2004 Kawasaki Z1000 Comparison

Shrinking violets need not apply for the Green Meanie. This bike is loud, and that has nothing to do with its funky four-pipe exhaust. If there are eyes around, one can be sure they’re looking at you, as passers by seem to have no choice but to visually investigate this flashy machine. Of course, just as with a brash human, this ostentatious-ness has a way of polarizing opinions. According to our informal poll about the Z’s appearance, there is a fine line between garish and trick: you either love the Z or hate it, especially the green version.

2004 Kawasaki Z1000 Comparison

Much like the Speed Triple, the Z1000’s riding position puts its rider in an aggressive stance, inspiring its rider to be ready to jump a curb or pull a wheelie. (“But officer, it was the bike’s fault…) And this sensation is only reinforced by a spiky powerband that comes on like gangbusters when the tach needle sweeps past 7000 rpm. At that point it’s a good idea to hook your knees under the tank because the inline-Four comes in hard enough to give your rotator cuffs an assertive tug and threaten to flip you over the back end. Do it in first gear, and your view of the road turns into one of the sky. The motor’s angry powerband is reinforced by ever-intensifying, teeth-rattling vibration once it’s above 5000 revs. Thankfully, vibration is relatively subdued below that mark.

When you get tired of frightening old ladies around the bingo hall, the Z actually makes for a highly usable motorcycle. It’s narrow enough to squeeze through traffic and nimble enough to do it without causing any impromptu side-view mirror removals. Its clutch is easy to modulate and its shifter requires only a light touch

There is one area where the Z’s 953cc motor falls short. Power is achingly dull below 3500 rpm, so a rider either takes of smoothly and slowly or slips the clutch like a 600 to keep the revs up. While this may be forgivable on something like a high-strung R6, we expect more from a liter-sized hooligan bike like this.

At 7500 rpm, the Z wakes up like a Starbucks employee on crack cocaine, so you’d better be hanging on tight. At 8000 rpm, it’s making more horsepower than the other two at their peaks.

The side cutaways in the forward section of the seat helps the Z seem smaller than it actually is by allowing shorter legs to get a direct shot at the pavement, which is good. But the forward portion of the seat, where Shortstuff is sitting, burrows into a rider’s perineal area thanks to its forward-sloping angle that shoves the crotch into the tank, which is bad. Tall riders won’t care, as the higher rearward section allows for more legroom and a broader perch.

The Z1000’s style wasn’t the only aspect that polarized opinions. If the curvy road ahead was smooth, our testers raved about its ability to dismantle a set of corners thanks to its motocross-style handlebar that provides immediate bank-angle changes. But if the path ahead was filled with bumps, the Z became an unruly beast that couldn’t be trusted to keep its rider out of trouble. After much fiddling with its available clickers (sorry, no compression damping here), it was decided that the cut-rate shock has too much high-speed compression damping, which causes a harsh ride on the freeway, and not enough rebound, which ruffles the Z in the bumpy bits.