When we last left the Ninja 1000 in 2017, all we could complain about was a bit of engine buzziness around 6000 rpm, a too-firm seat, and a lack of modern features, i.e., to wit, cruise control. Here it is another three years under the bridge, and for 2020, Kawasaki has blessed the latest iteration of its excellent sport-tourer with: upgraded electronics including cruise control, a smoother-running 1043 cc Inline-Four, and an improved seat that’s still just slightly on the wooden side. Suspension tweaks give the bike a more refined ride than ever – and all for only $200 more.
Nope, this is not a First Ride review. Yes, I’m annoyed too. But hey, COVID-19 is affecting everyone in different ways. I won’t whine about not getting to ride new motorcycles for X number of weeks if you folks promise not to whine about, “Where’s the Ninja 1000 SX review!” I understand your anticipation, we feel the same way over here. When our comprehensive Ninja 1000 SX data dump (basically just a giant Kawasaki press release) was published last November during EICMA 2019, Kawasaki spilled all of the beans on the new model. Last week we had a “virtual press launch” which was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, there was no new information to publish since Kawi had already released it all.
Earlier this month, Kawasaki announced an updated Ninja 650 for 2020, along with a number of street bike models returning unchanged except for new graphics. One model that was conspicuously left out was the 650’s larger sibling, the Ninja 1000. We now think we know why, as the California Air Resources Board released an executive order certifying an updated 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000.
How much do we like the Kawasaki Ninja 1000? We like it enough to unveil it today as our Best Sport-Touring Motorcycle of 2017 Honorable Mention. In honor of that choice, we decided to take the wraps off the video review for the big Ninja so that people who don’t like to read as much as we do can still learn about all the cool ways that Kawasaki changed the bike. Although whole sections of the motorcycle remain mechanically the same, some electronic changes affect both power delivery and braking of the 2017 Ninja 1000.
Sport-touring motorcycles have a confounding job description. They need to be sporty and deliver plenty of performance capability while still managing to be comfortable enough for when the highway gets straight, flat, and boring. While both of our winners here lean towards the sporty side of the equation, they both manage to take the pain out of long days in the saddle while transporting us to distant locations with big smiles.
Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to read MO’s first ride review of the 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS. If not, you should go take a look at our impression of Kawasaki’s gentleman’s sport-touring motorcycle. From its aggressive good looks to its romping engine, the Ninja 1000 has a lot to offer someone who likes their open-class performance wrapped in a highly streetable package.
In an era in which adventure-styled motorcycles seem to be taking over the sport-touring class, the 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS stands out as a great example of a traditional sport-tourer. Kawasaki has taken the heart of a sportbike and wrapped it with a package that can tackle almost any task a rider could want, from commuting to canyon scratching to touring to the occasional track day. Outfit it with the optional $1165 saddlebags, and you’ve got a mount that would be a great multi-state companion for less than $14,000.
EICMA and Intermot have come and gone and the question on most American consumers’ minds is which of the wonderful new models will be making their way to the U.S.? Today, Kawasaki answered their part of the question, confirming the ZX-10RR, Ninja 1000, Ninja 650, Z900, Z650 and the Versys-X 300 for the U.S. market.
At Intermot 2016, Kawasaki announced the Ninja 1000 sport tourer would receive a host of upgrades to enhance both the sport and touring sides of its dual personalities. While there are obvious design changes to make the bodywork fresh, chief among those updates is the addition of a six-axis IMU from Bosch. With it, the 2017 Ninja 1000 electronics suite is now able to offer much more sophisticated levels of control. Both the Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC) and Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS) utilize the IMU to get a real time picture of the motorcycle’s chassis orientation, which it can then use to intervene if needed, and the level at which intervention is applied.
The Versys 1000 has actually been produced since 2012, but until now its unconventional styling coupled with a relatively soft U.S. motorcycle market have kept it away from our shores. Motorcycle sales are beginning to show serious signs of growth, with several European manufacturers claiming all-time records for the 2014 model year sales, and long-legged upright sportbikes like Ducati’s updated Multistrada, BMW’s new S1000XR, KTM’s 1290 Super Adventure R, Suzuki’s recently revamped V-Strom 1000 and other liter-plus adventure-themed machines comprise the hottest contemporary segment in motorcycling.
According to my weather app, it was officially 100 degrees at 10pm the night we rode in to Borrego Springs, CA, during our Middleweight Sport-Touring Shootout. I’m sitting poolside sipping a tasty, cold beverage while bossmen, Kevin Duke and Sean Alexander, discuss the finer points of gun control in the parking lot.