Thursday, 11 April 2013

Kawasaki Z1300 - Bike of the week

At the Cologne Show in Germany in 1978 a new heavyweight motorcycle was unveiled to the public, the Kawasaki Z1300. 

The Z1300 was a powerful bike but it was also a mighty heavy one and with the engine, shaft drive and six gallon tank it weighed in at a lardy 660 lbs.

Was this a great and mighty bike, or a monster? Opinions vary!


The advent of the powerful giant the Kawasaki Z1300 set off a debate which led to a short-lived voluntary manufacturers agreement to limit motorcycle power outputs to 125 bhp.

The motorcycle press was already involved in a debate about how far the Japanese could go in terms of power output and it was rumoured that the government was going to get involved in restrictive legislation, so the voluntary agreement was really a pre-emptive strike to prevent this from happening.  However it came about, the voluntary agreement never really had wings and didn't last very long.  Anyway, if you're sitting comfortably...

Kwacker Jack 

This huge Kawasaki had six cylinders, with two valves per cylinder and three carburettors feeding the cylinders, it was water-cooled (water jackets around each cylinder meant that the gaps between could be narrower than if it was air cooled) and it came with shaft drive as standard.  An advantage of water cooling is that it provides good sound insulation making the Z1300 notably quiet and smooth.

The width of the six-cylinder power unit mounted across the frame horizontally created the biggest headache for designers because it limited the angle when cornering and from an aerodynamic point of view the Z1300 presented a large square front which could make manoeuvring in traffic a tad tricky.    However, although the Z1300 was rather large from crankcase end to crankcase end, the rest of the engine looked more the size of a big four.

During its ten year production run, various things on the bike were upgraded.  It gained electronic fuel injection and the suspension moved to air systems.  Power and torque were increased, (as if it needed it) almost as a by product, when a fuel injection system, primarily designed to improve fuel consumption, was adopted.

Largin' it

The frame was a meatier version of the conventional twin cradle design with 41mm air assisted leading axle front forks and simple twin shocks at the rear.

On a positive note, the engine was superb, smooth and torquey when warmed up, and that unusual beast the six cylinder motorcycle had an incredible engine note and gave an undeniably smooth ride. Sadly though the motorcycle was so heavy and its fuel consumption was so high that the Z1300 didn't catch on and sold poorly particularly in Europe.

The Voyager - no not this one!

Voyager Space Probe in the magnetic highway credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
In 1983 in the US the Voyager model was introduced and was immediately nicknamed the “car without doors” - how unkind! It came fully dressed for touring with a redesigned frame, full fairing, side panniers, a windshield and a plethora of other touring related delights. All these features aimed the Voyager squarely at the US touring market and the open road - hopefully without too many bends in it.


It was not without its little idiosyncrasies though - and it was prone to several problems including front brakes discs which could warp, rear discs which often seized, and fork seals which leaked.

Back in the day

Whether they were feeling particularly generous is a matter for debate but the testers of the day thought that the Z1300 handled quite well considering how heavy it was.

Perhaps surprisingly, despite its unmaneuverable weight and greedy fuel consumption, it still remained in production for ten years, with various models being manufactured, namely the: Z1300, KZ1300, ZG1300(1983 digital fuel injection system DFI) and ZN1300.  And, here's the thing, altogether 20,000 KZ1300/Z1300 models and 4,500 Voyager models were sold - blimey.

Feeling tempted? 

Well are you rushing out to get one if you haven't got one already?  Let us know if you have ever owned one and what you think/thought of it if you did, have we done it an injustice?  Is it just the wiiiide load of the road or a rumbling underrated six cylinder engineering masterpiece? Your thoughts....

If you want to see how to ride one properly in clogs, check out this clip found by Visordown:


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