The word hybrid definitely came to mind.
Since my first sighting (and riding, many months later), I’ve heard it called everything from a “performance cruiser” to a “street fighter,” and although I’ve softened on my initial opinion of it as a hybrid, it remains one of the coolest cruisers that I’ve ever seen.
Just sitting by the curb, it draws your look with its drag bike appearance and chromed EVERYTHING. From the inverted 43mm sport bike style forks, to the dual staggered shotgun exhaust pipes, to the headlight and instrument covers, mirrors, handlebars and master cylinder. And just in case someone does pass by without looking, all you have to do is start up the 1470cc engine to grab their attention with the impressive throaty exhaust note that rumbles out of the pipes. No sewing machine sound here.
The handlebars were positioned a bit wide for my taste, but are apparently narrow by cruiser standards, and the chunky grips fit my hands nicely, but may be a bit thick for those that wear small glove sizes. Although, the forward set footpeg position took some getting used to, I eventually became accustomed to it.
Unfortunately, when the seating position, handlebar position and footpeg position were added together, it put an uncomfortable amount of pressure directly on my ...er...uh...dare I say poop chute? I had never experienced such a perfectly unfortunate combination before, and was somewhat surprised by the pressure point. By the end of my time with the Mean Streak the shock of this first impression had faded, but talk about an eye opener!
There was always ample power left at reasonable highway speeds and not much reason to constantly gear down to pass. The fuel injection and shaft final drive were smooth and unnoticeable, even at low speeds, and the hydraulic clutch and conventional gearshift lever operated smoothly and easily.
The ZX-9R sourced front brakes worked very well for the weight and power of the Mean Streak and provided me with a sense of comfort that technology is finally catching up to the cruiser. Add them to the noteworthy 272mm rear disc and stopping was effective every time. Given the long wheelbase and style of the Mean Streak, it doesn’t experience a sportbike’s weight transfer to the front, or have the same need to scrub off speed, so maybe doesn’t take full advantage of the ZX-9R brakes, but it’s still reassuring to know they’re there.
POINTS OF NOTE
Two-up riding is also a bit of a challenge. It’s a challenge to get your passenger back on the seat after you stop to give them a rest! I found the rider’s portion of the seat to be plush and generous, so much so that I sought out bumps to ride over just so that I could experience the softness of the seat and the pogoing effect of the twin rear shocks. My passenger, however, did not share this amusement. Their seat portion is much smaller, less padded, and could arguably be called a pile driver over the bumps—you will hear their protests quite audibly.
Although the 1500cc motor puts out a reported 75.1 foot pounds of torque and produces a max reported 64.1 horsepower at 5500 rpm, I still found myself hoping for more from the retuned old Vulcan engine. It will pull you along quite respectably, and given the lack of wind protection may be all you really want; but in the performance cruiser category, its power output statistics make it one of the lightweights.
You also get a well-positioned ignition switch at the top of the gas tank (the key can be removed once started, and the bike can be shut down without it, but not restarted), a clean-faced speedometer and tachometer (that’s right, a tach on a cruiser), and an easily viewable signal, neutral and high beam lights.
The styling on this bike is also complemented with strong, clean sweptback lines, and nice additions like the emblem and pin striping on the tank, in your colour choice of gold, black or red.
If only it could be offered in Kawasaki lime green. Now THAT would be a Mean Streak!
Second View - Andrew Boss
My tester came equipped with a Dyna-flow kit that helped matters a bit with, among other things, freer breathing pipes that were louder than most stockers, but thankfully quieter than shotguns. In addition, it feels substantial. Is that a polite way of saying heavy? Yes it is, but it's not a criticism.
Of the four power cruisers CMG has tested in the last year, this bike is by far the most "old timey." No high tech German engine, no fancy-pants styling or giant pipes. Kawasaki built a traditional cruiser with some extra clout in the engine to keep things interesting.
The gearbox is probably the bike's best feature, and it is far smoother than the competition. The bike can be shifted hard under load, sloppily while farting around town or anything in between without a clunk or misstep. Shifting shouldn't require thought and this box is thoughtless.
The fit and finish is the best I've seen on a Kawasaki cruiser. Great paint and chrome quality. Nice details like adjustable clutch and brake levers too. On the down side, seeing rust on hardware that has had a tool applied to it still bothers me. Also, the gas cap lock was fromage.
Finally, the additional markings on the side covers looked like they came off a 1981 LTD440. Leave it clean and let the tank speak for itself. Maybe this is petty, but the competition is fierce and the little things are important, however, the bike is attractive. My favourite part being the rear wheel, drive shaft hub and fender view.
Overall, it's a decent package that does everything well and shifts better than all other comers. It may not be sexy to have the best shifting bike on your block but decent power, handling and stopping is never bad for the libido, especially on a cruiser.
Wanna read the 2001 intro piece on the Mean Streak by Editor 'arris? Of course you do, not to would be simply foolish .. and quite rude. Okay ingrates, here's the link.