FIRST RIDE: 2014 KAWASAKI NINJA 1000 ABS

FIRST RIDE: 2014 KAWASAKI NINJA 1000 ABS

NINJA_ In 2011, Kawasaki introduced the Ninja 1000, which seemed to take things even further with a torquier, larger displacement (1043 cc) inline four. Although the original Ninja 1000 was an excellent bike, and seemed quite popular with consumers, suspension damping was finicky, fuel injection response was a tad touchy, and there was some vibration at highway speeds that could become annoying. As a package, it was an impressive first effort, but like most first year models, there was plenty of room for improvement of the stock machine.NINJA_7

Late last year Kawasaki Malaysia held a very long distance press introduction in Pulau Langkawi for the new 2014 Ninja 1000 ABS, with a roughly 150 km trip up the coastline test ride that included a wide variety of riding conditions and speeds, but unfortunately, I never got a chance to test ride the Ninja 1000 ABS since my colleague then in Fast Bikes Magazine went to the launch but i-Moto asked Kawasaki for a bike that we could ride on roads familiar to us in the hilly areas surrounding Kuala Lumpur and through KL’s mad traffic and ongoing LRT constructions.  We went through all road test for this model to get closer for a real riding impression. Although cosmetically the bike doesn’t seem to be changed very much (except for the new, optional, much more nicely integrated panniers), chassis and engine changes are numerous. Kawasaki’s goal was to improve engine performance, handling and practicality (with the new bags). After our road test, we thought Kawasaki had accomplished all three of those goals.

The 2014 Ninja 1000 ABS now has specifications very close to those of a superbike, without the radical ergonomics. The engine was already excellent, and the 2014 version is even better.  Throttle response is smoother, and the bike feels like it has a meatier, more immediate power throughout the rev range. One of the things we love about this bike is the power advantage it has over superbikes at real world rpm levels.

Race replicas serve a purpose, but at most street rpm levels, the tuning of the Ninja 1000 is superior. If you own a 1000 cc superbike, and ride it on the street frequently, you know how hard it is to find and use 10,000 rpm.

[adrotate group=”8″]Although in the meat of the superbike powerband (at high rpm levels), the Ninja 1000 comes up a distant second, it still pulls well enough on top that very few street riders will be wanting more.

Although the bike shares the engine counter-balancer design with the 2011 model, we found the 2014 model noticeably smoother, particularly at highway speeds.

For such a fast motorcycle, the comfort offered by the 2014 Ninja 1000 ABS is excellent.  Having done few hundred kilometres in the saddle in a single day for ten days of road test , it is our opinion that the seat is firm and supportive, without being too hard, and works well with the rest of the rider triangle (bars/seat/footpegs positioning). On the highway, we put the adjustable windscreen in the highest of the three available positions and found good wind protection with minimal head buffeting. But for city riding I always lower the windscreen to the minimum for that superbike bubble look.

The new bike has been equipped with ABS and KTRC or Kawasaki TRaction Control which allows for three traction control modes (Modes 1 & 2 for sporty riding, Mode 3 for enhanced control on slippery conditions), the Ninja is powered by a liquid-cooled 1,043cc, DOHC 16v in-line four cylinder that churns out 142ps, mated to a 6-speed gearbox.settings that can be selected by the rider together with two power modes (full power and approximately 70% power). We did not experience rain or other significant traction issues that would allow us to fully test the effectiveness of the these options, but in theory the lower power setting together with the most intrusive traction control setting would be ideal for riding in the rain.

Part of the smoother engine performance at highway speeds must be credited to the taller sixth gear found on the 2014 model. Given the amount of torque available at lower rpm levels, highway passing was still easily accomplished without a downshift in most circumstances.

Frankly, the Ninja 1000 ABS can make you feel like a deity on the freeway. You have so much more power and acceleration available compared to the “cages” surrounding you that you can feel like you are in your own world.  This is part of the thrill of riding a big horsepower machine, of course, but the controllability of the Ninja 1000 ABS and its incredible brakes give you that much more confidence wielding all that oomph.

Speaking of brakes, we continue to be impressed with the all new monobloc radial-mount front brake calipers. Combined with a radial master cylinder and latest generation ABS, they offer incredible braking performance. This front brake needs to be measured against state-of-the-art superbike brakes from Brembo and the like.  For street use, we really can’t fault them, and extended aggressive riding in the canyons resulted in zero fade. These might be the best brakes available on this category of motorcycle (a faired, upright “superbike”).NINJA_1 NINJA_2 NINJA_3

A preload adjuster knob on the right side of the bike, which allows quick (at a stop light, for instance) rear preload changes to accommodate different passenger and luggage loads.

There are two models available with or without panniers but if you agree with me then choose the model with the panniers which by far superior to the old system….. just an extra RM5,000 J.  Aside from the ugly, clunky mounts and the extra wide load, locking, unlocking and removing the bags is as easy as any panniers system. I’m going to wait another 2-3 week to get my hands on the Ninja with panniers, then I would take my lady at home to ride trip around northern Malaysia.

Some suspension damping tuning by Kawasaki has resulted in a firmer, but more controlled response from the fork and shock, and, as a result, we didn’t play with preload and clickers nearly as much as we did with the Z1000. If the factory delivered settings are too firm, you can back off both compression and rebound damping to create a relatively plush mount.

Although the new instrumentation contains an “Economical Riding” (ECO) indicator, we really didn’t pay much attention to it, and found petrol mileage similar to the Z1000 km per litre RM50 for 575 kilometer. Which I can say is one economical sport touring bike. Its large 19-litre fuel tank is plenty enough for outstation trips and should cut down on the amount of time spent refueling.

Now we go tho the best part, 2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS is a confident corner carver, and it seems to turn in quicker than the old bike. At a claimed curb weight at roughly 230 kilo, however, it is still not as flickable as some of the new lightweight nakeds, for instance, or a pure sport bike.  Nevertheless, a good rider can certainly hustle the Ninja 1000 through the twisties at a very high pace. We tested through twisty roads of Ulu Yam, Batang Kali, Fraser Hills, Bentong, Bukit Tinggi and Sepang Go Cart Tack, man we went all the way to road test this machine. Whether the Ninja’s loaded like a pack mule or ridden bareback for a Sunday hill run, the sporting travel and adventure has just begun. Just started to love sports tourer segment. NINJA_13 NINJA_23NINJA_14

The 2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS is a much improved bike that delivers superbike levels of performance on the street from its 1043 cc engine, more than competent handling, carefully tuned suspension and awesome brakes … all in a package comfortable enough to ride all day. The new remote preload adjuster and electronic controls (adjustable power modes and traction control) only increase its practicality and versatility. Standard ABS will be appreciated by most buyers looking at this category of machine. Base bike price is RM82,900 (add RM5,000 for the hard bags and mounting system) in either Candy Lime Green or Metallic Grey.

 

More information please contact Kawasaki Malaysia Sdn Bhd : 12, Jalan Jurunilai U1/20, Seksyen U1, Hicom Glenmarie Industrial Park,, 40150, Shah Alam, Selangor Malaysia +60 3-5566 5688 or visit www.kawasaki.com.my

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