– Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Four New Kawasakis for 2011

Thanks to a leaky embargo-management system (or just untrustworthy journalists), the world already knows many of the details of the all-new Kawasaki ZX-10R. But Kawasaki Heavy Industries also released details of two more new models for the USA market—a faired version of the Z1000 called the Ninja 1000 and Kawi’s take on the bagger called the Vaquero. There’s also an ABS version of the ZX-10R that’s worth mentioning.


The big news is the ZX-10R. Since BMW launched its 200-plus horsepower, dripping-with-electronics, shootout-winning and media-wowing S1000RR superbike for 2010, there has been deafening silence from the Japanese Big Four. Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 has remained the same since 2009, Honda’s (outstanding) CBR1000RR has only gotten minor updates (including ABS) since 2008, and Yamaha’s YZF-R1 has also been static since its introduction in 2008. So it’s no surprise that Kawasaki—proud of its reputation for always having the most powerful superbikes—stepped up first with its intended Beemer-slayer.

Kawasaki claims this is an all-new machine from the ground up. The motor—though it has the same 76mm by 55mm bore-and-stroke numbers—is all new, with larger intake valves, polished ports, higher-lift camshafts, higher 13.0:1 compression, lighter conrods, a secondary balancer and pistons with even shorter skirts than the last-gen ZX-10R. The injectors grow to 47mm from 43mm, and the airbox gets an extra liter of capacity. The new cassette-style transmission was also redesigned to make it more compact and to centralize mass. The back-torque-limiting clutch is actually adjustable. There is no word from Kawi about power, but the rumor mill is churning out claims of 200-plus horses (at the crank), which wouldn’t surprise us here at MD.

The chassis is also completely new. The frame is now a simpler seven-piece design. It’s lighter, with fewer welds for a neater look. The very good Showa Big Piston Fork (that we liked so much on the ZX-6R), in a 43mm size rides up front, and Kawasaki’s loyal old Uni-Trak suspension—which holds the shock vertically—is thrown under the bus for a “back-link” system that locates the shock and linkage horizontally above the swingarm to make room for a big catalyst-equipped exhaust pre-chamber. The shock itself gets high and low-speed compression damping along with the other requisite adjustments. Front brakes are four-piston radial-mount calipers and 310mm petal-style rotors. Claimed wet weight is 436.6 pounds, 22 pounds less than the 2010 (which was seven pounds heavier than the BMW).

Racers should appreciate features aimed at improving track-only performance. The titanium headers have similar specs as race-only components, and the exhaust pre-chamber can be removed so the wheelbase can be shortened up to 16mm (over half an inch). The mirrors, turnsignals and license-plate bracket are all designed to be quickly removable. There’s even a racetrack mode for the instruments that displays the gear position where the speed usually is, and re-introduces us to Kawasaki’s much-complained-about LCD bar-graph tachometer. Hooray!

It’s not all about performance. Kawasaki has lowered the seat a little, the tank is more compact, the clip-ons are angled down less and the footpegs are adjustable, meaning a more-comfortable riding experience. And a lot of attention has been paid to styling—the bike looks small, compact and aggressive, a no-nonsense WSBK machine for the street.

But Kawasaki is clearly very proud of the electronics package. Called “Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control” or S-KTRC (“skit-rick?”) the new system differs from the system on the Concours14. Instead of simply cutting power when the rear wheel starts spinning, it reduces power when wheel slip gets out of control, using “complex analysis to predict when traction conditions are about to become unfavorable,” doing 200 calculations per second in the process. The S-KTRC has three levels of traction control—track, intermediate and slippery conditions—and is designed to work with a separate “power mode” selection function. The rider can select full power. Medium mode mimics the low-power mode under 50 percent power, and the low power mode is…low power, I guess. Not as complex as the BMW and Ducati systems, but some of us appreciate simplicity. We’ll see if it works as well as those systems on the track…hopefully soon.  U.S. MSRP for the non-ABS model is $13,799.

This new ZX-10R has probably been in development since before the S1000RR debuted, and is also heavily influenced by the needs of the WSBK program, but it does tell us a thing or two about Kawasaki’s place in the global motorcycle market. It’s upping the horsepower and weight ante while giving its customers the sophisticated race electronics they’re clamoring for. Global recession? What global recession?


Another first for Kawasaki: an ABS version of its top-of-the-line superbike. Equipped with KIBS—Kawasaki Intelligent Anti-lock Brake System—the new ABS is built by Bosch (who also, not surprisingly, built the electronics for the BMW) and communicates not just with wheel-spin sensors, but also with the bike’s ECU and S-KTRC boxes. Kawasaki pitches KIBS as not just affording extra safety on the street, but also to make racetrack riders faster and more confident by reducing rear-end hop caused by overly hard braking and making the rear brake easier to control during hard downshifting.

ABS adds $1,000 to the price, with a U.S. MSRP of $14,799.

NINJA 1000

Golly gee, you may have said while reading our first ride report of the Kawasaki Z1000, that sure would be a great sport-tourer if it had some wind protection and luggage capacity. Well, dust off that checkbook, because the new Ninja 1000 may be the kind of bike that letters-to-the-editor writers and Internet malcontents have been requesting for years. A UJM with great performance, comfort and handling with a reasonable pricetag.

I’ll save you most of the tech details—you can go to Jeff’s Z1000 review for that, as the two bikes are basically identical. The Ninja 1000 gets a full-coverage fairing with three-position-adjustable windscreen, passenger grabrails and blackout treatment for the exhaust. The front fender and instrument cluster are also different, sourced from the ZX-6R. Wet weight is 502.7 pounds, about 20 pounds more than the Z1000, depending on whose review you believe.

Kawasaki promises a full range of touring options, like hard luggage (sidebags and topcase) as well as heated grips and other items. Sounds like this would make a great alternative to a big-bucks sport-tourer as well as a seriously fun commuting missile. We’re curious as to why there’s no ABS option, given the obvious useage as a commuter or sport-tourer.  U.S. MSRP is $10,999.  We still look forward to testing it out.


Vaquero means cowboy in Spanish, but Kawasaki is hoping it’ll also mean increased cruiser sales. The Bagger class is the hot category these days, and Kawasaki was on the outside looking in, with no high-style cruiser in the mold of Star’s Stratoliner Deluxe or Victory’s Cross Roads.

Kawasaki did have a very competent starting point in the Vulcan 1700, and you can get the tech specs from Dirck’s first ride of those models. To create the Vaquero, Kawasaki started with what looks like a cut-down and restyled frame-mounted fairing from the 1700 Voyager. The rest of the bodywork is unique to the Vaquero, from the side-opening saddlebags to the fenders. A one-piece seat adds to the mean, lean and low symphony of style, along with chrome strut covers and new mufflers. The motor and chassis get satin and matte-black finishes, and the windscreen is as stripped-down and low as the rest of the bike. Kawasaki claims it still provides “substantial” wind protection.

Having a stripped-down bike doesn’t mean the rider is a minimalist Luddite. The Vaquero bristles with luxury features. The audio system is operated with handlebar switches and is compatible with your iPod, CB or XM satellite tuner. And the bike is really built for traveling, with air-adjustable shocks, cruise control, a 5.3 gallon fuel tank and not one but two overdriven gears, fifth as well as sixth. Whatever the bike lacks, you can add; Kawasaki has a fat accessory catalog for its Vulcan cruisers.

The Vaquero looks like a well-planned, integrated product, not a slapped-together attempt to cash in on a passing craze. Think of it as a boulevard strutter you can ride to a boulevard on the other side of the country.   U.S. MSRP for the Vaquero is $16,499.  We see a pretty good bagger comparo coming for 2011, so keep checking back.


  1. MotoBum says:

    Come on OEMs! Why make 200hp motorcycles and then neuter them with traction control? If you want to only have the power of a 600, then get a 600. Rather than wasting R&D dollars on sensors and sophisticated electronics, which are then passed on to the consumer, why not make us some fun, easy to rip, and fast 800cc sportbikes? Skip the traction control and ABS – that’s for cages.

  2. Kompressor says:

    Would it hurt Kawasaki if they put centerstand for the Ninja 1000?

  3. Dave says:

    The 2011 ZX-10R tailsection looks like the Ninja 650R tail =( Some fkooky looking proportions in the pics. Will have to see how it looks in person. Darn housing crsis ruined the YEN/Dollar exchange rate. Looks like soon, only the rich will be riding new sportbikes.

  4. Vince says:

    The line up is missing the W-800 another Neo-Retro not coming to North America. Aging baby boomers are missing out again.

    Not all of us older riders want race replicas or cruisers.

    Kawasaki did good bringing the Versys to California though. Rode one a few weeks ago, amazing how much fun 60hp and suspension for real world roads can be.

  5. rapier says:

    The Ninja 1000 hits the spot for me, in theory. Peg height is crucial to me for real touring and only sitting it will tell there. Good hard bags and if someone comes up with a decent rack for packing it up and I would be sold.

  6. mrsdoubtfire says:


  7. vlad says:

    Really like the Ninja 1000, but will not buy because there is no anti lock brakes and no traction control. I guess they plan to put those as ‘improvements’ for 2012… But by that time I will probably be riding Triumph adventure 800.

    ZX-10 green is the best look super sport, really nice body work. Excellent specs — just not the bike for me.

    Hope they do well with their cruiser, but overall the prices on these bikes bite.

    Kawasaki should have brought in the W-800. I test rode the Boneville a couple of weeks ago, and came out some less excited than I thought I would be.

    Kawasaki needs to have 21 inch wheels, 6 gallon tank, 80 ft of torque Adventure bike that can go on for 250-300 miles for less than 10K $US with anti lock brakes and traction control. This would be really really nice.

  8. Kawatwo says:

    Kawasaki has always been ahead of everyone else in the styling dept IMHO. Of course I have been a fan since the original 900 Ninja. The Ninja 1000 looks amazing. Finally a comfortable sportbike that looks like a sportbike. Not a half faired or naked. It has an aluminum frame like a real sportbike and everything. If they could make a 636 or a 750 version that was even lighter that would be even better. ~500 pounds is pretty good for something in the full faired litre touring class though so I’m not complaining. I am going to say bike of the year right now.
    The new 10R looks amazing too of course, but it is not for mere mortals like me. Kawasaki has still not taken my idea of a new entry level cruiser with the Ninja 650 parallel twin. Oh Well. Looks like Big Ks year!

    • Rob J says:

      I’ve been asking big K for an Eliminator 650, with the pegs and controls where they belong, under the rider. Hopefully we will get to see something mid year or 2012. Glad I’m not the only one bugging them about this! 🙂

  9. jimbo says:

    Sorry to double post, just too irresistible.

    That there Ninja may have street bike of the year plastered all over it. How’s motor vibration on the Z1000? Ergos look perfect except I’m tall so I might prefer a slightly taller seat for less knee angle. Grip position looks ideal. Certainly it cries out for ABS, esp seeing as how they offer ABS on the race replica 1000. By “wet weight” do you mean full tank? If so, that’s just off the scale good.

    Styling is very livable, modern but not overdone. What’s not to like? I’d like to see it and ride at the first opportunity.

    • Justin says:

      radial-mount brakes, too. it’s about time these things started filtering down from the top-end bikes.

      further to your ‘slightly taller’, I would love to see a flat seat on this thing. I know that would not be stylish but awful it would be quite functional. o k i will now put the crack pipe down.

      • Justin says:

        you can put that ‘awful’ wherever it fits. certainly doesn’t belong where i left it.

      • Zuki says:

        I agree that it needs a flat seat. It seems Kawasaki thinks riders like a forward slope which is very uncomfortable. My ZR-7 had the same problem and I had to reshape it. Look at Suzuki’s new GSR750… nice, flat seat!

  10. Zeke says:

    At Kawasaki’s Canadian site, they are showing a Ninja 400R, and I’ve looked at 3 Kawasaki sites and found no mention of the 500, and only Canada has the 400. Am I missing something, or is the 400 only in Canada and the 500 is gone (presumably replaced by the 650). Sidenote for the lazy/curious: I compared specs, and dimensions of the 400 and 650 are identical. There are minor variatoins in equipment. The 650 is 1 kg heavier)

  11. jimbo says:

    I’m really not that interested in cruisers. Just curious, considering the apparent Kawi offering above vs. the H-D cost and its motor evolved from 19th century tractors: Could you really pay about 50% more just for the name? I never could. Is the Vaquero made in the USA?

    It’s really no wonder H-D would have moved out of MI if the employees didn’t agree to cuts about a month ago.

  12. buddygixxerninja says:

    kawasaki has again stepped up and prove the economy wrong! the zx-10r and ninja 1000 are great looking bikes and i can’t wait to see one in the showroom. i’ve been in the market for a new sportsbike and i hope the zx-10r come out on top! man, it’s a great looking bike. it looks like a missle!

  13. jimbo says:

    That Ninja 1000cc looks absolootely freeeekin fantastic. I generally can’t stand cruisers. Yet that the bike depicted in the bottom image looks great too.

    Obviously race replicas are here to stay. But really, c’mon, it doesn’t take a demographic genius to see that the bike market is getting really old. Since I quit my high-stress day job I’m in pretty darn good shape. But how many 56 year olds love riding race replicas? C’mon, it’s insane.

    But the Ninja’s ergos look completely livable. And great fairing protection. This bike should have been here ages ago.

    Center stand and you might have deal Kawasaki.

  14. Jay Mack says:

    I want the Bandit GT!

  15. zeus xarras says:

    THE ONLY COMPANY WITH BALLS OF STEEL!!!! cutting edge technology from top to bottom, watch out BMW! since 2003 kawasaki is off the hook, cruisers, motocross, sport, sport tourer, and super sport are untouchable, and there atv, utv are the best buy for the money for the last 10 years. and the resale value is uncompromised. I CAN’T WAIT

  16. DT says:

    Way to step it up Kawasaki! Love the looks of the new ZX10R and Ninja 1000. If I was in the market for a new bike the Ninja 1000 would be at the top of the list. I already loved the new Z1000. I’m not a fan of big touring bikes but the Vaquero looks good too. I would love to see Kawasaki attempt to make a cruiser with the looks and power to compete with the Suzuki M109R.

  17. PeteP says:

    Rumor has it the “new” KLR650 will have the Versys engine. That would be nice.

    • jimbo says:

      Wow! Depending on the price such a bike could give the new Triumph Adventure 800cc kinitchi fits!

      How good is that rumor? Hmmmmmm…ETA?

    • william says:

      why not just buy a Versys and put knobbies on it if that is what you want. The KLR is fine the way it is.

  18. Fast says:

    Billy Bo: The reason for buliding this bike is so that it make be homologated for racing in NON-PROTOTYPE such as WSBK and AMA. Not MOTO GP which is an experimental class racing series.

    Regarding those who are driven towards adventure bikes look at the new Yamaha Super Tenere.

  19. Joey Wilson says:

    JUST the thing if you’re shopping for your own personal cruise missle ! A 21st Century Z1-R.

    For the life of me, I can’t understand why the Japanese (and their American affiliates) do not understand that the ongoing renaissance for 70’s-style motorcycles that is raging in Japan cannot see an identical twin in the American market. Who’d want to bet that American Honda would sell a ton of the retro CB1100 instead of that neither-fish-no-fowl VRF and DN-01’s? How many ZRX-DAEG’s would Kawi sell here? PLUS, they’re way cheaper to make, and their softer MSRP’s would suit these trying times better than the stuff they’re trying to push. Beats me . . . .

  20. Brian D says:

    I think the bike looks great, but the press release that is seen on has references to “MotoGP-derived” this and that. When they had no factory support on a satelite team in 2009 and completely dropped out for this year, and likely nothing until maybe 2012 when the 1000s come back? shouldn’t they be banned from claiming anything is “MotoGP derived”? otherwise, the bike looks sweet.

    • Chris says:

      Brian, not sure what you mean. MotoGP must be prototype i.e. not using anything from the production bikes. But why wouldn’t the production bike be allowed to claim its technology comes from MotoGP, even if it’s 2 year old technology?

    • jimbo says:

      1. It’s not like, from a street bike POV, a 2009 failed MotoGP bike is a slug.

      2. The advertising word is “puffery” and it exists 24/7 everywhere all the time in advertising.

      3. Um, banned? Like, what, a law or something?

      Look at the entire ad/marketing campaign for a Mitsubishi EVO. Every inch screams the EVO is a purebred racetrack car that happens to meet DOT, EPA, and NHTSA regulations for the street. Guess what regarding the warranty? Mitsubishi computers connect to the SCCA database. The moment your VIN enters the SCCA database (indeed, the VIN is mandatory to race) your warranty is null and void. I know a racer who blew his motor, he thought, under warranty. He towed it to the dealer and the dealer showed gave him a bill (imagine the cost for 2.0L I-4 300+hp OEM turbo motor) for a new motor. Sad, so sad…

      How’s that for puffery?

  21. mickey says:

    The bagger looks nice, however I’m not a bagger kind of guy.

    The “sport tourer” Ninja 1000 looks like a 1 person sport tourer with the passenger getting screwed in the pooch again. Some of us actually take passengers along on our trips and I can tell you MY WIFE wouldn’t sit on the high perched mini P pad and high passenger pegs for more than a trip to the end of the driveway, if that.C’mon Kawasaki, that’s not a sport tourer, it’s a sport bike for old guys that can’t fold themselves up to ride real sport bikes.

  22. David M says:

    The Ninja 1000 is a great step in right direction. Finally, another 1000cc ST machine.

    After a brief reading of the spec’s, at Ultimate Motorcycling’s site, they say it has “substantial range” with it’s 5 U.S. gallon tank. By comparison, the last VFR 800 had a 5.8 gallon tank which gave it a pre-reserve range of about 200 miles. Decent but not great. But, they sure caught my attention in a good way.

  23. Marc says:

    As long as Kawasaki keeps putting on the ugliest mufflers know to man my money is staying in my pocket. The Ninja 1000 had promise until the muffler and it is just not worth it in California to change it and deal with the tickets.

    • Dave says:

      The California exhaust law only affects 2013 model year and later…

    • Nate says:

      Here’s a thought… leave California. There are 49 other states out there… almost none of which are as completely moronic as that one.

  24. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    Way to show some balls, Kawasaki!

    I hope you will be rewarded with market share. The price of the ZX10-R is approaching S1000RR territory (strong yen, declining Euro) so I hope it can compete performance-wise (I think it will beat it from a dependability standpoint).

  25. Chris says:

    Surprisingly, or maybe by accident ;), these are already on the Kawasaki website.

    $13.8k for the 10R. Add $1k for the ABS version… $11k for the Ninja 1000.

    I think they did a good job with the styling. It’ll be interesting to see what bags, etc. cost for the Ninja 1000.

    I am not a fan of having different power modes. Give me full power all the time. Though, I could see having a rain/fuel economy mode if a second power mode is deemed necessary. It’ll be interesting to read how well (or poorly) the TC works. 3 settings doesn’t feel sufficient to me. Maybe the 200 calculations per second make more TC settings redundant.

  26. sliphorn says:

    Wow, big K is on the move. Love the Ninja 1000 and really love the W800 that was reported here at MC Daily a while ago. I just hope the W makes it stateside.

  27. kpaul says:

    Nice bikes. Love to see more bikes with ABS for those of us who drive on wet surfaces routinely. Nothing like grabbing a handful and not worrying if you are going to lock up the front when Buffy pulls out in front of you with her Esclade. I predicted ABS would become a standard option a few years ago and was laughed at a self described “industry insider” web editor who now works for Kawasaki. LOL. Ninja 1000 is great and innovative.

  28. What?!?!? No DAEG 1200 for the North American market? C’mon Kawasaki. Bring it here and show everyone what a great ‘naked’ bike should be.

  29. Dave says:

    Way to come out swinging Kawasaki! Love the Ninja 1000! Love the Bagger! The 10R really looks to be a missle.

    Throw in a nice ADV bike and you might have me for life…….

  30. Max says:

    As the other Japanese manufacturers fall asleep and provide little to no new product, waiting out a recession that will see their market share dwindle, Kawasaki joins the Europeans and unleashes a barrage of exciting new bikes. I hope they sell a ton of them, and I just may be a buyer. My lust wants the ZX-10R, but my needs point me to the Z1000S (Ninja 1000 I guess). Kawasaki is paying attention to its current customers, and also doing what new buyers want. Good for them. Way to show the other ‘big 3’ how it should be done! I was a Suzuki man, but after their ‘withdrawal’ from the market last year, I’m done with them. Hello Team Green…

  31. CLB III says:

    Kawasaki……….ya dun good!Congrats on the design of these new machines. My fav’ is the Ninja 1000 sport tourer! Thanks Kawi!!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. BillyBo says:

    ZX-10R-awesome bike, can’t wait to see it in person. But why the Ninja 1000 too? It’s a great looking bike but why both? Why not an 800cc?

    The Vaquero-Smokin’ hot looking bike (and I’m sportbike rider). But lose the dumb sounding name. I can already hear being called the “Va-queer-o” buy the H-D diehard boners.

  33. Vrooom says:

    How about a KLR1000 Kawasaki. Suzuki has been selling V-Stroms like mad, and that KLV branded version didn’t hang around too long. The ninja 1000 looks perfect, though hanging the ninja name on it is going to make insurance companies rate it like a sport bike rather than a sport tourer.

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