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CHP Kawasaki KZ 1000 police model

By Paul Peczon

The policebike is one of those bikes that most people can't buy new. The police, and only the police, ride them until they hit the magic 50,000 mark and then they're auctioned. Before the bikes get issued to the public, however, a lot of the goodies are stripped off. The siren, any flashing or blue lights, and other official police markings get removed. Civilians don't need the nightstick holder, since the nightstick is really an overgrown tonfa, one of the deadliest martial arts weapons. More menacing than a gun in a very primal, physical fashion, those nightsticks.

Anyone can get a police band scanner, but only the boys can talk on them, so the radio, and the antenna get taken off. When all these accessories are taken off, the wires just get cut with snips. And yes, a lot of them develop arcane and baffling electrical problems. Old Universal Japanese bikes, we have all learned, actually last a really long time if they're well taken care of. These bikes get ridden by professionals and maintained on a pretty rigid schedule of oil changes every 3000 miles, and valve adjustments every 6000 miles. So although they have a lot of miles on them, the police 1000 bikes that get auctioned off are otherwise in pretty solid shape.

This is one truck of a motorcycle. This model was designed to be safe, very heavy duty, and comfortable. It was, in fact, designed specifically for fleet sales to police. It weighs 595 pounds dry, and the special18" tires are wide It has to be huge to carry around a stock upright rider in a large pocket of comfort in a carved out of the air by a big honking fairing at sustained brisk speeds. Oh, did I forget to mention that it's more comfortable to ride than a Saab? You sit straight up on a wide, Corbin style textured seat that you know is really comfortable just by looking at it. Of course, there's the stylish wide kickboards to fully rest your legs on, and the wide handlebars in easy reach. The front/back kicker style shifter is connected to a very forgiving set of gears that make clutching very optional, even for downshifts. There are very large crash bars in the front, and similarly chromed steel tubing on the saddlebags, which means that if you low side it, you are very unlikely to crush a leg.

But enough talk about sitting around or crashing. It's fun to ride, because it has a badass KZ 1000 J engine, one of the most drag-raceable motors around. This one is designed for lots of torque and durability. Sure, it only has eight valves and doesn't know how to wind up like a modern bulletbike, but it has a lot of grunt. The engine has loads of torque up to four grand, and after a flat spot that ends around 5500 rpm, it cuts loose and makes a fine, howling rush to 8500rpm. Then, like I said, it doesn't know what to do, so you shift it, and before you know it, you're doing a fine clip that is illegal unless you really are a policeman. It hits fifty in first gear easy. I was informed that the bike doesn't have this flat spot when it's new, but I didn't ride a new one. I rode the kind that you would get if you got one on the open market.

The ride is plush, and very steady. The wide tires make it pretty easy to balance in those last ten feet at a traffic light, which I found myself doing, because it's a tall bike, and with a 31 inch inseam, I couldn't put both feet flat on the ground. I improved my slow speed balancing with this bike, and also learned the joy of really mashing floorboards onto the road on corners. You see, the clearance is minimal, but the things touch down so much, you really get used to it. The contact pad is a piece of stamped steel that couldn't cost but a couple of dollars to replace. After awhile it becomes an excellent way to accurately gauge leans without having to wear leather britches and hockey pucks on your knees. It also makes an excellent grinding noise, which is a very stimulating way to mentally prep for lanesplitting while on the onramp.

Drivers definitely notice this bike, and it's a joy to lanesplit with. People overall give you more space, and a few even do the big swerve to the very left of the fast lane. Maybe one in a thousand do the big swerve to make space for me when I'm on a regular motorcycle, but on this rig, about ten times as many people do it. It really isn't necessary, but I appreciate it, and always try to give the hand salute to thanks people for giving way. On the cop bike, people got out of the way so much I got tired of thanking them, I must confess. I also got a few that squeezed me off intentionally, and I have heard that real motorcycle police get doors opened on them on the highway. What I want to know is does this immense rig tear the door off or what.


If I was the Law





 Driving erratically due to carphone  Confiscation of carphone, car and credit cards.
 Driving slowly due to poor vision:  Subject to immediate roadside eyesight examination with CHP approved eye test. Failure punished by loss of license and thorough tongue lashing.
 Failure to pull vehicles over to shoulder after accident: 25 hours community service sweeping roads.
 Intentionally cutting off lanesplitters:  Severe barebottom whipping with car antenna. 25 whacks on location. Also administered to lanesplitters who won't get out of the way for faster lanesplitters.
 Failure to get more than one car through a left turn at a light:  $1000 fine, to pay for a weekend of assertiveness training.
 Reading while driving:  Driver must eat the offending reading material.
 Slow in left lane:  This one is very, very serious. More barebottom spanking, in plain view of the road. 5 spanks per car blocked with a wooden ruler.
Most people have to get real close to figure out that you're not a cop when you're riding one of these bikes. I've spent half my life looking out for cops, and even when I was a kid I knew that cop bikes have blue lights and reflectors. I'm the guy who can spot that glimmer of reflective P-O-L-I-C-E lettering on a trunk lid from a quarter mile away at night. Most of my buddies are the same way, and I really didn't think that so many people would think I was a cop, but its true. The outline of the white fairing is very distinctive, and I guess a lot of people don't realize that policemen don't wear jeans and full face helmets. For that matter, hardly any policemen have ponytails or wear blade sunglasses, but that's OK with me.

I learned how to drive in a hotrod Mustang that ran like stink and looked like a primer grey and black refugee from the urban dent war. To this day I usually don't care what people think about how my rig looks, as long as I can beat them around the rotary. I know most LA folk have never even seen a rotary and wouldn't know the first thing about charging through one, but you, my fellow bikers, all know exactly what being fast is all about and even if you ride a Harley, you know deep inside that what other people on the road think doesn't mean a thing sometimes.

But like I said, this bike is the truck of motorcycles, easy as pie to ride. It's faster than any car, and quite a few other bikes, I found out. The fun of it, really, is the reaction it gets. A lot of people react badly. At night people on small streets frequently slow down to a crawl, slower than the speed limit. I don't pass illegally, so I just learned to slow down, too, and feel really aggravated. One genius saw me in his mirror and came to a screeching stop to put on his seat belt. Not just in the middle of the road; this guy had to stop in the middle of an intersection. The slow driver problem was much worse late at night, especially after the bars closed. Policemen must really think that a lot of us citizens just plain can't drive, or are maybe Catholic and full of guilt.

Late one night at a stoplight, some dude who was clearly hammered rolled his window down and said, "Dude, that really sucks" as he sadly shook his head. Lots of people asked "How'd you get that?" More than one security guard looked distinctly jealous. Overall, this bike drew more attention than any other bike I've ever ridden, including my college era primer black on black GPZ with the white X on the windscreen. Most real bike cops basically ignored me, but one laughed and said "that one's seen better days."

Want more info about kawi police bikes?
The Police Motorcycle Historical Association
Kawasaki's page - not a ton of info,
but nice graphics and a spec sheet.
A response from Uncle Paul to an email query for KZ1000P buying advice
He was right. This bike wasn't mint, so there was no trip to the dyno, but there were rides up to the Rock Store. On old dude on a ratty Indian Chief laughed "Captured an enemy tank, I see. Other bikers wanted to know how much it cost. I see 'em in The Recycler for $2-4000 and I hear they go for $3-4000 at auctions. The interesting equipment it retains when in decommissioned status are special safety tires and rims that can be run flat at 50 mph and a very high output alternator. Dudes in the know wanted to know why this one still has the Police 1000 decal on the side covers. (I don't know). The only thing that would have been better attention wise would have been a Harley police bike.

And here's the weird thing about riding this rig. I actually started fantasizing a lot more about writing tickets for the traffic crimes I consider most despicable. I wanted to pull people over for rubbernecking at dumb stuff like construction sites. I felt like it would only be right if I busted a few of those idiots who keep their high beams on the crowded freeway at night, while driving way slower than everyone else. I don't normally fantasize about that kind of stuff for more than a couple of seconds, but the bike did something to me.

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mildly updated Dec 09.


Created by Paul Peczon