2011 Kawasaki Z1000 Project Bike Part 3

April 18, 2012
Justin Dawes
Justin Dawes
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Raised on two wheels in the deserts of Nevada, the newest addition to the MotoUSA crew has been part of the industry for well over 15 years.Equal parts writer, photographer, and rider, "JDawg" is a jack of all trades and even a master of some.

We love the Kawasaki Z1000 for its awesome mix of performance and comfort, and after spending a day at the track for our 2011 Streetfighter Shootout we decided to see how far we could push its performance on a race circuit. Dicing with full-fledged sportbikes at our favorite course was just too much fun to resist stripping the Z down and getting some

We had so much fun on the Z1000 during our streetfighter shootout we decided to turn it into a weekend trackday warrior.
Previously we focused on shedding weight and increasing power on the Z1000. Now it’s time to get it under control.

performance enhancing parts installed. We really wanted to see if we could maybe even smoke a few of the more hardcore trackday warriors with a bike that was never intended to dominate a racing series. More than once we were asked, “Why?” The answer – Because we can, and it’s fun to be different.

In the first two installments of our project we installed a slew of hard parts, including a LeoVince EVO II Factory-R Slip-on Exhaust system, a Fast II Tuning Kit and a quick-shifter kit to bump up the engine performance. We then re-geared the Z1000 with Vortex sprockets for more punch out of the corners and added some bling with Rizoma and Kawasaki accessories. The removal of a pile of parts to shed weight for the track dropped 21 pounds from the green machine.

Fully satisfied with the performance gains we achieved from our long-term bruiser, we turned our attention to taming the beast and making it easier to ride. Pirelli sent us over a set of Diablo Supercorsa SP tires to increase the grip after we had shagged the stock meats. Pirelli’s premium top-tier road tire, the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP is one of my favorite tires, and come standard on bikes such as the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale and the 2012 Triumph Speed Triple R. There is no denying that these new skins would elevate the Z1000’s game.

When the rubber met the road, er, race track, right of the bat it was obvious the more aggressive profile of the 190/55-17 rear tire reduced the effort to turn-in the green meanie. Now the bike almost dropped into the corner on its own, and

We spooned on a set of Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires to replace the stock rubber that had been decimated by two previous days at the track.
A fresh set of Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires quickened the handling and also increased the level of traction.

changed direction with a quickness that we never expected to get out of the Z. The taller profile of the back tire (55 versus 50) also quickened the steering response by steepening the rake of the front end ever so slightly. We’ve always praised the Supercorsa SP for the excellent level of feel, and it was no different on the Z. Not only was the grip increased across the board, but also it was easier to put that grip to use. The margin for error diminished dramatically.

One side effect of getting more grip was how the suspension was now taxed to the maximum in the corners. We could get the Kawasaki into the corner harder and faster than ever before, but now the rear end would begin to wallow and buck as we picked up on the throttle. It was obvious that if we wanted to make full use of the increased power and tires we needed to work on settling down the chassis.

At most of the Southern California trackdays you can find suspension guru Dave Moss of Catalyst Reaction toiling away on suspension set-up on a myriad of machines, helping out pros to beginners with dialing in their rides. After spending the first session hucking and bucking in the turns, we brought the Z over to Dave for some much-needed adjustment.

Right off the bat, Dave diagnosed the root of out troubles – the rear sag. I knew the rear-end was soft for my 225-pound frame, but during the first adjustment Dave just shook his head and laughed. “You’re a brave man,” he said. After adding several turns to the spring preload adjuster he had me sit on the bike to confirm the proper ride-height. He then

Dave Moss of Catalyst Reaction suspension tuning helped get our project Z1000s chassis under control.
Dave Moss of Catalyst Reaction dialed in the suspension on our 2011 Kawasaki Z1000 with impressive results.

turned his attention to the front fork, adding in more compression and slowing the rebound. He sent me out to test his handiwork and told me to come straight back to him with the suspension hot.

Immediately the Z was a whole new machine. Within one lap, it was obvious how much better the Kawasaki behaved. As the laps increased so did my confidence in the bike. I was able to carry more corner speed with less work, the feel from the tires increased even more and gone was the wiggle from the rear end.

After I returned to the Catalyst Reaction truck Dave took a look at the tires while quizzing me on the performance on the track. He then slowed the rear rebound down by two clicks and sent me out again. The fine tuning brought even more stability to the Z1000. At this point I was completely satisfied with the result and spent the rest of the afternoon, flogging the Kawasaki at a level I never thought possible. If you are at the track and see Catalyst Reaction is there, do yourself a favor and have Dave set-up your bike. It is one of the best things a rider can do to increase on-track performance.

After all was said and done the transformation of our project Kawasaki Z1000 was a dramatic one. We took it in a direction that not many would and learned how much fun it can be to ride a standard bike to its absolute limit. In the process we built one killer track bike and turned some heads. Now it’s time to return the Z back to Kawasaki, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more than a little sad to see it go.

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