Kawasaki brings back a familiar model name for the 2011 lineup with its Ninja 1000. Sourcing the same engine and chassis of the Z1000 streetfighter, the new Ninja adds a full fairing for sportbike looks and relaxed ergos for street-riding comfort.
Take away the sportbike bodywork, which mimics the lines of its sibling, the 2011 ZX-10R, and the new Ninja 1000 reveals its Z1000 pedigree. Power production comes via a 16-valve dual overhead cam Inline Four. The liquid-cooled mill displaces 1043cc with its 77mm bore and 56mm stroke. No engine tuning changes are mentioned by Kawasaki press materials, with the Z1000 engine churning out 122 horsepower and 72 lb-ft torque at the rear wheel when tested during out 2010 Streetfighter Shootout.
A 4-2-2 exhaust routes to the characteristic dual silencers. Straight off the Z1000, the muffler caps maintain the image of a four-pipe exit – a trait of the original Zed streetfighter.
Also identical to the Z1000 is the aluminum frame and swingarm. Suspension duties are handled by a 41mm inverted fork and monoshock rear. The front sticks offer three-way adjustment for compression, rebound and preload. The shock delivers adjustment for rebound and preload, with the rear suspension featuring a horizontal linkage.
Brakes are radial-mount, four-piston Tokico calipers up front, pinching down on a pair of Kawasaki’s familiar petal-style rotors (300mm). A single-piston caliper clamps onto the 250mm rotor out back. Tire size is identical with a 120/70 front and 190/50 rear, but the wheels are different, with six-spoke sportbike hoops replacing five-spoke units from the Z1000.
The real distinguishing feature of the Ninja 1000 is its bodywork. Aside from imparting a sportbike look, the fairing promises protection from wind and weather. This is enhanced by the relatively tall windscreen. Handlebars are raised from a typical sportbike position, with the pegs lowered. With the relaxed ergos, Kawi touts its new ride as a “capable medium-haul tourer.”
Backing up this touring claim, the new Ninja 1000 offers hard saddlebags and top case as accessories, as well as other touring accoutrements like heated grips. Perhaps its best touring aid, however, is the extra gallon of fuel in its five-gallon tank. That’s good for about a 180-mile range, if it sticks with the 36 mpg efficiency we measured on the Z1000 during our aforementioned comparison review.
As far as weight goes, Kawasaki claims 502.7 pounds for the Ninja 1000 curb weight. The Z1000 measuring 481 pounds during our comparison test. MSRP for the new bike is still pending. It will be available in Ebony and Candy Fire Red.
So the details out of the way… Why would Kawasaki slap a fairing on its naked bike?
The answer: Because Americans don’t buy naked bikes.
In Europe the “streetfighters” are top-selling models, but not so in the States. No OEM knows this better than Kawasaki, who has seen its middleweight naked, the Z750, flourish in the Old Country (in some years it’s been the top-selling motorcycle in France). Meanwhile the Z750 languished into extinction as a U.S. model, not seen in the Kawi lineup since 2006. The Z1000 has suffered a similar fate, though to a lesser extent, skipping from the Team Green US roster for a season until an all-new version was re-introduced in the 2010 model year.
Thing is, the standard, upright stance of most naked bikes engenders far more comfort on the street than the typical “sportbike.” Supersports and Superbikes are designed for the racetrack. Standards are built for the street and deliver plenty – plenty – of road-worthy performance for the average rider. If the success of Kawasaki’s standard-like Ninja 650R is any indication, this literbike equivalent of a real-world sportbike could be a hit.
We already know the new Ninja’s Z1000-sourced engine has plenty of beans to get things moving. We’ll find out how well the complete package holds up later this month during our Ninja 1000 first ride evaluation.