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Bike of Year review: 2014 Kawasaki Z1000

2014-07-14 08:19

THE NAKED TRUTH: Kawasaki’s latest unfaired litre-class Zed is a definite step forward. Image: Wheels24/Dries van der Walt


If it ain’t broke, says conventional wisdom, don’t fix it. Kawasaki’s previous-generation Z1000 certainly wasn’t broke – it was quick, responsive and sure-footed.

Despite that, the 2014 model comes with many changes, visually and mechanical. Was fiddling with a winning formula a good idea?

The answer is yes. The new Zed retains all the character of its predecessor but with a number of improvements thrown in, among them one that immediately caught my attention: more low-end punch.


The new version feels quicker and has a more forward-canted riding position. It's considerably more nimble than the outgoing model.

GALLERY: 2014 Kawasaki Z1000 road test

The visual styling of naked bikes is a contentious issue: some love its "science-fiction" looks that almost all nakeds currently sport, others hate it. I'm no great fan of nakeds but for my money the Z1000 is among the best-looking of the species.

The bike looks sporty and assertive and the LEDs have allowed Team Green to design a headlight pod that is low and compact, adding to its overall crouched-tiger styling.

A small instrument pod is perched on the wide handlebars. Compact as it may be, it contains all the information you need. The rev counter is presented in a somewhat odd way: there is a 0-3000rpm bar graph on the left of the pod and a 4000+ rpm LED counter running across the top. Above 4000 the LED counter comes into play and it's bright enough to be visible in sunlight.

The seating position, as I mentioned before, is noticeably more forward-canted than its predecessor but still neutral enough to be comfortable at low speed. As a result the bike performs well in an urban role, being both powerful and nimble enough to handle commuting duty with aplomb.

The suspension, however, is too firm and while this does nothing to hurt the bike’s excellent handling it does mean a decidedly choppy ride on less-than-perfect roads.


The added low-end punch makes the bike tremendous fun for point-and-squirt riding but care needs to be taken when accelerating out of a corner – the stock Dunlop tyres are not very grippy and the lack of traction control lets the rear wheel break out quickly if you are inattentive with the throttle.

However, being able to hang out the tail is a big part of the fun of riding this kind of bike. During my test I found that the bike feels really fast if you keep the revs in the high-mid range (5000-8000rpm) but even at low revs it has more than enough grunt to remind you that you are riding a litre-class machine.

In the final analysis, the new Zed is a definite improvement over its predecessor (which was already a great bike) and for R135 995 Team Green shouldn’t find it difficult to move stock.

What may count in its favour:
Affordable, quick and responsive.

What may count against it:
Not much that I can think of.

Click here for specification of the Kawasaki Z1000


The 2014 Amid motorcycle show, scheduled for the Nasrec expo centre in Johannesburg, Gauteng (August 8-10) will once again host the announcement of the 2014 South African Bike of the Year.

2014 Bike of the Year finalists:

 • BMW S1000R
 • BMW R1200GS Adventure
 • Ducati 899 Panigale
 • Ducati Monster 1200
 • Kawasaki Z1000
 • KTM 1290 Super Duke
 • Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom
 • Yamaha MT-09
 • Yamaha MT-07


Wheels24'sDRIES VAN DER WALT will take you along on the journey to the August announcement. Over the next few weeks we will bring you reviews of as many of the finalists as are available for us to test: 
Suzuki DL1000 VStrom
KTM 1290 Super Duke
Yamaha MT-09

We’re interested in your opinion, so read the reviews (more will appear over coming weeks) and launch reports, pick your own favourites,let us know which bike you think will win the coveted award, and what you think sets it apart from the rest.

You, just like the actual judges, have a vote too!

Which bike do you think should win the 2014 SA Bike of the Year award? 

Email us 
and we’ll publish your thoughts on Wheels24. Vote for your favourite in our homepage voting booth!

You could be one of three email entrants to win one of three R500 shopping vouchers - just for voting!


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