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2015 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS Review


by Pascal Bastien ,

Last year’s improvements allowed the Kawasaki Z1000 ABS to take on the competition with confidence. Power was increased to 142 hp (+4) thanks to a redesigned cylinder head, more effective injectors, and more aggressive cam profiles.

Revised frame geometry made the bike livelier up front, especially with the new separate-function, big-piston fork. Also, braking was improved courtesy of new monoblock callipers, a more precise and powerful master cylinder, and revised brake pads that have more bite.

Rider-focused, city-oriented
The riding position feels natural, with the upper body leaning slightly toward the wide, tapered handlebar -- exactly what streetfighter enthusiasts crave. The fuel tank doesn't look like it gained two litres, while the narrow seat allows riders of various body sizes to put two feet firmly on the ground at idle.

With a nicely sculpted seat, a fair amount of legroom, and limited pressure on the wrists, there's something relaxing about the 2015 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS. Likewise, the suspension offers a good mix of ride quality and sporty handling. Of course, with such a low headstock, protection against the elements is non-existent. Meanwhile, the passenger sits fairly high above the ground on a tight pillion with just a small strap to hold on to, meaning two-up riding will be a short affair.

The modern instrument panel includes an LED bar-graph tachometer and an LCD screen featuring a fuel gauge, trip computer with fuel consumption, and other data. The only thing still missing is a gear indicator.

Limited electronics, lots of agility
The 1,043cc 4-cylinder engine delivers a healthy dose of power at medium revs. It proves more competent and much easier to exploit than the previous unit. In a curious move, though, Kawasaki did not equip the Z1000 ABS with its advanced traction control system (S-KTRC). What’s more, you only benefit from standard ABS and not the sophisticated KIBS system found on other Kawasaki sport bikes.

Improved ergonomics help the rider make the most of a lively chassis that's not as challenging to control as the Italian competitors. The Z1000 ABS may not be as sharp as a superbike in long, sweeping corners, but it definitely impresses in tighter turns -- riders will love that around town. In addition, the smartly calibrated injection system allows the engine to drop way down the rev range without bucking upon re-acceleration.

The adrenaline rush
On the highway, the 2015 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS still generates plenty of vibrations (you can feel them through the footpegs); however, a slightly longer sixth gear ratio now mitigates this irritant.

That being said, a streetfighter is a man's bike, so let's stop complaining and rip that throttle wide open! Clearly, the Z1000 ABS loves to attack the road, with pleasure-inducing power and a sound that unleashes adrenaline through your veins beyond 7,500 rpm. You need a smooth pair of hands not to disrupt the bike's trajectory, but once you get used to it, you can push it hard and brake equally hard. Past the apex, the super-sticky rear tire helps deliver quick, strong corner exits.

Despite producing 40 fewer hp than the average superbike, the Z1000's 6-speed transmission with chain final drive allows similar acceleration. In fact, seasoned riders will never wish for more power, no matter what the conditions.

Kawasaki Z1000 ABS 2015
Revised frame geometry made the bike livelier up front, especially with the new separate-function, big-piston fork. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour)

Bottom line
Sure, it lacks S-KTRC including one of the best traction control systems in the industry, but rest assured that the 2015 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS will make its presence felt in the naked-bike segment. It sits pretty between the wild Italians and some timid Japanese rivals. Just make sure you have enough skills... and points to spare on your rider's licence!

  • Fat power and torque curve
  • Smartly calibrated transmission
  • Nimble and stable at the same time
  • Sharp styling
  • No S-KTRC
  • Limited two-up capability