Sneak Preview: 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000

Story by Uwe Wachtendorf// Photos by Uwe Wachtendorf
November 11 2010
2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Pictures

It’s not difficult to imagine what life must be like for motorcyclists living in Northern California. The region boasts some of the most spectacular roads and scenery imaginable, and must make the constant temptation to drop everything for an afternoon ride an incredible burden to live with. Most Canadian riders, with the exception of a lucky few in Western Canada, are spared this troublesome lure and can remain content in the knowledge that their road network designed with rulers and right-angles poses little threat to their productivity.

To give us a taste of the other side and prove the capabilities of their new 2011 Ninja 1000, Kawasaki invited Motorcycle Mojo for a test ride through Marin County, minutes north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Although the test route would take us through seaside fishing towns, lush cedar forests and a rolling countryside, this wasn’t a sightseeing expedition. The combination of coastal and inland roads that ranged from tight, technical turns to fast flowing sweepers demanded respect and a rider’s full attention – but, they also provided an ideal cross-section of riding conditions to test the handling, power and comfort of the new Kawasaki.

Within the first few minutes aboard the Ninja 1000 it became immediately apparent that this was a real-world sport bike. Its relaxed, almost fully upright riding position and broad comfortable seat is a perfect compromise for an aging rider demographic suffering from aching joints and fragile backs. The Ninja 1000 is a realistic go-fast option that allows riders to enjoy thrilling performance without exacting a pound of flesh through cramped ergonomics.

Power output from the Ninja’s 1,034 cc inline-four was smooth and linear. With plenty of available low-end torque, the engine lulled me into complacency and I rarely found a need to use the gearbox. That was until the speed of the ride quickened and the revs were allowed to build. In the upper-half of the rev range the engine’s persona changes; no longer sedate, a high frequency vibration could be felt through the seat and a notable intake howl filled the ears, not so subtle cues that the engine had entered a manic state and was propelling me forward at a breathtaking rate.

Relatively light for a fully fuelled litre bike at 228 kg (503 lb), the Ninja felt light on its feet and responded to steering inputs without hesitation. Quick transitions through opposite back-to-back turns did require a little effort, but nothing that discouraged me from sustaining a quick pace. Its fully adjustable suspension did a good job of keeping the rubber firmly planted, something that was appreciated during sections of road that only provided marginal traction.

The Ninja uses a pair of radially-mounted, four-piston brake calipers on the front wheel, which are actuated by a radial pump master cylinder. The set-up provided powerful braking with excellent feel and worked well in conjunction with the rear brake for trail braking into the numerous blind turns on our route.

Optional hard panniers transform the Ninja into a sport-tourer

Designed simultaneously with the Z1000, production of the Ninja 1000 was delayed by one model year because of limitations in engineering and test scheduling. Both bikes use identical frames, engines and suspension components; their greatest difference is immediately apparent in the Ninja 1000’s full fairing that features a three-position windshield. The fairing provided good wind protection and the adjustable windshield was useful. Underneath the Ninja’s striking exterior is a modified aluminum subframe that allows for a small under seat storage area, but was primarily designed to handle the additional weight of panniers and a passenger.

The Ninja 1000 retails for $13,699 and is available in two eye-catching colour combinations: Candy Fire Red/Ebony and Candy Lime Green/Ebony. Look for our full review of the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 in an upcoming issue of Motorcycle Mojo Magazine. – Uwe Wachtendorf

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