GoogleCustom Search

Kawasaki Z1300 Superbike Road Test

Nov 1984

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 too.

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 air-suspended comfort.

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 poxy compromise.

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 manner.

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.

Kawasaki ZG1300A1

  • £3749 including all taxes

Performance

Maximum Speed — 142mph Standing Quarter Mile — 11.8secs

Fuel Consumption — Hard Riding — 30mpg — Cruising — 38mpg

Powertrain

  • 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.

Chassis

  • Duplex cradle frame.
  • Telescopic front forks with air-assistance giving 7.5in travel.
  • 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 caliper.
  • Tyres - Dunlop 110/90 x 18 front, 130/90 x 17 rear.