The Mean Streak has the majority of the tools necessary to compete in this class – all except for a bad-ass motor. Stick a mondo-motor in this thing and you’ll have an instant hit.
Kawasaki Mean Streak
Two years ago MotorcycleUSA took a stock Mean Streak and transformed it into a Bonneville AMA Land Speed record holder. By the time our Meanie was ripping down the Salt Flats of Bonneville we did some heavy modification and it-was-a-handful. On the rough-and-tumble streets of Southern Oregon, few riders dared to challenge our two-wheeled menace, and those that did were left in the wake of a truly potent Twin.
We know the potential to build a nasty performance cruiser lies within the scope of the Mean Streak, but we hadn’t been on a stock one in quite some time. When we took possession of the 2005 Kawasaki Mean Streak we were hoping we would fall in love all over again, but by the time our first ride ended, Kawasaki’s power cruiser was renamed the “Lean Streak,” and not in a svelte, Tyler Durden sort of way.
Since the introduction of the Mean Streak in 2002, Kawasaki has upped displacement from 1499cc to 1552cc, but the Mean Streak is still basically the same motorcycle. The 1552cc liquid-cooled engine boasts a bore and stroke of 102mm x 95 mm, with a 9.0:1 compression ratio, while a single overhead cam actuates four valves per cylinder. The air/fuel mixture is fed to the V-Twin via two 40mm throttle bodies with electronic fuel injection.
A closer look at the Mean Streak reveals a good looking Twin housed in a tubular steel frame. While some of the other machines in our test seem to scream bad-ass, the MS’s aesthetic is on the conservative, or shall we say, traditional side. It’s certainly not boring, but Kawasaki’s 1600cc machine is more likely to blend into the crowd at a rally than stand apart.
With the lowest price of the group, most components on the Mean Streak are standard fare; from the simple round air cleaner to the blase headlamp, the MS could use a little more spice. We also didn’t like its ugly rubber-covered footpegs and the exposed electronic box on the left side that looks ridiculously out of place. Its upper triple-clamp is nicely machined, but the lower one has unsightly rough castings except for its outer edge. The Pearl Magma Red color was also a source of controversy, as some loved it and some hated it. Interestingly it was nearly the same color as the Victory Hammer, which most thought looked phenomenal.
“The Mean Streak is a little too plain Jane, especially in this group,” says Hutch. “I think it has the potential to look really good, but in stock form it just doesn’t do much for the eye.”
The Mean Streak is easily the least expensive bike in this group and it is among the best handling and braked cruisers around, but its modest power is heavily overshadowed by the others.
Even if the Mean Streak isn’t the toughest looking bike in our shootout, there are reasons to get excited about riding it. Slide into the saddle and the Mean Streak offers the most comfortable riding position in the bunch. Swept-back bars meet the hands at a very natural position, while feet rest comfortably on the forward-set pegs. When stopped, the Mean Streak offers an easy reach to the ground with the second lowest seat height of the bunch at 27.6 inches.
On the road the Mean Streak feels good too, but when ridden back to back with this crew of fire-breathing bad boys, Kawasaki’s performance cruiser gets left in the dust. Throttle response is nice and the fuel injection works beautifully, but there is a significant dearth of horsepower. In fact, the dyno numbers reveal that the Mean Streak is the only bike in this group to make less than 74 horsepower, and it’s not even close to that. With 58.4 horsepower at 5300 rpm, riders mounted on the Mean Streak were sucking exhaust most of the day. Torque numbers are more respectable at 75.0 lb-ft at 2900 rpm, but even respectable torque numbers can’t make up for the relatively anemic mill.
During performance testing, the Meek Streak continued to get its ass kicked. It took nearly 5 seconds (4.88 to be exact) to get to 60 mph and was the only machine that failed to run a sub-13 second quarter-mile time; 13.35 seconds @ 100.7 mph.
“The first thing you notice on the Mean Streak is its relative lack of motor compared to the other bikes in this shootout,” says Becklin. “There isn’t much torque or horsepower and then it hits the rev limiter just as it seems you are starting to get going.”
Now that we’re done whining about the motor, we’re happy to report that the Mean Streak redeems itself quite well in the handling department, offering up impressive cornering abilities. Up front a 43mm inverted hydraulic telescopic cartridge-style fork suspends the front end, while dual hydraulic air shocks take care of duties out back. The suspension strikes a nice balance to unravel the most sinuous roads.
“The Mean Streak doesn’t have much of a motor, but it’s pretty agile,” says our graphics guys Brian Chamberlain. “It was a blast through really curvy stuff, but once the roads straightened out, I was searching for the nitrous button.”
In the performance cruiser world we created, the Harley-Davidson Street Rod represented a clear and present danger to the 1/4-mile bragging rights of the other more traditional cruisers.
A strong set of binders is another highlight of the Mean Streak. Bringing all 691 pounds to a stop is a pair of 300mm discs up front actuated by three-piston calipers, now in a contemporary radial-mount design; a single three-piston caliper clamps a 300mm disc out back. The MS’s brakes gave our riders confidence to ride quickly, knowing they could get the bike to stop at a moment’s notice.
The Mean Streak is a nice performance cruiser, but there just isn’t enough pony presence for our crew. An anemic mill is its biggest shortcoming, but it also lacks the attitude we would like, especially in a shootout of this nature. Even more telling was the fact that it seemed to play the role of the fat, unathletic kid, always being picked last when it was time to go out and play. Becklin summed up our feelings on the Mean Streak.
“Nothing really stood out as exceptionally good or bad about the Mean Streak,” he says. “It’s an easy to ride cruiser that is comfortable and not intimidating. I guess that’s a nice way of saying that it can’t really get going quick enough to do much wrong.”
From our tester’s notepads:
– Shotgun pipes look nice.
– Gearbox ratios are well spaced for its powerband.
– Long-travel throttle requires more of a twist than some hands have available.
– Its relatively skinny back tire doesn’t look as “bad” as the other fatties, but it contributes to the bike being quite nimble.
– In this company, the Mean Streak feels meek, making its name sadly ironic.