2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS Review

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2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS Review

A night ride through Turnbull Canyon Road, a twisting two-laner that connects Nixon’s birthplace of Whittier, California to the bedroom community of Hacienda Heights, reveals buttoned-down (if somewhat uncompliant) damping, and predictable, stable handling. You can’t flick the Z1000 like a 600cc race replica, but you can negotiate bends with authority. Weight certainly comes into play when hustling this Kawi (as does its stability-creating 4.0 inches of front trail), but the quick-enough steering and taut suspension make amends for the otherwise incontrovertible laws of physics. Hit the straights, and the wailing engine works overtime to counteract those less-than-nimble feelings. Added bonus during moonless nights: though tiny, the LED headlights (particularly in high-beam mode) do a surprisingly good job of illuminating the road. I do wish, though, that the beam had a more vertical throw of light, especially under hard braking when the bike’s nose dips and drops the beam below the horizon line. Though the Z1000 lacks traction control, power delivery is such that a sensible right wrist is all you need to avoid getting into serious trouble. A sometimes abrupt roll-on throttle might make you wish for an electronically adjustable throttle during more aggressive maneuvers, but feels otherwise smooth during more casual riding.

2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS
2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS

Scrubbing off speed is easy, with the big dual disc front brakes offering strong stops with good feel. Anti-lock brakes rarely get triggered, and when they do they create a lightly perceptible pulse—but they don’t engage abruptly or intrusively enough to make stopping distances feel significantly compromised. The rear 250mm brake, on the other hand, feels wooden and weak, forcing you to focus on the fronts.

What’s Good

  • Better-than-expected ergonomics and mellow windflow, despite jauntier-than-thou styling.
  • The engine sounds and behaves with enough charisma to make it invite naughty behavior; this makes the Z1000 far from appliance-like, despite its vanilla inline-4 configuration.
  • Though not as nimble as some competitors (especially smaller-engined naked bikes like the 847cc Yamaha FZ-09 or the Ducati Streetfighter 848), the Z1000 holds its own in the canyons for a nearly 500 pound naked literbike.
  • Stand out styling—if you’re into it—that won’t be mistaken for anything pedestrian.
  • The grunt that inspires streetfighter-worthy hooliganism, and strong brakes to back up the mighty motor.
2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS (side)
2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS (side)

What’s Bad

  • Though generally smooth, the engine can get buzzy in the midrange
  • Abrupt engine response during aggressive off-on throttle makes you wish for slightly smoother mapping.
  • Styling so silly, it might look dated before you know it. Also, the Z1000 can only ordered in “Golden Blazed Green/Metallic Graphite Gray”.
  • Responsive and taut handling, though a more compliant suspension setup would enable quicker speeds on bumpy roads.
  • ABS can’t be disabled.
  • A gear indicator sure would be nice.
  • Wide turning radius makes it awkward to park.
2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS (3/4 front)
2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS (3/4 front)

The Price

The 2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS gets a $1,000 price bump (to $11,999), putting it above more mundane (and relatively unchanged) naked literbikes like Yamaha FZ1 ($10,790), and closer to newer models like the Honda CB1000R ($11,760 for ’13 model). Meanwhile, the Triumph Speed Triple makes a compelling case for itself with its $12,799 MSRP, though the Kawi counteracts the saucy Brit with its surprising livability and everyday usability. In all, the Z1000 ABS represents a compelling value considering its performance and overall capabilities—though riders looking for more versatility and options like saddlebags and passenger comfort might want to ditch the so-called streetfighter theme altogether and look for something more sensible.

The Verdict

It may lack the raw visceral appeal of the Triumph Speed Triple and the exotic emotionalism of the Ducati Streetfighter 848, but the Kawasaki Z1000 ABS makes a strong case for itself with its charismatic riding personality, surprising comfort, and distinctive (if controversial) styling. Say what you will about predictably capable Japanese motorcycles: if you’re willing to take the plunge on a streetfighter-style naked bike while maintaining a modicum of everyday usability, the Kawasaki Z1000 ABS manages to tick more boxes than most, despite its countercurrent approach and unorthodox styling.

RideApart Rating: 8/10

More Pictures: 2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS >>



Helmet: Schuberth C3 Pro
Jacket: Dainese Racing Pelle
Gloves: Dainese Druid ST
Jeans: Dainese D1
Boots: Cortech Vice WP

  • 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…