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Big naked Zed: Issues? Sorted!

2013-06-24 13:26

SHAPELY POWER: The sculpted look of the cylinders contributes to the tidiness of the engine installation. Images: DRIES VAN DER WALT


I've always preferred Kawasaki’s bigger naked Zed to its 750cc sibling – not just because of the former’s bigger engine but also because the latter felt overweight, underpowered and uncertain on the road. Now that Kawasaki has replaced the Z750 with the Z800 I was keen to see if some of those issues had been resolved.

The list of changes is impressive, with a lot of attention paid to weight-saving. This is necessitated by the fact that one of the most important changes, in my opinion, is bracing of the frame for added rigidity, which obviously comes at the cost of extra weight.

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A cast-aluminium sub-frame has allowed Kawasaki to locate the front engine mounts behind the cylinders and close to the centre of gravity to reduce vibration. A combination of steel and rubber engine mounts further reduce what there is and the swing-arm is now 12mm longer – according to Team Green, this is to prevent unexpected wheelies that could potentially be induced by the beefed-up low-down power and shorter gearing.


Air intakes for cylinders one and four are shorter than those for two and three to optimise airflow and longer, wider intake ducts accommodate new throttle bodies. These have increased from 32 to 34mm in diameter and the intake and exhaust ports have been reshaped to move the torque peak to lower revs.

The aluminium cylinders now have plated bores rather than the steel liners of the Z750 model and the new open-deck construction of the cylinder block saves a further kilogram.

In the looks department the Z800 retains its predecessor's assertive appearance, albeit updated. The hunched-forward design looks purposeful and, like most modern nakeds, gives the bike a distinctly sci-fi look. A new short silencer adds to the street-fighter image while longer, curved headers define the front end of the engine with a form-follows-function air.

Fit and finish are typical of Kawasaki's high standard and the bike has a reassuring quality feel. The front seat cover is emblazoned with Z motifs, the pillion in body colour to blend into the bodywork. In typical naked tradition, the engine installation is tidy so as not to detract from the general look of the machine.


The proof of the pudding is in the eating and on the road it seems that the changes have indeed paid off. Although heavier than the 750, the Z800 feels considerably more nippy and eager. With the torque now lower down in the rev range, the bike accelerates enthusiastically from anywhere above 2500rpm. Braking is up to par, with the new four-piston front callipers doing an admirable job.

Handling has also improved, although it unfortunately retains the 750's uncertain feeling at the front end when pushed hard into a curve. My other criticisms are few, and minor: the mirrors are too narrow, the pillion seat-cover is extremely slippery and the handlebar creates a slightly uncomfortable wrist angle.

All in all I feel the Z800 is an improvement on its predecessor. By giving it more low-down punch and better handling, Team Green has succeeded in replacing the Z750 with a bike that is enjoyable and exciting to ride.

Kawasaki Z800

Type: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke In-Line Four
Displacement: 806cc
Maximum Power: 83kW @10 200rpm
Maximum Torque: 83Nm @ 8000rpm
Fuel supply system: Fuel injection: 34mm x 4 (Mikuni) with dual throttle valves
Fuel type: 95 RON unleaded
Fuel consumption: n/a
Type: Six-speed, return
Final drive: Sealed chain
Overall length x width x height (mm): 2100 X 800 X 1050 mm
Kerb weight: 229 kg
Passengers: Two
Fuel tank: 17 litres
Front: Dual semi-floating 310mm petal discs. Dual opposed four-piston
Rear: Single 250mm petal disc. Single-piston
Tyre, front: 120/70ZR17M/C (58W)
Tyre, rear: 180/55ZR17M/C (73W)
PRICE: R115 995
Read more on:    kawasaki  |  johannesburg

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