Ninjas have long since been known for the ability to blend into the surrounding environment and without warning overwhelm you with a sudden burst of aggression when you least expect it. Sounds familiar right?? Yeah, that just about sums up the new 2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000. The latest offering from Kawasaki ably lives up to its name by getting aggressive when you want her to and being calm and steady when you want her to. Team AutoColumn got an opportunity to test the Ninja in her element and here is what we have to say about this wonderful beast of a machine.
You could be excused for mistaking it for the Ninja 650 at first glance, but a closer second look will reveal subtle yet substantial differences in the styling elements. The tail section looks a lot like the 650 but the front is completely different. It looks much sharper and much more aggressive in nature. Ditto for the sides, which look mean and menacing as well. The tank is bigger than the smaller 650 and runs different creases thus ensuring you can tuck your knees in nice and flush. The visual difference between the 1000 and its baby brother is further heightened by the exhaust. While on the 650, it is a centrally mounted unit expelling gases from under the bike, the 1000 has a different treatment altogether. The four into two into two vertically stacked pipes on either side give the 1000 a different visual presence.
The sleek fully faired bodywork and design make the Ninja 1000 a looker and also offer wind protection. The 3-way adjustable windscreen does not look out of place at all and takes the strain off the rider by diverting airflow away from the rider. The front turn signals are integrated with the fairing and attached via rubber mounts thus reducing damage to them in case of the bike tipping over. The slim tail section and narrow bodywork ensures that the bike retains just the right amount of muscle without managing to look bulbous.
Engine and Transmission
The Ninja 1000 gets thrust via an in-line 4 cylinder 1043 cc unit featuring Digital Fuel Injection for optimized calibration and metering of the fuel: air ratio. The DOHC 16-valve engine is optimized to strike the balance between power and economy. My oh my, and the way it dishes out that power is mighty impressive indeed. The engine does not hold back on unleashing the horses all the way from idle to redline. And one can get there extremely fast should one choose to open up all the taps. Boasting technically rich features such as new cylinder connecting passageways to reduce pumping losses and enhance mid-high RPM performance and newly designed intake cams to provide better torque in the low to midrange.
Bristling with other additional features, the bike has ample torque easily available throughout the rev range thus ensuring that the bike can up and go in any gear. One flick of the wrist is all it takes and the bike just delivers like mad The 38 mm Keihin throttle bodies directly push the air-fuel mixture into the combustion chamber and are thus optimized for power. The bore X stroke dimensions of 77mm X 56 mm ensure that the engine delivers power of 142 PS @ 10,000 rpm and 111 NM of torque @ 7,300 rpm. All that power is however very easily controllable and the slick shifting 6 speed gearbox ensures that the bike is always in the optimum gear when and where you want it to be.
Performance and Handling
Big capacity liter class bikes can be a handful for some and can very easily overwhelm the rider if one is not careful enough. The ZX 10R from the Kawasaki stables is a prime example. It delivers power very aggressively, has extreme on-the-edge handling and demands a lot of respect and skill from the rider. Ditto with the Z1000 with which the Ninja 1000 shares its platform. So it comes as a pleasant surprise that the Ninja 1000 is wonderfully docile and never once makes you feel that all that 142 PS of power is going to overwhelm you at any moment. Thanks are very much in order for the 2 stage drive selector mode and the 3 way selectable traction control or KTRC (Kawasaki Traction Control).
These are brilliant systems provided by Kawasaki on the Ninja 1000 and they pull more than their own load to ensure that never once do things go out of hand. The drive selector mode allows you 2 choices (100% power or 75-80% power) depending on riding conditions and the rider’s state of mind. The brilliantly engineered KTRC though had us going gaga over it. Never once does it feel as if the traction control is suddenly cutting in regardless of whatever mode you’re in. This makes for some super fun moments on the big bike and you can be sure that regardless of what mode you are in the traction control will definitely save the day.
On a bike this big, it is also important to have excellent braking considering the crazy speeds you can get upto. The Ninja 1000 does not disappoint on this front either. Equipped with a full time ABS system, the front brakes feature monobloc radially mounted calipers mates to a huge 300 mm petal type dual rotor setup. The rear features a 250 mm petal type disc mated to a single piston caliper setup. Braking on the Ninja 1000 is extremely effective and the ABS ensures that things never go out of sync thus providing you with ample stopping power. A single squeeze on the brake lever was more than sufficient to get the bike down to two digit speeds from some really high three digit speeds.
Take it into the twisties and the bike will definitely not disappoint you. She tips into corners with ease, but if you are the kind of person who is always having wet dreams about apexes and exit velocities, you may come away wanting more. It is a heavy bike mind you, but the way she carves through corners is more than happy to satisfy most customers who would want to own one of this.
Chassis and Suspension
The Ninja 1000 is beautifully sprung for a bike of its weight and offers good ground clearance too. The fully adjustable 41 mm front upside down fork is wonderful. It is adjustable for compression damping, rebound damping and spring preload. The rear suspension setup has also been recently upgraded globally and the horizontal back link design is thus that it helps to centralize mass on the bike. The remote rear spring preload adjuster is a delight to use and helps you adjust spring preload to compensate for luggage /passenger weight. The damping characteristics can also be adjusted via a stepless rebound adjuster in line with spring preload settings. Working in perfect harmony, the front and rear suspension setup can help the rider achieve the perfect balance between sporty performance and ride quality.
Coming down to the frame and chassis, it ably complements the suspension since it is a lightweight and rigid frame using the engine as a stressed member thereby optimizing handling and stability. The aluminium backbone frame is quite similar to the ZX 10R’s which helps keep the frame narrow thus making the rider’s life easier. The frame elements have been optimized and tuned to provide direct engine feedback to the rider. Featuring 3 rigid engine mounts and 1 rubber engine mount, the frame is designed to reduce engine vibrations thus reducing stress on the frame and also the rider.
The Ninja 1000 at 230 kgs is definitely not a lightweight bike. However it is the way she carries her weight is what counts. Since the bike has been designed as a sports tourer rather than an outright superbike, ergonomics take a higher priority on the design philosophy and she definitely delivers on that aspect. For starters, the seating position is not cramped and as aggressive as that of a superbike. It is more upright in nature. The clip on handle bars have a more relaxed feel to them and your overall stance on the bike is such that it will not strain your lower back over distances. You can still get into a crouch and tuck in behind the windscreen if you want to but that might actually compromise your overall riding dynamics.
The thick urethane seats are comfortable and provide a lot of support thus ensuring that you and your passenger won’t have a numb bum at the end of a particularly grueling ride. The seat is still good enough to ensure that you can comfortably place both feet on the ground without having to resort to an awkward ‘one leg down’ stance. The cushioned handlebar grips are also a delight to use; they have a tapered surface like other supersport bikes thereby giving a more direct feel. Redesigned footpegs with knurled design make them easier to operate and open them with your riding boots on. The redesigned grab bars at the rear are also inclined more towards ease of access and handhold by the rear passenger. The large 19 litre fuel tank also has been designed in such a way as to reduce strain on the crotch and hip area. Since it is a steel tank, you can easily also affix a magnetic tank bag onto it easily.
So there we have it and the question we should ask it if it is worth it. At roughly 13.9 lakhs OTR in Pune the million dollar question is whether you get bang for your buck. The answer is a resounding yes, since the Ninja 1000 simply blows away the competition in the supersport category. While not as extreme as the ZX 10R, it is more than happy to leave a grin on your face every time you ride it. It is a highly practical bike and is an accomplished performer. As I told a friend, I would not mind taking the bike out into the market to buy my bread and eggs nor would I mind taking it to the track either. For I know that it will deliver on both fronts and leave me satisfied as a rider. After all, isn’t that what a motorcycle is supposed to do to you? And yes, Kawasaki is back!!