2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Test Rides

Well, this isn’t something you see every day. Motorcycle USA, Motorcycle.Com and Motorcycle Daily all have the same featured top story.  Each of them have test ride reports for the new Kawasaki Ninja 1000. And they all seem to like it.

2011 Hawasaki Ninja 1000
2011 Hawasaki Ninja 1000

I’m curious to see how this bike will do in the US. The Z1000 on which the Ninja is based probably won’t sell well, because Americans really don’t like naked standards.

But the fully-faired Ninja is different. The power and performance of the Ninja 1000 slots it between the ZX-6 and the ZX10.  So it has at least supersport performance.  What is doesn’t have are the tortuous ergonomics.  Kawasaki seems to have made it comfortable enough for touring, withut neutering the performance.

In recent years, sport bike ergnomics have gotten increasingly tortuous.  The handlebars are low, requiring the rider to lay across the tank.  The footpegs are high, to allow for extreme lean angles, but that means the riders knees are pulled up to massage the ribs.  Nice for a track day or 20-lap sprint, but not so nice for a daily commute.  and touring, of course, is right out.

What Kawasaki has done is created a motorcycle with the full-on performance of a sportbike, but a more upright, comfortable perch.  Street performance can never really match track performance, so the race-inspired ergos aren’t really necessary. In most categories in which the Ninja 1000 competes against the ZX-10 in terms of street performance, the Ninja seems to be the equal, if not the superior bike, though the ZX-10 would undoubtedly stomp it on the track.

Kawasaki also has touring in mind for the Ninja 1000, offering full sets of color-matched hard luggage. It’s hard to imagine doing any serious touring on any of the ZX line.  At least, not with an on-call masseuse and unlimited supplies of Tylenol.

It seems to have more than reasonable performance for the street–indeed, more performance than most riders can even use. At the time time, it’ll have comfort and touring capability that no pure race-bred sport bike can possibly offer. So, the question is, will American motorcyclists buy it? Or will they stick with the high-revving, pain inducing ZX line?

2011 Kawasaki Models

Kawasaki’s 2011 line-up became a little clearer today, with the release of some new models at the INTERMOT show in Köln (Cologne), Germany.

2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R

2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R
2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R

First up is the new ZX-10R, which Kawasaki claims is a new bike from the ground up.  Topping the list of features on this bike is the introduction of Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC), Kawasaki’s answer to the BMW S1000RR’s DTC, which has been ported over from the Concours14. In addition, Kawasaki adds an ABS option for the ZX-10R.  We don’t know much about the power output, but we do know that the the compression ratio has been raised to 13:1, the airbox capacity has been increased,injectors enlarged to 43mm, etc., so, while it may not do it in stock trim, a little tinkering with the exhaust and ECU mapping could result in around 200HP at the crank. Kawi has also put it on a serious diet, with a wet weight of 436.6 pounds, which is 22 pounds less than the 2010 model.

Engine: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four
Displacement: 998cc
Bore x stroke: 76.0 x 55.0mm
Compression ratio: 13.0:1
Fuel system: DFI with four 47mm Keihin throttle bodies with oval sub-throttles, two injectors per cylinder
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance and Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC)
Transmission: Six-speed
Final drive: Chain
Rake / trail: 25.0 degrees / 4.33 in.
Front tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear tire: 190/55 ZR17
Wheelbase: 56.1 in.
Front suspension: 43mm inverted Big Piston Fork (BPF) with DLC coating, adjustable rebound and compression damping, spring preload adjustability / 4.7 in.
Rear suspension: Horizontal Back-link with gas-charged shock and top-out spring, stepless, dual-range (low-/high-speed) compression damping, stepless rebound damping, fully adjustable spring preload / 4.9 in.
Front brakes: Dual semi-floating 310mm petal discs with dual four-piston radial-mount calipers
Rear brakes: Single 220mm petal disc with aluminum single-piston caliper
Overall length: 81.7 in.
Overall width: 28.2 in.
Overall height: 43.9 in.
Seat height: 32.0 in.
Curb weight: 436.6 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gal.
Color choices: Lime Green / Ebony, Ebony / Flat Ebony
MSRP: $13,799 / ABS $14,799
Warranty: 12 Months

2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000

2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000
2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000

For the less pure-sport-minded, and more sport-touring inclined, Kawasaki has essentially slapped a fairing on the new Z1000, and kitted it out for taking the long road, with optional hard bags and trunk, as well as heated grips. The result is the new Ninja 1000, which presumably has the same 122 horsepower and 72 lb-ft torque at the rear wheel as the Z1000. The relatively tall windscreen is also manually adjustable at three different positions for even better wind protection.  No MSRP has been announced, but this seems like quite a nice potential sport-tourer for those on a budget.

Engine: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16 valve Inline Four
Displacement: 1043cc
Bore x stroke: 77 x 56mm
Compression ratio: 11.8:1
Fuel system: DFI with four 38mm Keihin throttle bodies, oval sub-throttles
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance
Transmission: X-ring chain
Final drive: Chain
Rake / trail: 24.5 degrees / 4 in.
Front tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear tire: 190/50 ZR17
Wheelbase: 56.9 inches
Front suspension: 41mm inverted fork, adjustable for compression, rebound and preload, 4.7 inches travel
Rear suspension: Horizontal monoshock, adjustable for rebound and preload, 5.4 inches travel
Front brakes: Dual 300mm petal-type rotors with radial-mount four-piston calipers
Rear brakes: Single 250mm petal-type rotor with single-piston caliper
Seat height: 32.3 inches
Curb weight: 502.7 pounds
Fuel capacity: 5 gallons
Color choices: Ebony, Candy Fire Red / Ebony
MSRP: $TBD
Warranty: 12 Months

2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero

2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero
2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero

The popularity of the Harley-Davidson Street Glide has led Victory, and now Kawasaki, to come up with a close analog.  In Kawasaki’s case, it’s the new Vaquero, although the fixed, frame-mounted fairing makes it a closer analog to the Road Glide.  In any case, the new Vaquero sports lots of blacked-out metal, following–once again–Harley-Davidson in catering to the “Dark Custom” craze so popular in today’s cruiser community. Kawasaki’s updated 1700cc (104ci) SOHC V-Twin is said to put out 108 ft-lbs of torque, a number signifigantly superior to the H-D twin, and on a par with the torque produced by the new 109ci Victory powerplant. In addition to large, easy-to-read gauges (which Kawasaki says are inspired by American muscle cars) on the dash of the fairing, there’s also a multi-function LCD display for mileage, clock, temp, etc., which is manipulated by a handlebar switch.  Of course, no cross-country cruiser would be complete without an audio system, so Kawasaki has made certain that the Vaquero’s AM/FM/WX system is also compatible with an iPod, an XM tuner, or a CB radio.

Engine: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, four valve per cylinder, 52° V-twin
Displacement: 1700cc / 103.7 cu. in.
Bore x stroke: 102 x 104mm
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Maximum torque: 108 lb-ft @ 2750 rpm
Cooling: Liquid, plus cooling fins
Induction: Digital fuel injection, dual 42mm throttle bodies
Ignition: TCBI with Digital Advance
Transmission: Six-speed with overdrive and positive neutral finder
Final drive: Belt
Frame: Steel, double-cradle with box-section single-tube backbone
Rake / trail: 30 degrees / 7.0 in.
Front suspension / wheel travel: 43mm hydraulic fork / 5.5 in.
Rear suspension / wheel travel: Swingarm with twin air-assisted shocks, with 4-way rebound damping / 3.1 in.
Front tire: 130/90×16
Rear tire: 170/70×16
Front brakes: Dual 300mm discs, dual twin-piston calipers
Rear brakes: 300mm disc, twin-piston caliper
Overall length: 98.8 in.
Overall width: 38.2 in.
Overall height: 50.8 in.
Ground clearance: 5.7 in.
Seat height: 28.7 in.
Wheelbase: 65.6 in.
Curb weight: 835.7 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 5.3 gal.
Colors: Ebony, Candy Fire Red
MSRP standard / two-tone: $TBD
Warranty: 24 Months