Kawasaki Z 1000 Z1-R
Kawasaki Z 1000 Z1R D1
Air cooled, four stroke, transverse four
cylinder, DOHC, 2
Valves per cylinder.
Bore x Stroke
69.4 х 66 mm
4x Mikuni VM28SS carbs
Battery / coil ignition
90 hp @ 8000 rpm
8.7 kg-m @ 7000 rpm
5 Speed / chain
Double tubular steel cradle
36mm Telescopic hydraulics forks
Dual chocks, swinging arm,
2x 296mm discs
Single 290mm disc
11.9 sec / 176 km/h
1978 Z1000-D1 Z1R
FRAME NUMBER: KZT00D-000001 >
ENGINE NUMBER: KZT00DE-000001 >
COLOUR: METALLIC STARDUST SILVER.
The Z1R was the first Japanese custom 'cafe racer'. The angular styling was
not to everybody's taste. Major changes were the four into one exhaust, a
cockpit fairing, solid wheels, drilled discs and self-cancelling indicators.
The front wheel was reduced to an eighteen inch one and the engine was once
again painted in black. The kick-start pedal was considered redundant and
fitted as an emergency measure under the seat. A move back to 28-mm carbs
increased the power to 90 bhp making this the most powerful Z yet. Poor
sales resulted in Kawasaki producing a larger 20-litre fuel tank and a
sintered metal brake kit in an effort to increase sales. UK dealers were
still selling this model four years later!
Kawasaki had to leave its reputation as a manufacturer of outstanding big
bikes in the care of the current Z1000 four, pending introduction of new
models. These finally appeared in 1981, but Kawasaki had reckoned without
the other Big Three, who got on with their own 1-litre superbikes, and
spurred Kawasaki into action. The outcome was the Z1-R, which was little
more than a facelift job. But backed by a persuasive PR campaign, it managed
a reasonable holding action for a year or so, being fully a match in looks
for any of the newer designs and only disappointing when compared with them
on the road.
then, were mainly cosmetic, but there were some real ones. The
exhaust system became four into one, with an expansion chamber, and the four
carburettors were enlarged to 26mm; the result was a power boost from 83 to
90bhp. Suspension was slightly reworked, and the frame had extra gusseting
below the head, with the steering geometry revised to take account of a
smaller (18in) front wheel.
included a remote fluid reservoir for the twin front discs, turn signals
arranged for self-cancelling on time and/or distance, and fuel gauge and
In looks the Z1
-R was a great success. It had a new tank with angular lines carried
Something of a stop-gap, pending development of a new line of 10OOcc fours,
the Z1 -R introduced in 1979 was cleverly styled to appeal to sporting
Road Test 1979
This is no ordinary,
run-to-the-store-for-a-loaf-of-bread-and-quart-of-milk Kawasaki here. No, sir.
This is 1000 cc of rolling Probable Cause. This is an open-and-shut case of
Profiling In The First Degree With Apparent Intent To Exceed The Posted Limits.
This is a motorcycle which radiates the essence of motion so effectively that
the cop hiding behind the billboard might suspect you were speeding when you
came. past at ten miles per hour under the limit.
Make no mistake about it: the local
Citizenry—including the guys in the black-and-white car with the red lights. on
the roof—will make a number of assumptions when they see you tooling past on a
Z1-R, one of which is that as soon as you get out of their sight, the throttle
will be thrust wide open, and you and your sleek, silvery motorcycle will
disappear in one thunderous onslaught of ear-splitting noise and blinding speed.
Joe Average hasn't the foggiest idea why anyone would buy such a motorcycle, but
he's damned sure that whatever the reason, it has nothing to do with
practicality, gas economy or around-town commuting.
The Zl-R will assuredly be termed "Café racer" by
the motorcycling public, even though none of Kawasaki's advertisements proclaim
it as such, probably because of the possible legal ramifications of calling a
street bike a "racer." But the Z1-R is much more than just another pseudo-roadracer,
anyway. It is, in our opinion, a masterpiece of styling integrity, a tidy,
up-to-date design exercise that leaves previous Café attempts standing in the
The R has what most bikes of its type do not—a
styling theme, -a- common design thread which runs from one end of the bike to
the other. The R's theme is straight sides and sharp corners, and the execution
is with graceful, angular lines that flow so naturally from one area to the next
that the bodywork sometimes appears to be all one piece.
Moreover, the stylists have accomplished the
near-unaccomplishable by giving the Zl-R a thoroughly modern flavor without
disturbing the basic lines and classic proportions that make a motorcycle look
like a motorcycle. What's even more remarkable is that they did all this while
making the machine look a good deal lighter and smaller than the KZ1000 on which
it is based, even though it is actually no smaller and a few pounds heavier.
Clearly, the Z1-R's stylists did their homework
well, deceiving the eye where it should be deceived, pleasing it where it should
be pleased. But what of the rest of the package? Does it perform with the same
type of well-orchestrated togetherness that oozes from the bodywork? The answer
to that question, as we found, depends upon who you are and what you look for in
The Z 1-R is essentially a regular Kawasaki
KZ1000 engine and frame sitting amidst a variety of all-new pieces conjured up
just for this model.
The transverse four-cylinder engine's bore,
stroke and compression ratio are identical to the KZ's, as is the lift and
duration of its chain-driven dual overhead camshafts. The internal and final
drive gear ratios are also the same on the Zl-R and KZ. The only
performance-affecting differences between the two models are the Z 1-R's larger
carburetors (28 mm vs. 26 mm) and its four-into-one exhaust (as opposed to the
KZ's four-into-two). Ac cording to Kawasaki's figures, those two modifications
give the Z1-R a seven-horsepower advantage over the KZ1000. According to figures
obtained on our dyno, which produces numbers somewhat lower than those claimed
by the manufacturers, the R has 2 more horsepower than the KZ.
Sadly, Kawasaki's street bikes, including the
1000, still use a conventional breaker-point ignition system. With the
appearance of solid-state pointless ignitions on several new street machines
(the 750 and 1100-cc Yamahas and the Honda 400 Hawks), we had hoped that the
motorcycle that put the superbike era into high gear would he the recipient of
one of these maintenance-reducing systems. Instead, the same old dual breaker
points can be found wearing themselves out beneath the small, round cover on the
right side of the engine.
The Z1-R shares its major chassis components with
the standard KZ1000, but a number of pieces are indigenous to the R model. The
frame, swingarm and front suspension are designed exactly like the KZ's, except
for some stronger gusseting at a few key points on the frame—most notably a
heavier-gauge gusset at the steering head. The rear shocks are entirely new
units with firmer springing and damping for "sportier" handling and improved
rear wheel control.
The R's cast aluminum alloy wheels are both
seven-spoke, 18-inch units made by the Kawasaki factory, not items purchased
from an outside supplier. Dual perforated discs with trailing (mounted behind
the slider legs) calipers flank the front wheel, while a single holey disc
resides at the rear.
All the aforementioned technical information is
vital, but those same details could apply to almost any transverse four-cylinder
superbike. What gives the Z1-R a very definable personality is the crispness and
continuity of its styling. The rear bottom edge of the slab-sided gas tank, for
example, drops down gracefully just behind the tops of the carburetors, and
there it begins a straight line which carries all the way back to the taillight.
The front of the tank angles upward slightly, pointing the way to the flat-sided
fairing that is sculpted in the same manner as the tank. The flat, sharp-corner
motif is carried through to the front fender, the side covers and the tasteful
little spoiler on the flat, wide rear tailpiece.
Other subtle styling touches abound: the flat.
triangular side covers fill up the entire area inside the rear frame tubes
instead of being the usual little bulges that only cover part of that area; the
upper front edge of each side cover flares out to meet the airbox in the same
manner as the fuel tank droops down behind the carbs; the angle of the seat/tank
junction matches perfectly with the angle of the front edge of the side covers;
the rear edge of the dual seat sweeps upward at the same angle as the rear of
the side covers and the rear of the quarter-fairing is cut at the same angle as
the front fork tubes. There are more examples, but the pattern is clear: Whoever
styled the Z1-R really knew something about design, symmetry and visual flow,
and he also knew something about motorcycles because in creating this visual
feast, he put on an existing motorcycle a body that looks better than the
Even the flip-up gas cap reflects the styling
theme. The cap, too, is square-or rectangular, actually—and flush with the top
of the tank. And instead of merely being a cover for a conventional screw-on
cap, the lid is the cap. It's hinged at the rear and swings up to expose the
rubber sealing ring and necessary vent provisions.
The Z1-R seat was styled to follow the same lines
as the rest of the body. The seat doesn't flip up, but conies off altogether
when released by using the ignition key to turn a neat little lock beneath a.
rectangular chrome cover on the tailpiece. Under the seat are the tool kit, air
filter and kickstarter. The latter is now stored on the underside of the seat
instead of on the engine.
Inside that little fairing, behind the gray
tinted windscreen, lies the usual array of instruments and indicator lights,
plus two meters not previously found on any Kawasaki: an ammeter and a fuel
gauge. The instruments are nicely set in a molded plastic dash panel which
sweeps around the inside of the fairing and appears to be integral with the
outer shell, but isn't. By undoing four easy-to-reach mounting bolts and a screw
On each of two little plastic end pieces at the rear of the fairing, the whole
outside of the fairing (the outer silver shell and the windscreen) conies away,
leaving the "dashboard" perched atop the instruments like some sort of
swept-hack wing. Removing the outer shell is necessary to perform some minor
repair tasks, like replacing the quartz-halogen headlight sealed beam, replacing
some of the instrument light bulbs or gaining access to the wiring in that area.
The Z1-R uses a reserve lighting system which
reacts when one filament of the headlight or taillight burns out and
automatically switches on the remaining filament. At the same time, one of two
lights on the tachometer face will come on and indicate that either the
headlight or taillight has failed. In addition, the warning light for the
taillight comes on every time you apply the brakes unless the brake light
filament burns out, in which case the warning light will not light up.
The Z1-R has a nifty self-canceling device on its
BMW-looking turn signals. The system computes time and distance much like
Yamaha's self-canceling arrangement, but Kawasaki's is more elaborate. The turn
signal switch on the handlebar is spring-loaded to the "Off" position--that is.
it wants to flip back to the center after you push it to the right or left. But
it can't, because a little spring-loaded plunger on the inside end of the lever
conies up from underneath and fits into a detent hole, holding the lever to one
side. The plunger is built into the top of a small solenoid housed in the large
projection sticking down from the bottom of the left handlebar switch. When a
special-solid-state sensor wired into the turn-signal circuit determines that
approximately four seconds have elapsed and 50 meters (about 168 feet) have been
traversed since the signal was switched on, the solenoid gets activated by
electrical current that pulls the plunger downward allowing the switch lever to
go hack to the center position. That not only shuts off the signal lights, it
cuts off the flow of current to the solenoid.
The Kawasaki's turn signal setup is further
sophisticated by the placement of an extra, three-position switch on the left
handlebar control that allows the rider to choose between automatic canceling,
normal manual canceling and four-way hazard warning flashers.
The introduction of a standard-equipment fairing
on a production bike has given Kawasaki a new place to hide things. Most
noticeable is the absence of a. front brake master cylinder on the handlebars.
The brake fluid reservoir is now attached to the outside of the left -fork
stanchion behind the fairing, and a hose leads from the reservoir to the master
cylinder, which is tucked behind and below the headlight. The master cylinder is
then operated by a short cable running from the brake lever to an actuating arm
on the cylinder.
The solid-state turn signal control box resides
on the right fork leg, opposite the master cylinder, and the fairing also allows
much of the front end wiring to he more freely exposed, rather than jammed
inside a tiny headlight shell.
As you may have suspected. Kawasaki isn't exactly
giving this bike away. The suggested retail price is $3695, which ain't cheap,
but the factory doesn't intend to build the Z1-R in the same quantities it
builds the standard KZ 1000, so there will undoubtedly be enough demand for this
limited-production model to allow most dealers to sell all they can get.
ENGINE AND GEARBOX
What can be said about the big Kaw's engine
performance that hasn't been said a thousand times? Until the behemoth Yamaha
1100 came along, the 903 and 1000 Kawasakis were the brute performance standards
of the world. And even though the new Yamaha is unquestionably faster in every
respect, the Z1-R is still an awesome pavement-eater.
One of the nicest things about the Zl-R is how
easily the engine does all the widely-varied things it can do. Here 'is a
motorcycle capable of around 135 mph in stock trim, yet it can poke along in
stop-and-go city traffic with nary a whimper. Here is a motorcycle capable of
clocking off consistent, low-12-second quarter-mile times, yet it can squeeze
over 55 miles out of every precious gallon of gasoline. Here is an engine that
puts out almost P/2 horsepower per cubic inch, yet it stands on a reliability
record that would make a redwood tree look like a model of infirmity.
The Kawasaki moves out impressively from 55 mph
in top gear, although certainly not as well as the big Yamaha, a BMW 1000, or
maybe even a Yamaha 750. Still, high-gear-only passes are fast enough that
you'll seldom have to downshift unless you're really pressed for passing
distance. Clicking 'er down a cog or two, though, will put you right in the
middle of the most ferocious part of the power supply and will zoom you past all
that slower traffic as if everyone else was tied to a tree. Or, if you're not
into riding fast or seeing how quickly you can get from one place to another,
you can cruise all day on most roads without shifting out of high gear—not
counting, of course, the times you must stop for signals, slower traffic and the
The Z 1-R's extra horsepower doesn't seem to have
hurt its fuel economy at all. Our bike averaged 44.1 miles per gallon in over
1500 miles of testing, with a high of 55.5 mpg during a leisurely cruise on a
four-lane highway, and a low of 32.4 mpg on the tankful we used for some hard
riding, including about a dozen runs at the dragstrip. The KZ1000 we tested one
year ago averaged 45.6 mpg, but its high was only 52 mpg and its low just 40
mpg. The discrepancies are small enough to be dismissed as normal, considering
all the variable elements (different riders, different motorcycles, different
brands of gasoline, different riding conditions, etc.) involved in testing two
motorcycles a year apart.
In any case, don't figure on going more than
about 120 to 135 miles on a load of fuel, since the R's 3.4-gallon tank is one
gallon smaller than the KZ's. About 2.8 gallons are available on the main tank,
with the remaining 0.6 gallon (approximately 25 to 30 miles) in reserve.
The 903 and 1000-cc Kawasakis have never been
noted for nimble, steady handling in the twisty-turnies. But a lot of riders
partial to the Zees have always been quick to defend the handling by explaining
that, "The bikes are not racers, ya know. They're just big, fast street bikes.
If you want a bike for going fast around corners all day, buy something else."
There's a lot of truth in that statement, but the
Z1-R can't offer the same disclaimer. Because if that bike, too, is not designed
for fast cornering, that fact may end up being one of the world's best-kept
secrets. The R doesn't just suggest fast cornering, it begs for it.
The new rear suspension units are apparently
intended to help eliminate some of those handling quirks exhibited by previous
Zees, and in some ways they succeed. The shocks offer more damping than their
predecessors, along with stiffer springing; and those two elements have done
away with much of the wallowing that characterized earlier Zees' behavior on
fast turns. The twitchiness is not all gone, however, as evidenced by some slow,
low-frequency wiggles you can feel in many medium- to high-speed corners. At its
worst, though, the Z1-R doesn't wobble around as much as previous 903s and
1000s, and even when it does wobble, it's not enough to scare you or make you
The firm rear suspension may have improved the
bike's smooth-turn handling, but it has clone very little to generate more
control on bumpy surfaces. Whisking around a turn cursed with pavement patches,
expansion breaks or just a ripply, uneven surface causes the R to react more
unstably than the average big bike. The Kaw may react by wiggling a little, it
may just sort of bob around in the turn, and it usually wanders off its intended
course. Just how many of these things the bike does and how badly it does them
depends upon how rough the corner is.
When the road conditions are good and you're
called upon to really heel the Z1-R over in a sweeping bend, you'll appreciate
the bike's excellent cornering clearance. This series of Kawasakis has always
had good clearance, but the four-into-one exhaust system's right-side muffler is
tucked well up out of the way, and with no plumbing on the left side, the
centerstand and sidestand were pulled up and in far enough to make grounding
them nigh impossible during street riding. The stiffer rear spring rates also
improve the banking clearance by not allowing the rear of the bike to compress
as much in a hard turn.
You can hit things on the ground if you try hard
enough. The folding, rubber-mounted footpegs are the first to touch down on both
sides, followed by the black sheet metal shields on the exhaust collector. Real
berserko efforts will nick the shift lever and alternator cover on the left, and
the brake pedal on the right. At that angle, though, you are nearing the
breakaway point of the tires, which hang on quite well until then.
The Zl-R weighs 541 pounds, has a high center of
gravity and is a motorcycle that cannot be quickly or effortlessly pitched over
to sharp lean angles. The bike heels over nicely when cornering is done in a
sweeping, gradual manner—which is probably the way 75 percent of its buyers will
ride it 95 percent of the time. In that mode, the Kawasaki cooperates willingly
requiring only a slightly-harder-than-normal push on the narrowish, low-rise
When you try to toss the R around, though, the
chassis resists any sudden changes in attitude. You then have to apply
considerably more pressure to the handlebars to get the bike to hank over
quickly, and you must maintain a lot of pressure to keep it at those severe lean
angles. Quick side-to-side transitions call for a lot of aggressiveness on the
handlebars, and heeling the bike over while braking can be exceptionally tough,
since heavy motorcycles with high centers of gravity don't like to he leaned
over while the brakes are on. The KZ 1000, having the same chassis as the R,
reacts in exactly the same manner, but the resistance feels more exaggerated on
the Z1-R because its handlebars are almost three inches narrower.
A motorcycle that resists being turned usually
has a high degree of inherent straight-line stability, as is the case with the Z
I-R. At all speeds ranging from normal city driving to barreling down a long,
flat highway at full tilt, the bike feels stable and predictable. Sidewinds,
rain grooves, paving transitions and all other normal forms of
direction-altering diversions have little or no effect on the big silver streak.
COMFORT AND RIDE
The riding position aboard the Z1-R could he
termed "semi-Café," since the rider doesn't have to lean forward as much as on
an all-out Café racer, yet lie does not sit as upright as on a traditional
street bike. We like the R's position, because the slight forward cant of the
torso relieves some of the pressure that normally gets put on the tailbone and
buttocks. The thighs are also made to share in supporting more of the rider's
upper-body weight. The overall effect is such that the rider's hack doesn't get
tired as quickly, his rear end doesn't go to sleep as easily and his hands and
arms don't grow as tired from trying to keep his torso from being blown over
backward by the wind.
The Z1-R would he even more comfy, however, if
the seat was better-designed and the rear suspension more compliant. The seat's
comfortability appears to have been compromised somewhat for the sake of
styling. The padding feels thin here and there, the seat isn't as wide as it
could he and you can often feel the metal seat base poking at the insides of
You generally become acutely aware of the seat's
presence during the first tank of gas on a long trip, and your initial set of
saddle sores starts showing up during the second or third tank.
The seat's problems are compounded by the
harshness of the shocks, which transmit more than their share of humps and
thumps into the seat. Riding the Z 1-R is by no means excruciating—in fact, the
seat is better than the one on the GS750 Suzuki, for example. The point is that
what makes the R's seat acceptable is not the seat nor the suspension, it is the
Some of the concrete-slab pavement on Southern
California's freeway system helped point up the inadequacies of the rear
suspension. Each slab is not quite flush with the one after it, so riding a
stiffly-sprung bike on one of these freeways gives the rider a constant
up-and-down jarring that, at 55 miles per hour, occurs at a rate of about four
jolts per second. After 15 or 20 miles of this abuse, the whole world seems to
be jumping around like an ill-adjusted television picture. Worse yet, this
jarring makes the rider tired and sore long before he would have been otherwise.
The big, double-cam Kawasakis have always
generated more perceptible vibration than any other transverse four, and that
hasn't changed a hit. Thankfully, the level of vibration is never great enough
to cause much rider discomfort. The worst of the vibes show up above 6000 rpm,
and at lower revs the shakes are still noticeable but not bothersome. The engine
is very smooth at cruising speeds, and the images in the mirrors are
crystal-clear at all rpm except the last thousand or so before redline.
Speaking of mirrors, the effectiveness of the
Z1-R's rearviewers is hampered by the narrowness of the handlebars on which they
are mounted, especially when the rider is big or broad-shouldered. A big guy has
to shift his torso to one side to see directly behind the bike. Looking forward,
the R's smoke-tinted windshield is the first compound-curve, bubble-type shield
we've seen that doesn't distort the rider's view. You seldom find it necessary
or practical to look through the shield, anyway, but when you do, it's nice to
be able to figure out what you're looking at.
Night visibility is vastly improved by the Z1-R's
quartz-halogen headlight. On high beam, this headlight, which is similar to the
one we sampled on the Honda GL-1000 two months ago, brightens up the road ahead
almost like daylight. Every motorcycle should have one of these. But whoever
designed and approved the fuel gauge and ammeter must never have ridden the bike
at night. You can't see the non-luminous gauge needles in the dark, even though
the gauge faces themselves are brightly lit.
The Z l-R has the best brakes ever installed as
standard equipment on a stock Kawasaki street bike. The dual front discs are
very powerful, yet progressive, and- give the rider a superb "feel" at the
lever. You can haul the big, heavy R down to a screeching halt in short order,
under full control and in a straight line. Fade doesn't appear to he a problem
under hard usage, and the cable-operated remote master cylinder causes no
mushiness in the lever or erratic operation.
The rear brake is powerful and progressive enough
to do a good job, although an over-zealous right foot will lock the rear wheel
much more easily than an eager right hand can lock the front. The rear wheel is
also liable to hop and skip if locked up under certain conditions, although it's
no worse in this respect than most other contemporary street bikes.
The perforated discs make an audible whirring
noise when the brakes are applied, but the noise is in no way annoying or
distracting. And since the recent lack of rainfall in the Southwest is common
knowledge, it should come as no surprise that we were unable to evaluate how
well the brakes perform in wet weather.
RELIABILITY DURING TEST
Our test unit suffered no "failures" while in our
possession. The closest thing to a reliability problem was a grossly inaccurate
speedometer. Most speedos are purposely built to he a little optimistic, but the
instrument on our Z1-R consistently indicated 16 to 17 percent faster than the
actual speed. At an indicated 55 mph, for instance, the bike was moving along at
just under 47 mph. We had to ride at an indicated 65 to travel at an actual 55.
The odometer, oddly enough, was just about on the money.
The Kawasaki Z1-R, resplendent in its silver-blue
paint, dark tinted windscreen and uniformly modern styling, is the greatest
outright attempt at two-wheeled flash ever to emerge from Japan. It is a
profiler's utopia and a powerful pseudo-racer, yet it is a reasonable motorcycle
for certain riders who want something a little racy, a little different, but not
For the serious Café types, there is still the
omnipresent Z-1/KZ1000 handling to contend with. Anyone with a proclivity for
straightening out crooked roads will undoubtedly come up less than satisfied
with the R's lack of nimbleness in that area. The bike has enough raw:
horsepower to he truly impressive on the straights, but the first rule of
handling for a 90-horsepower motorcycle is to give it a 90-horsepower chassis,
and that is something the Z1-R doesn't have.
What we must not lose sight of here, however, is
that most of the people who would consider buying a Z 1-R don't care if it isn't
the world's greatest hack-road rocket. Because for every real peg-dragging rider
you can dredge up, there are hundreds and hundreds of non-peg-draggers, people
who ride for reasons other than to satisfy a burning desire to get from Point A
to Point B in record time, riders who will never, ever touch a footpeg or
anything else to the ground. They only want to look like peg-draggers: they only
want a motorcycle that looks and feels like the meanest, fastest, raciest
two-wheeled machine money can buy, even if it really isn't. And when you stop
and think about the pluses and the minuses and the possible consequences of both
types of riding, the nonpeg-dragging approach easily emerges as the most
sensible of the two.
For the small group that lives in the Outer
Limits—that select handful of skilled, experienced street scratchers who know
how to use up almost everything a motorcycle has to offer—the Z I-R is only
slightly better, or at least no worse, than a regular KZ 1000. But for the
inhabitants of the Real World, the normal, everyday people who like flashy
motorcycles but feel no compulsion to lean one of them over until five pounds of
something has been ground away, the Z1-R is an elegant, silver beauty that can
give them all the pleasure and pride of ownership they could hope for.