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Kawasaki Z 1000G-1 Classic
The sun breaks over the horizon, sweeping remnants of night into long shadows across the drive. The memory of sleep too-soon ended is slapped away by dawn air, still crisp with the chill of darkness.
A rider shivers into his jacket, tugs on helmet and gloves, clicks on the ignition, pulls in the clutch and hits the starter.
The engine growls to life, revs rising instantly in response to the throttle. The bike sweeps rapidly down the road, each upshift clean. It doesn't jerk, or buck, or hesitate. A scant 20 seconds after an ice-cold start, the motorcycle hurtles down the pavement with the speedometer pegged at 85 mph, while the rest of the world still sleeps.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions standards are a fact of motorcycling in 1980. The message carried by the new, fuel-injected Kawasaki KZ1000G-1 Classic is that those standards don't have to carry with them the kind of cold-start nightmares we have come to expect, detest and live with in many late-model motorcycles.
The price the price of cold-start perfection and excellent tractability in spite of stiff emissions standards is $4199 on the showroom floor and the staggering complexity of an onboard computer (to regulate the amount of fuel injected) and a slew of electronic sensing systems to feed the computer's insatiable demands for information concerning engine temperature, ambient air temperature, air flow through the air cleaner, twist-grip position and engine rpm.
The Kawasaki injection system may be the answer to meeting government standards without giving away accurate, efficient "carburetion." But it also may be the death knell for home maintenance and roadside repairs.
The electronic fuel injection system used on the Kawasaki Classic adds about $500 in retail price and a little less than one pound total weight to the motorcycle, compared to the carbureted LTD 1000. It is manufactured for Kawasaki by Japan Precision Electronics, a Bosch licensee, and is essentially identical in concept and design to the Bosch Jetronic injection system used in Datsun cars.
The obvious question when confronted with the Classic is simply: Why? Exactly why this bike, this year may never be answered, and nobody at Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S. volunteered the answer. But Kawasaki engineers firmly believe that fuel injection is The Answer for the future. Using such a system allows emissions standards to be met while retaining excellent driveability. It is still possible to build a carbureted motorcycle with good drive-ability in 1980, the engineers point out, but what about 1985?
What the system does is collect six bits of information and use that information to determine exactly how much fuel the engine needs to operate most efficiently. "Most efficiently" in this case doesn't necessarily mean the engine makes the best power, but rather, runs acceptably well while meeting emissions standards.
The six pieces of information collected and sent to a control box—basically an onboard computer—are:
—Ambient air temperature.
—Engine temperature at cylinder
—Air flow into the air box.
—Engine rpm (signalled from the electronic ignition).
—Intake manifold vacuum.
According to the information sent to the computer by the involved sensors, the amount of fuel injected into the intake tracts is varied by the amount of time the injectors stay open per injection. That time varies from 1.5 to 6.0 milliseconds, being 1.5 milliseconds at idle, and 6.0 milliseconds around 10,000 rpm. (In actual fact, at 10,000 rpm the injection cycle is so frequent that the injectors are open constantly, so 10,000 rpm is the theoretical maximum attainable rpm with the system. With the injection system operating at maximum capacity at that point, additional rpm would result in a lean mixture condition. Since the Classic is redlined at 8,500 rpm, the 10,000 rpm system limit is a moot point.)
The injectors are fed off a fuel line pressurized to 36 psi above intake manifold pressure (or vacuum) by a fuel pump. Excess fuel is bled off back into the fuel tank through a one-way valve.
Since the system keeps fuel line pressure at 36 psi above manifold pressure, the amount of fuel injected per unit of time remains constant. On the other hand, if a single, non-varying fuel line pressure was used, then the engine would get more fuel at an idle than it would at full throttle, since intake pressure (vacuum) at idle would be much lower relative to fuel line pressure than at full throttle.
Because the system senses intake pressure, it compensates (to a degree) for altitude, with the result that the Classic performs better in a ride from sea level to high mountain passes than a carbureted machine. At higher altitudes, thinner air reduces intake vacuum per rpm, so the system injects less fuel.
The system uses no conventional choke. The excellent cold-starting characteristics of the Classic are due to enrichment provided by the computer. At idle, the system provides a 6 percent enrichment regardless of engine temperature, that enrichment dropping just off idle and being picked up again for two-thirds to full throttle.
An additional 6 percent enrichment is kicked in when the engine is cold, giving a total cold-engine enrichment of 12 percent.
Replacing the traditional choke lever is one marked "fast idle," which opens the throttle valves in the intake throats a set amount.
The key to the system's demand-related response is the air-flow meter, located between the air cleaner and a dead-air box. The air flow meter has a pivoting, spring-loaded trap-door flap in its throat, with a small idle air passageway bypassing the flap. Once the engine is running, air sucked through the air cleaner opens the flap, with more air flow producing more opening. The pivot axle of the flap is also the pivot axle of a potentiometer located on top of the air flow meter housing. As the potentiometer moves, it varies the voltage sent to the computer, thus signalling how much air is passing through the air flow meter.
If the engine stops running, the air flow meter flaps closes, shutting off the fuel pump.
As long as the engine is turning over with the ignition switch on, the fuel pump operates. A relay off the starter relay sends power to the fuel pump when the electric starter button is first pushed, but that doesn't mean that the bike will only start with the electric starter. It's possible to kick or bump-start the Classic as long as the engine is turned over fast enough to move the air flow meter flap, which causes a set of tiny contact points to touch and again starts the fuel pump.
The idle air passageway can be adjusted at the factory by a large air screw in the side of the air flow meter, but that screw is sealed off" by a solid steel plug to prevent (gasp!) owner tampering, something the EPA frowns upon.
(The original plan was to use a stamped metal plug similar to a freeze plug to block the screw, the EPA testers discovered that such plugs could be removed easily with a screwdriver and hammer, and so demanded the more substantial plugs).
The air box located between the air flow meter and the intake manifold acts as a surge tank to damp out air flow pulsations.
All together, the system weighs 16.7 lb., compared to 15.76 lb. for a conventional carburetor assembly. Current draw by the various components is enough that Kawasaki engineers increased alternator output 20 percent to handle the load.
Considered in terms of function alone setting aside the real-world factors of cost and ease of maintenance or repair, the Kawasaki fuel injection system works flawlessly. Let the engine idle down to 1000 rpm in fifth gear, then grab a handful of throttle. Instead of a gasp and a dead engine, the rider gets smooth, steady acceleration without a shudder of complaint. Snap the throttle open on a just-started, still-cold engine and the tach needle soars toward redline without a microsecond of delay, without so much as a blink in the rate of acceleration. The engine can't be killed with the twist grip, can't be handled so clumsily that it won't run any way but smoothly, steadily.
At the dragstrip, our 555-lb. test Kawasaki turned the quarter-mile in 12.06 sec. with a terminal speed of 110.42 mph, marginally better than the 554-lb. spoke-wheeled KZ1000 we tested in May 1978, which turned 12.10 and 109.09 mph. The 571-lb. KZ1000 Mk II, tested in August, 1979 turned 12.12 and 109.62. What that indicates is that the injected model isn't gaining any peak horsepower over earlier, carbureted models, but then it isn't losing any, either. And on the Cycle World mileage test loop, the injected Kawasaki delivered 48 mpg, better than any other Kawasaki 1000 we've tested. (The next-best mileage loop performance we've seen for a Kawasaki 1000 was 45.5 mph, turned in by the original, 1978 Zl-R. The
Photos by John Ulrich and Brian Blades 1979 Mk II got 41.6 mpg, the spoke-wheeled 1978 KZ1000 42.7 mpg).
To get that same power, better throttle response and improved mileage you've got to get past the styling of the KZ1000G-1. It comes in one version, and one version only the semi-chopper Classic. Based on the popular LTD, the G-l Classic differs in amount of chrome (more, including chromed engine covers), exhaust system (more restrictive, longer), seat, tail section (no tailpiece on the Classic), tank, handlebars, engine color (black on the Classic) and cast aluminum wheel color (gold for the Classic, black for the LTD).
Ironically, the most sporting Kawasaki 1000, the KZ1000MkII,is available only with carburetors. Besides paying the extra $750 in suggested retail price for the Classic (compared to the Mk II) the buyer has to take the semi-chopper styling.
Styling is subjective. What is special to one man is junk to another.
On to what lies underneath, and how that substance works.
The engine, aside from injector mounts cast into the cylinder head, is straight-forward KZ1000. Two valves per cylinder, dohc, 70-30, 30-70 valve timing, roller bearing crankshaft, gear primary drive, five-speed transmission. Like the carbureted versions, the Classic uses a system of reed valves and passageways to introduce air from the air cleaner into the exhaust ports, producing an after-burner effect, and thus, lower exhaust emissions.
Ignition is breakerless electronic.
The chassis is LTD, differing from the Mk II and Zl-R only because it lacks their double-thickness-reinforced front downtubes between the steering head and the upper front engine mount. Suspension is Kayaba forks up front and Mulhol land shocks in the rear.
Taken all together, out on the road, the Kawasaki makes a pretty good package. As is the case with all the Kawasaki 1000 engines, the rider can feel a familar four-cylinder buzz through the bars, but it isn't what you'd call annoying vibration. The engine has good torque throughout the rpm range, and will—with the injection system—pull evenly and smoothly from 1000 rpm in fifth gear when the throttle is instantly whacked open, something that reduces the carbureted 1000 to stumbles. Best power comes on above 6000 rpm, but the engine is reasonably strong from 4000 rpm. Redline is 8500.
While gas mileage on the Cycle World mileage test loop was 48 mpg, when unrestrained by our informal mileage loop rule of sticking close to the speed limits, the injected Kawasaki got about 40-42 mpg. The worst mileage came from a series of 7000-rpm (109 mph) sprints down two lonely country roads but equal stretches of 65 mph down the heavily-patrolled interstate highway balanced to produce a low average on that tank of 34 mpg.
Even that low average of 34 mpg isn't too bad, but the fact that the injected Kawasaki has a tank capacity of 3.6 gal. means that actual range is limited. More precisely, the tank may hold 3.6 gal., but since the Classic like the LTD—does not have a centerstand (for reasons we can't imagine), getting 3.6 gal. into the tank isn't that simple. Measured at the brochure, the tank holds 3.4 gal. before reserve, which, at 39 mpg would give the Classic a range of 132.6 miles before switching on reserve. In actual fact, the most gas that can be easily pumped into the tank at a gas station with the bike on the sidestand figures out to a little more than 3.0 gal. before reserve, which gives the Classic an actual, real-world range (under fast riding conditions) of about 105 miles at 34 mpg.
That's not enough range to be practical. The problem is that motorcycle stylists seeking the perfect semi-chopper shape for the gas tank have trouble resolving the conflict between adequate fuel capacity and a sleek, teardrop shape. Yamaha does the best job of resolving the conflict, giving the XS850 Special over 5.0 gal. of fuel without sacrificing tank style. The Classic Kawasaki has the lines, the style, the shape, but not the function, the substance of reasonable fuel capacity.
Perhaps it's just as well. For if the rider spends many of those fast 105 miles on a concrete highway, about 105 miles in a stretch will be plenty between stops. Two problems intrude into the rider's enjoyment of the scenery, the wind in his face and the mellow, throaty exhaust note of the Classic:
1) The peg/seat/handlebars relationship.
2) The rear suspension.
Designed to further the laid-back, cruise-the-boulevard look, the bars sweep up and back, putting the wrists at odd angles, especially when the rider is working the bars on a stretch of twisting road at higher speeds. The low, stepped seat is as comfortable as—maybe more comfortable than—any stepped seat we've encountered in the recent past, but is too close to the footpegs, while the footpegs are too far forward. The bike actually feels too short for the laid-back position, without enough distance from seat to bars. The combination is too much for our tastes, and although the owner of a Classic can certainly change the bars, doing so may cause trouble with the front master cylinder and front brake lever, since they're carefully angled to follow the exaggerated bend of the bars.
Then there is the suspension, the lack of compliance in the rear shocks. Riding over small, repetitive bumps? You'll feel every one, even with the shocks set at the lowest spring preload. On smooth asphalt, they're okay.
Turned off the highway onto a twisting road, the Classic handles better than we expected. Slow speed corners are no problem, and the bike is stable at speed as well. But the rider must take care to be especially smooth in order to overcome some problems. To start with, the tires—especially the wide, 16-in. rear tire—have a flattish-profile best suited to straight, flat running. Jam the Classic into a set of left, right, left turns at speed and get the slightest bit sloppy or too quick in the transition from one side to the other and the bike wobbles a tad as the rear tire slams from one edge to the center tread to the other edge. Precisely speaking, it isn't a perfectly smooth transition across the face of the tire, and the rider must compensate for that by making the change from left-turn-to-right-turn very smooth and gradual.
That's not to say that the Classic cannot be ridden through corners hard and fast. It can. But as well as the transitional tire profile problem, the rider must also deal with the fact that the tires don't really stick very well when hot, and that they heat up rapidly when pushed.
Not as serious at least not as serious for a rider used to hanging off in turns is the cornering clearance situation. For a semi-chopper, the Kawasaki has acceptable cornering clearance, clearance that may even be classified as reasonably good for street use. But gas it up a bit and the sidestand drags on the left, along with the left header pipe heat shield, while the peg and heat shield drag on the right.
But, the Kawasaki Classic fan may protest, this is a cruising machine, not a road racer. Fair enough. But any bike with as much power as a Kawasaki 1000 and the Kawasaki 1000 does not have exceptional power by 1980 standards—is capable of propelling its rider quite quickly down the pavement. It's reasonable to assume that at some point or another that pavement will include a turn or two, and that is exactly the point of our whipping the Classic down a canyon—to find out what happens when the rider decides to ride fast in other than a straight line.
And about that cruising ... We already know that anyone planning on cruising a Classic very far better be resigned to making fuel stops with frequency. What about repair stops?
The basic Kawasaki engine has to be the most bulletproof four cylinder engine of modern times. Can't hurt the clutch. Valve train in stock condition is plenty strong. Crank, no problem. The shim adjustment system used on the Kawasaki has been the standard for motorcycles since its modern introduction on the Z-l eight years ago. True, you need shims to adjust the valves, and true, you need a special tool. You can buy them at your dealer's, and the valves don't require adjustment too frequently. Installing very high lift cams in a Kawasaki engine without changing to high-performance, shim-underneath valve buckets can result in the cam lobe kicking out the shims, usually under hard downshifts, and a spit shim will ruin the head.
But for stockers? The system is reliable.
The Classic has electronic ignition, so the owner doesn't have to worry about setting points or timing.
The big question is the electronic fuel injection.
Kawasaki engineers say that the system is more precise than carburetors, so yields cleaner exhaust. More important, they say, the system is more precise longer, since carburetor needles and slides wear in normal use.
They go on to say that changes in the engine's running characteristics (such as carbon build-up in the combustion chamber, changes in valve clearances, etc.) are in effect sensed by the system (via temperature or air flow changes) and compensated for, keeping the injection-equipped Classic running better longer.
Okay. But if something does go wrong with the system, what is the owner to do?
Proceed to dealer. Do not pass toolbox, do not look for repair instructions in owner's manual.
And if that owner is in the middle of the Texas wasteland on Interstate 10, with nary a cow nor town in sight?
Radio for a helicopter to airlift in a new injection black box or system in toto, because you won't find anything of any help in the tool kit.
Which is the scary part. Maybe we're old fashioned. Maybe we're too traditional, and maybe we started riding too long ago, since we remember the Harleys and Triumphs and BSAs that ruled American roads before the Japanese arrived in force.
And sure, BSAs and Triumphs weren't, in reality, as reliable as 1980 Japanese bikes.
But by God, if one broke someplace, you had a chance of fixing the thing at the roadside and riding it home.
The Kawasaki Classic works just fine. It didn't break when we rode it. Fuel injection may be the wave of the future in meeting emissions standards.
The thing is, 25 years ago fuel injection was The Answer for cars. There were lots of stories in car magazines, lots of promises of more power. It sounded right because Indy cars had gone to fuel injection, and in theory, pumping fuel instead of suctioning it through a restrictive venturimeant a 10 percent power gain.
So Chevrolet, Pontiac and Chrysler introduced injected production cars. Chevy sold some, Pontiac sold a handful, Chrysler made embarrased noises.
Fuel injection cost a lot, and didn't actually deliver added power. It got stalled for 20 years, because the alternatives were cheaper, simpler and just as good in real-road use. Fuel injection wasn't worth the bother.
But the choice was taken away. The emissions rules got so tough that some factories turned to electronic fuel injection, not because people wanted it, or wanted to pay for it, but because it was one way the factories could sell you a car you can drive without re-designing the whole engine.
Fuel injection has sales appeal now, but the appeal is in cocktail party talk. No more power, and you have those mysterious black boxes to fail by the side of the road.
Recently we tested six large touring machines. During the time we had those bikes around the office, three of them had to be push started because the batteries discharged. One of the editors rode a KZ1300 to the Aspencade, and at high elevations the electric starter wouldn't spin the engine fast enough for it to fire in the combination of thin air and cold temperature. The rider had to bump start the bike, either recruiting enough people to push quickly on flat ground or else coasting down a hill.
If motorcycle manufacturers can't give us touring bikes with an electrical system that can handle the load of factory accessories, if the rider of a KZ1300 can't count on the electric starter to fire the engine in the mountains, can those same manufacturers build and sell a foolproof, dead-reliable electronic system as complex as the injection on the Kawasaki?
Maybe. But until we get our graduate degree in electronics, we'll take the KZ1000 Mk. II (or even the carbureted LTD) every time.
Source Cycle World 1980