ROAD TEST: KAWASAKI NINJA 1000
Manufacturers are fond of saying their latest new model appeals to riders who have grown tired of sports bikes.
The NINJA 1000 is a bit like a step back from today’s sports bikes to when they were still incredibly fast but easier to live with, with more concessions to comfort and common sense.
For 2014, it’s been given traction control and two power settings, as well as new suspension and brakes.
It would be easy for the fancy new electronics to take all the limelight but I think, for a bike like this, the new panniers are just as important. A wide and ugly pannier system was an issue with the old bike. They stuck out on ghastly tubular steel frames and put the NINJA 1000 in danger of being weird: too soft to be a sports bike, too ugly as a panniered-up tourer. By refining them, Kawasaki has made the whole sports tourer proposition more plausible.
The new panniers are four inches narrower than the old ones when mounted. They attach directly to points on the grab rails and footrest hangers, and sit much closer to the tail unit. Unlike the old ones, they share a key with the ignition.
Removing them is easy and intuitive and leaves behind no ugly frame. Each one easily accommodated my Airoh full-face.
The panniers, which are expected to cost around RM5000 additional on the latest version. I would get the model with pannier and take it out if I’m not using it, “because when you take them off it’s not ugly”. The panniers are annoying to get through rush hour but weekend ride or on assignments of events are simply great with panniers , though. After a few moments’ riding you forget they’re there. This is where the ‘sports’ part of the proposition makes itself known.
The NINJA 1000 has light and responsive steering. It doesn’t feel like a tourer.
The previous version was criticised as having too-soft rear suspension. For 2014 it has a new rear shock and linkage, with a stiffer spring and a remote preload adjuster. It never left me in any doubt about what the rear wheel was up to.
It’s also got new monobloc brake calipers, with ABS. I could even use one-finger braking. I wouldn’t argue with the brakes. It’s been relabeled Tokico to Kawasaki.
There’s an induction roar beginning from 6,000rpm that makes you think you’re on a superbike.
Mid-range and peak power have been increased slightly with engine tweaks according to Kawasaki. The 2013 model made a claimed 136bhp and 81.1lbft of torque while the new figures are a nice round 140bhp and 81.8lbft.
I got 6.9 litres per 100 kms on the test ride, I covered 1055km through rural roads and villages. Occasionally heavy traffic and two times to Klang for meeting. Even test the Rain Mode (L & T3 Mode) in Malaysia unpredictable flash flood weathers multiple times. The Ninja 1000 passed the rain test with flying colours. But the tyre pressure need to be check routinely and maintain for front 30~32psi and rear 40psi. If not, you would feel that the front you need to use more energy to steer in corners.
There’s of masses of drive from low RPM. Then at 6,000 the 1043cc in-line four begins to really pile it on, while that induction roar pushes the point home.
There are three traction control settings. ‘One’ intervenes the least, and allows power wheelies. ‘Two’ does as well, but brings them down sooner. ‘Three’ is for wet conditions. If you want, you can also switch the traction control off altogether. That’s the mode I usually “F” and “off” KTRC
The system is imaginatively named KTRC, for Kawasaki Traction Control. The ZX-6R 636 also has KTRC, but it’s been redeveloped specifically for the NINJA 1000.
It’s not as sophisticated as some traction control systems. You can feel it cutting the power much more than, say, on Aprilia’s Tuono APRC, which intervenes with more precision and subtlety.
It works though, letting the rear step out in corners under power and bringing it back before things get out of hand. At one point, exiting a bend, I felt the rear step out and come back, and was praising my own throttle control when I remembered the clever electronics.
Accelerating in first gear, the front pops up, the ‘KTRC’ light flickers on the dash, and it comes back down.
It’s only in the third setting that the intervention becomes a bit annoying under hard acceleration, and I suppose hard acceleration is not what that setting is for.
The two power modes are ‘L’ for low and ‘F’ for full. L cuts it by 30%, still leaving 98bhp. I found myself thinking I could achieve something similar by opening the throttle less. I suppose it would make sense for relaxed, two-up touring, though.
And relaxed two-up touring the NINJA 1000 could do. It’s more comfortable than it might look. The seat is well-padded – only after several hours’ riding was I getting a little numb. The riding position is upright. I thought the bars could be a little less straight and more dropped without compromising comfort.
The pillion seat feels as plush as the rider’s (It’s 10mm thicker than before), and there’s an optional top box with a back rest. I noticed that top box could be detached by undoing four easily-accessed allen bolts. Kawasaki say they can be replaced with security bolts as a theft precaution.
The screen has three manually adjustable height settings. Switching between them is a simple, two-hand job, using a button below the clocks. At the highest, it wasn’t to my liking so I always keep it to the lowest hence the superbike feel.
The NINJA 1000 feels how a genuine sports tourer should: like two bikes in one. If you want a machine that can take luggage and a pillion away for a weekend, but which can still make you think you’re on a sports bike when you feel like it, this could be it with price of RM82,900. You can also opt for full pannier version of the Ninja 1000 at RM87,900.(excluding road tax and insurance) at all authorised Kawasaki CBU dealers nationwide.
Suit: Alpinestar Motegi Suit @ Alpinestar Kuala Lumpur
Gloves: Alpinestar Boots: Alpinestar Helmet: Shoei Z7