bodywork parts than before. It’s definitely more praying mantis than Transformer.

      By the way, is that another light on the front of the instrument pod, or just a reflector?

    • Koczk

      Well said, Charles. I own a 2013 ER6n and couldn’t agree more.

      The z800 looked amazing this year, and has just a tad more subtlety to its design. It really makes the z1000′s extra styling feel almost pointless, as if they are trying too hard to set it apart from their smaller nakeds. Shot themselves in the foot, it seems.

    • IAmAConservativeICannotBeWrong

      so take the parts off it that you don’t like, and put parts on it that you do like.

  • 200 Fathoms

    Brothers in arms.

    • Pablo Perez

      They look like they were made out of the same materials (cheap plastic).

  • hunkyleepickle

    I haven’t been a fan of Kawasaki’s new design language in the last few years, but i applaud them for at least being different. Who else is taking any chances in that regard? i can’t imagine this bike being a huge runaway success, and i’m totally over the ‘bar graph’ tach trend, but i’m happy Kawi is taking some chances, when other OEM’s, Honda/Suzuki/Yamaha/Ducati i’m talking to you, are content to follow tradition with tradition.

    • vote4milo

      vote4milo- Hahaha!!! thats why america got stuck to the aging Harley, and the V-twin engines, While the rest of the World have Triple, Inline four, V four engine and to top of it All they also make V-Twins and most of them are better than American made engines and motorcycles, American got stuck in the 60′s,70′s,80′s style of motorcycle design, yeah we like to look those grandpa’s V’s but most of us will be drop dead if we caught riding those dinosaor’s, hehe…only one American Motorcycle brand i love that come close keeping up with rest of the world in style and design innovations (Buell) but where is it now???? haha!!! we regard highly of the classic’s, for me the cafe racer’s they were part of the History, but we like more the new ones….the Speed, Agility, Performance and Style,..if you Grandpa’s don’t like the look of this Bike then don’t buy it. simple why insist the style that you want???, just pick the type and style you prefer, no one cares, it’s your bike… if you feel good riding it. Good for you….just don’t keep whimpering because you don’t like the Kawi Z1000 design, it’s a (Steertfighter) dammit not a Cruiser or standard, that’s why they called it Streetfighter it should look aggressive and mean….please stop whimperings Grandpa’s wear your adult diaper’s first.hihi

  • enzomedici

    I like it, but I wish Kawi would offer it in all black or some other color besides Kawi green. What’s with this one color crap?

  • IAmAConservativeICannotBeWrong

    ” bulgier”

    WTF does that mean

    did you mean to say “bigger”? “wider”? “larger”? “broader”?
    Since when and in what parish of Louisiana is “bulgier” a word in the English language?

    • zedro

      Dumber isn’t technically a word but most people would understand….

      • IAmAConservativeICannotBeWrong

        geez do I have to explain the comment to you?

    • stever

      The American Heritage Dictionary knows what it means. Why do you hate America, Osama?

      • IAmAConservativeICannotBeWrong

        …you sure you searched for “bulgier”? You might want to try it again. I just did. It failed to find such a word at the site.

        • stever

          bulg•y (ˈbʌl dʒi)

          adj. bulg•i•er, bulg•i•est.
          tending to bulge; having a bulge.
          bulg′i•ness, n.
          House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries
          Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights

          Also, if everyone knows what a word means, then it’s a real word. DIctionaries catalog words that people who don’t know what they mean can find out. DIctionary compilers have no authority to regulate language.

  • Jeremy

    Am I the only one who looks at that exhaust with a head-scratch? It’s the shrouds around the tips. Looks awful, makes no sense.

  • firman azis

    I like the radical design, its like straight from concept drawing. The edgy lines and plain paint without sticker is what make the bike stand out. They also get all correct on how streetfighter should like, performance and styling wise.
    I dont care whether it will look outdated 10 or 15 years later. Styling trend come and go with time, and I think this bike add some distinctiveness to this era, like cafe racers of the 50s or UJMs of the 70s.
    While the engine in the factory state of tune churns out power too much for almost everyone, the weight is kinda off. What’s the point of being naked if it is heavier than the superbike counterpart? Imagine how fun if it was lighter. I definitely put single sided exhaust if I buy one.

  • Joe Bielski

    Give it the looks of Eric Bostrom’s Z1000 and THAT is Shexy as heck :P

  • Sentinel

    That uncontrollably buzzy engine is what steered me away from the Z1000SX after a test ride.

    • Piglet2010

      Especially since that bike is a sport-tourer with the optional panniers.

  • IAmAConservativeICannotBeWrong

    …that’s one way of looking at it…if you choose to look at it that way, what can I say…