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

We are continuing to thoroughly enjoy our Ninja 1000 test bike. You can see Part One of our long-term report here, and read our report from the press introduction of this bike here. We can update you on the gas mileage you can expect if you purchase this model. Below is a table setting forth the four most recent tanks of gasoline we have run through this bike.

Tank # 1 – 170 miles @ 4.46 Gal. = 38.1 MPG

Tank #2 – 128.3 miles @ 3.54 Gal. = 36.3 MPG

Tank #3 – 149.5 miles @ 4.41 Gal. = 33.9 MPG

Tank #4 – 171.1 miles @ 4.02 Gal. – 42.7 MPG

As you can see, when ridden aggressively (as we have), the Ninja 1000 does not return the best gas mileage. Nevertheless, the 43 mile per gallon figure we obtained on Tank #4 was primarily high-speed freeway cruising. Given the large, 5 gallon tank in the Ninja 1000, 200 miles between fill-ups on a highway trip is certainly possible, and this is more than decent range for a sport tourer.

The bike has continued to impress us with its smoothness. We do note some minor vibration through the tank when gripping the bike with our legs above 6000 RPM. It is noticeable, but not an annoyance.

We’ve been trying to dial in the handling. The way the bike was delivered to us by Kawasaki, we thought it turned in slower than the unit we tested at the press introduction a few months ago. As a result, we decided to raise the forks in the triple clamps by 5 mm (see picture). After doing this, we learned that Sport Rider magazine had recommended a similar adjustment. Basically, the Ninja 1000 feels like it needs more weight on the front end. This can be accomplished in a couple of different ways.

You could take the approach we did, or you could try something different (something we may try when we switch tires). You could go with a higher profile rear tire. The Ninja 1000 comes stock with a 190/50 section rear, and you could swap to a 55 section rear (either 190 or 180) to provide a bit more ride height in the back, and also a better tire profile for tipping the bike in the corners.  By raising the forks, the Ninja 1000 not only changes directions more easily, it tracks better, whether in a straight line or through corners.

We wanted to finish testing the bike in stock condition before proceeding with modifications. As we said earlier, we are anticipating an exhaust change, windscreen change, and several other mods. In our opinion, however, the Ninja 1000 is an outstanding motorcycle in stock condition, and a very viable one-bike solution for riders who like to commute, tour and attack the canyons on weekends. Stay tuned.

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

49 Comments

  1. Jnycanuk says:

    I sat on one today and it seems that your private parts get jammed against the gas tank.I don,t know how this would be on a ride.I wonder if there would be a simple fix for the seat.

  2. Yoshi says:

    They have 1000. Now it’s time to create the 750. Not the Z750 in Europe. How about a triple? Take one cylinder from this Ninja 1000 / Z1000 and make it into Z750/800 triple.

    Kawasaki had a Mach series 2 stroke triples. I don’t think it should be a problem to revive a triple. They revived few twins with W650/800 and Ninja 650R.

  3. Rickster says:

    My biggest lament…how come we (USA) don’t get the GREEN version?? Is it “economically viable” to order the relevant body parts? Well…that and a center stand…

  4. Pilotrt says:

    Just put one in the garage today for the wife. Now that it is here, I’m thinking of ditching my Aprilia Tuono Factory for another one. I have yet to ride it, but when I get to, and I like it, I’m getting another. It looks like its doing 100mph just sitting there. I don’t care about abs; been riding for 30 years without abs, bah. Also walked to school, up hill, both ways.

  5. Alain says:

    I have not tried it yet but I looked at it at the dealership and I liked it. In the province of Québec, it is really expensive to register a sport bike and the new Ninja 1000 will not be considered as such, which is good news!
    Now Honda, please wake up and bring us the VFR/XX or many customers will shop at Kawasaki! lolllllllllll

  6. JM345 says:

    As far as fuel economy goes, my ’01 R1 averaged 52mpg on an all highway trip… I assume the carbs were set a little lean but it’s a shame the development of a more touring oriented segment hasn’t produced numbers similar to a 10 year old literbike…

  7. Mark says:

    Was thinking of looking at this bike to replace my Tiger 1050, if the notion struck me. The Tiger has upright riding position, excellent touring capabilities and longer travel suspension, plus easy to swap out bars. And that 1050 triple has to be one of the best street bike engines around. The Ninja has some appeal, but with similar weight and less comfortable (for me) riding position, its not enough to get me off the Tiger. I just talked myself into keeping the Triumph!

  8. Donnie says:

    I would love to say I’m impressed by this bike, I really would but the fuel economy is disappointing.

    I say this because my carbureted ZRX, with its 1052cc motor, achieves 43 mpg under hard riding conditions (189.4 miles/4.3 gallons) and under tame riding conditions gets as much as 49 mpg (184.1 miles/3.7 gallons). We’re talking about an unfaired motorcycle with only a 5-speed transmission and a bank of 4 36mm carburetors.

    I duunno, maybe I’m too critical, but the Ninja 1000’s fuel economy just surprises me. Then again, the Versys I once owned ranged anywhere between 48 mpg and 52 mpg.

    Performance, however, is light years ahead of where the ZRX is, so I’m not lamenting that by any means. I just wish the economy were better than that of a typical B-segment automobile.

    • Bob says:

      It surprises me too. I’ll throw in the numerous trellis framed 5 speed 1203 cc Buells I’ve had and with full race kits (full exhaust, race ECM and resonator mods that got between 45-55 MPG (riding like a bastard and highway). I pile on too many miles/year to accept poor MPG, as much as I’ve been wanting this new Ninja with cases. My current BMW with system cases gets 40-45.

  9. Love the looks of this bike – mufflers could be prettier though. I toured a lot on my ZX12R with only a 160 mi range. Would be very interested in this one except my commute is very short now.

  10. ROXX says:

    This could be the beginning of a really good trend in motorcycling.
    I’m very glad Kawasaki is finally building a sportbike that you can actually ride somewhere.
    I wish all of the other Japanese manufacturers would follow suit.
    Not everyone wants a 600 pound plus driveshafted sport touring bike.
    Honda came close with the new VFR but missed the mark on weight and price and complexity.
    Wouldn’t it be nice to go into any dealer and buy a CBR1000, GSXR1000, or an FZR1000 with an upright riding position and comfy seat for two?

    Kudos to Kawasaki!
    I wish them success and I’m very tempted to trade in my faithful CBR1100 Blackbird XX.

    • Dave says:

      Yamaha did do it…beginning in 2001 and still does today with the FZ1.

      FZ1 is a great bike, but the fuel range could be better.

      • Mickey says:

        I have a 2001 FZ-1 and you’re right Dave, the numbers are erily similar in these 2 bikes, in weight, horsepower and torque., and the Gen 1 FZ-1 has better passenger accomodations. However someday when my FZ-1 wears out, this bike would make a good suitable replacement I would think.

        BTW I get over 200 miles to a tank on my FZ.

  11. Tom B says:

    I got to demo ride the Ninja 1000 yesterday at Daytona. Strong engine. Vibes OK but only got it above 6000 for a couple seconds. (It does spin up pretty high for someone used to a more sedate ST1300, for example. I kept stabbing for (much) taller gears throughout the demo.) Nimble handling. Reasonably comfy seat and ergos. I had the wind screen fully up and still got a good amount of air – fine for fair weather but not much to hide behind during a good rain. The small mirrors revealed little of what was behind and they didn’t reach wide enough to see behind my shoulders.

    Still, I would consider this a very nice sport bike for adults. I honestly don’t think I could comfortably ride the thing for hours on end though. So I don’t see it as a serious, long distance adult sport tourer. Plus, with only a 200 mile range, it’s not what I would consider acceptable for serious, long distance touring.

  12. Vrooom says:

    I like the bike, but 200 miles of range expending all your gas does not a sport tourer make. A 5.8 gallon tank would go along way to making this work for me. Having to fill up every 170 miles or so adds a lot of time to a long day, just stretching this to 225 makes a difference.

    • Bob says:

      After 120-130, I need to stop for a leak. Perfect time to fill up while i’m at it. The only thing 5.8 gallons does is add excessive weight up high. They’d have been better off losing 10 peak HP and given us 5 more MPG instead. That’s my wish anyway. I already get 40-45 MPG on my BMW. This is a step backwards even though I’d be getting the HP I’ve been lacking for years.

  13. Tom Barber says:

    Personally I do not care for the styling of either the naked Z100 or this version with a wind fairing. Notwithstanding Kawasaki’s claim of a relaxed riding position, the ergonomics do not appear to me to be particularly relaxed.

    The ZRX1200, no longer sold in the USA, is much better looking and offers the more relaxed riding position that was typical up until about twenty years ago. But the chassis of the ZRX is also straight out of the seventies, whereas the Z1000 offers a superior, modern chassis.

    When it comes to chain-driven high-performance sport bikes of this sort, there are many choices, and while this is a nice bike in many respects, it is not a bike that strongly appeals to me. This is partly because of the styling, but with bikes in general and with in-line fours in particular, engine vibration is a major annoyance for me. This bike uses a single counter-balancer, which is the technique that has been commonly applied to in-line fours for many, many years, and while it reduces vibration to a useful extent, it is nowhere near as effective as the dual counter-rotating balancer technique used in the CBR1100XX, and in the ZX-14 and Concours, and in the FJR1300, although in the FJR1300 the implementation is not proper.

    • Old town hick says:

      Good point. I think it needs a six-cylinder engine ;)

      • Tom Barber says:

        No doubt this is what you would think, but you are not adequately well informed. Hold on for a moment while I go back and check the BMW discussion to see whether you responded to my inquiry as to whether you even had any knowledge about properly balanced in-line fours … one moment please … ahh, I see that you did not. You still have not demonstrated that you have any knowledge by which you could judge the relative smoothness of an in-line six vs. an in-line four that has been properly balanced.

        • Old town hick says:

          Let’s go to the video tape:

          “Tom, your technical data sounds right on. However, the feel, sound, and other intangibles of an in-line six simply cannot be reproduced by a 4-banger. Sweet, sexy and luxurious, a six-cylinder motorcycle is something every rider should sample at least once before they croak”.

          and….

          “Maybe you should consider doing so [deal in intangibles]. In few other pursuits are they as meaningful as in motorcycling. In riding, many qualities come together in the overall design of a bike that makes one more desireable than another…that are quite difficult-if not impossible-to quantify”.

          Nope, no mention anywhere of the word “smoothness” although that is but one of the various factors (aka intangibles) that I was refering to. Tom, as I mentioned earlier it seems that your technical data is sound. I am confident that a CBR1100XX is very smoooth for the reasons that you stated. Yet there are still many valid reasons why someone would wish to design-and why someone would wish to purchase-a six cylinder motorcycle instead of ANY four cylinder model…that go beyond the dual counter-rotating balancer in the Honda. The most fundamental of which is that if a company believes enough people will buy one…for whatever reason, then they will produce and market it.

          Motorcycles, especially in this range of cost and capability, are not logical purchases. They are passionate, emotional purchases.

        • Bud says:

          Nice to see you’re able to pick up on a joke, Mr. Know-it-all! Ah, I see that you are not.

  14. Jay Mack says:

    I don’t get the theory with respect to changing the profile:

    “we decided to raise the forks in the triple clamps by 5 mm … You could go with a higher profile rear tire. .. to provide a bit more ride height in the back … .”

    Raising the forks would raise the front. Higher rear tire profile would raise the back. Maybe you guys are motorcycle techies, but I’m not. So which is it? And why didn’t Kawasaki do it that way, if it’s so good?

    • B says:

      The term “raising the forks” actually lowers the triple clamps. As the triple clamps lower the frame then lowers with it putting weight on the front end. It changes the steering geometry a bit too. I little will do alot in this adjustment. 5mm may not seem like much but it works.

    • J$ says:

      raising the forks in the triple clamps will effectively lower the triple clamps (closer to the ground), thus lowering the whole front end of the bike. Just think of it as shorter forks.

      • Tom Barber says:

        By hitting the refresh button before replying, I avoided repeating what you said. I will also add that when you do this, front wheel trail shortens, and in cases where it is already very short, this can exacerbate the tendency for a “tank slapper”, i.e., uncontrolled oscillation of the front wheel about the steering axis. More obviously, it can can cause the top of the wheel fender to bump against the stuff that is mounted up underneath the fairing, under hard braking. This won’t necessarily happen, but if it does, you probably won’t know it until you are in an emergency situation where you have to use the full braking potential, and that is when you will discover whether this occurs, and if it occurs, whether the effect will be to apply an asymmetric force on the wheel, i.e., push it to one side and cause you and the bike to fall to the ground when you are trying to perform an emergency stop.

  15. kv says:

    Nice bike; not my cup ‘o tea. That said: to raise the rear, couldn’t you just rotate the eccentric chain adjusters so the axle is on the bottom instead of the top? Looks like you’d pick up about an inch… and not have to swap tires to do it.

  16. PN says:

    I like the concept but not the execution. I just don’t care for this Ninja’s looks. Maybe a new (expensive) exhaust would be a start.

  17. Jack says:

    Well, I’m gonna comment on the Ninja 1000. Sounds like a great ride. It’s got looks, handling and comfort. Thanks for the report and keep up the good work! If I could kick this V4 addiction I have I wouldn’t mind putting one of these in the garage. Maybe once I finally have my full collection of VFR’s I’ll switch to Kawasaki. By then Honda will probably fix the current VFR though.

  18. MGNorge says:

    Gees, some strong opinions for a new bike that few of us have even had the chance to ride. Can’t please ‘em all I guess no matter what.

    • christow says:

      Too right. Everyone has an opinion it seems. I am interested in this bike, I think it looks like it is affordable, capable, and comfortable. After touring on my Buell XB-12R where the fuel light comes on at 120 miles, the 200 mile range sounds fine.

  19. zato says:

    Great stuff, have been eagerly awaiting these tests. Very interested in this bike as a ‘real world’ sportsbike.

  20. jimbo says:

    Or maybe six CBR250s?

  21. Wilson R says:

    Gee, is it faster than last years model? That’s going to be really useful on the street…

  22. Terry says:

    If you want more rear ride height, why not rotate the axle eccentrics so the axle is at the bottom, not the top. I recall that was a popular modification for owners of GPz900 and ZX10’s.

  23. W. Carper says:

    Old trick that ZRX nuts have used for a long time. If you want to get more weight on the front, flip the eccentric adjusters in the back. Just loosen the pinch bolts and rotate them 180 degrees. Works every time on the ZRX might be just the ticket for the 1000 too.

  24. John H. says:

    FZ6 rider here. Love the FZ1, but this looks like some stiff competition. Great news in my book. You know the trouble with sensible bikes though, right? Many sensible motorcyclists want to wait a few years to pick up a lightly used model for half the price. I hope this one sells enough copies to stay around a few years. Take good care of one for me!

    • Old town hick says:

      Yes, we sensible bargain hunters need a decent number of less sensible new bike buyers to swallow the depriciation for us, don’t we?

      • Austin ZZR 1200 says:

        That’s the only time I like the pushy dealers; they can get a guys to commit before his wife finds out. 2K later, its for sale under threat of divorce. I do all of my buying on craigslist ;)

        • blackcayman says:

          Quit telling us how cool you/we are – and don’t tell the newbies their wives will demand a “forced liquidation sale”. Geeze, it’s hard enough to find the right deal now without clue-ing in the whole community.

          BTW – turning 47 this year, so regardless of the design of the bodyworkor the ugly stock exhaust, the seating position demands it be one of very few logical choices for my demographic – the old guys who are not ready to ride ST1300’s – . Before mentioned Tiger 1050, this Ninja and a $$$40K??? Motus are in the mix. So I hope it’s a resounding success just so others will join the fray.

  25. todd says:

    Kawasaki should have brought in the new zrx 1200 here instead! Just my opinion.

    • MarkT says:

      I am on my second ZRX now, after foolishly sellinga highly modded blue REX. The Japanese market ZRX is nice with subtle updates. I’d snap one up if I could (HEAR THAT KAWASAKI???)

      FYI, the ZRX1200 will spank the Z1000…FYI…

      • Basque says:

        The stock Rex won’t spank a stock Z1 in top-end speed (I had a Rex and my brother had a Z1). But, the Rex had torque from 3k RPM… The Rex had REAL WORLD PERFORMANCE. Comfort, looks, “modability”. It was perfect.

        There’s nothing quite like the Rex on the market and I think Mama Kaw would do well to bring it stateside.

        BRING IT BACK KAWASAKI!!!

    • Jason B says:

      The problem is that you and the other 28 people (that includes me) that would actually put hard money down on one doesn’t justify the import. The bike had it’s chance here and unfortunately it didn’t make the cut.

    • kv says:

      roger that.

    • 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.

  26. T. Rollie says:

    it seems to me that owning eight cylinders (two of these Ninja bikes) would be more pleasurable than owning the six cylinders on the new BMW Six. But maybe if you’re doing only touring, and want to be stared at more, then the BMW is a better choice.