When planning the motorcycle section of my site, I had at first thought that a page devoted to the original Z-1 of 1973 would be essential.
However, the original Kaw Z-1 can legitimately be seen as simply a further step down the road that Honda had opened with the '69 CB-750. Then, it occurred to me that perhaps a more significant example of the Z-1 line might be this bike, which is, arguably, the the high point of the Z-1's evolution.
The Z-1R's claim to fame, in my view, is that it single-handedly created the modern American sport-bike market; bikes that are, essentially, street-legal road racers. Oh, sure, "cafe racers" had long had a cult following in the U.S., but the market was vanishingly small. And while there had been previous attempts to grow the market, most notably by the Italians, this is the bike that finally cracked it wide open.
Not that the Z-1R could be considered a "street-legal road racer" by today's standards. No, it was nowhere near as serious a road machine as, say, a CBR-900RR, or Kawasaki's own ZX-7R. But it had the looks! The long, flat tank and seat, the bikini fairing, and the low bars all scream "bring on the twisty roads!" It is, IMHO, a simply beautiful motorcycle! And having had a friend who owned one of these bikes, I can personally attest to the fact that they had very good performance.
Ironically, just as Honda was making their bikes incrementally wilder and wilder, this big Kaw proved to have all the civility that the H-1 and H-2 lacked. It was fast, sure, but it could be ridden by a gentleman, with no apologies necessary. But to prove that they were entirely unrepentant, there was the the semi-factory turbocharged version of the Z-1R! Long live outrageously fast motorcycles!
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