Aprilia Tuono & Kawasaki Z1000

Text: Andi Seiler • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

For those who demand a comfortable riding position and still expect performance, Aprilia and Kawasaki offer two exciting sport bikes with high-mounted handlebars. We tested the new Tuono and the Z1000 on California back roads and freeways.

Concept & Transformation
Standards aren't simply standards any more. Using engines and chassis parts from their Supersport sisters, these bikes have evolved into high-tech machines with a minimum of fairing plastics and a comfortable riding position.

The 2003 Tuono from Aprilia is the standard equipped version of the Tuono R. Based on the Supersport model Mille, the bike went through changes that turn it into a great riding machine as well as a good commuter. 'Less stress, more fun' is the catchphrase. Instead of leaning tight over your clip-ons, you sit upright with a good overview of traffic situations. Before, you were pretty much on your own, having to convert a CBR, ZX, GSX-R, FZR, or YZF to this setup as a street fighter.

This target group was also in mind when Kawasaki started developing the brand-new Z1000 from their current ZX-9 R. The bikini windshield, wide aluminum handlebars, and a sport seat give the bike its mean, contentious looks. Other than the model name, the four mufflers are a reminder of the 'good old' days when Kawi inline-fours used to threaten the whole bike world and kicked our neighbors out of their beds early on Sunday mornings.

Engine & Transmission
First, to those who think these bikes might be too sporty or too wild for their own needs, give them a chance. It's surprising how well behaved these mean-looking two-wheelers are. Supersport engines can be strong, even bestial, if you're really in the frame of mind to challenge them. But if you coddle them like the family pets, you'll soon realize how wide their range of function can be. Plus, you'll be sitting on the best technology available now.

The Aprilia presents the more distinctive character. The fuel-injected Rotax V-Twin comes right on the throttle if you ask for it. Keep the rpm over the 3,000, even better over the 4,000 mark, and there's immediate response for acceleration. The transformation from throttle hand to engine is clear. Even in narrow turns, where a lot of fuel-injected bikes are troubling when jumping forward once the cable is pulled, the Tuono performs well and delivers only the amount of power the rider asks for - quite amazing for a big twin with huge capacities per cylinder and big throttle bodies of 51mm.

But, on closer examination, that's understandable. The Rotax engine is a high-tech motor in the best sense. It comes with dual-spark ignition, two countershafts, oil dry sump, a hydraulically controlled anti-hopping clutch, and a mixed gear/chain timing drive. The engine, adapted from the Mille, remained the same for 2003. Only the gearbox was revised with taller first, second, and third as well as closer fifth and sixth. These changes improved the impressive power delivery once again. Because of the short wheelbase (1,415mm) the Tuono will lift up on the rear wheel just by using the throttle. But not to worry, it obeys your command. If you want to go easy, the bike can do that perfectly, too.

Different in action, the inline-four of the Kawi is no less exciting. It pulls strong enough from the bottom of the power range to run on low rpm with downtown traffic. Minimum revolutions to get it going are around 1,500rpm, so you really can manage your start at the traffic light smoothly. There is no flat spot in the power curve. At about 5,000 the engine gets down to serious business, and around 8,000 it's flying on its second wind. The four exhaust cans and the airbox add a good, healthy sound. The Aprilia is definitely second in this category: Its huge canister doesn't look or sound as nice.

However, the Italians offer an aftermarket exhaust, which comes with another EPROM to handle these jobs a lot better. Overall, the Kawasaki four is the more suitable and smoother power plant for all-round purposes. Even beginners will have an easy game of it. Although the engine isn't rubber mounted, the vibrations aren't too noticeable. Kawasaki did use rubbers on the pegs, which keeps the high-frequency vibrations away from the rider's feet.

The Z1000 engine like the Tuono's descended from a Supersport bike, the successful Ninja ZX-9 R. The capacity was pushed from 899 to 953cc. With the more classic frame setup, it received new cylinder heads with horizontal intake tracts. The engineers added a fuel injection and the new four-into-two-into-four exhaust. Owing to all these changes, the bike produces less horsepower (127hp) than the ZX-9 R (143hp) but delivers more midrange punch. So just don't focus on the power output, the Tuono and Z1000 have plenty of that for their purposes.

Chassis & Brakes
With their wide handlebars these 'standard sporties' rule in another handling world. Very little in the way of steering input is needed to get them around a corner. Here, the Aprilia is the bike that feels closer to a Supersport model than the Kawi because it takes a little bit more effort. Some people even like that. The Tuono provides more feel and feedback from the chassis.

The Z1000 felt just like a feather when we turned out of the parking lot at Kawasaki headquarters in Irvine, California. It's a very compact bike and taller riders will definitely have to get adjusted. And I don't expect we'll see Schwarzenegger riding one in 'T3: The Rise of the Machines.' But you are able to make moves in freeway traffic the way you can on a 250. That's how it feels.

The real fun starts at the entrance to a canyon road. Both bikes practically do their leaning-over job themselves, and we simply enjoy it. Telepathic almost, because it seems you only have to eye your ideal line for the bikes to respond as if commanded. The suspension systems work even on rougher surfaces without giving away any sport talents. The Kawi suspension feels a little bit more comfortable but the difference is barely noticeable.

As for deceleration, the Tuono and Z1000 use four-piston pods in front on their double-disc setup, and there is nothing wrong with that. Even at higher speeds or riding long downhill stretches the rotors offer great braking power without losing any of their fine modulation. The rears can be a good support, mostly with two passengers on-board. So, overall, these standards can give Supersport bikes a tough challenge on the curviest roads.

Accessories & Arrangements
Complementing their great back road performance, the Tuono and Z1000 offer a relaxed riding position for longer runs. Albeit, touring riders will have to deal with a sport-oriented footpeg position and less cushioning on the seats, but the gold-anodized aluminum handlebars are more comfortable than a lot of real tourers because the manufacturers didn't overdo it in width, height, or bending them backwards. All of which improves the feel for the bike in turns and relieves your body from a more stressful, stretching workout. Your back is straight so your spine doesn't feel the brunt of bumpy surface impact the way it does humped over so many cruisers.

On the Kawasaki you lean a bit more forward than on the Tuono but both setups work all right. The controls on the Aprilia are almost as good as the Kawasaki - but please, fire the idiot who reversed the horn and flasher buttons (from top to bottom and bottom to top). You just can't readjust initially on the Italian thoroughbred, and many people will flip you the bird when you unintentionally beep at them while initiating your turn. It doesn't make sense to me for certain brands to go their own stubborn way where it really isn't needed. Of course, we know that you can get adjusted to it. But why should you have to?

Otherwise, the Tuono is set up nicely, and even offers an adjustable steering damper against kickback. Both bikes have multifunctional displays in the cockpit for most of the information you need think about. Nowadays, even clocks come on a sporty standard.

Test Summary
Although the two bikes look and feel differently, we couldn't say definitively which is better because, in the end, it really depends on taste and personal riding style. With the Tuono and Z1000, more than in any other comparison test we've conducted, both testers were truly split, tending more toward one than the other. But neither of us could give you a real rationale that trumps emotion. So pick the one that feels right!

TECHNICAL SPECS:
Kawasaki Z1000

Retail Price $ 8,499
Warranty One year, unlimited mileage
Maintenance Schedule 600/4,000/ every 4,000 miles (1,000/6,000/every 6,000km)
Importer/Distributor
Kawasaki Motors Corp., USA
9950 Jeronimo Road
Irvine, CA 92618
phone (949) 770-0400
website www.kawasaki.com

ENGINE
Type 4-cylinder, V, 4-stroke
Cooling water-cooled
Valve Arrangement 4 valves per cyl., dohc, cams chain driven, shim under bucket adjustment
Bore & Stroke 77.2 x 50.9mm
Displacement 953cc
Compression Ratio 11.2:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection, Ø 38mm (throttle bodies)
Exhaust Emission Control no (catalytic converter for Europe)

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox 6-speed
Clutch multi-plate wet clutch, mechanically operated
Final Drive chain drive

CHASSIS
Frame steel tubular frame, diamond
Wheelbase 1,420mm (55.9in.)
Rake 66 degree
Trail 101mm (3.98in.)
Front Suspension upside-down fork
Stanchion Diameter 41mm (1.61in.)
Adjustments spring preloaand andrebound damping
Travel 120mm (4.7in.)
Rear Suspension cast aluminum-alloy swingarm w/single shock
Adjustments spring preload and rebound damping
Travel 138mm (5.4in.)

WHEELS & TIRES
Type cast aluminum-alloy wheels
Front 3.50 x 17
Rear 6.00 x 17
Front Tire 120/70 ZR 17
Rear Tire 190/50 ZR 17

BRAKES
Front Brake 2 discs, 4-piston calipers
Diameter 300mm (11.8in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, floating 1-piston caliper
Diameter 220mm (8.7in.)
Combining no

DIMENSIONS &CAPACITIES
Seat Height 820mm (32.3in.)
Wet-Weight 224kg (498lb.)
Fuel Capacity 18l (4.7gal.)

PERFORMANCE
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (crank)127hp at 10,000rpm
Torque 9.8mkp (96Nm, 72.6ft.-lbs.) at 8,000rpm
Top Speed 245km/h (153mph)
Acceleration 0-100km/h (0-62.5mph): 3.1s
Fuel Consumption 6.25l/100km(38mpg)
Fuel Range 288km (180mls.)

Equipment
Cockpit fairing, dashboard w/bar-type LCD tach, digital gauge for speed, odo-meter, tripmeter, cooling fluid temperature, clock and fuel gauge, ignition switch/lock in front of the upper triple clamp, adjustable brake lever (5 positions), side stand, optional cover for rear seat.

ROADRUNNER Test Diagram
Engine 5/5
Chassis 5/5
Brakes 5/5
Comfort 4/5
Luggage w/accessories 2/5
Equipment 4/5
Design 5/5
Bike for the buck 5/5

Aprilia Tuono

Retail Price $ 11,999
Warranty One year, unlimited mileage
Maintenance Schedule600/10,000/every 10,000 miles (1,000/16,000/every 16,000km, oil change every 2000 miles/3,200 km)
Importer/Distributor
Aprilia USA, Inc.
109 Smoke Hill Lane, Suite 190
Woodstock, GA 30188
phone (770) 592-2261, toll-free (877) APRILIA, fax (770) 592-4878
website: www.apriliausa.com

ENGINE
Type 2-cylinder, V, 4-stroke
Cooling water-cooled
Valve Arrangement 4 valves per cyl., dohc, cam chain and gear driven,shim under bucket adjustment
Bore & Stroke 97 x 67,5mm
Displacement 998cc
Compression Ratio 11.4:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection,Ø 51mm (throttle bodies)
Exhaust Emission Control no (catalyticconverter for Europe)

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox 6-speed
Clutch multi-plate wet clutch, hydraulically operated
Final Drive chain drive

CHASSIS
Frame double-beam frame, aluminum alloy
Wheelbase 1,415mm (55.7in.)
Rake 65 degree
Trail 99mm (3.9in.)
Front Suspension upside-down fork
Stanchion Diameter 43mm (1.69in.)
Adjustments spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Travel 120mm (4.7in.)
Rear Suspension cast aluminum-alloy swingarm w/single shock
Adjustments spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Travel 135mm (5.3in.)

WHEELS & TIRES
Type cast aluminum-alloy wheels
Front 3.50 x 17
Rear 6.00 x 17
Front Tire 120/70 ZR 17
Rear Tire 190/50 ZR 17

BRAKES
Front Brake 2 discs, 4-piston calipers
Diameter 320mm (12.6in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, 2-piston caliper
Diameter 220mm (8.7in.)
Combining no

DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES
Seat Height 820mm (32.3in.)
Wet-Weight 215kg (478lb.)
Fuel Capacity 18l (4.7gal.)

PERFORMANCE
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (crank)125hp at 9,500rpm
Torque 10.3mkp (101Nm, 76.3ft.-lbs.) at 5,000rpm
Top Speed 245km/h (153mph)
Acceleration 0-100km/h (0-62.5mph): 3,1s
Fuel Consumption 6.25l/100km (38mpg)
Fuel Range 288km (180mls.)

EQUIPMENT
Cockpit fairing, dashboard w/speedo-meter (digital), tachometer, digital gauges for clock, coolant temperature, two tripmeters: top speed and average speed for trip, key switch in front of the upper triple clamp, adjustable brake and clutch lever, side stand, steering damper, optional cover for rear seat.

ROADRUNNER Test Diagram
Engine 5/5
Chassis 5/5
Brakes 5/5
Comfort 4/5
Luggage w/accessories 2/5
Equipment 4/5
Design 5/5
Bike for the buck 4/5