Kawasaki Z1300 Superbike Road Test
Of course, most powerful bike status isn't the sole
reason for grafting on injectors in place of carbs;
the bike is claimed to be smoother and have more immediate
throttle response than the original six-pot. Additional
benefits also include easier starting, improved fuel
economy and the fairly nebulous "significantly
improved" engine performance at high altitude.
In practice, under brisk acceleration, the bike still
performs as smoothly as the cliches roll off a hack's
typewriter, you know the kind of stuff that I mean
. . . the engine is as velvet as a spiv's patter,
slipping your finger into a pot of Brylcreem, etc,
etc. Throttle response on acceleration is immediate
with no lag at all, a result of the six injectors
which squirt with every engine revolution.
Unfortunately at slow cruising speeds the DPI system
was prone to hunting, the effects of which were worsened
by an ultra-sensitive twistgrip that registered the
slightest opening or closing and the hair-trigger
action was not conducive to jerk-free progress (notwithstanding
the close proximity of Cortina drivers y'understand).
There's also a shade of transmission slop that doesn't
help any but fortunately the alarming amount of surge
when shutting off that was present on the old carburetted
version that we tested back in the mists of time has
been eliminated with the advent of the injectors.
I gather Archie Nyquist prefers the injected model
Out on the road the motor is an eloquent, if longwinded
(I mean six pots and I300cc does smack of overkill
rather doesn't it?) translation of sheer stomp into
speed and hauling power. One hundred miles per hour
is clocked up on the dial with the motor turning a
lazy 6000rpm. It'll pull top from as low as 2500rpm
without any trouble while it literally scorches off
from any revs above 4000rpm in any gear. There's no
need to slip the clutch or wait from the tacho needle
to creep into a powerband, explosive acceleration
is just a twist of the wrist away. As you'd expect
with all this torque on tap, roll-on acceleration
is excellent and in the all-important 60-90mph zone
the bike pulls without equal, and without recourse
to stirring the gearbox.
Instead of heading back towards London on the M4
after picking the bike up from Kawasaki's Slough HQ,
I pointed the machine westwards, heading towards Cornwall
in order to rack up some test miles. Although slowed
by heavy holiday traffic but helped by a kindly MCN
following wind the 300-mile trip disappeared under
the Big K's Ounlops in a creditable five hours, including
stops. I assumed that the cruise control would come
in handy on this trip. However, the device fitted
isn't what you'd expect to be labelled cruise control:
the meaning must have got muddled in the translation.
Instead it's more of an economy button, and a fairly
dubious one at that since the best consumption figure
the thirsty six could return on the trip was 33mpg
and this dipped to a low 50mph after a severe bout
of throttle wellying.
It seems that the cruise control is built-in as a
sop to the gadget-hungry Americans and what it actually
does is to lean out the mixture at 55mph/3000rpm to
improve consumption at the Yankees' speed limit. A
rather quaint idea that, since if you were really
concerned about fuel saving you wouldn't be tooling
around on a 1300cc six, would you? Still, as the trip
down to Cornwall proved it sure is an enjoyable way
for rider and pillion to deplete the earth's fossil
fuels, cruising along at a rock-steady ton in considerable
This wonderfully flexible motor is housed in a massive
duplex cradle of Forth Bridge construction and both
rider and pillion sit on a great throne of a seat.
The suspension is air-assisted front and rear and
is adjustable to suit varying loads. Adjustment is
simple too; both front and rear reservoir having balancer
pipes and easy access for an S & W syringe pump,
which worked admirably well.
While the ride and handling was great for two people
and a Mexican bean salad that my pillion insisted
on carrying as luggage, riding the bike solo wasn't
so hot. The handling deteriorated during the course
of our two-week tenure and when ridden hard and fast
solo the head would gently shake to and fro; rather
disconcerting. The problem was worsened on downhill
sweepers where the wobbles were only just on the gentle
side of violent. Shifting rider weight fore and aft
didn't produce any difference and remedial attention
with the S & W didn't seem to have much effect
either, though we eventually settled for 8psi in the
front and 30psi in the back as being the best of a
Part of the blame must be borne by the tyres which
were super-sensitive to changes in road surfaces with
handling being particularly adversely affected on
sections of that pebbledash tarmac. But offset against
that the Dunlops had plenty of cling when they were
warmed up, and had surprisingly modest wear after
two weeks of generous wrist action.
For its size the 1300 is remarkably surefooted in
the slower, tighter swervery once you've got over
the mental block to hustling it at speed through the
corners. Of course, once you're committed to a line
it's not exactly easy to change mid-bend, though the
wide handlebars help matters her if you're partial
to a spot of arm wrestling. As the pictures show the
ground clearance isn't too great, with the cases,
outside manifold pipes, the pegs and centrestand touching
down without too much difficulty. This problem isn't
helped any by the sheer width of the powerplant and
the shaft drive, because a drop in revs as you throttle
back is accompanied by a squat at the tail, further
reducing the already marginal cornering clearance
when you're cranked over on yer ear'ole.
Once you've overcome any apprehension over the gargantuan
size of the bike it's surprisingly rideable around
town. Sure it's big, but no bigger than a beer truck
as they say, or rather as Raymond Chandler said. The
instant poke makes going for gaps a cinch. You can
still filter through surprisingly small gaps and I
have fond memories of dragging it off the lights with
the front end going light, the rear tyre squealing
and no problem with the motor bogging down in an embarrassing
If you look like you're going to overcook it you
can always take recourse to the excellent brakes.
When you consider that the behemoth with full complement
of liquids and a solo rider will tip the scales at
around SOOIb, the twin 11.8in discs at the front and
the single rear 11.4in item do an admirable job scrubbing
off the speed. The considerable engine braking as
you downchan< few cogs also helps.
Controls remain unmemorable in their functi simplicity,
which is as it should be, though the self-cancelling
indicators seem worthy of being singled out for praise
in that they really do wot properly and are not the
usual rubbish that svv the winkers off when you want
'em on and vie versa. In addition, if you don't like
self-cancellj indicators, you can always press a switch
and have them return to normal manual mode operation.
The mirrors were good too, giving a vibe-free view
of what's going on behind your back.
The centrestand was a pig though, with no protruding
metal to put your boot on and no gr handle to heave
against. Not wishing to add a surgical truss to my
birthday present list of wan I used the sidestand
which was perfectly adequate.
Passing judgment on the bike is a difficult as it's
obviously a machine that was conceived in days when
petrol was cheap. There's also no hiding the fact
that it was mainly aimed at Stateside consumption,
where the big six mill would inevitably be perceived
as the motorcycle equivalent of the V8 automobile
engine, a powerplant with which the Americans have
had long and well documented love affair. As such
n something of a dinosaur, and one that's rapidly
its way to extinction at that. Which is sad becat
it's an extremely enjoyable motorcycle to ride, bi
then I didn't have to foot the bill for gas and rubber
. . .
The asking price at £3749 is on the high side
too. Sure there's plenty of metal in there but the
bike's real weakness is that it suffers from something
of an identity crisis; it's not sure whether it's
a sports bike in search of better handling or a touring
machine looking for a windcheater and baggage carrying
capacity. If yc do have the money to shell out on
the Z1300 yoi won't be disappointed, and they do have
an excellent reliability record, it's just that you'll
get better value for money elsewhere.
- £3749 including all taxes
Maximum Speed — 142mph Standing Quarter Mile
Fuel Consumption — Hard Riding — 30mpg
— Cruising — 38mpg
- Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 12-valve in-line six.
- Maximum power - 130bhp at 5000rpm, maximum torque
85.3ft/lb at 7500rpm.
- Capacity - 1286cc
- Bore x stroke - 62mm x 71mm
- Compression ratio - 9.3:1.
- Computer controlled DFI fuel injection.
- Six-into-two exhaust.
- Wet sump lubrication.
- Electrons ignition.
- Wet multi-plate clutch.
- Five speed gearbox.
- Primary drive by gear, final drive by shaft.
- Duplex cradle frame.
- Telescopic front forks with air-assistance giving
- Rear swinging arm with twin air-assisted units
giving 4.Bin travel.
- Wheelbase - 62.2in
- Seat height - 32.Sin
- Ground clearance - 5.9'm
- Length - 91.9m, width 33.6in.
- Dry weight - 648lb.
- Fuel capacity - 5.9gal.
- Front brakes - twin 11.8in discs with single piston
calipers, rear brakes 11.4in disc with twin piston
- Tyres - Dunlop 110/90 x 18 front, 130/90 x 17