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Honda’s CBX1000 may have the edge in the race to cult status, but the big Kawasaki lived over twice as long and has easily earned a Kardesign reboot.
The late 70s was an era of heavy metal motorcycling. Power outputs were on the rise and surpassed only by the sheer weight of the machines the engines lived in. Few were heavier and more of a handful in a bend (or merely attempting to put it on its centrestand…) than Kawasaki’s entry into the six-cylinder market. From 1978 through to 1989, the only water-cooled parallel six at the time went from carburettors to fuel injection to full dress tourer. The 700lb-plus Z1300 commanded respect on the road with the road presence and styling of a Chieftain tank. A motorcycle that made even Honda’s six-cylinder CBX look moped-like in comparison, here’s the rebirth for 2017.
The five-speed 1286cc six was ground-breaking at the time and that technology came at a cost in terms of weight. With water-cooling came a radiator as well as the necessary plumbing but the 120bhp on the triple-carburettor original was boosted to 130bhp for the fuel-injected version. A modern-day version with lighter internals and cases will hit 180bhp and over 100 lb-ft of torque, all delivered via the advanced Tetra-Lever shaft drive from Kawasaki’s own GTR1400. The 6-4 exhaust system shuns the mega-silencer styling so typical of the Kawasaki range for a sleeker, more slimming look. This is virtual reality after all, we aren’t slaves to Euro 4.
With a beefed-up cradle frame it’s twice as strong as the original. A monoshock rising-rate system sits at the back, while suspension at the front is USD forks. Combined with wider wheels and modern tyres, corners are no longer a lottery where you cross everything and hope for the best. Brembo monoblock radial calipers and massive 330mm discs provide actual stopping power the ’78 original can only dream of.
Minimal plastics block the view of the impressive engineering on show and a wide seat offers similar levels of plushness that the big Zed was famed for. A lightweight LED headlamp – square of course – lights up the road ahead and warns other road users that there’s something massive coming their way.