For our third installment of our Project Z1000 we added some carbon fiber parts, Kevlar brake lines, and the crown jewel – titanium aftermarket exhaust.
In a previous installment, we had fitted a Leo Vince SBK exhaust system and were very impressed by the meticulous bends and finish of the titanium plumbing. Ultra-light, too, as it weighed in a massive 22 pounds less than the heavy quad-pipe stock exhaust with catalytic converters. Here’s the full review.
This lovingly crafted Italian exhaust system consists of high-quality titanium pieces that glisten with the golden luminescence of the light and exotic metal. The only non-titanium pieces are the stainless header flanges and muffler internals. Tapered head pipes join in pairs into one of two collectors that eventually converge into a single pipe. Each collector is cleaned and ported internally during manufacturing to ensure optimal flow. Burned gasses eventually exit into the titanium can that has sublime welds in that wild blueish hue that comes from heating Ti pieces. Shipped in several sections, the only real hurdle to assembly was deciphering which individual head-pipe connected to which cylinder.
The addition of the Leo Vince pipe didn’t initially give us the boost in performance we expected. As is often the case with a freer flowing exhaust, it didn’t perform as well on the low end, losing out to the stock pipes between 3000 and 4000 rpm. After that, the Ti pipe holds a slight overall advantage as the revs climb, especially so when it comes to torque production. While power tapered off after 10K with the stock system, the Leo Vince continued to pull all the way to the Z’s 10,900-rpm rev limiter. We were a bit disappointed to see just a 2-hp bump in peak power to 125.3 ponies. However, the bike showed signs of being starved for air.
The craftsmanship of the Italian-made Leo Vince exhaust did not disappoint us, but we needed to make some mods to the Z before the titanium pipes made a significant difference on the dyno.
To better allow the 953cc inline-Four to inhale, White Brothers’ R&D guru Gary Jones came up with the idea of making a hole through the Z’s restrictive stock airbox cover. Jones, one of America’s first motocross legends, cleverly heated up a metal cylinder of the hole diameter we wanted, then set it atop the plastic airbox lid to melt a perfectly shaped opening. This simple modification is highly recommended, especially when using an aftermarket exhaust, as it gave us a clear advantage from 4000 rpm until redline, plus an additional 4 horsepower up top, now to 129.3.
As you can see, the addition of the Leo Vince exhaust and the simple airbox mod got us useful gains in horsepower and torque, but modifications to a bike’s fuel system are required to extract maximum efficiency. Stock bikes are usually set up to run lean so they produce low emissions, and a freer-flowing exhaust has the effect of leaning out the mixture even further. The addition of the pipe to our Z resulted in a 700-rpm flat spot at 3000 revs that wasn’t present with the stock exhaust.
Carburetors require jetting changes to accommodate free-flowing exhausts, while fuel-injected bikes like the Z need some sort of electronic device that piggybacks onto the bike’s computer. Dynojet’s Power Commander is probably the best-known fuel-map device, but Dobek Performance says its $194.70 Techlusion TFI box is a better (and cheaper) system.
A little Yankee ingenuity, courtesy of former AMA Motocross champ Gary Jones, snagged us an extra 4 hp by melting a hole through the stock airbox cover.
A Power Commander ($339.95 for our Z) plugs inline with a bikes ECU and varies fuel and ignition curves according to a map for a particular model either pre-loaded, downloaded or custom-built into the PC’s computer. Conversely, Dobek’s TFI system simply adds fuel to the mixture based on the stock ECU’s 3-D map. The important difference, according to Dobek, is that the TFI bases its tweaks on the load placed on the engine, rather than the PC that varies the fuel mixture based solely on rpm. Dobek dubs his TFI unit an “electronic jet kit,” as it has adjustments that replicate a traditional carburetor’s low-speed mixture screw, accelerator pump, main jet, and needle settings.
The TFI is a quick and easy install, as the small electronic box cleanly taps into the bike’s ECU and injector wiring. We mounted ours underneath the passenger seat and powered it with the taillight feed. But while a Power Commander can be loaded with a map and simply plugged in, the TFI requires some tuning to get the most of it. Dobek’s recommended settings are based on the addition of a slip-on exhaust without airbox modifications, so they weren’t optimal with our Z’s modded condition.
The Techlusion TFI’s adjustments are made via circuits that roughly mimic a carburetor’s operation. Three small pots adjust virtual fuel mixture screws, accelerator pumps, and main jets. A fourth determines the rpm at which the fuel-mixture screw light-load operation shuts off.
The big name in aftermarket fuel-mapping is Dynojet’s Power Commander, but for our Project Z we opted for the less expensive Techlusion TFI system.
With time on the dyno running short, we did some quick tweaks and spun the drum once more. Unfortunately, the addition of the TFI with the settings we used didn’t noticeably improve the Z’s performance.
Later on, after several butt-dyno runs, some further fettling with the TFI resulted in improved low-end response and a cleaner pull through the midrange that isn’t shown on the accompanying dyno chart. Later still, we brought the Z back to the dyno in an effort to further improve upon it.
Our friends at White Brothers were too slammed to get us back on their Dynojet, so we instead reacquainted ourselves with an old friend. Kerry Bryant is a former Director of Operations at White Brothers, and after a stint as Vice President at Jardine, he’s now opened up his own performance shop called Area P where his crew fabricates exhaust systems for their own line and for private-label customers. Bryant is one of motorcycling’s good guys, and his wealth of experience it to be envied. A former competitor in ABC TV’s legendary “Superbikers” series and of the prestigious Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race.
It turns out we had already honed in on a setup that was nearly impossible to beat. On the Area P Dynojet 200i dyno, our first run netted 126.1 horsepower and 68.8 lb-ft of torque. From there we used the Dynojet’s exhaust sniffer to help us tune the TFI according to the exhaust mixture it measures.
With the White Brothers’ dyno swamped, we turned to former White Brothers Director of Operations, Kerry Bryant, who runs his own shop now, Area P.
Long story short: After 22 individual runs we still were unable to beat the setup we rode in with. This was a bit disheartening, as we fully expected to be able to make some noticeable improvements to the fueling, both at the bottom and at the top. On the plus side, it seems from our experience that the Techlusion TFI can be set up fairly well without spending a day on the dyno.
In the end, the Techlusion TFI improved the lower-rpm fueling from the stock injection but didn’t add anything to the Z’s top end. It was also unable to completely fill in the hole at 3000 rpm that emerged after the stock exhaust was replaced. Whether that’s due to the Leo Vince pipe or the Techlusion box, we can’t be sure.
Modifications to motorcycles generally come in two categories: appearance and performance. We’ve done a little of both.
One of the best upgrades that can be done to any bike is to use stiffer-bodied brake lines instead of the usual flexy rubber lines. The caliper pistons in disc brakes are actuated by hydraulic fluid being pushed by the brake lever’s master cylinder, and stock rubber brake lines can bulge slightly under pressure, resulting in an indistinct feel for the rider. Braided-steel lines were once the best option to deliver a more direct feel from the brakes, but there are other options.
We did our best to dial it in at the shop, but the Techlusion TFI already brought in its best stuff through the garage door.
Check out the Goodridge Kevlar brake lines we used on our Project Z. They use a flex-resistant Teflon inner tube with a very small (0.081-inch) internal diameter, and this “microbore,” is said to increase feel at the lever. The Kevlar outer casing is claimed to prevent line expansion even more than braided-steel lines. The lines come pre-assembled and were fairly easy to install. Anodized aluminum fittings are used, and the $201.95 kit includes the necessary crush washers.
In use, the lifetime-warranted Goodridge lines lived up to their claims, offering a firmer lever that gave riders more consistent feedback and the impression of greater stopping power. Their black-colored casings made for an aesthetic improvement as well. It’s $200 well spent.
Motorcycle bling comes in two forms: shiny stuff like chrome and polished aluminum; and race-style bling like titanium and carbon fiber. We already had the Ti pipe, so we raided the Lockhart Phillips tree of treats and plucked a Carbonworks fender. Made in Italy, the Carbonworks mudguard is beautifully finished with a clear coat that adds depth to its appearance. The carbon/Kevlar weave is visible throughout most of the fender, but the side plates that attach to the fork are plain gloss black. We think it looks bitchin’ and really complements the bad-ass nature of this streetfighter. It’s lighter than the stock plastic fender but not by much. Its $325.95 price tag doesn’t buy any real performance, but bling is never cheap.
Goodridge Kevlar brake lines were a nice performance upgrade to our Project Z bike. The Carbonworks fender didn’t make the bike faster or much lighter, but it did make our green monster look even more the part of a burly streetfighter.
Kawi’s Z1000 has a spare, stripped-down appearance that is partially spoiled by its massive and ugly stock turnsignals. The fronts looked even more heinous after replacing the rears with a set from Targa Accessories that included a fender eliminator kit, so they were swapped out for a set of LightWorks Short Stalk 3 LED turnsignals from Lockhart Phillips. Not only do Light Emitting Diode lights last about 100 times longer than incandescent bulbs, they also are able to better stand up to vibration and consume 10-times less power.
The Short Stalk 3s feature OEM-style snap connectors for an easy install, and their small size gives the Z a much cleaner look for a very modest cost of just $23.95. Also available in a carbon-fiber look, their one drawback is that they cause the frequency of the turnsignal flasher to increase like it would if a bulb was burned out. LP also sells an LED flasher relay that reduces the frequency to the stock rate, but it wasn’t available in time for use on our project.
So at this stage we’ve made our Project Z a bit lighter, leaner, meaner, and a bit less greener. It looks cooler, goes faster and stops better. Coming up next is a suspension overhaul, something perhaps not as glamorous as a titanium exhaust system, but it’s a process that can achieve amazing benefits in terms of comfort and confidence.
The Short Stalk 3 LED turnsignals up front compliment the clean look of the Targa Accessories rear signals and fender eliminator kit.
If you want to know more about suspensions – or if you never bother to think about them – stay tuned for the final installment of our Project Z.
Leo Vince: Full System High Mount Factory Titanium exhaust, $1299
Techlusion: Electronic Jet Kit, $194.60
Lockhart Phillips USA (Parts can be ordered from more than 4000 dealers): Goodridge Kevlar brake lines, $201.95; Carbonworks fender, $325.95; Lightworks Short Stalk 3 LED turnsignals, $23.95
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