Test Ride Review: 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000

I had the chance to test ride the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 as part of the festivities of AMA Vintage Days at Mid-Ohio last Sunday. I had wanted to ride this bike mainly because I had owned its last predecessor released in the United States, the 2008 Kawasaki Z1000, for a time and was curious with this addition to the Kawi family. (The 2009-2010 Z1000 was identical to the 2008 but only released in Europe due to low sales in the U.S.)

For the 2011 lineup, Kawasaki has the option of both the Z1000 and the Ninja 1000, two bikes with the same engine but with two different personalities. I often refer to the Ninja 1000 as “the Z1000 with clothes.” It is, literally, a Z1000 with a more touring-inspired fairing that would be ideal for the daily commute or the long haul. There are even factory options for hard bags if you’re really travelling somewhere!

We set out on a series of local twisty roads in the Mansfield area to test the bike’s acceleration, braking, and cornering. My rear suspension was set up for someone who was lighter, so I found myself drifting into turns a little more than I wanted to. I did, however, like grippiness and response of the OEM tires on this bike, Bridgestone Battlax BT016R Hypersports, and enjoyed flicking the bike quite aggressively through a few switchbacks and tight curves. In terms of power, I didn’t notice too much of a difference between this bike and my previous 2008 Z1000, whose engine was about 50cc smaller with a fewer horses. But unlike the Z1000, I found this Ninja 1000’s throttle much smoother and much more crisp response than its predecessor.

– very standard, upright naked bike ergonomics
– adjustable windshield
– lightweight feeling (for a liter sportbike) and easy to flick around
– smooth throttle with very little abruptness
– options for hard luggage

– suspension is soft in the front, definitely needs stiffer springs
– wish the stock adjustable windshield was larger, but that can be fixed with an aftermarket solution
– $10,999 MSRP price tag may have some people looking at fully-faired sport-touring bikes instead

In conclusion, Kawaski has made a great bike that combines the zip and nimbleness of the Z1000 and the versatility of a sport tourer in a very functional package. I would recommend this bike for those weekend long-distance trips where the destination brings on the twisty roads or as an everyday commuter that still possesses an excitement factor.

Even with the new Z1000 and the Ninja 1000 out on the market, I still consider the ’07-’08 Z1000 a formidable standard bike that will do just as much as the 2011 model. You can’t go wrong with any of these bikes, and with a little suspension tweaking and some luggage, you’ll be able to go rip down any paved road.