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2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000: MD Long-Term Test, Part One

After attending the press intro for Kawasaki’s new Ninja 1000, we immediately asked Kawasaki for a test unit.  We will have the bike for a long-term evaluation, and will test it both in its stock form and with assorted modifications. 

If you read our First Ride, you will see that we were very impressed by the Ninja 1000.  Its performance is very close to a full-blown superbike, in terms of its engine, chassis and brakes.  Combined with ergonomics that are more comfortable than some sport tourers, very low vibration and a trick, three-position adjustable windscreen that requires no tools (change it at the next stop light, if you desire), we couldn’t wait to see what it would be like to live with the new Ninja for several thousand miles. 

The bike has been every bit as impressive as it was at the press intro, and we are preparing a full report on our experiences with the stock model for publication next week.  This is a preview, of sorts, of our long-term test and an opportunity for our readers to suggest modifications to try on our test unit.

We have already taken delivery of a Shorai battery that we will use to replace the stock unit.  Our Shorai (still in its box, pictured) is the LFX18A1-BS12 model, which is the “duration” recommendation for our bike.  We will be talking more about Shorai in our next article, but our unit is a Lithium-Iron battery that is dramatically lighter than the stock unit.  Shorai is an impressive company with its own ISO certified factory, and it claims certain advantages/differentiations over its competitors.  We will tell you how much weight we saved over the stock unit, give you our initial impressions, and discuss Shorai in greater detail in a future article. 

We are also expecting an exhaust system from LeoVince.  LeoVince has developed a new “Factory R” exhaust for the Ninja 1000, which is pictured on a green European model below.  Our goal is reduced weight and increased performance without obnoxious sound.  Our understanding is that the Factory R exhaust we will be testing features a removable insert that reduces the standard decibel level. 

We also have plans to try out some luggage on the Ninja 1000 because the bike is fully capable of touring. 

Stay tuned for our first performance evaluation of the 2011 Ninja 1000, and feel free to offer suggestions.

The manufacturer provided Motorcycle Daily with this motorcycle for purposes of evaluation.

101 Comments

  1. vtx1300 says:

    basic features I’d like to see added.
    1. centerstand
    2. aftermarket seat
    3. bakeoff braking kit is a must
    4. 12V accessory port for charging applications
    5. heated grips
    6. exhaust
    7. aftermarket windshield options
    8. K&N airfilter
    9. Power comander
    10. Suspension upgrades if needed
    11. Tires if stock doesn’t perform well
    12. Luggage

  2. Hank says:

    I just read all the comments. What a bunch whiny dribble. I wish it were this and I wish it were that…..bla bla bla

    Thank you for reviewing the bike. Thank you for replacing the mufflers. ( with whatever brand you could get ) Thank you Kawasaki for building it.

    Dirk, please go ride the thing and let us know what you think. I feel pretty sure you will answer most questions asked here, just like always.

    • Mickey says:

      “I just read all the comments. What a bunch whiny dribble. I wish it were this and I wish it were that…..bla bla bla

      Thank you for replacing the mufflers. ( with whatever brand you could get )”

      Pot & Kettle Hank? Isn’t that just another way of whining about how it was made and what you’d like to change? …. Just like everyone else?

      • harry says:

        blub, blubber, sniffle, snivel, snuffle,
        whining, divide, gripe, grumble, moan,
        quetch, rant, spite, whined, yawp,
        complain, complaint, go, kick, kvetch,
        locomote, mouth, move, plain, quetch,
        sound off, speak, talk, travel, utter,
        verbalize, grizzle, whimper, yammer

      • Hank says:

        I see your pot/kettle point, but no. Adding a slip on pipe is usually the first mod an owner does. Next come tires and some type of suspension work.
        I am not asking for a design change.

  3. PN says:

    I like the concept of this bike, I just don’t think it looks that great. Sorry Kawi. I tried. Bring back the Z750.

  4. Superbikemike says:

    wow… the green/black combo is sharp!!! too bad that is headed to euro only=bummer… i really like the leo vince exhaust, on this model… would love to hear how the factory heated grips work, also an electric plug for heated gear…. ;)

  5. kawatwo says:

    Would love to see a 636 CC version and a centerstand and a once piece seat ripped straight from the mid 80s with modern seat comfort materials. Then they would have the perfect bike. This may still be my next bike though. It is beautiful.

    • Zuki says:

      I agree about the seat thing… why is comfort sacrificed to the point that people have formed a habit of immediately thinking about seat replacement or modification before they even own the bike? It wouldn’t be as bad if at least the passenger sat on the same plane as the rider. All my ’70s and ’80s bikes always had comfy seating for both rider and passenger. It’s not really an issue if you plan on riding solo, but it seems Kawasaki has a problem with giving their seats that damn forward slope so you’re always fighting sliding into the tank… my 2000 ZR-7 had the same problem. I think it’d be cool and comfortable with a modern version of the H2 seat.

  6. MikeD says:

    That Windshield ! I can’t get pass that Cheap HAMMER HEAD Windshield ! The rest of the bike is stunning(aside from the footpegs/mufflers/riders feet problem that even other magazines have pointed), why they dropped the ball with the windshield ? What a cop out… (-_- )’

  7. ROXX says:

    Great bike.
    Lightweight, has the performance, hard bags, etc..
    But….
    I agree with some of the other comments, it really needs a proper passenger pillion!!!

  8. MGNorge says:

    I’m quite interested in your Shorai findings. This brand and others aree getting quite a bit of talk on the Moto Guzzi forums. Quite a weight savings and frees up lots of room. They also do not self-discharge very fast, being good to go after a year of standing alone. Often times using any kind of tender is unecessary and they’re priced just a bit better than ultra premium batteries. I think it will be the next battery I buy when I need one.

  9. Doc says:

    I applaud Kawasaki for bringing this bike in. It’s 10 times better looking than the Z1000. With that being said, can anyone in the styling department draw a good looking tail section without that hideous taillight/license plate assembly. They’re ugly. Plain and simple. The mufflers the same. I’ll be glad when we get through this styling trend we’re in right now. The styling of most new sport and sport touring bikes today will not stand the test of time. In 10 years My ’09Roadking classic will still look good and so will my 2000 W650. Try that with this bike.

    • b says:

      I gotta disagree and say that the Z1000 is quite the looker and this is kind of ugky :) Mufflers and lights are difficult to make pretty due to dumb laws that require reflectors, spaced out lighting, and lots of emission controls.

    • Mickey says:

      You wouldn’t have those strange looking tailight/license plate mounts if the manufacturers went back to giving us decent looking rear ends with real rear fenders, instead of making street bike rear ends that are supposed to look like racing bike rear ends. Then they could also give us decent pillion seats as well.

    • Honker says:

      But seriously, ya think a Roadking CLasic is good looking?
      Wow, just wow. A rolling pile of ugly in my mind, but I guess its like porn. You know it when you see it.

      • Doc says:

        Yeah, seriously I do. To each their own Honker. But there are some styling exercises, that no matter what you like or ride, that are just ugly. Personally I would take a ’81 CB900F over this Kawasaki any day. I had one and loved it. Wish I had it back. When Honda

  10. jkd says:

    it would be beneficial if you guys could get make an objective comparison between the LeoVince and the standard exhaust with a dB meter.

    also, please comment on how the LeoVince affects your ability to mount soft saddlebags; it appears to have more upsweep and is, perhaps, incompatible with passenger pegs.

    a passenger review (or two) would be helpful.

    finally, i ride a 2009 Versys. it is my first non-Honda and i am not impressed with build quality. please be critical if there are flaws that need to be addressed in that area, such as vibrating/buzzing fairing bits. i used to ride a ’98 VFR (and enjoyed your recent article on that bike) and this Ninja seems like a fine update. but if the fairing buzzes like it does on my Versys, that could be a deal breaker for me.

    thanks.

    • jkd says:

      had a closer look at the green bike… ahoy, i see the pass pegs!

    • MGNorge says:

      Looking again at the photos I saw the “Ninja” decal on the side. Now I know I’m getting older but the Ninja brand to me seems to fit best with the street fighter type bikes..full on sport bikes. This bike being billed as a Sport Tourer would tend to appeal to a crowd a notch or two down from that bunch in how hard they intend to ride their bike. In other words, take in more of the ride and scenery with a passenger rather than go for fast times down racer road. Maybe it’s time to put a different name to this other than Ninja? It would be like applying VFR or CBR to an ST1300.

      Then again, maybe this is really a balls-out sport bike that Kawasaki is pushing to do double duty? As I age, I see less of a need for that.

      • Chris says:

        You are probably correct about dropping the “Ninja” name from this bike. Save the “Ninja” name for their full on sport bikes. They’d probably need to drop it from the 250 and 650 as well.

        Maybe rename this to KZ1000R or something…

    • Chris says:

      Build quality… IMO you get what you pay for. So, a $10k VFR (even if it is a ’98) is going to be superior to a $7k Versys in terms of build quality and durability.

  11. noop says:

    Bring W800 in Gold to U.S.A., this thing is ugly.

    • Kagato says:

      I second this request, I want motorcycles not transformers!

      • Eddie says:

        Kawasaki please bring the ZRX1200 DEAG to the States. I’ve own/owned 5 Ninjas and a ZRX, and this new bike is ugly. I can’t buy a bike that I think is ugly no matter how practical it maybe.

        Perhaps I’m getting old, but a side for the rare exception all the new bikes of the last 5 or 6 years have left me disinterested. It seems like every recent sportbike or sporting standard has been styled by someone greatly influenced by the Transformers.

        I would imagine there are alot of aging Gen-X sportbike riders here in North America who’d like to have the option of buying a new modern sporting standard like ZRX1200 DEAG.

        • Zuki says:

          Agreed. Bring the ZRX back! I also dislike the “Transformers” look being used heavily in design these days… I saw the C7 Corvette concept for 2013 on the cover of Car & Driver and was very disappointed! I was hoping they wouldn’t go that way and take styling cues from the Transformers movie Corvette Stingray! It’s ugly!

  12. sliphorn says:

    After sitting on this bike at the IMS Chicago, I found that my left heel hit the exhaust can. Same on the right, but it was, If I remember correctly, the passenger foot peg that my heel collided with. Not good for those of us that ride with the ball of our feet on the pegs.

  13. Remmy says:

    I’d really like to see how the bike handles 2-up. Given it’s been lightly billed as a sport tourer that would seem to be a good point to test. The tail section looks a bit small to be comfortable for a passenger to sit on for more than a few blocks.

    • GP says:

      I agree with this. I really like this bike, but it really needs better passenger accomodations (wider/flatter seat, possibly a tall backrest offered as an option) for me to truely consider buying one.

  14. jesse says:

    It would be cool if you did thorough Long Term report on the bike in STOCK form. Or, at least, as you install aftermarket goodies, thoroughly highlight the problems you’re correcting with the aftermarket stuff. I often prefer to leave a bike stock unless some element is underperforming.

    If I buy a bike, and the stock FI (for example) is so poorly set up from the factory that it will be virtually required for me to drop another $1000 on a FI tuner and/or pipe, it’s good to know about that additional investment going in.

    If you’re just installing things for fun, that’s a different story – but often aftermarket improvements correct for things on the stock bike. And, at least initially, that’s what I’m investing in – the stock bike….

  15. GaryF says:

    Thank you for testing this bike. I am very interested in it. I wonder: is the green available in the U.S.?

    Good luck getting the luggage to fit with the Leo exhaust … I can’t see where there’s room (physical) … and even if there is, it looks like they will melt.

    • Bob says:

      Good eye on the exhaust interfering with the cases. That will be a deal breaker…on the cans, not the cases. I need the cases.

    • Mach VIII says:

      No, green isn’t available in the US for 2011, though it is in Canada. For US you can get either all black, or black and red.

  16. bo_nos says:

    Not half as ugly in person as it is in pictures…I’m not a fan of high-rise gas tanks that are showing up on a lot of SPORT tourers (Triumph Sprint too) either…

  17. kpaul says:

    Very interested in this bike. Sport bike performance and good ergos count me in. Looking forward to more articles. Love the red and black color scheme.

    • Falcodoug says:

      Wow kpaul, I agree with you this time. Welcome back. But I think the green looks good for the first time too me.

  18. monsterduc1000 says:

    I’ll take mine in Pearl Blazing orange please!!! To match my ’04 zx10r.

  19. Mickey says:

    I actually stopped and looked at this bike as a possible replacement for my Gen 1 FZ-1. Fit and finish looked very nice. Windshield was oddly shaped. Tank looked wierd from behind as it is very concaved on the sides where your knees go. To answer Syts question, your passenger better be young, skinny and have a boney butt if she is going to ride for any distance back there at all. Although Kaw claims it’s thicker and wider, it looked “typical sportbike pillion” to me. The first Gen FZ has better passenger accomodations.

    Kaw reports 123.4 hp @ 10,200 rpm, 74.8 ft lbs of torque @ 7750 rpm and 503 pounds wet weight. My FZ-1 is listed as having 124.9 HP @ 9500 rpm, 72.5 lb torque @ 7500 rpms and 510 pounds wet weight (with .06 gal more gas). Nearly identiical.

    In short, I’m not going to run out and trade my Yamaha in on a nearly identical bike with poorer passenger accomodations… but… eventually when my FZ wears out it looks like a viable replacement. (unless Yamaha re-does the second gen FZ-1 to make it more of a true sport-tourer, but I don’t expect that to happen.)

    I’ve really enjoyed my Gen 1 FZ-1 so I can only assume this new Kaw will please a lot of people as well.

    I’ve ridden the Suzuki 1250 Bandit, which actually has more HP and Torque below 6K than either of the bikes above, but if they all handle like the one I rode which wanted to stand up in every corner, it will never be competitive.

    • Dave says:

      I’ve spent a little time on the 1st gen FZ1 and it’s a great bike. The only think I didn’t like about it (flexy steel frame) is the biggest functional difference with this new Kawi. I only need to look at the photo to know that the Kawi’s passenger seat is no place anyone would want to spend more than 1/2 hour so for those that ride 2-up, it’s out. I’m on a Superhawk today so either one of these are “what have I done?” powerful to me.

  20. Vrooom says:

    I’ve yet to meet a 2 piece seat that I thought was comfortable enough for sport touring, at least before modifications were made. I’d love to see what you can come up with there. Am also interested in the range, since 200 miles is a pretty critical milestone for me. Can’t wait guys.

  21. Bob says:

    This bike is up for serious consideration to replace my 2004 BMW R1100SA.

    First and foremost, I am interested in reading about the factory options (if they exist) for the long term test.

    1. hard bags
    2. heated grips
    3. taller screen
    4. centerstand
    5. power outlet

    I’m really interested to know the true MPG figures and dyno curves for the stock bike. I put on 20k/year and am just over 140k right now. I need durability and economy.

    After a good long test in stock form, then put on the aftermarket silencers and other products from aftermarket manufacturers. But 1st, do it in stock form please.

    As for the aftermarket, a cleaner undertail would be nice. And maybe Corbin will make a Smuggler for the tail. I’m a solo rider. No need for a rear seat.

    • Bob says:

      Forgot to mention another aftermarket suggestion…

      A fully adjustable rear shock, doesn’t need to be Ohlins, just something with compression and ride height added as the stocker only does rebound and preload.

  22. ROXX says:

    I’ve been waiting for one of the big manufacturers to actually make a bike that’s a ‘lightweight’ sport tourer.
    This category is long overdue!
    I still like to ride fast, but don’t want to be bent over on a race replica during a 300 mile ride.
    This bike looks great, especially with the factory hard bags.
    I would love to see Honda do this based on the CBR1000.

  23. ziggy says:

    Simply awesome all round with that new exhaust, certainly solves my one and only quibble with this machine. Finally, one of the big 4 got it right. I wonder if this is “The Perfect Streetbike”. The Ninja has reset the bar, just about everything Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki in particular are stacking up against this is looking very dated.

    Ironic in a way that Kawasaki has really represented the cutting edge for the past few years, when most had written them off around 2000-2002.

    Shows you the effect of management changes since that time. It is a whole new company.

  24. Charles says:

    Please include a review of the passenger accomodations.

  25. rapier says:

    Please address it’s stability in winds and crosswinds and its tendency to ‘sail’ or not. I finally got rid of my big ZZR1200 which was impervious to winds. This can’t be as good but riding heeled over for half a day from a front quartering wind is a deal breaker for touring as far as I am concerned. This resistance to winds blowing you all over the road or wearing out one side of a front tire, which I did in a day and a half once is almost universally ignored in tests. Instead everyone focuses on wind protection. Fooy, as long as it doesn’t buffet.

  26. timbo813 says:

    I love what I know of this bike. I’m very interested in the long term test.

  27. Zuki says:

    Ninja 1000 is cool. As far as excellent sport-touring machines go I wonder why it hasn’t been mentioned that Suzuki has one too that they were kind enough to bring to the US for 2011…

    http://www.suzukicycles.com/Product%20Lines/Cycles/Products/GSX1250FA/2011/GSX1250FA.aspx?category=standard

    • Harry says:

      The 2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA
      needs to be tested by this Magazine.

    • Squidlius says:

      Folks have been waiting a long time for a new, modern Bandit. Suzuki really needs to update that 10 year old design and maybe this new Ninja will motivate them.

  28. Todd says:

    I’ve been following this bike closely since it was first announced. Very attractive to me, both functionally and aesthetically. Some after-market & modification stuff I’d like to see you check out:

    -Different windscreens, such as a double bubble style (if/when somebody starts making them)

    -Seat, how does the stock one do? I’d like to hear about the one that Sargent is supposedly going to start making.

    -Luggage, I’d like to hear more about both the factory hard bags, as well as the factory tailbag that are offered (but apparently cannot be used together). Likewise, if SW Mototech or one of those outfits come up with some quick-removal luggage bracketry, I’d really like to hear/see about that.

    -Reasonably priced suspension upgrades. Yeah, I’m sure throwing a $1500 Ohlins triple clicker shock and big bucks rebuilding and DLC application to the forks would make significant improvements, but what can be accomplished for substantially less cost?

    -Centerstand – if anyone ends up making one while you’ve got this bike, I’d like to see that installed and hear about quality/install/etc.

    -A nice fender eliminator kit to lose that enormous mudflap

    -And finally, a freebie – lose those silly reflectors. :)

    Oh yeah, and be sure to report back on the actual RANGE of the bike, in addition to just mileage.

    • Stinky says:

      Good questions.
      Fuel capacity/range & luggage (preferably factory hardbags) are the most important factors to me.I always seem to do better MPG than advertised maybe cause I must ride like a sissy or live at high elevation. Good solid bags make biking worth doing, who wants to wear a backpack? Not me.
      Suspension mods would seem important but my bikes never seem to get more than oil changes every few years,never seem to have money for revalving.
      Centerstands should be standard equipment on chain drive and any bike with ANY touring potential, you can always take them off if you find yourself grinding away at them.
      Luckily those rear fender extensions seem to come off easy and give the owner a chance to show off his fabricating skill. Stepson was ticketed for license plate relocation with aftermarket item. Pay ticket, put stock crap on show it off, change it back and hope you don’t find another cop with the Barney Fife mentality.

  29. MGNorge says:

    That Leo Vince looks very nice and as mentioned, it will be interesting to see if it can not only shed weight, add a bit to the power curve but also keep things to a mild roar. I wonder though just how much room is sacrificed for bags?

  30. Syt says:

    Sumbitch, the Euros get green. I love the look of the green and the Leo’s, but the cans look like they will interfere with the pillions feet. And that would be my first question; how are the passenger accomodations on this rig? Don’t have much use for a ST that can’t allow decent two up comfort.

  31. MarkT says:

    If you really want to get daring, Install the ABS from the Z1000. The mechanical mounts are already there and this and a centerstand are all it needs to out-do the VFR1200.

  32. JD says:

    You lot need your heads read. This bike is butt ugly, plain and simple.

  33. sam says:

    Can we sport-touring riders PLEASE get an (optional) centerstand for this otherwise very worthy mount..?

    • Zuki says:

      Suzuki GSX1250FA comes standard with a centerstand and it’s a very worthy sport-touring mount too, IMO.

  34. morpheus says:

    Thats a really good looking bike.
    It would appear to me that the windscreen could stand improvement for touring purposes. I’d consider contacting MadStad Engineering and see if they would make one up for it. I have one of theirs on my 1050 Tiger and I think it may be the best answer for a reasonably small windscreen given its full adjustability.

  35. Ninja Man says:

    Defeat the speed limiter!!

  36. Pat says:

    Why didn’t Kaw bring the green version to the US.

    Also, look into some suspension mods.

  37. Cycleman43 says:

    Just bought a Red one and will be picking it up this saturday. Looking forward to your comments and evaluations on accessories.

  38. Bones says:

    In Europe, the Ninja 1000 uses the same Givi V35 panniers that Kawasaki offers on the Versys. Bet they’ll be available in the US, or someone like SWMotech will offer mounts and then you can just buy V35’s from a Givi dealer. I have the V35 bags on my Versys, high quality units.

    Look here for photos:

    http://www.motorcyclemojo.com/2010/11/sneak-preview-2011-kawasaki-ninja-1000/2011-kawasaki-ninja-1000-motorcycle-mojo-magazine-2/

  39. alan says:

    Got a Leo Vince titanium for my vfr1200 $249, and every bit as well made as $800 Akras.

  40. CowboyTutt says:

    That is a very nice looking bike in red! But the mirror stalks in the second picture look way too long? -Tutt

    • Old town hick says:

      They have to be on bikes like this if you want to see anything in the mirrors other than your shoulders.

  41. George Catt says:

    This looks like an interesting answer to the SPORT/touring equation. At 64, I don’t see a need to give up the fun factor just because you’re getting a little older.

    Agree with the previous suggestion for more windscreen.

  42. Ducati337 says:

    Thanks for the chance to give input. Two Brothers has some cool looking slip-ons that claim a HP advantage, the black-on-black ones would murder-out the black Ninja 1000 nicely. I am also interested in how the stock tires wear. Great website!!!

  43. Willie E says:

    Clean up the tailsection.

  44. graham says:

    i hope the first mod is a set of slip-on mufflers. the stock ones look like some kind of musical instrument.

  45. DJ says:

    It is quite refreshing to see a manufacturer who isn’t malevolently inclined to grill/broil/sear or bake the danglies. Kudo’s to Kawi for putting the pipes, cats and cans where they belong…

  46. ABQ says:

    I would like to see a model with bags. Take some off the ninja 1400 and photoshop them them on. Or recommend some good soft bags.

  47. brianzr7s says:

    Way to go Dirck. this is the model that i’m keenly interested in. why did you pick LeoVince over, say, Akropovic? what was the criteria for the brand selection you made? How much weight will be saved for each item? other mods? how about stainless steel brake lines? EBC’s EPFA HH line of brake pads. suspension control settings vs rider and gear weight vs usage model (track, tour, etc.) Also if you can get the factory accessories fitted and report on them for form, fit, and function(luggage, heated grips, taller windscreen, etc.) what about a power commander unit to override the speed limiter? what about a speedo healer if the factory speedometer is (normally) way off. Can you report fuel economy on the times you take it for a longer trip. short sprints through the twisties don’t count for fuel economy. as mentioned above, please report on seat comfort for longer trips and if you change out the stock unit for an aftermarket one, please rate that one too. Please comment on factory rubber and if you wear it out and have to put on new shoes, let us know what you picked and the suitability for this bike. looking forward to your evaluation. thanks.

  48. Chris says:

    Looking forward to the reveiw. No real suggestions on equipment to add. Maybe a different (bigger/wider) wind screen… Sargent/Corbin seat…

    I figure to ride full on sport bikes until I hit 50. (10 more years…) And then I’ll switch to something like this. And then maybe 10 years after that, switch to sport-touring bikes… And then (maybe) full on touring rigs. I’ll in the ground before I consider riding a cruiser.

  49. Tyler Anthony says:

    Doesn’t this bike include an optional dealer-installed heated grips option? I would like to see the review include that option as well.

  50. falcodoug says:

    Nice.