Showing posts with label Kawasaki. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kawasaki. Show all posts

Kawasaki Z1100R

Kawasaki Z1100R 1980s Japanese sports bike

Over the years, many a motorcyclist has had a special place in their heart for a Kawasaki 'Z'. No bike more so than the Z1100R. No flimflam or finery - just straightforward, sit up and beg-style solidity. Highish handlebars, stepped-down seat and anatomically-correct footrests. In other words - a normal riding position. 'The way bikes used to be', you might hear it said. And - after a hundred plus miles in the saddle - who could argue?

Not that that should suggest any kind of staidness! There was little sober or solemn about the 1100R. It was, after all, inspired by a US Superbike racer. The one on which Eddie Lawson won consecutive titles in the early Eighties. Hopefully - from a Kawasaki marketing viewpoint - some of the spirit of the race bike rubbed off on the roadster. Certainly, it was far from unknown for an 1100R rider to feel like Eddie Lawson! And - to be fair - the Z's 140mph top whack was more than enough for most mere mortals. Especially when the high-speed wobble kicked in - on account of the bike's bikini-type fairing. The R's 1,089cc engine made 114bhp. Thankfully - with all that power to play with - the bike was blessed with good roadholding. Squat dimensions helped - as did Kayaba remote-reservoir rear shocks.

Albeit in a no-frills way, the Z1100R was still a stylish motorcycle. Few paintjobs are as emotive as those of Kawasaki's 'green meanies'. Of course, green bikes are considered unlucky by some. That said, owners of spanking-new 1100Rs were obviously prepared to take a chance. For the superstitious, though, other colours were also available. Launched in '84, the Z might be said to have straddled classic and race-rep. To wit, comfortable ergonomics - plus searing speed and cute handling. Fans would argue, then, that with a lime-green Kawasaki Z1100R, you got the lot. Now, that can hardly be considered unlucky!

Kawasaki H1

Kawasaki H1 1960s Japanese classic motorcycle

Kawasaki built its first bike - a 125cc two-stroke - in 1960. From the outset, Kawasaki was synonymous with high-performance sports bikes. Bikes like the H1, for instance. Technically, it was released at the tail-end of the Sixties. But, it is one of those machines which make lovers of Seventies superbikes come over all misty-eyed. That was the decade in which the H1 was most often seen - being ridden hell for leather - along the highways and byways of Britain. And, indeed, other locales - usually in the same high-spirited fashion. It was what two-strokes were made for, basically. And, if the H1's handling was a bit imprecise - at least as compared with bikes of today - hey, it only added to the fun!

The H1's 500cc three-cylinder engine output 60bhp. The 'stroker' motor screamed all the way to a top speed of 120mph. It did so in a way that induced mile-wide eyes - and smiles - in those brought up on a strict 'Brit bike' diet. Heck, the sound alone was worth the asking price! The H1's slimmed-down weight of 383lb only added to its searing acceleration. Revs peaked at 7,500rpm - with a noticeable surge as they hit the power band.

Kawasaki's first forays into motorcycle manufacture had been influenced by BSA. By the time of the H1, though, the Japanese giant had forged its own style. Middleweight though it was, the H1 passed muster among the big Seventies 'muscle bikes'. Naked aggression more than made up for its diminutive dimensions. The Kawasaki H1 hurled bodies and souls into two-stroke hyperdrive. Some '70s bikers never fully recovered!

Kawasaki ZZ-R1100

Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 1990s Japanese superbike

The Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 was one serious superbike. 176mph flat-out testified to that. Its 1,052cc, 16-valve, in-line four engine produced 145bhp. It needed to - the ZZ-R weighed in at a portly 603lb, wet. From 1990 to '95, the ZZ-R was the world's fastest production motorcycle - succeeding Kawasaki's ZX-10, in that regard. It took the Super Blackbird to restore Honda to the top of the speed heap.

The high-grade performance stats were due, in no small part, to 'ram-air' technology. The faster the ZZ-R travelled, the more air was forced through its ducted fairing, to the motor. More air meant more combustion - which, in turn, meant more power. If it was not an exponential increase - it sure as heck felt like it!

For all of its brain-warp acceleration, the ZZ-R was a forgiving beast, at heart. Sold as a sports-tourer, its chassis came supremely well-equipped. Both frame and suspension were solid, yet flexible. With the right settings dialled in, the ZZ-R was as safe as your riding skills. That a bike as explosive as the ZZ-R1100 could be considered an all-rounder said it all about Kawasaki engineering!

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 2000s Japanese sports bike

The letter 'Z' - on a Kawasaki motorbike - has long denoted high-performance. The Ninja ZX-6R - released in '03 - was a case in point. A race-bred riot on two wheels, it had a licence to thrill. As uncompromising as bikes come, the ZX-6R made 116bhp. Much of that was thanks to its ram-air system. Top speed was 160mph. Not bad for a 636cc capacity machine. The fact that the ZX-6R weighed in at just 354lb helped account for its awesome acceleration.

When it came to keeping all that power in line, the ZX-6R's chassis was well up to the job. Twin radial front brake callipers were there, if needed. They were directly derived from Kawasaki's race programme. As were the ZX-6R's thinly-padded seats … definitely not designed for comfort! That said - crouched racing-style atop the plot - rider and pillion were well-placed to help steer the beast. The lack of leverage from the stubby 'bars made hanging off through corners a requirement. To some degree, at least. That is an art to be acquired with caution! But - with weight distribution correctly addressed - the Ninja gave high-precision handling.

Just as the letter 'Z' can say so much when it is a Kawasaki, so can a colour. Every hue and shade in the spectrum has bedecked a motorbike, at some time or other. But seldom with the impact of lime-green. Since the heyday of the 'Green Meanies', the colour has adorned many a production Kawasaki. They were the evil-handling H2R race bikes the firm sent out onto Seventies circuits. Certainly, lime-green suited the ZX-6R. Green has been said by some to bring bad luck to a motorcycle. If so, it was not the case with the Ninja. The ZX-6R restored Kawasaki's status as sports bike supremos. 'Z-Bikes' have long been integral to the marque. Fast, dynamic, exciting? Always. Zzzzz? Never!

Kawasaki Z1300

Kawasaki Z1300 1970s Japanese classic motorcycle

The Kawasaki Z1300 is one of a select set of bikes that sport six-cylinder engines. Such a powerplant is always going to pack a punch. In the case of the Z1300, though, it does not make quite the impact you might think. Why so? The radiator plastered across it. In profile, it is still an impressive piece of kit. But - viewed head-on - the 'Z13' paid a visual price for its water-cooling.

Top whack for the big 'Z' was 135mph. It reached that speed with consummate ease. The inline 1286cc motor gave an output of 120bhp. Manoeuvrability-wise, a bike with a wet weight of 670lb was never going to be agile. That said, the Z13's handling was impressive for a bike of its size.

The Z1300 will forever be bracketed with Honda's CBX1000Z. Another Seventies siren, that machine, too, radiated 'six appeal'. The CBX, though, was a brash brute of a bike - more muscular than the Z13. The latter blended power with refinement. Its shaft final-drive, for example, was much easier on the fingers than oil-soaked chains! So, in many ways, the Kawasaki Z1300 was the perfect motorcycle. So long as you were not a designer. In which case, that pesky radiator grille rather upset the aesthetic applecart!

Kawasaki Z1

Kawasaki Z1 1970s Japanese classic motorcycle

The Kawasaki Z1 was nick-named the 'King' ... which kind of says it all! Suffice it to say, it was well-received - on its release, in '73. Riders had been putting up with past its sell-by date technology for years. As often as not, it was down to outdated management techniques. All that was blown away by the Oriental invasion. When the Japanese - and their new wave of machines -disembarked at the Isle of Man, 'Brit bikes' were dead in the water. The TT wins which followed presaged the future - not just for racers, but roadsters. When the Z1 hit the showrooms, the future had arrived.

The Z1's twin-camshaft, four-cylinder motor left its road-going rivals reeling! The ageing 'thumpers', twins and triples simply could not compete. The Z1 took cycle parts, too, to another level. Performance stats had gone up a gear … well, several gears, actually! The 'King' came, saw, and conquered! Before long, the British bike industry was a mere memory.

The new bike heralded Kawasaki's iconic 'Z'-series. A plethora of 'superbikes' - from the 'big four' Japanese manufacturers - followed. Never again would bikers settle for second-best. From that point on, a test-ride delivered outstanding performance, handling and braking - or the deal was off! The Kawasaki Z1 had secured its place in motorcycling's pantheon. As for Brit bikes ... the king was dead, long live the 'King'!