“2011 Kawasaki’s Ninja 1000: Great for Naked Sport”
My first track-day experience came several years ago at Sears Point International Raceway in Sonoma, CA. Whoops, make that Infineon Raceway. It was a Keith Code school sponsored by Kawasaki and the school bikes were Kawa Ninja 6Rs, which proved to be too small for my lanky frame. As a result, I was granted the use of a Z1000 for the track exercises. As it turned out, the Z1000’s riding position was considerably more comfortable, making it much more manageable, and I was able to make it through the day’s exercises without serious incident and finished unscathed.
I later straddled an all-new and much improved 2010 Kawasaki Z1000, which was then the latest in a long line of “naked” Kawasaki street bikes. Old rules and engineering were tossed out and that iteration Z1000 actually began with a clean sheet of paper, drawing upon more than 35 years of delivering good looking, great performing sport bikes. The bike employed an aluminum frame, replacing its predecessor’s steel frame. The concept was similar to that of the Ninja® ZX™-10R sportbike.
Well, imagine what you would get by combining the attributes of the Z1000 and those of the Ninja models. How about the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 – an open-class, naked sport bike to be sure, but with a more civilized and upright riding position. Actually, there was a Ninja 1000 that first bowed back in 1986. This latest iteration Ninja1000 serves up a tempting blend of both capability and technology, inspired by the very latest racetrack componentry. Let’s call it a super standard bike. It features a new-think engine and chassis package as its core, with a radical, edgy, almost transformer-like bodywork and an impressive inventory of impressive touches. All of this combines to push the Ninja 1000’s flexibility and performance capability to heightened levels.
The Ninja 1000 gets down the road courtesy of a n open-class 1,043cc, DOHC, 16-valve inline four-cylinder motor with DFI® fuel injection and four 38mm Keihin throttle bodies and oval sub throttles. The exhaust is a 4-into-2pre-chamber-into-2 setup with silencer end-caps maintaining quad-style image. The motor generates 138 horses at 9,600 rpm while developing 81 pound feet of torque at 7,800 rpm. Power reaches the rear wheel via an X-ring chain final drive geared through a six-speed manual gearbox. The bike is capable ripping from 0-60 mph in 2.7 seconds, and has a top speed capability of 148 mph. That’s what I’m told, but I didn’t actually put it to the test.
The advanced aluminum frame is formed in a lightweight cage that curves over the engine, cradling it from above and bolting to it solidly in three positions, featuring a rubber-backed fourth mount for added rigidity and vibration isolation. The main frame and swingarm pivot pieces are cast as a single unit adding to the bike’s pleasing aesthetics.
The Ninja 1000 rolls on radial Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport rubber – Hypersport -120/70 ZR17 up front and 190/50 ZR17 in the rear, mounted on 3 widespread “V”-spoke cast alloy wheels. Suspension components consist of 41 mm inverted cartridge forks forward, with stepless compression and rebound damping, adjustable spring preload and 4.7-inches of travel, with a horizontal monoshock setup with stepless rebound damping, adjustable spring preload and 5.4-inches of travel aft.
Bringing the incredibly quick and fast Ninja 1000 to a halt are hydraulic front dual 300mm petal-type rotors with radial-mount four-piston calipers front and a single 250mm petal-type rotor with single-piston caliper in the rear.
My test Kawasaki Ninja 1000 was finished in Gloss black with Red graphics. The base price was set at $10,999. The final total was estimated at $11,249 figuring an average $250 dealer prep and handling fee, which can vary per individual dealer.
SUMMARY: When finished in Black, the Ninja 1000 displays a sinister, yet alluring presence with its racy, full-coverage body panels. On the one hand, it first appears to be bulky, but actually proves to be quite aerodynamic, and, despite its bold, radical stance, it delivers a comfortable ride thanks to its pleasing ergonomics. The bars are set higher, with the pegs set a touch lower than a normal all-out sport bike and the seat height of 32.3-inches makes for a manageable combination, especially considering that the tank is sculpted with knee cutouts for a narrow solo saddle. Foot controls are mid-mounted for ease of operation as well.
The Ninja 1000 hauls the mail with aplomb and authority. The steering feel is positive at virtually all speeds (again, I didn’t try the top 148 mph speed – not even close), the ride quality is firm and tight, but not to the point of discomfort. The mirrors are more functional than many bikes in this category, and the 3-position adjustable flyscreen (can only be adjusted at a standstill) allows for aero improvements based upon rider height.
Gauges and instrumentation with their yellow tinted lens are quite legible, in virtually all lighting conditions, but a gear indicator would prove to be a plus, as would self-cancelling turn indicators.
In a final analysis, The 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 is different sort of beast, almost creating its own category really. It may be optionally equipped for touring, but is suited for commuting or day trips just as it is. Consider it a sport bike with do-it-all capability, that’s a hoot to ride, whether you go all out, cajones to the wall or just cruising – it is wicked fast and fun to ride – not necessarily for the faint of heart or inexperienced rider, but it can be docile as well if need be. It is genuinely a great bike for Naked sport, and no, that doesn’t mean ride in the buff.