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By: Jennifer Davis

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Saturday, 19-Dec-2015 03:02 Email | Share | Bookmark
Stacking the Deck' Motorcycle

To stack the odds against one’s opponent is simply good gamesmanship. To stack the odds against oneself is either foolish or a sign of great confidence. So which is it? Are they playing us for the fool or sitting on a straight flush, hoping to walk away with a big pot?

Let’s examine the odds for a moment. In the proverbial deck that is modern motor-cycling, virtually every bike that has been introduced to our market in the past two years is using some form of electronic rider aid, and in most cases, several 110cc atv Choke Cable.

We’re also seeing a lot of totally new designs, like the Honda CBR650R, Yamaha FZ-09 and FZ-07, and the Scrambler from Ducati – all fresh faces in an emerging middle class.
So, it would seem that Kawasaki’s latest standard offering, the 2016 Z800, might at first glance be facing a stacked deck due to the lack of electronic trickery and the fact it’s not a new model on the assembly lines back at HQ.

In 2013, the Z800 replaced the Z750 that had been in production from 2004 to 2012; Kawasaki released it as a European-exclusive model, which seems odd and a bit unfair, I’d say – now that I’ve had a chance to ride it.

Numbers Games

The answer to our earlier question comes down to numbers, 160,000 or so, in fact, as that’s about how many Z750s Kawasaki sold in Europe. Sounds like good business, but why are we getting its seconds, two years later?

Think of it as R&D work done for our benefit. A seal of approval from a fickle bunch of riders whose passion for the hobby is what drives much of the media, marketing and product that, in this case and many others, trickles down to us North Americans. So you can be sure that if there were annoyances found with the Z800, the European riders would have made it known long ago; and they have, all over the Internet. But who cares about them anyway? This is Canada – we’ll figure it out for ourselves, thank you very much.

Seriously though, there’s really not much to find in terms of concerns, and come to think of it, not often do we get an advanced scouting report, so I suppose it’s a bonus.
The lack of electronics could work for or against the Z800, depending on your point of view. Outside of the ABS, there’s a dearth of rider aids. No traction control, or any of that nanny stuff, is listed in the spec sheets, just a straight-on motorcycle. But it does have one other card up its sleeve. We’ll come back to that.

Personality Plus

This bike is all about connecting with the rider and the four-cylinder engine in the middle. Kawasaki engines have a personality, some even border on disorder. This one has moments where it’s dead calm; 5000 rpm, for example, nets you 100 km/h in top gear and possibly the least vibration from any inline-four. At other points in the rpm range, it growls and screams and vibrates, and pulls from almost any rpm. Its power is broad and comes in much the same way it goes out, gradually and controllably with a super-precise throttle delivery, connecting the rider perfectly with the rear wheel. And here’s where we come back to what’s up their sleeve; part of the secret is a little piece of tech that gets overlooked: Kawasaki’s Dual Throttle Valves. When the throttle gets whacked open, the valves in the throttle bodies (in this case, one throttle body on each cylinder) are open wide and engulf a huge amount of air, which along with all that extra fuel is immediately turned into a massive amount of torque, and that means power arrives abruptly. To smooth out this delivery of power, the Z800 uses two valves in each throttle body; the first opens according to your throttle input while the bike’s computer controls the secondary valve, optimizing the airflow into the engine and allowing precise throttle delivery. With a delivery this linear, traction control is unnecessary 99.9 percent of the time. (If you’re asking yourself right now, “What about the other 0.1 percent?” you should own a bike with traction

The biggest knock on the Z800 is found on the spec sheet, and rarely on the street: the bike weighs 231 kg. That’s almost 9 kg more than the Z1000, which you barely notice on the road. You can probably tell from the pictures that I’m not much more than hobbit-sized, yet I have no problem getting the mass off the side stand, especially with all that leverage from the wide bar and a seat height of 834 mm.

Agility or Stability

Once rolling, there’s little effort needed to chuck it around, and only on extremely tight manoeuvres does it need some coaxing. The trade-off is agility for stability when we’re talking weight and handling, and Kawasaki has found a good balance with the Z800.
Suspension setup is matched well to the bike. The KYB front fork offers a…

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