Leave it to the Brits to take a hard-edged streetfighter and make it even meaner. Mossy went to check the hype and discovered that a supercharged Kawasaki Z1000 isn’t for the meek.
Words: Chris Moss
Snaps: Jason Critchell
Experience and familiarity can be very useful and calming allies. If you’ve ‘been there’ before and know what to expect, then you’ll feel much more at home than if you’re new to a particular experience. Things are always a bit less worrying second time round. You know the score; once you’re up and running with school, work, or even meeting the parents – you’re much more comfortable than you were the very first time around.
This feeling of deja vu definitely put me at ease (well, a bit more anyway) when I rolled up outside the workshop of TTS in Northampton, England. Knowing that the bike they were going to let me test was going to be similar to one they’d let me try a few months earlier, was helping to quell my nerves and apprehension. That day I was going to hoon around on a supercharged Z1000, a Kawasaki that was making a fraction over 200hp at its rear boot. But because the ‘program’ of riding a bike with utterly mental power and torque levels had already been downloaded into my brain, I was far less frazzled by the idea than I had been the first time.
Sure, the prospect of riding the Kawasaki still had me on edge as any bike making nearly fifty horses more than the latest GSX-R1000 has a right to. But as the last big-horsepower blown bike that TTS had given me (a 198hp supercharged GSX1400) had actually turned out to be less schizophrenic than I’d expected, I had faith in being able to survive the day and tame the beast.
It was handy that I was feeling this way really, because the very damp and overcast conditions weren’t exactly going to help me to master the Kwack quickly. And when one of the TTS boys who’d just been around the block on the Z1000 told me to expect lots of wheelies and wheelspin from the off, I swallowed hard and put on a brave face.
Firing up the streetfighter brought some familiar sounds that helped ease my furrowed brow. The blown bike’s ultra-high rpm compressor whistles as the motor spins up, and then sucks and flutters as it dies down again. And the view of the Z-thou was also familiar to my eyes. Bar the change of steering equipment to some straight type Renthals, the bike looked pretty much standard. Not a bad thing when the Kawasaki is a half-decent handler straight from the box. Though the state of the 7000-mile, two and a half year old bike’s rear tire was clearly going to compromise that a bit.
But once underway the condition of the rear Pirelli bothered me less – even though it was soon going to have to deal with up to a couple of hundred horses trying to spin it apart.
The Kawasaki is, at smaller throttle openings at least, quite a *****cat. And though there’s obviously a fair bit of torque and stomp really low down, quick-shifting up through the box keeps things level and sane enough to feel comfortable threading through town (even if the roads felt as grippy as your average glacier).
At that sort of pace the Z1000 feels right at home, and underlines the option of a refined and civilized style of power delivery at the end of the throttle cable should you decide not to tug it too much. Once you’re up to thirty mph, there’s really isn’t any need to change down if you need to up the pace. Thanks to the very relaxed and long-legged feel of the in-line four’s motor, generated by the huge levels and brilliantly spread torque, top gear is generally all you need to use. But enough of this nancy boy’s talk. The blown bike hasn’t been made to deliver envelopes. It’s been made to thrill and excite, and it was time to get out of the zone of bricks and mortar to check (or rather, confirm) that it could do just that.
Sure enough, as soon as I saw the open road and twisted the grip round a bit further, the ability of this tool to stun and shock was instantly apparent. I don’t care what sort of bike you’ve got, unless your name is printed in AMA, WSB or MotoGP programs, or you own a superbike that’s cost you literally thousands of dollars on engine mods, then you’ve got little idea just how mental 200hp feels when you open the taps.
Even though I’d ‘been there and done that’ on a blown bike before, I was still truly staggered at the way the TTS Z1000 accelerates. The surge is enormous and difficult to comprehend at first. It’s a seamless, never-ending surge unlike anything offered by any production bike, which generates a feeling so alien that you just start tittering uncontrollably until your bravery threshold is reached and you’re forced to roll off. Then once you’ve composed yourself you dare to squirt the throttle again to sample the perversity of the pleasure once more. This time you last a bit longer before the laughter turns to worry and you’re compelled to back off again.
But little by little you start getting more comfortable in dealing with life in this new performance zone, and you can hang onto the bars for a little bit longer before choosing to return to reality.
It takes a fair while before the ratio of time you spend winding the throttle open exceeds the time you spend pushing it shut. But so beautiful and linear is the spread of grunt that eventually (though whether that’s a day, week, year, or decade will depend on your experience) you get used to things enough to be more settled with the speeds you get sent to.
Be warned though. Even though your senses (and your stretching arms) will detect that you’re seriously on the move if the throttle butterflies are letting enough of the mix of compressed air and fuel into the bores, virtually all the roads you ride will on (even freeways) will suddenly develop bends, and virtually all other traffic will become mobile chicanes. Even routes you thought you knew intimately will suddenly feel alien because of the massively increased rate of speed you’ll inevitably be covering them at. Keeping your eye on the Kwack’s speedo is crucial to stay out of trouble, as is eyeing the tricky to read digital rev counter. Once you’re in the mid-range of the 953cc in-line four, the momentum of the spinning crank is tricky to keep pace with, and unless you keep kicking up the gearlever and selecting a higher cog you’ll have a job holding on – to both the bike and your sanity. The faster the Kawasaki goes, the faster it goes.
It took me two separate attempts to feel fully comfortable with the supercharged specimen. And only after we modded the bike slightly (see box-out), and the weather improved, did I get the chance to cane it properly and feel I was in (basic) control.
And to do that you have to be right on top of your game. Don’t think of riding one of these babies hard if you’re not feeling pin sharp. It might be nice and docile to use if you’re tight with the twistgrip, but once you get more generous with it things happen at barely comprehensible rates. Wheelies in the first three gears are par for the course, some starting at well over a hundred. Flipping this bike always feels like it’s on the cards until you’ve developed the necessary experience with it. And at times you need a radar to see far enough ahead. Eyes alone aren’t good enough.
The supercharged TTS Z1000 has an absolute mountain of power and torque, which you never quite feel you’re going to get to the summit of. But man is it fun being a mountaineer! I know that each time I rode the TTS bike I felt absolutely on top of the world. What a totally brilliant bike it is. One day, some bike-builders might make them for us to buy over the counter. 2WT
GETTING THE BALANCE
When you fit a supercharger your engine will instantly produce loads more horsepower (about 85hp more in the case of the TTS Z1000). And when a bike is producing 200hp at its rear wheel it’s wise to make sure its chassis is up to the job of handling it.
The used bike we tested was a classic example of how the balance of the bike can feel wrong. Its worn tires made it steer poorly at first, and only when we fitted some new Bridgestone BT014 rubber with nicely rounded profiles did the direction changing become a predictable and consistent affair. But then the extra grip the BTs gave started to highlight the age and condition of the rear shock, causing it to squat and then wallow when you got the power down on corner exits. A quality aftermarket replacement would be the only answer to improving this.
The Kawasaki’s brakes were a bit average too. Sure, if they were brand new they’d be more adept at controlling the extra speed, but some racier pads, fluid and braided lines were essential to make this particular bike’s stopping power good enough. And if you did that, I’m sure the forks would have to be beefed up a bit to deal with the extra force. And finally, a steering damper would be a sensible addition to tame the flapping over bumps under serious power.
So if you’re thinking of hiking up your horsepower with a supercharger, don’t forget to leave a few pennies to spend on the rest of the bike to make sure you can use all of the extra oomph safely and effectively.
2003 TTS supercharged Kawasaki Z1000
Engine type: 953cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-stroke, in-line four cylinder
Compression ratio: 11.2:1
Power: 200.5hp @ 10,800rpm
Claimed torque: 98ft/lb @8,500rpm
TTS +44 (0) 1604 636363, www.tts-performance.com
Rotrex supercharger kit: $6580.
This article was stolen with permission from 2WheelTuner Magazine! See the full article with more photos here: http://www.2wtmag.com/full_article.php?id=14