Long time ago, years before Yamaha invented the LC and 350 owners actually felt a need for more power, there was a natural progression from high-boiling, evil-handling Suzuki two-strokes to high-lifting evil-steering Kawasaki four-strokes. Those of the 70s who clad themselves in Doc Martins, Levi jackets and open-face duckbills, which we now referred to as 'Johnnys'.
The Kawasaki Z1000R seems to be selling very well. Certainly the bike has found a broad base of popularity, I even know a copper who owns one. Perhaps that's why the big K chose not to go overboard with the green paintwork.
Flashy decals and super-trick nick-nacks, 'cos the truth is the 1983 1000R is little more than a beefed-up J3 engine in a 1982 GPz1100 frame: very cheap to make, very effective to use and very, very fast to ride. The 1000R shares the same 998cc 69.4 \ 66.0 regular Kawasaki unit of the Z 1000. Like the .13, compression ratio is 9.2:1 and fuel fed by the ubiquitous quartet of 34mm Mikunis. Like all big Kawasaki's. the R gets its additional ponies by the simple expedient of revised valve timing (the inlet is open considerably longer), which just goes to show that if you get the recipe right in the first place there's no end to the amount of stretching you can do. Allied to transistorised ignition, this bequeaths to the R an awesome 10,400 rpm, propelling the beast to a genuine 133mph (only 2mph down on last year's GP) and quarter mile in 12.28 sees.
Now while such performance may be a little difficult to get on the way over to your gran's, you can't fail to notice that the 1000R is a terribly fast motorcycle. Dial in a little toon on the clutch and the Z1000R takes off smartly on the back wheel; drag out the donkeys at 7,000 plus and you're way past 70 in second and the wrong side of 100 in third. As a high-revving, short-geared Jap four, it fairly implores you to ride it fast and the merest tweak of the throttle from 5.000 upwards brings on the instant, urgent stride.
The Z1 R can be ridden as low as a grand in top without snatch and pulls smoothly from 2.000; unlike most big Ks, it's got one hell of a spread of power. With that number of cubes there's never a fatal lack of grunt and, save the slightly notchy gear-change which had me contemplating a good chiropodist on a couple of occasions, the R could be piloted round London's seedier square mile on the sheer extravagant urge of the litre lump's muscle. In other words, its ability to cruise nonchalantly at 100 in top and scrap viciously in third does not compromise the plain elegance of low speed delivery. And the grommet- suspended motor provides smoothly all through the range, save for an anaesthetising resonance at about 3,500 in top (particularly on the overrun where my right arm became distinctly paralysed).
But socket-dislodging performance is pretty standard on big Kawasaki’s and you'd fed mightily cheated if the Z1R came with anything less, particularly as it brags its virility from the nose cone to the tail fairing. No, the unexpected bonus of a bike that must surely rate as the archetypal Jap mega-moog is that the thing damn nearly handles as well as and run rings round last year's 1100GP. Not that the duplex double-cradle chassis has altered one jot, but with serious augmentations in the suspension department life is not quite the jam turnover it used to be.
The most noticeable geometric revision is. of course, the steering which, compared with last year's tiller assembly is like a FSIE with loose head races. In fact, this directional transformation has been brought about not by any devious angle-engineering but by the incidental expedient of widening the bars and lowering the seat. This has had the result of transferring the rider's weight away from the front end (resulting in a very erect riding possie) which to the thin contact area of the front tyre, makes for super swift changes of attack. In town and on long sweepers this is fine, but cranked over-hard in twisty little numbers, you get the feeling that the steering's willing but the body's unable. I looked forward to jetting me mits on the tarted-up Eddy Lawson Z1000R Replica. I was a little dismayed when the UK version came with a colour scheme of white with patriotic red and blue stripes. Colour quibbles aside, the Z1000R is just as tasty as the Z1000J from where it came.
For a big Jap multi the bike feels delightfully light and nimble. The styled seat reduces seat height and allows the rider to sit in the bike, instead of being perched on top like a flea on a camel's back. The riding position's so functional that you can sit at silly speeds going up the motorway without feeling like you're about to be spat off. a rough A road and the bars will shake a bit. but nothing gets out of hand. Remote esenoir lookalike shocks were a little firm on most settings, but not excessively so. Ground clearance, especially on the left, was bad. The side stand leaves its mark all too readily.