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2008 Kawasaki Z1000, Triumph Speed Triple and Yamaha FZ1 Road Test Comparison

2008 Yamaha FZ1, 2008 Kawasaki Z1000 & 2008 Triumph Speed Triple

2008 Yamaha FZ1, 2008 Kawasaki Z1000 & 2008 Triumph Speed Triple

Photo Credit: Kevin Wing

Greg Drevenstedt
November 5, 2008
Filed under Kawasaki Motorcycle Road Tests: Reviews on Kawasaki Motorcycles & Sportbikes, Road Tests, Sport + Sport Touring Motorcycle Reviews, Triumph Motorcycle Reviews, Yamaha Motorcycle Reviews

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In my past life I was a scientist-specifically, a demographer who studied trends in human mortality (depressing, I know). Although my number-crunching days are behind me, my research background still comes in handy.

To put these bikes-Kawasaki Z1000, Triumph Speed Triple and Yamaha FZ1-on a level playing field, I set up an experiment of sorts. Scientists try to keep certain conditions the same so they can observe what’s really going on. For this comparison test, I evaluated each bike under similar circumstances. First, I mapped out a 400-mile test loop that included a variety of road conditions. Next, I figured out where to stop for gas, where to eat and what to wear.

The rider, route and gear were the same, and being in Southern California, so was the weather. For three consecutive days, armed with a hydration pack and a notebook, I left Rider’s editorial offices at the same time each morning and rode each bike for about eight hours.

Test #1, Wednesday: Kawasaki Z1000
On a sunny but cool morning, geared up, nourished and caffeinated, I rode down the hill to the Mobil station. The Pearl Crystal White paint job glittered, yet left me perplexed. When Kawasaki released the Z1000 in 2003, it had bold styling. It was angular and aggressive, with an angry preying mantis headlight and upswept, double-barrel exhausts on each side. Available in black or orange, it looked modern and mean just like a streetfighter should.

Tthe Z1000 sytling cuts a unique profile.

Redesigned in 2007, the Z1000 is now more sci-fi than black-eye. The aluminum radiator shrouds were replaced with plastic fairing pieces with integrated turn signals. While stylish, these add-ons look, well, plasticky. The engine and frame are blacked-out, but for 2008 the bike only comes in white, which reminds me of a Camry. The orange anodized fork and wheels are beautiful, but the once-distinctive exhaust pipes now look ordinary.

After topping off the tank and zeroing the tripmeter, I checked the air pressure in the tires. With all systems go, I turned north onto U.S. 101 for a few miles and then headed up Route 33.

As with the other bikes in this test, the Z1000 has an upright seating position. That’s pretty much the only thing that defines a “standard” motorcycle. The Z1000′s motocross-style handlebar is positioned to provide a comfortable reach to the controls. Being over 6 feet tall, my arms were slightly bent at the elbows, my back was straight and I had sufficient legroom-a good combination for eight hours in the saddle.

Not so fast. Excessively high butt-ometric pressure resulted from the hard seat, which is thin and sharp-edged toward the back. After two hours, my posterior began to whine like a spoiled child in the checkout line.

The Z1000 is great alone, compared to others it falls short.

In a world of its own, the Z1000 is great. Only when compared with the others does it fall short.

With a small flyscreen, the Z1000 splits the difference in wind protection between the stark naked Speed Triple and the half-fairing- clad FZ1. At speed, wind was deflected up to helmet level with no turbulence.

North of Ojai, Route 33 climbs up and over the Sierra Madre Mountains. Smooth, curving asphalt and light traffic allowed me to evaluate the Z1000′s sporting characteristics. The 953cc, in-line four-cylinder engine delivers rheostatlike power with crisp, predictable throttle response.

To reduce engine vibration, the Z1000′s frame locates the motor mounts behind the cylinders, closer to the center of gravity. Nonetheless, the Z1000 is very buzzy. High-frequency vibes are problematic from 6,000 rpm up to redline. Rolling on and off the throttle, the vibration moves around from the bars to the pegs to the seat to the tank.

Up front, the 41mm male-slider fork is adjustable for rebound and preload, and the rear shock has similar adjustability. The Z1000 has midgrade hardware consistent with the bike’s price tag. The suspension performed well and delivered a comfortable, compliant ride.

Pushing the Z1000 hard through familiar turns on Route 33, I developed a wariness of the front brakes. Dual 300mm petal-style rotors are squeezed by four-piston radial-mount calipers. They provide plenty of stopping power, but initial bite is sharp and they have an on/off quality that is difficult to modulate. With a moderate, two-finger pull on the lever, the fork dives and the bike stands up. Confidence draining, not inspiring.

The Z1000’s instruments are tidy, its flyscreen surprisingly effective.

Analog tach and digital speedo is used on all three bikes here. The Z1000’s instruments are tidy, its flyscreen surprisingly effective.

After summiting Pine Mountain, I turned onto Lockwood Valley Road and rode to my first gas stop. Cuddy Valley Road proceeds to Mil Potrero Highway through the village of Pine Mountain Club. Outside of town I picked up Cerro Noroeste Road, my favorite 25-mile stretch of road in California. This is one of those hero roads, where you feel you can do no wrong. Following the contours of a ridgeline, Cerro Noroeste offers stunning views and a fast rollercoaster ride. Around the halfway point, it leaves the Los Padres National Forest and curves over and around grassland hills through the Bittercreek Wildlife Refuge, a protected California condor habitat. The road isn’t close to anywhere, so it’s almost always deserted. We did the photo shoot for this story there.

But all good things must come to an end. I picked up Route 33 again and rode to the high-desert town of Taft for lunch. Taft has more oil wells than people-the local newspaper is called the Taft Midway Driller-and it is consistently 30 degrees hotter there than on the coast. The thermometer on the Taft Chamber of Commerce sign read “98¬∞ F.”

I had lunch at Chicken of Oz, a family restaurant named after the proprietor, Oz Katz. It is decorated with Wizard of Oz kitsch and American flags, and all prices on the menu end in 8. I cooled off and fueled up with a salad and iced tea.

Back out on the Z1000 in the blazing heat, my butt wasn’t keen on getting back on that concrete seat. After taking Route 33 north through the oilfields, I turned west on Route 58. For the next 70 miles, I pushed the Z1000 hard through tight canyon roads and long straights through empty, scorched-brown farmland. The bike was very predictable and steady. But all of these bikes are very competent; just getting the job done doesn’t win a prize.

From Route 58, I turned south on U.S. 101 at Santa Margarita. As I descended the grade into San Luis Obispo, the temperature dropped by 20 degrees. My last gas stop was in Pismo Beach. The final leg of my trip tested the fuel range of the Z1000. From U.S. 101 to Route 166 through the Cuyama Valley and then back down Route 33 to Ventura is more than 150 miles. I dialed back my speed to conserve fuel, and the low-fuel light came on at 140 miles. Back at the Mobil station where I began, the tripmeter totaled 399.9 miles and 11.99 gallons of fuel had been consumed, for an average of 33.4 mpg.

 

Tough, sexy and fast. Meow!

Test #2, Thursday: Triumph Speed Triple
Triumph likes to do things a bit differently. Stylistically, the Speed Triple has an iconic, instantly recognizable look. With roots in streetfighter culture, it is equal parts chic and aggressive. The 2008 styling updates refined a bike that already looked like sex on wheels. With those bug-eyed headlights, single-sided swingarm and beautifully shaped wheels, the Speed Triple wins the three-way beauty contest hands down.

Having one less cylinder than the others also delivers a unique engine experience, with much more hard-to-define-but-I-know-it-when-I-feel-it character. The exhaust note created by the 1,050cc in-line triple has more growl than the Z1000 or FZ1, which have the expected high-pitched whine of in-line fours.

It is easy to draw differences between the seating positions of sportbikes, cruisers and standards. But when comparing bikes within the same category, it can be hard to nail down exactly why one feels more comfortable than another. The Z1000 and Speed Triple have similar seating positions, but the Speed Triple just feels more natural. Rather than a flat seat like on the Kawasaki, the Triumph’s seat has a curved profile with padding at the back. Despite its contoured shape, the seat is firm. With a tender tuchus after sitting on the Z1000′s rock-hard seat the day before, not long into the ride there arose fierce quarreling between my tail section and the Speed Triple’s. Clearly I’m not Iron Butt material.

The Speed Triple is an exciting ride.

With nearly 70 lb-ft of torque everywhere, the Speed Triple is an exciting ride.

Once I reached the familiar twisties on Route 33, more differences between the Z1000 and the Speed Triple began to emerge. Similar peak torque-70.2 lb-ft on the Z1000 and 71.1 lb-ft on the Speed Triple-doesn’t tell the whole story. Whereas the Z1000 builds torque to a peak in the midrange and then falls off, the Speed Triple’s torque curve is nearly flat. The Triumph delivers roughly 70 lb-ft of torque everywhere. Whereas the buzzy Kawasaki induced tingly numbness in my hands and nether regions, the Triumph’s vibration was satisfyingly visceral, as if the bike were alive rather than robotic.

An odd quirk of the Speed Triple was about a half-dozen missed shifts during the ride. The problem didn’t arise on the Z1000 or FZ1, so I doubt it was my technique. Like the Z1000′s touchy front brakes, an issue like this sticks in one’s mind, disrupting the Zen-like flow of harmonious operation.

The Speed Triple’s suspension components, made by Showa, are of a higher-spec than the Z1000′s. The 43mm male-slider fork has dual-rate springs and is adjustable for preload, rebound and compression, and the rear suspension also has full adjustability. With less trail (3.3 inches vs. 4.0 inches), steeper rake (23.5 degrees vs. 24.5 degrees), shorter wheelbase (56.2 inches vs. 56.9 inches) and a narrower rear tire (180mm vs. 190mm), the Speed Triple has quicker turn-in and more intuitive handling. But this doesn’t come at the cost of twitchiness. I felt more comfortable and confident holding my line in fast curves on the Triumph.

Lots of digital functions, but in need of a fuel gauge.

Speedo nested within tach is user-friendly. Lots of digital functions, but in sore need of a fuel gauge.

Part of that confidence has to do with superior front brakes. The Speed Triple’s twin, four-pot Brembo radial calipers pinch 320mm discs, and a radial master cylinder provides excellent feel and stopping power. Scrubbing off speed late in turns was an easy, one-finger affair.

Time for another visit to Chicken of Oz. Like a scene from Groundhog Day, the Taft Chamber of Commerce sign was still pegged at “98¬∞ F,” and in the restaurant I was again the only patron. I had the same waitress (Tesa) and I ordered another salad and iced tea. And after lunch, my monkey-fied butt still wanted no part of that seat.

But soldier on I did, and I had a blast riding the Speed Triple on Route 58. Like clockwork, I stopped in Pismo Beach for gas and then headed inland again. On the long home stretch, I again rode conservatively to save fuel. The low-fuel light came on at 145 miles. Back at the beginning, the tripmeter totaled 394 miles and 11.1 gallons of fuel had been consumed, for an average of 35.5 mpg.

 

 


2008 Yamaha FZ1


 

Test #3, Friday: Yamaha FZ1
When I woke up, after two consecutive days in firm saddles, my butt tried to call in sick. I brokered a compromise vis-à-vis gel-padded shorts, but the final evaluation ride became a test of the bike and my pain tolerance.

All three of these sport standards have their roots in sportbikes. The Z1000 is derived from the ZX-9R, the Speed Triple from the Daytona and the FZ1 from the R1. But only the Yamaha looks like a sportbike, minus some of the plastic. The FZ1′s cat-eye headlights show a strong family resemblance to the R1, and the half fairing and windscreen provide the most wind protection here. Compared with the love-it-or-hate-it styling of the other two, the FZ1 elicits a ho-hum shrug.

With higher pegs than the other two, the FZ1′s seating position feels cramped while also perching the rider on top of the bike. In part due to the size of the fairing and having the longest wheelbase at 57.5 inches, it also feels bigger, longer and heavier than the Z1000 and Speed Triple, even if at 491 pounds wet it is actually lighter than the Z1000. In the twisties, however, the FZ1′s seating position makes more sense. Those high pegs offer the best cornering clearance of the bunch.

The FZ1 is best suited to high revs and fast sweepers.

The longest bike here, the FZ1 is best suited to high revs and fast sweepers.

After my morning ritual at the gas station, I headed up Route 33 into the mountains. With its 998cc, 20-valve engine sourced from a previous-generation R1 sportbike, the FZ1 is the powerhouse in this trio. Even though it has been retuned for more midrange, the FZ1′s motor is comatose below 4,000 rpm and remains groggy until 8,000 rpm. Check out those dyno charts: between 6,000 and 8,000 rpm, the FZ1 has as much as 16 fewer horses and 11 lb-ft less torque than the Z1000 or Speed Triple. The gap isn’t closed until after 9,500 rpm. Unless you keep the revs up, the FZ1 feels heavy and sluggish. But once you pin it and the tach needle finds its way into five digits, it pulls hard and gets from point A to point B forthwith.

Like the Z1000, the FZ1 has midlevel suspension that is very competent but not great. Rebound can be adjusted front and back, but compression only in the rear. In addition to the engine, the FZ1′s brakes are also taken from the R1. The monoblock, dual, four-piston front calipers squeeze 320mm discs. Easy to modulate with excellent “Whoa, Nelly!” power, the FZ1 and Speed Triple share the gold star in the braking department.

Sure, it screams like a missile when revved up and stops on a dime, but the FZ1 is the least responsive bike here. With the longest wheelbase and trail (4.3 inches) and the highest steering angle (25 degrees), the Yamaha takes the most convincing to hustle through tight, technical curves. Very stable once a line is set, but more work to get it there. Motorcycles have a way of compelling us to ride them in a particular way.

FZ1 Gauges

Whereas I felt playful as a puppy when riding the Speed Triple in the twisties, I had the most fun on the FZ1 when I had it WFO in a straight line.

Pulling into Taft for lunch at Chicken of Oz, it was only 95 degrees. And Tesa had the day off. Oh well, can’t control everything. After lunch, I went through the usual test procedures, caning the FZ1 on deserted Route 58 and savoring the cooler air as I neared the coast. On my way to Pismo Beach to gas up, the low-fuel light came on at 104 miles. Uh oh. Would I make it all the way home on the final, 150-mile stretch?

Luckily, I did. The low-fuel light came on for the last time at 135 miles. At the end of my third day of testing, the FZ1′s tripmeter totaled 404 miles. The bike consumed 12.3 gallons of fuel and averaged 32.8 mpg, making it the thirstiest.

Three days, three bikes, 1,200 miles, 24 hours of testing and a keister that threatened to press charges for abuse. All in the name of science.

Final Analysis
All three of these bikes are very good. No really, that’s not just a platitude. Each one has been on the market for years and has been refined and improved upon over time. With that as a foundation, which one stands out from the crowd?

Triumph Speed Triple. Of the three bikes in this comparison, it has the best combination of comfort, character, styling, power, handling, braking and fuel efficiency. Yes, the Yamaha FZ1 makes more peak horsepower, but it is only accessible if you keep the engine screaming above 10,000 rpm. And the FZ1 does offer more wind protection, but I can live without a windscreen. When these three bikes are lined up and a choice has to be made-which one I most want to ride and own-the Speed Triple is the one. In rank order, the FZ1 would be second and the Z1000 third.

Dyno-Horsepower

Dyno-Horsepower

Lest you think I’m a rogue, megalomaniacal scientist who feels only my own opinion matters, I solicited input from contributor Bill Stermer and fellow MSC member Vasco Nunes, both of whom joined me on the photo shoot. After riding all three bikes on part of the test loop, Bill voted for the Speed Triple and Vasco voted for the Z1000. Stermer praised the Triumph for its abundant torque, comfortable riding position (no love for the seat, though) and ease of handling. Nunes liked the Z1000′s engine, brakes, stability and handling, but hated the seat.

Dyno-Torque

Dyno-Torque

Finally, it is worth noting that each of these bikes could be made better mile-burners with accessories. Triumph offers a flyscreen, gel seat, tankbag and tailbag that would go a long way to making the Speed Triple a more comfortable sport-touring platform. For the FZ1, Yamaha offers a comfort seat, an ergonomic seat with a backrest option, tankbag and semi-firm saddlebags.

Unfortunately, Kawasaki offers no touring accessories for the Z1000. Since all of these bikes have been on the market for several years, the aftermarket may provide what the factory doesn’t.

2008 Kawasaki Z1000 Review Specifications Chart
Base Price: $8,899
Warranty: 12 mos., unltd. miles
Website: www.triumph.co.uk/usa

ENGINE
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse in-line triple
Displacement: 1,050cc
Bore x Stroke: 79.0mm x 71.4mm
Compression Ratio: 12:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Adj. Interval: 12,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: EFI w/ 46mm throttle bodies x 3
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 3.7-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: X-ring chain

ELECTRICAL
Ignition: Digital-inductiveCharging Output: 444 watts @ 5,000 rpm
Battery: 12V 10AH

CHASSIS
Frame: Aluminum twin spar w/ single-sided aluminum swingarm w/ eccentric chain adjuster
Wheelbase: 56.2 in.
Rake/Trail: 23.5 degrees/3.3 in.
Seat Height: 32.1 in.
Suspension, Front: 43mm male-slider fork w/ dual-rate springs, fully adj. w/ 4.7-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, fully adj. w/ 5.6-in. travel
Brakes, Front: 320mm dual discs w/ radial-mounted opposed 4-piston calipers
Rear: Single 220mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast, 5.50 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Rear: 180/55-ZR17
Wet Weight: 489 lbs.
Load Capacity: 395 lbs.
GVWR: 884 lbs.

PERFORMANCE
Fuel Capacity: 4.0 gals., last 1.06 gal. warning light on
mpg: 89 octane min. (high/avg/low) 38.6/35.5/31.7
Estimated Range: 144 miles
Indicated rpm at 60 mph: 3,500

2008 Yamaha FZ1 Review Specifications Chart
Base Price: $9,299
Warranty: 12 mos., unltd miles
Website: www.yamaha-motor.com

ENGINE
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse in-line 4
Displacement: 998cc
Bore x Stroke: 77.0mm x 53.6mm
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 5 valves per cyl.
Valve Adj. Interval: 26,600 miles
Fuel Delivery: EFI w/ 45mm throttle bodies x 4
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 3.3-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain

ELECTRICAL
Ignition: Digital TCI
Charging Output: 560 watts @ 6,500 rpm
Battery: 12V 11AH

CHASSIS
Frame: Cast aluminum diamond, engine as stressed member w/ cast aluminum swingarm
Wheelbase: 57.5 in.
Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 32.1 in.
Suspension, Front: 43mm maleslider fork, fully adj. w/ 5.1-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, adj. for preload and rebound w/ 5.1-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 320mm discs w/ opposed 4-piston calipers
Rear: Single 245mm disc w/ 1-piston caliper
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast, 5.50 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Rear: 190/50-ZR17
Wet Weight: 491 lbs.
Load Capacity: 413 lbs.
GVWR: 904 lbs.

PERFORMANCE
Fuel Capacity: 4.75 gals., last 0.9 gal. warning light on
mpg: 89 octane min. (high/avg/low)
38.5/32.8/24.1
Estimated Range: 143 miles
Indicated rpm at 60 mph: 3,900

2008 Triumph Speed Triple
Base Price: $10,299
Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles
Website: www.triumph.co.uk/usa

ENGINE
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse in-line triple
Displacement: 1,050cc
Bore x Stroke: 79.0mm x 71.4mm
Compression Ratio: 12:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Adj. Interval: 12,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: EFI w/ 46mm throttle bodies x 3
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 3.7-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: X-ring chain

ELECTRICAL
Ignition: Digital-inductive
Charging Output: 444 watts @ 5,000 rpm
Battery: 12V 10AH

CHASSIS

Frame: Aluminum twin spar w/ single-sided aluminum swingarm w/ eccentric chain adjuster
Wheelbase: 56.2 in.
Rake/Trail: 23.5 degrees/3.3 in.
Seat Height: 32.1 in.
Suspension, Front: 43mm male-slider fork w/ dual-rate springs, fully adj. w/ 4.7-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, fully adj. w/ 5.6-in. travel
Brakes, Front: 320mm dual discs w/ radial-mounted opposed 4-piston calipers
Rear: Single 220mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast, 5.50 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Rear: 180/55-ZR17
Wet Weight: 489 lbs.
Load Capacity: 395 lbs.
GVWR: 884 lbs.

PERFORMANCE
Fuel Capacity: 4.0 gals., last 1.06 gal. warning light on
mpg: 89 octane min. (high/avg/low) 38.6/35.5/31.7
Estimated Range: 144 miles
Indicated rpm at 60 mph: 3,500

(This article Sport Science: Rider Comparo was published in the December 2008 issue of Rider magazine.)

Comments

4 Responses to “2008 Kawasaki Z1000, Triumph Speed Triple and Yamaha FZ1 Road Test Comparison”

  1. Frank Manuel on November 13th, 2012 4:27 pm

    very informative. I am actually looking at these three bikes for my next bike. Would be interesting to recompare the 2013 models.

    [Reply]

  2. Ed on January 24th, 2013 8:39 pm

    There’s something wrong with the end of your article — the FZ1 specifications turn into a link, and it gets all messed up.

    [Reply]

    Rider Magazine Reply:

    Ed, thank you for noticing this and letting us know. We have fixed the problem and have updated the article. Please give it another look. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  3. CB1000R VS FZ1, whats difference, and price is different by $1500-$2000 ? on March 8th, 2013 4:17 pm

    [...] Z1000, the prev version of the Speed Triple, and the FZ1 (which hasn't changed much since then). 2008 Kawasaki Z1000, Triumph Speed Triple and Yamaha FZ1 Reviews Motorcycle Comparison | Rider Magaz… summary: big, fast, comfy, but slower steering (less nimble) and getting a bit old-tech plus needs [...]

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