Over the past few years, motorcycle technology has grown at an increasing rate, and developments like traction control, wheelie control and power modes now litter most of the production bikes that grace showroom floors. As a result of this and many other outside forces, motorcycles have become so specific to the type of riding they were designed for that it's a challenge to find a bike that is versatile enough to carve the canyons with on Sunday and commute with on Monday - comfortably at least.
Despite the evident void, few manufacturers have looked to build a bike that can successfully field that grey area between sport bikes and touring bikes. Kawasaki's Z1000 is a great motorcycle that has a ton of potential (and is very popular on the other side of the pond), but its naked design never really caught the attention of Americans. Enter the Ninja 1000 - the fully faired Z1000 sibling. While the first ride on the Ninja 1000 was insightful ("The Gentleman's Ninja", March '11), at the end of the day we were still left with two lingering questions; what category does this bike fit in and can it in fact adequately fill the role of multiple bikes in your garage? A full test was surely the only way to determine whether or not this do-all bike was as capable and versatile in the real-world as it seemed during the first ride.
Comfort, Style and Performance? What?
As El Jefe himself confirmed in his First Ride coverage of the all-new Ninja 1000, the transformation from naked Z1000 to faired Ninja 1000 wasn't much of a transformation at all. In fact, let's be honest: the Ninja 1000 is more of a Z1000 with bodywork than anything. But while the bike retains the 1043cc powerplant of its naked relative, it takes on - among other things - a full fairing, slightly revised ergos and a larger fuel tank. And while the numerous changes may seem small, they actually combine to make a significant difference, and are therefore welcomed with open arms.
After the analog tachometer and LCD digital speedometer of the Ninja 1000 - which has been pulled from the ZX-6R - dance to life, the engine fires up with zero hesitation. The dual exhaust doesn't emit the loud bark that some literbike systems give off, but instead spits out a sound that is sure to not wake the neighbors. Blip the throttle just slightly though, and the 1043cc inline four engine gives off a deep tone that quickly reminds you that you aren't riding some featherweight machine. In terms of looks, Kawasaki has done a sufficient job at making the silencers shorter and more palatable than some of the bulky units we have seen on production bikes of late, but their look is still questionable.
Many of the differences between the Z1000 and Ninja 1000 are evident the second you throw a leg over the bike. Aside from the fairing, the most noticeable difference is the pair of cast aluminum bar risers, which bolt to the top of the triple clamp and replace the conventional tubular handlebar of the Z1000, instantaneously giving the Ninja 1000 a sportier look and feel. The risers, which pull the bars some 10mm closer to the rider than the Z1000 setup, are marked by a wide stance and provide for an extremely comfortable riding position. The advantages don't end with comfort, though. Both on surface streets and at highway speeds, the wider bars help initiate turn-in and provide for great stability.
The next obvious difference is the welcomed 10mm-thicker seat that is without question more comfortable than most sportbikes and much appreciated on longer rides. While the added comfort is appreciated, the 32.3-inch seat height may not be for some and may have those with a smaller inseam unwillingly balancing the bike on the smaller part of their feet.
The mirrors of the Ninja 1000...
The mirrors of the Ninja 1000 are extremely adjustable and their unique shape provides tons of rear visibility. No longer are you looking at your shoulders when you try to look behind you.
Another welcomed change to the fully faired Z1000 sibling are the mirrors. Both have an extreme amount of adjustability and their unique shape provides for plenty of visibility - and thankfully, not just of your shoulder.