As was the case with the Z1000, steering and handling characteristics of the Ninja 1000 are above par. The five-piece backbone frame, which uses the engine as a stressed member, provides for excellent stability at higher speeds and works perfectly with the Ninja's suspension package.
The 41mm inverted cartridge front fork, which is adjustable for compression damping, rebound damping and spring preload, provides great stability in corner entry and excellent handling characteristics through the middle of corners. There is also a great range in the fork's adjustability, which allows you to change settings for the different type of riding you do - which will vary drastically considering the bike can be used around town, in the canyons and on long adventures (accessory hardbags and all). The Ninja 1000's horizontally mounted rear shock, which features stepless rebound damping and spring preload adjustability, is plenty capable of handling any and all abuse you can throw its way in the canyons.
A lot of the Ninja's stability comes from its rather stiff factory front fork settings that give it its more sport-oriented handling characteristics. The stiff settings don't mean that the Ninja is by any means unpleasant on the freeway during commutes, though. Freeway riding is comfortable and with only a few minor setting changes, the rough patches of road that were once bothersome are no longer a concern.
The dual 300mm rotors with...
The dual 300mm rotors with radial-mount four-piston calipers do a sufficient job of slowing the Ninja 1000 and are still surprisingly potent considering they are now stopping a 20-pound-heavier bike.
The 300mm discs and radial-mount four-piston calipers mounted to the Ninja 1000 provide a strong feel that you would expect to be from a race-inspired sportbike and gives a potent enough bite to slow down the bike in a timely fashion. On longer rides through the canyons, though, there was a slight amount of brake fade that was compensated for by adjusting the lever.
The slight brake fade could be attributed however, to the fact that the system is trying to slow down additional weight. Unfortunately, in its transformation from the Z1000, the Ninja 1000 gained 20 pounds and now tips the scales at 503 pounds, wet, ready to ride. Fortunately, the Kawasaki's heft is only noticeable when maneuvering the bike in the garage, and is masked well once underway. And while the extra weight may be unwelcome, the additional gallon of fuel it carries over the Z1000 is not. The Ninja 1000's five-gallon tank allows you to ride a few surplus miles before hunting for a gas station - a benefit considering we didn't want to get off the bike.
Closing The Gap
So is there a definitive category for the Ninja 1000? Well, we would like to say no. The $10,999 bike so perfectly combines sportbike-like performance with touring-like comfort that it is almost in a league of its own. And without a doubt, this bike can take on the role of multiple bikes in your garage. Whatever the category it falls in, we like it.
2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse inline four
Valve arrangement: DOHC, 4 valves/cyl., shim-under-bucket adjustment
Bore x stroke: 77.0 x 56.0mm
Compression ratio: 11.8:1
Induction: Keihin DFI, 38mm throttle bodies w/oval sub-throttle plates, single injector/cyl.
Front suspension: 41mm inverted cartridge fork with stepless compression and rebound damping, adjustable spring preload / 4.7 in. travel
Rear suspension: Horizontal monoshock with stepless rebound damping, adjustable spring preload / 5.4 in. travel
Front brake: Dual 300mm rotors with radial-mount four-piston calipers
Rear brake: Single 250mm rotor with single-piston caliper
Front wheel: 3.5 x 17 in., cast aluminum alloy
Rear wheel: 6.0 x 17 in., cast aluminum alloy
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop D210F Sportmax
Rear tire: 190/50ZR-17 Dunlop D210 Sportmax
Rake/trail: 24.5 deg. / 4.0 in. (102 mm)
Wheelbase: 56.9 in. (1445mm)
Seat height: 32.3 in. (820mm)
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal. (19L)
Weight: 503 lb (229 kg) wet; 473 lb (215 kg) wet
Instruments: Analog tachometer, multi-function LCD screen with digital speedometer, fuel gauge, odometer, clock, dual trip meters; warning lights for neutral, high beam, turn signals,
Quarter mile: 11.30 sec. @ 123.46 mph (corrected)
Top speed: NA mph
Roll-ons: 60-80 mph/2.6 sec., 80-100 mph/2.8 sec.
Fuel consumption: 27 to 36 mpg, 33 mpg average