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2011 Ninja 1000 is named Bike of the Year!
Article from the New York Times By JERRY GARRETT Published: September 2, 2011 The 2011 Ninja 1000 is named Bike of the year!
First applied to the GPZ900R of 1984, a hard-edged machine powered by a groundbreaking 16-valve, liquid-cooled 4-cylinder engine, the name soon earned such powerful associations that it became a generic term for racy sportbikes of any make.
But the Ninja ethos did not remain pure. Over the ensuing 27 years, Kawasaki applied the Ninja label to a broad assortment of bikes worldwide with engines as small as 150 cc and as big as 1400.
The Ninja 1000, a new model in Kawasaki’s lineup for 2011, may help to steer the name back to its origins. Its forgiving rider accommodations are intended to give it wide appeal, yet it honors Ninja tradition in being a racetrack-styled performance bike powered by a refined 1-liter in-line 4-cylinder.
Building on a heritage that can be traced to the Z1 model of 1973, a pioneer of the superbike era, the Ninja 1000 is a derivative of last year’s well-reviewed debutante, the Z1000. While the Z1000 could loosely fall into the class of so-called naked sportbikes — it has the bare minimum of aerodynamic bodywork — the Ninja 1000 wears an attractive set of clothes. And its fairing is effective, too, giving the bike so much of a potential top speed advantage over the Z1000 that Kawasaki felt compelled to electronically limit the Ninja 1000’s maximum speed.
Yet the Ninja 1000 is more than a fully dressed Z1000. It is loaded with user-friendly features like a three-position windscreen, higher handlebars and lower footpegs than the Z1000, making the riding experience less fatiguing. Hard luggage cases are an option for those who fancy using the bike for touring.
But the Ninja 1000 addresses more of the concerns of sportbike shoppers than just creature comfort.
In recent years, riders who wanted ergo-friendly bikes that were also suitable for vigorous riding on back roads — or even an occasional track day — often had to settle for second-string chassis technology. The Ninja 1000 addresses those shortcomings with a racing-inspired aluminum frame, fully adjustable inverted-fork front suspension and a multisetting rear shock.
At its $10,999 suggested price, the Ninja 1000 falls well below the pure-sport Ninja ZX10R ($13,799; add $1,000 for antilock brakes) and slightly above the $10,599 Z1000. A shipping charge of $275, and a preparation fee, may be added at the dealer’s discretion.
Another factor making the Ninja 1000 so attractive is its easily tapped engine performance. The Ninja ZX-10R chomps at a 13,000 r.p.m. red line; by comparison, the Ninja 1000’s maximum safe speed is a relatively sedate 11,000 r.p.m.
What is sacrificed at the top end is put to better use in improved midrange pulling power. The 1,043 cc motor produces 121 horsepower at the rear wheel and 73 pound-feet of torque, according to Cycle World magazine.
The Ninja 1000 also weighs in at a reasonable 500 pounds. That compares favorably to touring bikes, even some that are positioned as sport-touring models, weighing as much as 700.
A skilled rider can still commit quite a lot of mayhem with the horsepower available. Zero to 60 m.p.h. dashes took 2.8 seconds in testing by Cycle World. Triple-digit speeds can be attained while still in third gear. And the engine seems to loaf along — albeit at about 6,000 r.p.m. — in top gear at 75 m.p.h.
The riding position is more comfortable at lower speeds; at Interstate velocity and beyond, my head was buffeted in the air currents despite having the windscreen cranked to its highest position. Kawasaki says the seat has been blessed with an additional half-inch of padding, but any extra measure of comfort is forgotten after a few minutes.
On long rides I found myself looking forward to the respite of gas stops. And despite a five-gallon gas tank, on a highway trip I needed to stop for fuel about every two hours. I had concerns with the six-bar digital fuel gauge; the bike seems to go through about two-thirds of its fuel range on the first three bars; the last three bars disappear with unsettling haste.
I learned this on a 60-mile stretch across the Mojave Desert of California. With three bars left as I passed through Barstow, I thought making it to Baker would be a snap; in fact, the reserve fuel indicator started blinking after just 35 miles. And when I refueled, it took only 3.5 gallons, so it seemed that I had at my disposal only four usable gallons. Still, fuel economy was admirable: even at hooligan speeds, the Ninja 1000 squeezed 40 miles from each gallon of premium fuel.
One item on my wish list for this bike would be a gear position readout. I had no complaints with the 6-speed transmission — the clutch operated easily, needing only a light pull on the lever — but it would have been nice to have a dashboard confirmation of which gear I was in.
Four decades ago, reviewers of the Z1 noted things like an uncomfortable seat on long rides and vibrations that blurred the view in the rearview mirrors, a gripe that also applies to the Ninja 1000.
So, assessing the purity of the Ninja 1000’s pedigree, it is duly noted that some things never seem to change. That’s somehow reassuring.
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