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Kawasaki Z1000, the bike with a hatchback's engine

It's not every day that you get to ride a 1,000 cc motorcycle; if that wasn't intimidating enough, would you believe me if I told you that this super bike looks like the two-wheeled avatar of the Predator with its menacing stare? Trust me, there is not an iota about the Kawasaki Z1000 that I am exaggerating here. There is something about a litre bike that sends a frisson of excitement down your being. After all, a 1,000 cc engine is practically the powerhouse that propels a sedan. This sort of energy means that the Z1000 can go from 0 kmph to 100 kmph in a mere 4.7 seconds. Kawasaki had provided me with a spanking new Z1000 that had logged barely 20 kilometres on the odograph, and I sensed that many people on the road would have given their right arm to try out this bike.

Street bikes are for those who don't need additional fairings on their motorcycles to feel macho. In that regard, the Z1000 has some serious oomph. The grey and green colours may not do justice to this colossus with bulging biceps, but you have to actually see the bike to believe that this combination not only complements the build, but also imparts a mean streak to it. Kawasaki wanted the Z1000 to be its most aggressive naked bike and by having the headlamp look just like the Predator's helmet, it throws caution to the wind. Let the competition know that Kawasaki does not take any prisoners!

I press the start button and the exhaust note sounds like a synthesiser playing a 1980s tunes. Least to say, this is quite disappointing. It's like going to the tiger enclosure at the zoo and hearing cats mewing. However, I did bump into a Z1000 owner who explained to me that after the bike logs 5,000 kilometres, the decibel level rises to a mark that will adequately massage all macho egos. Given the new bike that I am riding, I have no choice but to take his word for it.

Our - the bike's and mine - playground is the old Pune-Mumbai highway. I get the feeling that the Z1000 wants to tear off without a care in the world till I realise that it's me, and not the bike, who wants to break free. That's what the power of this monster does to you. Before we reach the old highway, we have to meander our way through the chaotic, slow-moving Pune crowd. We are even forced to stop at some places, where people want to know about the bike, its price, the power and so on - and thankfully, not kitna deti hai?. I am floored by the Z1000 as it shows patience in the city traffic. I will go a step further and say it behaves like any other bike, except for its 221 kg bulk, which, of course, you cannot ignore because it weighs in on you in start-stop traffic.

Away from the city traffic, at a slight twist of the throttle the bike pushes forward with enthusiasm. With an empty stretch ahead, I go into the free revving mode, and the Z1000, like a cheetah on the plains of Serengeti, hits 200 kmph. No, that is not a typo, for this bike does not believe that the three figure mark means 100 kmph. It disdains that speed as being fit for wannabe adventurers. I go as fast as 213 kmph and then lose my nerves, and so return to cruising at a "conservative" 130 kmph. I must confess it is frightening, but the Z1000 exudes so such confidence that you will never doubt its ability to take you safely and speedily anywhere you want it to go. Kawasaki has made the first five gear ratios in the 6-speed transmission short so that you get to push the bike to its limits. The sixth gear has a tall ratio and allows you to cruise on the highways. Even if you have to go at a sedate 50 kmph, you can put the bike in the sixth gear without a worry.

With sweeping curves on the highway every 5-10 minutes, I don't feel brave enough to try and take the sharp turns at high speed. But this machine not only reads your mind, it also reassures you by being so easily manoeuvrable - to negotiate the curves you needn't try anything fancy, neither a knee down nor throwing your weight to one side of the seat. Yes, the seating stance is aggressive, but then it is a 1,000 cc motorcycle, so it isn't taxing on you. All this while, you never feel uncomfortable.

The Z1000 has an instrument panel with an LED rpm indicator, but the novelty only comes into play when you hit the 4,000 rpm mark. If you are at a range lower than that - be warned, the bike will snort with indignation at this disgrace -then the indicator only shows itself as a digital instrument panel. This is the Z1000's polite way of saying you need to be more adventurous. Kawasaki has designated the Z1000's design as being representative of the Japanese word "Sugomi", which means it is daunting and awe-inspiring. The epithet for the design is well chosen because the machine handles beautifully both in the city as well as highway. And yes, the price tag too is daunting.
Arup Das is features editor at AutoX
KAWASAKI Z1000
Engine: 1,043cc /Liquid cooled / in-line 4 / 16-Valve / DOHC
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Power: 140 bhp @ 10,000 rpm
Torque: 110.8 Nm @ 7,300 rpm
0-100 km: 4.7 seconds
Price: Rs 12.5 lakh
(Ex-showroom, Pune)