Kawasaki Z 1100 A1
Kawasaki Z 1100 A
Air cooled, four stroke, transverse four cylinder, DOHC,
2 valve per cylinder.
Bore x Stroke
72.5 x 66mm
4x 34mm Mikuni
CDI / electric
108 hp @ 8500rpm
9.8 kgf-m @ 7000 rpm
5 Speed / shaft
38mm Air assisted telescopic forks, 165mm
Single air shock 4-way adjustable rebound
damping, 102mm wheel travel
2x 280mm discs 1 calipers
Single 280mm disc 1 caliper
Dry-Weight / Wet-Weight
237.3 kg / 270 kg
11.6 sec / 117.6 mp/h
140 mph / 226 km/h
All right, you guys. Even though you might like
shaft drive, road maps and all-day rides, I know the truth. You still like
to cut loose and haul ass, don't you? But it's okay, Kawasaki understands
that. It's even built a shaft-drive motorcycle expressly for dashing between
Grand Junction and Ruidoso at 100 mph, whether you're into fairings and such
The designation of this new open-field runner from Kawasaki is KZ1100A.
There's more to it, though, than just the itch you get in your right hand at
the prospect of 1100ccs pumping out 102 horsepower. Because this is more
than just a warmed-over KZ1000 Shaft, a bike that acquired its reputation as
a long-distance motorcycle by default. The KZ11 is different. From the
beginning, it has been thought of as a touring bike—not a dresser exactly,
but a motorcycle at home on the open road with or without a fairing.
Actually, Kawasaki hung the appellation "Super Touring" on the KZ11 in its
prototype stages, and that term captures the KZ11 shaftie's attempt to mix
roadability with high performance.
You'll be able to wrap your mind around the term supertouring once you
point the KZ1100's front tire in the general direction of the city limits
and give the throttle a mighty yank. Seconds later, you are no longer in the
vicinity. Because the KZ11 doesn't just accelerate, it disappears. Its
quarter-mile performance (11.621 seconds at 117.6 mph) promises exciting
times on the highway, even if you've been jaded by 11-second quarter-mile
times and 1100сс engines.
Kawasaki applied the same sort of thinking to the design of the KZ1100
that it has to its entire generation of new street bikes. No exotic tricks
are called for. Kawasaki engineers long have been convinced that they had
the right components at hand and had simply failed to fit them together
properly. And indeed, the extraordinary contrast between the fusty old
KZ1000 Shaft, not much more than a Z-1 with shaft checked off on the option
list, and the new КZ1100 lies in the way the components have been carefully
tailored to match one other and to match the task
of the bike as a whole. The fundamental verities expressed here are light
weight and the right kind of power. Light weight means a motorcycle that can
respond to your demands instead of those of its own avoirdupois. The right
kind of power means an engine that answers your call no matter what gear
you're in or how much weight you're packing. If this is high-performance
thinking, so be it. The KZ11 demonstrates that high-performance thinking can
transform a touring bike just as completely as it does a sport bike.
The refitting of the KZ1000 Shaft into KZ11 trim was conducted with much
the same logic as the redesign of the chain-drive Z-1. To begin with, a
stronger frame holds the package together. In broad outline, its
configuration is the same as last year, but the diameter of the frame tubes
has been increased to bolster rigidity while their wall thickness has been
trimmed to reduce weight. Comprehensive gusseting of the steering head and
two crossbraces for the top tubes also add to the rigidity of the KZ11's
frame. As a result, the structural link between steering head and swingarm
pivot is strong enough to help the front and rear wheels work with one other
instead of against one another.
When it came to suspension philosophy, Kawasaki's engineers attempted to
keep the original KZ1000 Shaft from swinging its weight around by fitting a
suspension with a mild rising rate thanks to progressively wound springs.
Even so, the bike wallowed around in the corners like a water buffalo in its
favorite mud hole. The same theory is applied to the KZ11's sus- pension,
but this time the hardware is more sophisticated. An air-spring fork has
been fitted to the front of the KZ11 while Kayaba gas shocks first seen on
European Suzuki GS1000s are attached to the back. The KZ's leading-axle
air-spring fork has a fractionally softer initial spring rate and a
fractionally firmer final rate than last year, but the air-spring feature
turns the trick by helping the fork resist bottoming with more control. A
reduction in wheel travel of 20mm also produces a firmer front suspension.
And although a reduction in stanchion tube diameter from 40mm to 38mm seems
to promise a compromise in front-end rigidity, adequate stiffness is
attained because the wall thickness of the stanchion tubes has been
increased 1mm. The switch from cast-iron to aluminum triple clamps also
helps keep the fork flex-free and reduce weight.
Kawasaki engineers undoubtedly chose Kayaba gas shocks for the KZ11
because compressed gas without springs as a primary springing medium offers
a much steeper rising rate (and also better tunability) than springs alone.
Unfortunately, the use of air in such shocks usually compromises their
effectiveness, because the temperature increase under hard use makes
suspension action much stiffer. But because the Kayabas use nitrogen instead
of air, this problem is minimized. Air is used only to fine-tune the shocks
for different load capacities through an equalizer line beneath the seat.
Four positions of rebound damping afford even more shock absorber
The new suspension units also deliver the capacity for more spring
control that a touring bike likely to carry a fairing, bags and passenger
needs. The switch to a 16- inch rear tire and H-rated rubber is explained by
a desire for more load-carrying capacity, but the bottom line is a GVWR of
1019 pounds and a 12-pound increase in load-carrying capacity over the
While these building blocks help the KZ1100 fulfill its role as a
multi-dimensional touring bike, the piece of hardware that gets people riled
up is the engine. Basically, it duplicates the same thinking apparent in the
GPz1100 and KZ1000 engines with a bit of additional fine-tuning to calibrate
it for supertouring. The overall goals of the redesign were a reduction in
vibration and an increase in responsiveness.
Kawasaki gave the Z-1 engine quicker response by trimming five pounds of
weight from the crankshaft flywheels—especially the web extension on the
primary-drive side—and deleting the kickstarter. The solution to the
vibration problem, though, proved to be rubber isolation mounts for the
engine. All three of the motor mounts (down from four last year) carry
rubber fittings. Though this measure generally compromises frame rigidity,
you might feel better about it if you know that Kawasaki first experimented
with rubber-mounted engines in its 1980 endurance-racing bikes.
The KZ1100 engine's incredible power comes from boosting displacement
73cc and funneling more fuel into the larger cylinders. The engine breathes
through ports 2mm larger than before, intake valves 1mm larger and exhaust
valves 2mm larger. Mikuni 34mm constant-velocity carburetors meter the
fuel-air mixture to cylinders with a 0.2-higher compression ratio. More
power is the obvious result.
While the KZ1100 duplicates the stone-killer GРz1100 engine in the way it
achieves a higher horsepower rating, the KZ engine also incorporates a few
things to calibrate the powerband for touring riders. Basically, valve lift
as well as valve duration are reduced slightly compared to the GPz engine.
And to bolster cylinder charging and thus improve power at low and mid-range
rpm, the valves open and close sooner. The baffling in the KZ11's low-slung
exhaust pipes further reinforces the broad powerband.
Though the KZ11 engine isn't as radical as the GPz engine, some fiddling
with the internals was necessary to accommodate the horsepower increase.
Last year's 2mmlarger crankpins play a role here as does the increase in
height for the engine cases around the transmission. Most of the changes are
in the transmission itself, though. The ratios of the internal gears have
been made shorter, which means they spin faster, reducing their torque
loadings. Making the final-drive ratio slightly taller gives the bike
virtually the same overall gear ratio as before, though, so the bike still
spins a modest 3600 rpm at 60 mph.
The new engine transforms what had been a freight train into a bullet
train. The KZ11 accelerates like a bandit bike, not a touring bike; and
thanks to the rubber engine mounts, cruising at 80 mph isn't any more
annoying than cruising at 45 mph. The real payoff for this performance
boost, though, is an increase in the engine's flexibility. You can lug the
motor around town like a Harley or Yamaha and still have sufficient punch at
hand if you need it. And then you can accelerate into a 100-mph streak like
a KZ1300. Precise carburetion is really the key to the goodness of the KZ11
motor. Kawasaki's exclusive air-suction emissions system cleans up the
tailpipe so thoroughly that ultra-lean carburetor jetting isn't necessary.
Kawasaki's four-cylinder engines probably seem better than they are just
because their goodness isn't masked by low-tech carburetion.
Like last year's bike, the KZ11 really shines when straightline stability
is called for. A whopping 2.0-degree increase in steering head angle and a
27mm increase in trail account for a lot of this feeling of radar-controlled
stability on the Interstate. strangely enough, though, our KZ11 didn't prove
as comfortable as the standard Z-1. A reduction in seat padding (a trade-off
for the stepped seat touring riders prefer) accounts for some of this, but
more importantly, the leading-axle fork didn't prove as supple as it should
have considering its softer initial spring rate. Once the fork moved from a
dead-stop it felt fine, but otherwise, stiction kept it from reacting over
expansion joints. It could be that this is a problem that will be cured with
more miles, so we will report back once we've racked up more mileage.
The KZ11's cornering capability points up a more dramatic comparison
between last year's KZ1000 Shaft and this year's shaftie, however. It
doesn't take burly inputs to get the KZ11 leaned over when you're peeling
off for an apex. It is still a heavy bike, but its reactions aren't as slow
as the geometry suggests. The point is, the KZ11's limit is centerstand-scraping
territory—not just 15 degrees from vertical. The drivetrain also does its
bit to heighten the bike's responsiveness in the corners, for the gearshaft
clicks from gear to gear with characteristic Kawasaki forthrightness while
the Kayaba shocks bring the distinctive lurch of shaft-drive rear-ends under
control. In short, you can attack corners on the KZ11 rather than just ride
carefully around them.
Once the speedo climbs above 80 mph, though, you feel the KZ11's
touring-bike heritage make its presence known. If you're deliberate, the
bike remains fairly stable. But if you hit a bump at the wrong angle or
bobble at the entrance to a corner, the KZ will start to wobble, though not
with infamous Z-1 ferocity. After all, the combination 'of soft suspension,
lots of weight and the fat profile of a 16-inch rear tire will bring you up
short no matter what kind of bike you're riding. To a certain extent,
increasing the inflation pressure of the rear tire and rear suspension will
minimize the KZ's antics, but this is still not a crisp motorcycle at speed.
These flaws, however, only point out that this is a super touring
bike—not a superbike. Speed is definitely the message here, as the powerful
engine attests, but the exigencies of 3000-mile vacations demand certain
things—from shaft drive to soft suspension to an upright riding position.
Even so, the KZ11 still brings to the long-distance market a spirit of high
performance that all other bikes but for the GS1000G lack. Actually, a
comparison with the Suzuki shaftie helps pin down the KZ11's priorities. As
a solo bike, the KZ doesn't offer the same sure-footedness as the Suzuki
shaftie, though it comes closer than others. Yet as a touring mount, the
KZ11's engine and straightline stability make it far more suitable. And,
well, if you're into trekking across the landscape with the throttle to the
stop and your Gypsy Scout up to full gain, then there's nothing that can
match the KZ1100. Because when it comes to hauling your gear and hauling ass
at the same time, this is what it's all about. ■
Either way you take it, stripped or dressed, the KZ1100 misses the mark.
As a stripper, it has the maneuverability of a heavyweight, but, ironically,
with the choppy ride of a smaller bike. The fork just doesn't work without
the weight of a fairing.
But even when it's dressed with fairing and bags, the KZ11 still can't
match the integrated feel of a Honda Interstate or BMW R100RT. These bikes
look cohesive, as if they rolled right off the assembly line ready for the
highway. In comparison, the pieces on the KZ1100 seem like accessories,
instead of being integrated with the bike.
Too bad. The concept is sound. Take the Z-1 engine design, refine it, add
a shaft and you get the makings of a fine touring bike. But then you have to
take that extra step when you fit the accessories. For me, the Interstate
and BMW set a standard that has yet to be duplicated.—Riley Tharp
Standards, schmandards. Every time I get near an R100RT I get guilt pangs
about not owning a tuxedo. And whenever I ride Honda's Interstate I feel so
go!' danged nice I want to call up Marie Osmond for a date.
Nope, for me a touring package has to work both ways—which is why I like
the KZ1100. The Vetter stuff is a class act, even if it's tough to figure
out how to fold your BVD's into a 105-liter parcel. The fairing works, well,
like a Windjammer; the seat is fine, the ride supple—I can think of a lot of
places I'd like to go on this Kawasaki
Source Cycle Guide of 1982