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2011 Kawasaki Z1000 Project Bike Part 2

Friday, March 9, 2012

When Motorcycle USA set out to modify our long-term 2011 Kawasaki Z1000 project, we decided to take it in a direction that most wouldn’t. After having a good time with it during the 2011 Streetfighter Shootout, we decided to coax a bit more racetrack performance out of the Green Machine. In the first installment, 2011 Kawasaki Z1000 Project Part 1, LeoVince dialed the Z in with an EVO Factory-R Slip-on Exhaust and a Fast II Tuning box to complement the first phase of putting the big lump on a diet. With a modest but noticeable result, what else could we do but take it further?

In the Shop

With a new set of lower handlebars the the front end feel of the Z1000 has improved.
With a new set of Renthal FatBar handlebars the front end feel of the Kawasaki Z1000 has improved.
A set of Rental FatBars made the riding position more aggressive.
One of my complaints with the stock handlebars on the Z1000 is that the tall bend was a stretch at full lean. While my body was near the pavement the bars, either my left or right hand was in another area code. Searching for a suitable street bars netted no viable options, and we considered affixing a set of clip-ons as a last resort. Then I spied a set of Renthal FatBars ($89.99) meant for our 2012 KX250F. With an inch hacked off the ends the bars fit perfect and were more than an inch lower. Now that may not seem like a big difference, but that combined with less of a sweep meant a more aggressive and forward position. Another benefit of ditching the stock bars was a loss of five pounds.

Ditching the heavy bars got us looking for more places to cut weight. The horn was removed, the kickstand ditched and all the reflectors and mounting hardware tossed in the pile of discarded Z1000 parts. That accounted for another five pounds.

After swapping the bars we contacted Rizoma to get our mitts on some high-quality controls. A few days later a box arrived containing the Italian Company’s Sport Line Grips, Feel Levers, and ProGuard system. Each piece was packaged carefully in a box with foam holding each piece of finely crafted aluminum. Bolting everything up was straightforward and quick.

The Feel levers have a nice bend and the CNC machining on the leading edge provides and bit of traction on gloved fingers. A channel cut into the end of the lever is meant to channel and remove air pressure on the flat edge that rises dramatically at high speeds. A gold anodized knob makes adjusting the reach to the lever a snap.

Rizoma’s ProGuard System is designed to prevent inadvertent actuation if the clutch or brake levers contact with other racer’ machines or bodies on the track. An aluminum stalk comes out of the end of the bar and wraps around the end of the lever where the mechanical force is the greatest. Mounting the ProGuard lever guards took a bit of trial and error
The Rizoma ProGuard System protects your levers from accidental actuation from other riders.
Rizoma's ProGuard System protects levers from accidental actuation by other riders.
to get the spacing correct, but within 30 minutes we had everything mounted up.

The Sport Line grips are aluminum tubes with rubber where the hand would rest. We were a bit worried about the aluminum being too to large and smooth near the inside of the grip, but decided to save judgment until on the track.

Next on the list of goodies was a Vortex 525 CAT5 Rear Sprocket ($74.95) and Vortex 525 Front Countershaft sprocket ($24.95). We decided to go one tooth larger on the rear sprocket to gain a little more punch out of the corners. The black anodized rear sprocket is lighter and much better looking than the heavy steel unit that once resided on the rear wheel. While we were at it we fitted a new gold RK 525 XW-Ring Chain ($246.95). Vortex was also good enough to supply us with a set of Swing Arm Spools since we tossed the kickstand in our quest for lightness.

Finally we fitted a $129 Kawasaki Genuine Accessories Tall Windshield to tuck under at speed and a Kawasaki Genuine Accessories Seat Cowl ($199). Both bolted up in less than five minutes and added function and style to our beloved Z.

Vortex Sprockets and a gold RK chain put the power to the rear wheel.
New Vortex Sprockets and a gold RK chain put the power to the rear wheel.
After it was all said and done, our time in the shop netted us an additional 11 pounds of lost weight, to a total of 462 pounds. That’s 21 from stock trim. We contemplated ditching the headlight, taillight and blinkers to see where the Z1000 would end up on the scales, but the effort involved was too great and finding a front fairing would be nearly impossible.

On the Track

To test the mettle of the newest additions we joined Let’s Ride Track Days at Buttonwillow Raceway for Saturday and Sunday riding sessions. Buttonwillow’s track surface is not as pristine as some of the other facilities in California, but the tight and bumpy layout would be an excellent to see how the Z1000 would handle with the new handlebars and gearing.

Right off the bat you could feel the 11 pounds that were removed. Flicking from side to side was quicker and took a touch less effort than the previous outing for the 2011 Kawasaki Z1000 Project Part 1. It’s still no Speed Triple R, but the improvement is nothing to scoff at.

The new Renthal bars really made a difference in how the Z1 is ridden. Before the seating position was fairly upright even when on its side because of the tall handlebars. Now the riding stance is more forward when in a straight line, and you can get close to the tank during turns. This helps with front end feel when pushing through the fast corners, and also is less tiring as you are not fighting the wind as much.

A Kawasaki Genuine Accessories tall windscreen is easier to tuck behind down the straights.
A Kawasaki Genuine Accessories tall windscreen made it easier to tuck behind while blasting down the straights.
A total weight loss of 21 pounds was achieved by removing non-track essential parts such as passenger foot pegs and kickstand.
As we had suspected the aluminum surface of the Rizoma Sport Line grips was a bit slick if you tend to use the webbing between your thumb and index finger to grip the bars. We either had to choke down on the grip or alter the way we used our hands, and for the track that is not something we would recommend you try to deal with. We would suggest standard rubber units for high performance riding.

While the grips are a bit of a problem, the Feel Levers we excellent. The leverage to the clutch and brakes was solid, and we really like the shape and bend. Thankfully we never had to test the ProGuard System, but it was comforting to know we had our brake and clutch covered.

Adding a tooth to the rear sprocket really helps wake up the Z when coming out of the tighter corners. The revs built quicker down the straights and overall the bike just felt livelier, and of course the wheelies came even easier than before.

It may not seem like adding a few flash parts, changing the bars and re-gearing could make a big difference in the track prowess of a bike like the Z1000, but it really did! All day we had people stopping by to check out the green and black monster and ask questions about how it did on the track. We would always reply, “pretty damn good.”

Stay tuned for Part 3 of our Z1000 Project where we enlist the help of Catalyst Reaction suspension tuning and spoon on a set of Pirelli Supercorsa SP tires.
2011 Kawasaki Z1000 Project Bike
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Perdurable   April 15, 2014 07:08 AM
?I was just wondering if you happen to know exactly what part number the bars were? I am interested in this option.
rivc1982   March 20, 2012 08:58 PM
@Justin Dawes I'm curious to see what you guys think of the 2010+ Z1K sportbars from http://www.motospecialties.com. Looking to buy a set but no reviews out yet!
zeins   March 14, 2012 09:16 PM
haha get rid of the kickstand, im sure that saved tons of weight. "Its still no speed triple R", what are you kidding me! this bike is hella fun and makes the speed triple run for its money. everyone is so bias on that bike, id buy a second z1000 then having a triple.
gprzelomiec   March 14, 2012 07:20 PM
This is my first standard. The biggest difference I felt moving from a sport bike was I felt like I was riding a beach cruiser sand my long arms didn't help. I did some research and bought a a pair of LSL cross bars. Big difference in feel and style. I feel way more in control of the bike and they aren't nearly as low as clip-ons. Aside from ditching the exhaust and dorky mud flap it my best mod to date. looking at wheels next!
AnthonyD   March 13, 2012 07:20 AM
Actually, getting rid of that stock battery is something I am surprised they didn't do. Shedding something like 9 lbs for 90 bucks is some bang for the buck weight reduction. Do it fellas! You have the hook up on some A123 cells somewhere I'm sure.
tu168   March 13, 2012 05:50 AM
Guys, guys, Lighten up. You need to realize these pinheads don't live in the real world, like we do. They live only on a closed course race track. In their world, there is no traffic, no need for a horn. There is no need for a side stand. There slave will hold it up for as long as need be. Next installment will be the removal of all the unnecessary lighting, ie; brake light, headlight. ect..... Then either the alternator or the battery can be removed to save more weight. Nothing we real world riders would ever do. Their idea of improvement is lower lap times. Not improving the bike for everyday use.
jokermtb   March 12, 2012 09:15 PM
"the horn was removed" WTF?!!! One of the first mod's I've done to any streetbike is to install a 139db Stebel air horn..... I really have a hard time believing you actually live with a bike in the real world when you say you remove the horn...that's just dumbazz! /tbg\\\thank you // good nite1
tecster   March 12, 2012 02:40 PM
Justin I recently picked up a 2010 z1k, did some similar mods. The bike will be used strictly for street, and the occasional twistie session. I was wondering if you would suggest aftermarket bars for street use, I'm comfortable with the ride stance now, but would it be better to do some bars similar to what you picked up?
Pavement   March 12, 2012 09:43 AM
Removing the kickstand is absurd.
Justin Dawes   March 10, 2012 08:34 PM
I like your style Piglet2010!!
Piglet2010   March 10, 2012 08:30 PM
How about a ZX-14R project bike? Sub 9-second quarter-mile times, 200+ mph top speed and 210+ rear wheel horsepower would be cool.
Justin Dawes   March 10, 2012 07:47 AM
@bonadr - The bend is 672 @Brian426v - We began this project with the help of LeoVince and at this time there is not a full system available from them. Yes there are other brands that have a full system, but since we had a FastII box with a serious amount of tuning from Manny at LeoVince we decided to stick with the slip-on units. I would guess you could drop yet another 8-10 pounds by ditching the cat and pick up quite a few more ponies. @Piglet2010 - We just wanted to do something different with the Z as we already know it is an excellent street mount. It has some ZX DNA in it so we though why not try and see if we could tap into it. Taking a ZX10R to the track is predictable - a Z1000 is not. but don't fret we have a few full sportbike track projects in the works.
Piglet2010   March 9, 2012 10:10 PM
I don't get it - the point of the Z1000 is to be more comfortable and usable on the street than a race-replica liter bike. If the bike (as this one) is modified to the point of being illegal to use on the street, why not start out with a ZX-10R instead?
Brian426v   March 9, 2012 07:28 PM
How about a full system and ditch that heavy (and ugly) Cat?
bonadr   March 9, 2012 04:51 PM
Thank you for this excellent article! Could you guys please tell what is the Renthal Fatbar model?