A combination of supple ride, comfy riding position and smooth power delivery makes the Ninja 1000 a compelling sports tourer
Kawasaki India has strengthened its arsenal by introducing a couple of new and very delectable motorcycles to its already power packed big bike line-up, which includes the razor sharp Ninja ZX-10R and one of the fastest production bike, the ZX-14R. Last week, we were on a power trip as we reviewed the newly launched Kawasaki Z1000 street bike. And now, it's the turn of the multifaceted Kawasaki Ninja 1000. Both the bikes are priced at Rs 13.8 lakh (OTR Pune) and come complete with a refined 1043cc inline four motor. But both these come in different state of tune, which defines their unique characters. On the Ninja 1000, the mill produces the same power output of 142PS; but it tops out a 1000 revs early at 10,000rpm. However, the meaty torque of 111Nm maxes at the same 7,300rpm.
You might wonder if Kawasaki already has the ZX-10R and now the Z1000 competing in the litre class, what is the need for yet another bike in the same segment? To begin with, the Ninja 1000 is a completely different animal. What makes it stand apart from the other two is its relaxed power delivery and comfortably upright riding stance. It's aimed at those with a thirst for sports bike performance without the hunkered down seating position, which limits city use and touring capability. And according to recent international motoring trends, this genre is growing faster than ever before. The Kawasaki Ninja 1000 is a very sporty machine and yet it's touring friendly and pretty forgiving — which fits the bill perfectly.
It might not be as radically designed as the naked Z1000, but the Ninja 1000 is a very good looking bike, with aggressive styling that does justice to the Ninja tag. The beefy fairing with stretched out RVMs, tall front screen and twin headlights give it an imposing stance. Moreover, because of their mounting position, the mirrors offer excellent view. The stout four-into-two exhaust system looks chunky and adds to the bike's sporty character. The rear grab rails are neatly integrated and are practically designed to fix side-boxes on.
Compared to its sibling, the Ninja has softer seats, upright handle bars and cosy riding position to ride long distances without fatigue. What I really like about the Ninja is that it is very rider friendly and can be fine-tuned to suit your style or needs easily. The best part is that you don't even need any tools for it. For instance, you can adjust the front screen by pressing a button located behind the front fairing that allows you to position the screen in three angles. On the highway, I kept the screen fully raised, so that I got better wind protection. If you prefer to go full throttle, you can adjust the screen to improve aerodynamics, so that it slices through the air more efficiently. Even in the normal position, the front screen offers fair amount of protection from strong wind-blast.
It might look like a touring bike, but this one is quite a sporty spirit as the 1043cc engine comes with enough firepower to light up the tarmac. There's instant drivability at the twist of the wrist, with excellent bottom and mid-range power, thanks to the improved cams, throttle bodies and the spread of torque across the range. The smooth six-speed gearbox ensures that at any rpm, there's enough juice on tap to make the Ninja leap ahead. Wring the throttle and within seconds you cross 100kmph mark, while the exhaust lets out a throaty roar. The best aspect about the engine is that the rider is never stressed trying to control the power. And the response doesn't feel as snappy like its siblings, as the power flow is more gradual and linear, making it ideal for touring. Nice and easy.
Here's another example of the fine tuning tool I mentioned above. To regulate the huge surge, Kawasaki has a range of power modes - Low and Full power, to make it as sharp or mild as you want it to be. Even in Low mode, it's by no means a drab to ride, as the electronics just cap off the top horse power to about 70 per cent of the full power. You still get the same ride at the bottom end and slightly curbed mid-range.
You can adjust the bike further using three levels of traction control (KTRC), where '3' allows the least amount of slip and the system gradually releases the reins as you move to mode '2' and '1'. Even in mode 1, the KTRC is less obstructive, but is keenly observing your moves and will bring the bike back in control if something goes drastically wrong.
The Kawasaki Ninja 1000 gets full time ABS and you cannot turn it off. This safety net works well in our riding conditions as it helps the wheel from locking up and skidding when the brakes are applied hard, especially on wet roads and over loose gravel. The massive 300mm twin petal discs in front, offer stunning bite without being too aggressive and with fair amount of feel. Most of the time while riding, I just used my forefinger and it was enough to shed speed in urgency, though a little more feedback on the lever is desired.
Despite being a big and tall bike, the Ninja is impressively agile. Not as sharp as its siblings when it comes to handling, but it definitely feels effortless around turns and is extremely well behaved on the road. Plus there's the external preload adjuster for the suspension, so you can twist it to tweak the rear mono-shock and adjust the tension of the spring according to your preference. At 230kg it is 9kg heavier than the Z1000 and has slightly larger fuel tank, but on the go you can feel the bulkiness of the Ninja 1000 in comparison.
However, it has better ground clearance, turning radius and softer ride quality which makes the Ninja 1000 a lot more practical and useable for everyday riding. You can't really go off-roading on it, but over bad and broken patch of roads, the Kawasaki remains surprisingly poised and composed. What impressed me the most is that I didn't have to be over cautious crossing speed breakers either, as not once did the underbelly scrape. The combination of this supple ride, comfy riding position and smooth power delivery ensured that even after having ridden the bike for hundreds of kilometres throughout the day there was hardly any fatigue.
There’s good news for the calculative desi mind, as instrument console showed a fuel economy of 17kmpl on an average. So, with a tank capacity of 19 litres, the Ninja has a range of about 300km which seems pretty okay for a sports tourer of this size. With its efficiency, comfort and power, it makes munching miles a lot easier and cosier.
To sum it up, the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 is a great addition to Kawasaki’s range and gives a whole new perspective to sports touring in our country. Since there is no direct competition in its class available in India, this capable and do-it-all sports tourer has an added advantage. It’s a versatile bike which is as comfortable in the city for everyday riding, as it is while on long distance touring. And on the occasional days when you want to hit the track, the Ninja 1000 will not disappoint you either.