Living with a 2003 Kawasaki Z1000

Uncertainty soon turns to attraction as the big Zed wins over Bert


July 2003

I shut the door gently. At last we were alone in the garage. I took a deep breath and uttered that immortal line. 'It's not you, it's me'.

You see, I'd chosen the Zed thou' as my long-term bike. My choice. My shout. And I was pleased with that choice, but  now after a 200-mile ride I had to tell her that I'd made one big mistake.

Our respective sizes meant we were simply not compatibIe, it would be like me trying bedroom Sumo Olympics with Jeannette Krankie (and what a scary thought that is). It's a shame as it had all started so well. Finally seeing the thing in all its orange fleshy wonderfulness confirmed what I'd first thought about the big Zed - it's simply the best-looking naked bike to come out of Japan since the Katana. Also, I have a particular fondness for big Kwaks, always have. Strapping my weekend load on the bike (laptop, me, backpack containing smelly kecks) there was barely enough room for my arse to grace the pad. Hmm. Better untick the 'big Kwak' box. It's actually small, for me and my needs, anyway. Trundling along at low speeds all was well, but as soon as I hit the motorway my old glass jaw was taking a pummelling from the 80mph winds. Ouch. By the time I'd gotten home for the weekend I was upset. Had I chosen the wrong bike for the miles and the roads I regularly use?

Thankfully, Saturday dawned bright and clear. Time to gel with her. My local B-roads were superb on the Z1000, just like they were on my old ZX-9R C2. That beefy mid-range, courtesy of the bigger 953cc mill and fuel-injection over the 9R, made my eyes bleed whenever I foolishly left my visor open when pulling away from the lights and there was plenty of handling and braking. It's not a full-on sports bike, the Zed, but it's close. At the end of 60 miles, I was gutted. Gutted that as I do up to 690 miles a week, most of which is on a motorway, this just ain't the bike for me. So be warned. Don't do as I do. Never let your heart rule your head when it comes to selecting your bike. Unless you can afford to have three in the garage. Sadly, even being editor, I just can't pull rank and leave the orange beastie in my garage at home...

Whenever I look at my miles/roads per week conundrum, I still think back to my 2001 FireBlade that handled both with ease, so perhaps a big sportsbike? Or even a big retro? A weekend with Kawasaki's ZRX1200 saw me handle the motorway miles (the screen works on that Kawasaki...) and still get smiles in the curvy bits. Looks as good in green too... Anyone selling a ZRX1200 out there? Cheap, mind...

September 2003

How can I put this without sounding like some smitten fool blinded by the prospect of a free bike? Ah to hell with it! I'm just going to come right out and say it... I LOVE MY ZED THOU!!! There, I've said it. I apologise for such an unreserved display of emotion, but this bike is just so damned good.

Whatever your chosen style of bike you've got to admit that Kawasaki have got it right. From the'angry eyes' of the headlight/fairing combo and the muscular shoulders of the tank, through the waspish waist of the seat into the chiselled upswept tail unit, with its angular LED tail light, this baby turns more heads than a chicken farmer at culling time.

Another fairly weighty criteria is comfort.  Once again the Zed is a winner. The bars are high and wide, and the riding position is fairly upright but the angle of the seat and pegs gently push you forwards into an elbows-out-shoulders-hunched riding position that immediately has you in 'attack' mode, whether it be in traffic or on twisty open roads. The ride is firm, as is the amply proportioned seat, although pillion comfort would seem not to have been too high on Kawasaki's agenda. The rear pegs are a little on the high side and there is nothing for the unsuspecting passenger to cling onto other than smooth plastic or the rider. It's the first contact I've had with the wife for some time! The bum-pad is now particularly sticky thanks to the addition of the Tribo Pad (01825 712447), which clings to both luggage and/or passenger's buttocks, reducing any movement under heavy braking.

Tyres have seen a few casualties to date. The original Bridgestone BT020 went courtesy of a rogue nail as did the subsequent set of Metzeler Sportec M-1s. The replacement Metzeler has stayed fully inflated for several weeks now, and has worn in nicely.

The queue to borrow the keys has become quite alarming; from experienced hacks to our flock of recently qualified riders they all want a piece of my bitch. But it does bear sound testament to the magnetism of the new Zed. To defend my steed I've taken to inventing fictitious weekend activities to prevent anyone having my keys for longer than a few hours at a time.

And as for performance, the Kwak's bored-out version of the ZX-9 lump means raw power is hardly a concern. Perfectly content to burble around town attracting admiring glances, with one whiff of an open road she flips personality like a rabid hound. Performance is at it's best above 6000rpm and as you go beyond 9000rpm it's advisable to have a firm grip of the gently vibrating handlebars as the small fairing pushes the air neatly into your chest and tries to edge you off the back of the bike.

You don't have to look far to find a bevy of extras intended to refine looks and performance. Already I have experimented with her pipes (fnurr!) by slipping on some Staintune end-cans (01443 742421) which cost £459.85. Apart from introducing a particularly satisfying throaty howl they do little for the looks as they are single pipes and tend to angle out in a rather ungainly fashion. I still prefer the original gold anodised twin pipes for aesthetic reasons but I have been informed by those jolly nice chaps at PDQ that they lose some 13bhp purely in the name of design. They have kindly offered to rectify this. 

As is the remit of running a longtermer I am obliged to experiment with various aftermarket add-ons and report to you, the reader. But this is so far proving to be a feeble attempt to improve on, what is for me, near perfection.