2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS Review – First Ride

Tom Roderick
by Tom Roderick

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.

2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS

Editor Score: 92%
Engine 19/20
Suspension/Handling 12/15
Transmission/Clutch 8/10
Brakes 10/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 10/10
Appearance/Quality 10/10
Desirability 9/10
Value 10/10
Overall Score92/100

Three years on and an ameliorated Ninja 1000 has arrived, boasting a litany of performance improvements with only a meager $200 price increase.

Click here for more pictures of the 2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000

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.

Styling is familiar but slightly different. Brushed aluminum exhaust replaces the matte black of last year’s model. The rider’s seat height remains the same (32.3”) but a new subframe narrows the seat. Note the shock’s preload twist knob and attachment point for saddlebags close to rear passenger pegs. Colors are Candy Cascade Blue and Candy Lime Green.

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.

The Ninja 1000 ABS is both comfortable and fast, and at 509 pounds wet, it’s 184 pounds lighter than the substantially larger Concours 14 ABS.

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.

A slightly different LCD gauge includes KTRC, Power Modes, ABS and Economical Riding indicators. Note the KTRC and Power Mode selector mechanism on the left handlebar. The new Ninja retains the popular and well-performing three-position, manually adjustable windscreen.

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.

Overall width of the new Ninja with saddlebags attached is significantly reduced. Bags are easily removed and installed, and the Ninja remains attractive whether wearing the bags or not.

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.

It could be the lack of weight upon the front wheel, the continued use of a 190/50-17 rear tire or a combination of both, but the Ninja’s front end lacks some confidence when it flops into turns and doesn’t stick to the rider’s chosen arc. Otherwise, handling characteristics from the Ninja’s chassis and suspension are commendable.

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.

Kawasaki NInja 1000 Forum

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 28-liter, lockable saddlebags will hold a full-face helmet and are a huge improvement compared to last year’s bags and mounting bracketry.

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.

+ Highs

  • Engine performance & power delivery
  • ABS, KTRC & power modes
  • Comfort & luggage

– Sighs

  • Clutch operation
  • Vague feeling front end
  • Engine buzziness at certain revs

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.

Click here for more pictures of the 2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000

2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Specs

EngineFour-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four
Bore x stroke77.0 x 56.0mm
Compression ratio11.8:1
Fuel injectionDFI with four 38mm Keihin throttle bodies, oval sub-throttles
IgnitionTCBI with digital advance
Final driveX-ring chain
Rake / trail24.5 degrees / 4.0 in.
Frame typeAluminum Backbone
Front tire120/70 ZR17
Rear tire190/50 ZR17
Wheelbase56.9 in.
Front suspension/wheel travel41 mm inverted cartridge fork with stepless compression and rebound damping, adjustable spring preload / 4.7 in.
Rear suspension/wheel travelHorizontal monoshock with stepless rebound damping, remotely adjustable spring preload / 5.4 in.
Front brakesDual 300mm petal-type rotors with radial-mount four-piston monobloc calipers and ABS
Rear brakeSingle 250mm petal-type rotor with single-piston caliper, with ABS
Overall length82.9 in.
Overall width31.1 in.
Overall height: (Windscreen DN/UP)46.1 / 48.4 in.
Seat height32.3 in.
Curb weight509 lbs.
Fuel capacity5.0 gal.
Color choicesCandy Lime Green, Candy Cascade Blue
Warranty12 Months
Tom Roderick
Tom Roderick

A former Motorcycle.com staffer who has gone on to greener pastures, Tom Roderick still can't get the motorcycle bug out of his system. And honestly, we still miss having him around. Tom is now a regular freelance writer and tester for Motorcycle.com when his schedule allows, and his experience, riding ability, writing talent, and quick wit are still a joy to have – even if we don't get to experience it as much as we used to.

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2 of 6 comments
  • Sentinel Sentinel on Oct 04, 2013

    Has Kawasaki addressed and remedied the "oil starvation" issue with the clutch that many owners have experienced with the current models?

  • Mars Sentinel Mars Sentinel on Oct 29, 2013

    I stalled my 2011 NInja 1000 the first time I tried to ride it. The clutch is troublesome. It requires a lot of attention. It responds well to aggression, and is hard to modulate at sedate/pedestrian speeds. And yeah, the tire choice is plainly about Kawasaki getting a super deal on a bunch of those (garbage) tires. I already have the replacements purchased (roadsmart 3's with a 190/55 in the rear to replace the flat profile 190/50 BridgeSTONE. Oh, and beside being horrible handling, it wears a flat spot in the center in like 1000 miles. Kawasaki - come on, Dudes. Still the best bike ever made though.