2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS Review – First Ride
An upgraded gentleman's sportbike
Introduced in 2011, the Ninja 1000 bridged a gap between the uncompromising performance of Kawasaki’s flagship ZX-10R and its more docile, long-distance counterpart the Concours 14 ABS.
Three years on and an ameliorated Ninja 1000 has arrived, boasting a litany of performance improvements with only a meager $200 price increase.
Where last year’s Ninja 1000 was available with or without ABS for $11,099 and $11,799, respectively, the 2014 Ninja 1000 comes standard with ABS for $11,999. But the new-model-year bike is equipped with far more than just ABS, including upgrades such as traction control, power modes, monobloc front brake calipers, a redesigned subframe featuring a vastly improved luggage mounting system, upgraded engine performance and more.
When we last visited the Ninja 1000 we brought along a couple of its friends, the Suzuki GSX1250FA (Bandit) and Yamaha FZ1. In that shootout we praised the mid-range power and torque of Ninja. “What the Ninja has on its competitors is motor – gobs and gobs of midrange motor. An impromptu six-gear roll-on with the Kawasaki left me on the Yamaha FZ1 counting seconds while the FZ1’s inline four-cylinder spun up revs,” we wrote in 2011.
FLASHBACK: 2011 Gentlemen Sportbike Shootout
By the numbers the 2011 Ninja 1000 spun the dyno to a tune of 121.1 horsepower at 10,100 rpm and 71.6 ft-lb. of torque at 7,800 rpm. Kawasaki says it’s improved the engine’s performance via new intake cams and new cylinder connecting passageways.
Having no 2013 Ninja 1000 with which to make a direct riding comparison and unable to dyno the new Ninja, for now we’ll have to take Kawasaki’s word that these changes did, in fact, improve the Ninja’s mid- to high-rpm performance and low- to mid-range torque.
What we can verify is that Ninja 1000’s front end lifts during full-throttle gear shifts from first to second and second to third, and easily attained an indicated top speed of 154 mph. Further review of real or perceived engine improvements will come once we have a model in our possession.
Adding auditory excitement to this high-rpm fun are new equal-length velocity stacks, a new non-woven air filter element and an upgraded airbox with additional atmospheric intakes. These changes conspire to enhance the intake howl of the Ninja, but not so much that it becomes annoying during a long-haul ride.
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Helping moderate power flow are two new electronic systems for the Ninja 1000: Low and Full power modes and a four-position Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC). While the Full power mode is obvious, the Low power mode maintains the same engine performance up to approximately 70% of total engine power. During this initial test we kept the power mode on Full to enjoy every pony the Ninja had to deliver. While passing power is ample and immediately available, the engine does emit a high-frequency buzz between 6,000 to 7,500 rpm.
The KTRC can be adjusted between three levels of intervention or turned off completely. Like the power modes, we left the KTRC turned on in its lowest intervention level and rode our two-day, 400-mile route without noticing the system operating in the background. KTRC remained transparent even during some aggressive throttle application, leaving us nothing to complain about.
Both the ride modes and KTRC are selectable via an easy-to-use interface on the left handlebar and visible in the new digital readout adjacent to the analog tachometer.
Possibly more influential than the engine enhancements and electronics upgrades is the redesigned subframe with integrated luggage attachments. Unlike last year’s saddlebag attachment bracketry (resembling Erector-set construction) the new system is clean and attractive both with and without bags attached.
The 28-liter color-matched bags are made by Givi exclusively for the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS and can be keyed by a dealer to match the bike’s ignition key. The Ninja 1000’s hard saddlebag kit lists for $1,269.75. There’s also a choice of a 39-liter top case ($139.95), but due to different mounting hardware the saddlebags and top case cannot be attached simultaneously. If more carrying capacity is needed, there’s a wide selection of soft luggage available from Kawasaki specifically designed for the Ninja 1000.
The 2014 Ninja 1000 ABS also comes equipped with a new remote rear spring preload adjuster located behind the rider’s right leg. It’s a welcome addition, since a bike like this will be faced with carrying loads of various weights. The twist knob is adjustable through a range of 40 clicks, which seems a little excessive to us. Stock position is eight clicks out from full soft which allows too much movement even with only a single rider at aggressive speeds. We doubled the click count on the rear preload adjuster to 16 and added one click all around to the fully adjustable, 41mm, inverted front fork and to the shock’s rebound.
With the bike’s suspension better tuned and tightened, attention was focused on the Ninja’s handling which remains largely the same as the previous model. This translates as good but not perfect. “The Ninja responds capably in the curvy bits and can bomb through a canyon road, but we all noted a small understeer problem requiring a constant pressure on the inside bar to maintain the desired arc around a corner,” we reported in 2011 and are reiterating here for the 2014 model. Editor Duke insists this problem is due to the flatter profile of the 190/50 rear tire rather than the more modern 190/55 standard.
Another gripe stems from the Ninja’s clutch. The way it was adjusted on my test bike, it didn’t fully disengage until it was pulled tight to the grip and engaged too quickly, causing me to stall the bike a few times when performing tight, slow maneuvers. The clutch also exhibited a grabbiness at certain times, exacerbating the problem.
The new monobloc radial-mount front brakes with pads featuring a higher coefficient of friction worked flawlessly, as did the ABS which utilizes a new fluid pressure sensor to better control line pressure. The sensor also transmits braking information to the bike’s ECU to suppress rear lift. Stopping power is strong and appropriate to the amount of pressure on the lever. The front brake lever is also adjustable.
In all, the 2014 Ninja 1000 ABS with all the technologies Kawasaki has thrown at it, as well as the upgrades to the engine and existing components for only a $200 price increase over last year’s ABS model, is impressive to say the least. The Ninja 1000 was already our choice as the best balance between performance, comfort and touring capabilities in what we called the Gentlemen’s Sportbike category, and this new model only strengthens our opinion.
2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Specs
|Engine||Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four|
|Bore x stroke||77.0 x 56.0mm|
|Fuel injection||DFI with four 38mm Keihin throttle bodies, oval sub-throttles|
|Ignition||TCBI with digital advance|
|Final drive||X-ring chain|
|Rake / trail||24.5 degrees / 4.0 in.|
|Frame type||Aluminum Backbone|
|Front tire||120/70 ZR17|
|Rear tire||190/50 ZR17|
|Front suspension/wheel travel||41 mm inverted cartridge fork with stepless compression and rebound damping, adjustable spring preload / 4.7 in.|
|Rear suspension/wheel travel||Horizontal monoshock with stepless rebound damping, remotely adjustable spring preload / 5.4 in.|
|Front brakes||Dual 300mm petal-type rotors with radial-mount four-piston monobloc calipers and ABS|
|Rear brake||Single 250mm petal-type rotor with single-piston caliper, with ABS|
|Overall length||82.9 in.|
|Overall width||31.1 in.|
|Overall height: (Windscreen DN/UP)||46.1 / 48.4 in.|
|Seat height||32.3 in.|
|Curb weight||509 lbs.|
|Fuel capacity||5.0 gal.|
|Color choices||Candy Lime Green, Candy Cascade Blue|
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