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

Our Ninja 1000 has gone through a few changes since our last report (follow this link to Part Two), including the addition of an Akrapovic slip-on system (including two mufflers). The beautifully finished titanium units dropped more than 11 pounds (11 lbs. 5 oz. to be exact) from our test bike, and added noticeable increases in power and torque. We do think the bike is running a bit lean, now, and will be doing our own tuning and dyno report in the next installment of this test. For the time being, here is the dyno chart from Akrapovic’s website (note that torque is expressed in newton-meters, rather than foot-pounds), which shows a substantial increase in power for slip-ons, undoubtedly related to the removal of the exhaust valve system in the right muffler of the stock unit.  Note that the sound level is not louder than stock (we left in the removable sound baffles), and the dyno chart below has the sound baffles installed, not removed.

Also new is our battery. We removed the stock unit and replaced it with the lightweight Shorai model LFX18A1-BS12. The Shorai weighed in at 964 g (see the photo), a total of 2 lbs. 2 oz. This compares with the stock battery that weighed roughly 6 lbs. 15 oz. on the same scale, for a weight savings of nearly 5 pounds. Altogether, the Shorai battery and the Akrapovic mufflers have reduced the weight of our Ninja 1000 by more than 16 pounds!

Our Shorai battery had been sitting unused for a month and a half, or so, before we installed it. True to Shorai’s claims, we did not experience the type of power drain we would have experienced had we treated the stock battery in a similar fashion.  The battery kit includes spacers to fill in the dead space in the battery box.  The Shorai fired our bike right up, and has done so every time since we installed it a few weeks ago. We noticed virtually no change from the performance of a well-charged standard battery. In fact, the Shorai seems to start our bike a bit quicker, and we believe the Shorai offers increased cold cranking amps (CCA) when compared with the stock Yuasa unit.

Gas mileage has actually improved a bit, with our worst measurement at 37 mpg, our best at 40 mpg, and an average of slightly more than 38 mpg. We typically see the tank gauge flashing, and warning about low fuel somewhere around the 160 mile mark.

Finally, in an effort to improve the handling, we replaced the stock 190/50 Bridgestone BT-016 with a 180/55 Bridgestone BT-016. Interestingly, the stock tire is not a dual compound. The off-the-rack BT-016 is a dual compound tire, with softer, grippier rubber off-center, for better grip when leaned over. The narrower 180 section rubber is also slightly taller, and our bike has become noticeably easier to turn … feeling more fluid. The stock 190/50 is not only a bit more difficult to lean over, it seems to transition to its side in stages, whereas the 180 section tire does so in a linear, smooth fashion. A definite handling improvement, in our opinion.

Stay tuned for part four of our long-term test, where we will adjust the air/fuel mixture, and provide our own dyno chart, as well as get into greater detail about suspension tuning.

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


  1. Ninja1000rider says:

    I’ve had my Ninja 1000 for about 600 miles now. If you have any doubts, they’ll gone after your first ride. This bike pretty much does it all, and it’s got enough low end torque to make your butthole pucker.

    stock pipes – aftermarket pipes, kickstand – centerstand, high seat-low seat, big tires-small tires…I just wanna ride it.

  2. Tom says:

    I’ve been looking at this bike with bated breath for some time, and now that I saw one in person the other day….I like, a lot. I ride a ZRX1100 as my sole means of transportation – wonderful bike in so many ways, but dirty old carbs are a pain. Yes, the stock exhaust has to go. I sure hope Akrapovic will be willing to design and release a set of headers that are compatible with the lower mounted slip ons, as I would fully intend to mount the side cases and you can drop a lot of weight by losing that absurd hunk of metal called a catalyzer hanging underneath (which is one reason there’s no centerstand, btw). Once that’s out of the way I bet a centerstand would be a cinch to add/remove. The eccentrics are very useful (my bike has them), but fact is, a centerstand’s a very nice thing to have everywhere except the track. Turn signals are kinda funny, but quite honestly no one sees you use them, and I use hand signals. Much more important to me are the mirrors – the wider and clearer, the better. Windscreens are pretty easy to replace, and I’m sure ZG will have something out in no time. Since I ride backroads with friends, I’d want the centerstand and side cases to be easily removeable to save weight. I always ride solo so the skimpy rear seat is no biggie to me. With a full Akro system and Shorai battery as mentioned above, I reckon the bike could weigh in under 470#, which is only about 35 pounds more than most liter-class sportbikes, and that’s probably close enough for this rider to eat at breakfast and lunch. Make mine green and black too, please 🙂

  3. MikeD says:

    I still can’t get over the “hammer head” windshield and fugly headlight area (u can’t see it when ur riding but will always be there when u park it, lmao).
    U can have sporty with out looking “tried too hard and still failed”…(Guzzi Norge, VFR800, Triumph Sprint, etc.) But looks is on the eye of the beholder. Not this beholder tho.
    Also, someone mentioned the pillion pad…why up there in the clouds and so anorexic ? Is this suposed to compete with the ZX-10R for sales ?
    A chain on this class is no help either.

    Im not drinking the Kool-Aid.

    • MikeD says:

      OH!…thanks for the report on the Shorai Battery. Very helpful insight, i might get me one once my current sealed Yuasa gives up.
      And not bad on the diet (16lbs+ is pretty substantial on my book).

      Hijack: Have u guys considered testing the new Pilot Road III tires ?

  4. Jim Huton says:

    Why do most moto magazines and webzines have to push aftermarket pipes loud = tickets. most bikes have more than enough power pipes add small amounts of power.Want to go fast get training and go to the track.
    Stop advertising for over priced noise makers. I could understand suspension upgrades money well spent but not the noise makers.

    • jimbo says:

      The above post draws conclusions drawn from other articles completely unrelated to this one, and applies those false conclusions to this article. Fail.

      From the article: “…a substantial increase in power for slip-ons, undoubtedly related to the removal of the exhaust valve system in the right muffler of the stock unit. Note that the sound level is not louder than stock (we left in the removable sound baffles), and the dyno chart below has the sound baffles installed, not removed…Gas mileage has actually improved a bit…”

      Lighter, more power/torque, less fuel consumption, same loudness…What’s not to like? I and all or most posters concur with the admittedly subjective cosmetic improvement.

      The only potential criticism, as an audio professional, is that dB levels might be helpful. But even such so-called “objective” readings such as dB must be interpreted. For instance, human sensitivity to spectrum (dB relative to frequency) is non-linear, meaning one particular rider may be extremely sensitive to a particular noise spectrum bandwidth that irritates the heck out of one individual may be of little consequence to another. Plus there is the dB/spectrum/RPM relationship: with two different exhaust systems one may be quieter at all RPM except a narrow range most often employed by a particular rider.

    • Neil says:

      The stock pipes may be quiet but they also get in the way of your heel when you have your toes on the pegs. I don’t know what Kawasaki engineers were thinking. So that is reason number one to drop the stock cans. Another issue is the weight. Eleven pounds is nothing to sneeze at. So it is not so much about louder as it is about lighter and more functional for your feet. That being said, I am sure it sounds nice as well. Take a look at some Akro youtubes. Their baffles are very quiet compared to race pipes.

  5. Sands says:

    This was a very good and interesting report..Thank you!

  6. Don Fraser says:

    Are you in California, did the stock pipes have catalysts, are they still there? You do know that you are allowed to change pipes from the cat back, but are not allowed to change fuel or timing per a decades old federal law that is being enforced in California, unless you remove the lights and plate and use it only off road.

    • ROXX says:

      begins 2013

      • jimbo says:

        If “begins 2013” means the law begins 2013, false. If it means the law remains unenforced in CA until 2013, possibly correct.

        I knew two “Big Dog” owners. One was a gal/co-worker, the other was a guy, my next door neighbor (his garage door 20′ away facing mine) in an otherwise dead and I mean dead quiet (as in no kids) gated single-entrance community. His BD had a modified/louder than OEM exhaust. Those familiar with this brand of bike know there is no louder production motor.

        I’m an audio professional. When his Big Dog idled in front of his garage, I saw the sound waves distorting (bending) the stucco on the nearby neighbor’s wall (this is kick ass hard core construction in this community, not cheapo). Such loudness dwarfs that of any normal diesel tractor motor at WFO (I drove such for decades). I worked at the Sausalito Record Plant with Tower of Power, I’ve worked rock concerts, I taught audio classes at Blue Bear Waltzes. I also worked at SFO airport right on the landing field. I can remember no louder sound than that guy’s modified BD. It was almost instant pain the moment it started. When I first heard it while I was indoors I could not categorize the source it was so loud.

        This neighbor was nice enough, but he had already displayed certain inappropriate anti-social behavior (especially for being a member of the local PD), that I concluded my first and only desire was to assemble legal standing to eliminate this vehicle noise from my world.

        I struck up a long email relationship with an apparently very diligent and hard working federal bureaucrat (I agree, I thought that was an oxymoron till meeting him!) at the EPA. This gentleman emailed me many pages of legal documents including the relevant EPA regulations passed every since the 70s. My best understanding of the EPA law is as follows: since the laws were authorized they remain permanent federal law. The problem is enforcement was not financed, and enforcement is left to individual states. But if the states desired (hint, hint to readers) they could (and should IMO) start enforcing the laws. My understanding (could be wrong) is that legally speaking, each and every exhaust must be stamped “meets EPA regulation” or similar, or otherwise such non-stamped exhaust is in violation. Check your OEM exhaust right now for such stamping. I have no idea if any such stamping in on any after-market exhaust.

        The short version of the neighbor’s BD is that I dumped/finked (yes and I’m proud I did, I would have hired an attorney to eliminate this noise source, see above) to his PD bosses, and he moved his bike to his other home in a far away city. Don’t feel sorry for him, he’s wealthy and his other ride is a shiny new black and lovely Gold Wing, which makes some of the best motor music on earth.

  7. Mickey says:

    Yes I’d consider this a solo sport tourer. Only if your pillion is young and skinny with a boney butt is she going to want to spend much time on that back seat (I know my wife wouldn’t want to sit back there). As far as the front & rear designs go, unfortunately this is all we are getting these days. They build them to look like a “tolerable” road racer, especially the rear end, with a huge gap between the fender and rear wheel (why? it isn’t a motocrosser with 10″ of travel), a hideous looking lic holder/taillight that most customers rip off to throw on an undertail, which hides the licence plate (oh there’s the reason for all the space between fender and wheel), then makes the turn signals look too big, so they stick on quarter size turn signals front & rear which are nearly impossible to see. Crazy. Unfortunately this is as close as we get to a UJM these days. I lament the loss of real seats for rider AND passenger (level with the ground), and real rear fenders with the tail light lic plate boted on top of the rear fender.

    Still for the options we do have these days, this is a very nice motorcycle, and one I would consider should I ever take up solo riding full time (ie: my wife decides she no longer wants to ride).

    • Mickey says:

      oops forgot. Anyone who has ever gotten a flat tire in the middle of nowhere will certainly appreciate having a centerstand. Unless you don’t ride very far from home, having a way to support the bike when you need to remove a wheel is pretty much a necessity.

      • Zuki says:

        I agree with you about the seats these days. The GSX1250F seems to be more suited to our tastes, including center stand, but it’s still not like the old flat seat for both rider and passenger (on the same plane). I also wish Suzuki would make it a GSX1250G (shaft-drive).

    • jimbo says:

      “…They build them to look like a “tolerable” road racer, especially the rear end, with a huge gap between the fender and rear wheel (why? it isn’t a motocrosser with 10″ of travel)…”

      Wow! I never thought of that, very interesting. I looked at the image and wondered, yes, why IS that the universal architecture? Is it just for a cosmetic effect? It does appear that this gap demands that the passenger seat be highly elevated, and this does appear to hurt useability. It also prevents a long flat seat for both rider and passenger, which I used to appreciate because it makes room for the rider to move fore-aft when no passenger is present (good for taller riders like me-self).

      The only reason beyond cosmetics I can think of is to increase rearward clearance for wheelies.

  8. blackcayman says:

    Thanks for the much better looking exhaust. I’m waiting for the addition of a bigger – more realistic all day touring windscreen and a report about how it does gobbling up miles. I’ve sat on it and I don’t doubt it will do all the day to day, canyon & track riding. I need a bike that can also rack up 2500 miles in a week.

    Am I the only one narrowed down to this bike and the Tiger 1050?

  9. KAWZIES says:

    I wonder how jacked the insurance will be? I bought an ’03 z1000 in ’05 (new) and full coverage was about $450/yr. I’m sure it’s similar for the new z1000’s. Now that they’ve called this a Ninja……I know, BOOORRIINNNGGGGG!

  10. ROXX says:

    Lord I love this bike.
    Make mine green and black with side cases.

  11. Cyclemotorist says:

    This bike’s appearance is just transformed by replacing the unattractive stock exhaust. I knew I didn’t like the stock exhaust to start with but wow, what a difference. Anyone know how loud it is? I love the weight savings and looks but I don’t want loud either.

    • ShnikeJSB says:

      Try reading the actual article:

      “Note that the sound level is not louder than stock (we left in the removable sound baffles), and the dyno chart below has the sound baffles installed, not removed.”


  12. sam says:

    Outstanding “sporty-touring” bike in nearly every detail…but no centerstand…no sale

    • Dave says:

      What is it with the militant center stand faction? I too like the convenience of a center stand, but I have trouble with the whole “no stand, no sale” thing. I adjust my chain maybe once a year, and I remove my wheels at home for tire changing purposes. Isn’t that accounting for approximately 98.75% of all center stand use?

      This bike (IMO of course) is by _far_ the best-yet sportbike built for people who want to be comfortable. It’s better than any VFR ever at being a sportbike, and it’s more comfortable than any VFR (and I like VFR’s). In a given year, my bike probably spends somewhere around 750 hours being ridden, and maybe 2 hours on a stand in the garage, or .002% of that time. I think I can look past the lack of the center stand and enjoy, you know…riding the thing.

      • jimbo says:

        I commuted about 40 miles each direction for about fifteen years. Parking bikes vertical (at work, home, anywhere) requires a center stand and takes up significantly less space vs. diagonal with a side stand. The last bike I owned at my last regular job was the Buel Ulysses with side stand only. There were two, sometimes three other riders parking bikes in the limited indoor space at the firehouse, and the extra space required with the side stand was a noteworthy negative. Ditto at home.

        • Dave says:

          You have a valid point. However, a CB125 would take up even less space than your Ulysses (by a lot), but that fact wasn’t a reason not to buy why would the stand be a reason not to buy it? The obvious answer is that the Ulysses is an awesome machine, and represented what you wanted in a bike…the lack of a center stand didn’t stop you from enjoying it I’m guessing.

          I didn’t say that there is no reason that anyone would like to have a center stand…I’m just taking issue with the whole “this is the perfect bike at the perfect price for me, but I won’t consider buying it because it has no center stand” thing.

          I mean…really?

          (also, once/year on the chain adjust is surely an exaggeration on my part…I’m sure it’s more like twice or even three times)

          • Kagato says:

            I’m one of the centerstand nazi’a so here’s my take: if a good looking chick says she likes your bike you can let her have a seat on it, put her feet up on the pegs–thus elevating her posterior for better viewing, as well as exciting chickie when you get her to crank your scoot up and play with the throttle. Is that a good enough reason or do I need to start launching V1 buzzbombs towards your house? 🙂

          • Dave says:

            Like I was saying…

            …no center stand, no sale.

          • Kagato says:

            Dave you are good sport 🙂

      • Bob says:

        While I’ve enjoyed the centerstand on a couple of my bikes the past 10 years, I agree the no-sale thing is ridiculous. But, I’ll debunk your 98.75% with a much lower number as I use it every day.

        1. It takes less parking space
        2. With soft asphalt, I get double the footprint of a side stand to keep from sinking.
        3. I can look at my sight glass and get an accurate reading of my oil every time before I take off.
        4. If I need to plug my tire on the road or do any kind of wheel related repair, I can get the wheel off the ground…even the front with a little body weight on the back and something wedged under the sump to hold it up.

        But it’s not a deal breaker for a sale.

        • Dave says:

          Ya, I use it more than that % of the time too, as my bike has one. But if I didn’t have one, I wouldn’t miss it in most of those situations (have plugged a front tire w/ no stand, use a sidestand foot, etc.).

  13. Rob Blais says:

    I’m riding one as my demo, at Lawton Motorsports, in Lawton, Oklahoma. This bike RIPS. It’s fast, handles well, and feels like a mountain bike. Dialing the suspension in is important. Make sure your sag setting is on the mark, and the rear rebound is a particularly important setting. Experiment with it. It’s easy to access. I teach Lee Parks Total Control Training, and am considered the suspension guru, and it really is important. Once dialed in to your weight, the bike just plain works! Fun to ride. Fast. More than you’ll ever use. 150mph plus with no mods. Need more? I think not. It’s even easy to push. NICE BIKE!!! It does everything, unless you’re thinking off road. It will do fire roads, but be careful, as the motor is like the Santa Fe Super Chief locomotive. Pulls from the bottom like a freight train. Very pleasant ownership experience, as in Kawasaki, in general. Nice!!! Very nice.

    • jimbo says:

      Great post! You should train the sales dept too!

    • Sands says:

      I’ve never ridden on but I can agree with your mountain bike feel comment…Sat on one at the dealership and couldn’t believe how light it felt just sitting there…Most bikes tend to feel lighter once in motion so I could only imagine how light it feels riding it.

  14. randy says:

    nice bike,but the passenger seat will just not cut it.

    • Peter says:

      I concur…actually, I think the the entire back end of this bike just doesn’t hang together…it seems as tho there were two designers, one for the front and one for the rear and neither spoke to each other. While the Akro certainly improves the look over the stock exhaust (what wouldn’t?), it isn’t enough to overcome the poor rear end styling. Too bad – other wise appears to be a great bike and a possible replacement for my 01 VFR.

    • Steve P says:

      I agree. Seems easy to do I’m looking for a good 2 up sport tourer that my wife would be comfortable on for overnight trips.
      If Kawasaki fixes that and has an adjustable seat height I would definitely be buying that as my next bike.

  15. Bob says:

    I’m looking forward to Part 4 now. As I currently ride a 7 year old BMW R1100S with hard cases and Ohlins at both ends, I am looking for a replacement. After excitedly reading about this bike for the past 6 months, I actually got to sit on one for the first time on Tuesday. The ergos are more comfortable but I can’t make out if the seat will be better or worse as it’s simply quite different.

    I am interested in improving the MPG if possible as the Ninja already has 40 more HP than my current ride. That’s more than enough for my use but I’d hate to give up 5 MPG by getting the Ninja. I’m wondering if there’s a way to recalibrate the speedo/odo if I were to add a tooth up front or drop a few teeth from the rear. When you put on 20,000 miles/year, that 5 MPG really adds up at the pump.

    I’m also interested in the Kawi available cases. According to my local dealer, the cases, mounts, heated grips and seat cowl that I want are available here (not just in Europe). All said, an extra $1500.

    • Chris says:

      google: speedo healer

      Quick and easy way to fix speedo errors with or without gearing changes…

  16. jimbo says:

    Looks like Kawasaki has a real winner on their hands. My last inline four was a 2000 Honda CB750. I know this liter bike is a monster by comparison (probably double the power/tq), but I’d appreciate you comparing (obtrusive) motor vibration.

    Generally I detest aftermarket exhaust for the increased noise, but on this one the dramatic power/tq improvements + OEM noise levels make me a convert. Good to see at least on aftermarket exhaust maker tackling the noise issue head-on. Honestly, I’d have (wrongly) bet aftermarket makers could not improve power with similar noise levels vs. the huge OEM engineering departments. Is it wrong to suppose that Kawasaki engineers failed with the exhaust design?

  17. ShnikeJSB says:

    Will you be testing the hard side cases and tail trunk that you can get through Kawasaki?

  18. Jones says:

    Note- the stock OEM BT-016s are dual compound rear and single compound front. The After-market BT-016s are triple compound rear (5LC) and dual compound front (3LC). I switched from the OEMs to the aftermarkets on my Ninja and the difference is quite noticeable.

  19. ze says:

    nice add-ons, very smart

  20. Mickey says:

    Bike looks better . Questions: are the pipes loud compared to the stock units? ie: do they have the street baffle in them? If they are too loud, the droning could ruin the sport touring experience (at least for me). What did you stuff in the battery box to make up the room putting in the smaller battery?

    Following this with great interest. This appears to be a very nice motorcycle and you may be making it that much better.

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