2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS Comparison

Adam Waheed | September 2, 2014

Kawasaki emphasizes ‘sport’ in the sport-touring equation with its Ninja 1000 ABS ($13,268.75, as tested). Equipped with a powerful liter-class Inline Four engine with adjustable power modes and traction control, it’s obvious the Ninja boasts the most muscle in this showdown. But is it too much? Did engineers cut corners on the touring side of things?

It is obvious Team Green engineers wanted to emphasize its relation to the Ninja sportbike family through similar styling. Brawny air intakes, a slanted nose, and that trademark Candy Lime Green paint all give off a sense of speed. But compared to the tidy flat lines of the Interceptor, the Kawasaki looks a tad immature for a sport-touring bike. Still we did prefer its more modern bodywork to that of the now six-year-old Mana GT.

Between the three machines, the Ninja offers the most accommodating cockpit. It’s far more relaxed than the VFR and more adeptly proportioned than the Aprilia. Taller riders will value its tallest-in-class seat height of 32.3 inches. The tool-less adjustable windscreen is a nice touch, but we wish it was taller. Still, it functioned on par with the Honda’s and much better than the Aprilia’s with less wind buffeting.

“As far as comfort goes, the Ninja’s upright riding stance felt the most natural to me. The handlebar placement in particular,” says Bart. “If I was going to have to pick one of these bikes to do a long, high-mileage tour it would definitely be the Ninja.”

Instrumentation I

If Kawasaki added a gear position indicator as well as an air temperature gauge its display would be on par with the Hondas fabulous set-up.
While the Kawasakis bags were the most expensive and offered the smallest capacity versus the VFR and class-leading Mana  we loved how easy they were to mount dismount.
The Ninja proved to be the loudest motorcycle in decibel-wise in our sound test.
(Top) If Kawasaki added a gear position indicator as well as an air temperature gauge its display would be on par with the Honda’s fabulous set-up. (Center) While the Kawasaki’s bags were the most expensive and offered the smallest capacity versus the VFR and class-leading Mana, we loved how easy they were to mount/dismount. (Bottom) The Ninja proved to be the loudest motorcycle in decibel-wise in our sound test.

s comprised of a dial-face tachometer adjacent to a smaller LCD, which displays various info including fuel consumption, level and range. Curiously, the fuel gauge depletes the quickest, insinuating a short range, but with its 5.0-gallon fuel payload it presents a greater reach (191 miles) than the more fuel efficient Aprilia (4.22-gallon tank). Another gripe is its missing gear-position indicator and thermometer—handy features that are both standard on the competition. We would also like to see a 12-volt power port similar to what the Mana offers. At night, its halogen headlights were less effective than the Honda’s LED headlamps but on par with that of the Italian bike.

Although its bags are the most expensive ($1269.75) and offer the least amount of capacity (28 liters), its obvious engineers did their homework when it comes to fitment and operation. Similar to the VFR, the bags attach inside the passenger grab handles. But the Ninja’s bags mount more smoothly with less fumbling. The latch mechanism is also better designed.

Out on the road the extra muscle of the Ninja’s 1043cc Inline Four is readily apparent. From just off idle the Kawasaki’s engine simply stomps the challengers. Significantly more torque is on tap at all rpms with maximum 74.32 lb-ft output arriving at just 5700 rpm. It also boasts considerable top-end power pumping out more than double the ponies of the Mana’s V-Twin and almost 26 more than the Honda’s signature V-Four. The Ninja’s engine sounds mean, yet doesn’t invoke the same level of excitement as the Interceptor at full song. However, in sound testing the Kawasaki was the loudest both at idle and in the middle of its rev range.

Although the Ninja’s six-speed gearbox wasn’t as quick to change gears as Mana’s or the quickshifter-enabled Honda’s it performed as advertised and we appreciated the light and responsive lever pull action of its cable-actuated clutch.

In our acceleration tests the Kawasaki stole the show — running away from its foes. It was 0.3 seconds faster off the line than the VFR and a full second quicker than the Aprilia. Let the Ninja stretch its legs and the gap widens with it sprinting through the quarter mile in a time of 10.92 seconds with a 16 mph higher trap speed than the Interceptor and 38.7 mph faster than the GT. But the extra speed has a penalty at the pump with the 1000 recording the worst fuel mileage (38.2 mpg).

“Well it’s no surprise that the Ninja motor would be the most potent, as it has the most displacement” Madson tells. “And it clearly is strongest throughout the rev range. The only slight drawback is there is some buzz through the seat and the pegs.”

Ninja 1000 ABS Suspension Settings
Fork
Preload: 7 (Turns in)
Compression: 0.75 (Turns out)
Rebound: 1
Shock
Preload: 40 (Turns in)
Rebound: 0.75

And that buzz is the single greatest flaw within the Ninja’s near perfect powertrain. Vibration creeps through the controls steadily around 5500 rpm. It’s not a big deal for the first 50 miles, but spend an entire day in the saddle and it can make you second guess an otherwise pleasant riding experience.

In the electronics department the Ninja offers adjustable engine power modes (full and low) as well as three-levels of traction control (Level ‘1’ being the least intrusive and Level ‘3’ the most). In Level 1, the functionality of Kawasaki’s is superior to that of the Honda with it intervening in a more transparent and less intrusive manner. Performance riders will also love how it discreetly incorporates wheelie mitigation in a smooth and almost invisible fashion.

The Kawasakis ABS braking set-up was rated as the best. It also achieved the shortest stopping distance from 60 mph.The Ninja handles well but is missing a minor degree of chassis composure-especially over bumps and rough pavement compared to the excellent handling Interceptor.The Ninja 1000s windscreen can be easily adjusted without tools. Though we wish it offered a taller curve.
(Left) The Kawasaki’s ABS braking set-up was rated as the best. It also achieved the shortest stopping distance from 60 mph. (Center) The Ninja handles well but is missing a minor degree of chassis composure—especially over bumps and rough pavement compared to the excellent handling Interceptor. (Right) The Ninja 1000’s windscreen can be easily adjusted without tools. Though we wish it offered a taller curve.

“We were on some twisty roads up in Shasta [County] on a 100-degree day,” Bryan describes of his experience with the Ninja’s TC. “There were a couple of times where I broke traction [over tar snakes on the road] and the traction control worked as ordered. It kept me stable, it kept me at lean and online. Yeah, I had a little pucker moment but it worked effectively.”

On the scales the Ninja was the lightest (524 pounds), coming in 17 pounds less than the Honda and 18 fewer than the Mana. In motion the Kawasaki felt nearly as agile as the Honda, and like the winged bike, can be hustled easily through turns yet still delivers acceptable ride quality on rough surfaces. However, the Honda’s chassis was slightly more composed—especially over bumps—ultimately giving it the nod in the Handling/Suspension scoring category. Still Bart, preferred the Kawi’s handling dynamics overall saying:

“When the roads got curvy I felt the most comfortable on the Ninja, especially the front end. It had the most taut suspension and the sharpest handling. The VFR comes close at times. But the Ninja had better suspension and a sportier handling package.”

While there was some debate in regards to handling, when it came to braking, the Ninja’s hardware is clearly the best. Not only did it register the shortest stopping distance from 60 mph, it was rated as having the most feel at both levers.

Ninja 1000 ABS Highs & Lows
Highs
  • Powerful engine, well sorted electronics
  • Well-proportioned ergonomics
  • Excellent side case integration
Lows
  • Has the biggest appetite for fuel
  • Hints of engine vibration at certain speeds
  • Windscreen could be taller

“If I were to pick one bike to spend my money on, it would probably be the Ninja 1000,” sums up Madson. “It’s got the most potent engine, the best handling, and I would find it the most comfortable for long distance traveling. So I think out of the three it has got the most bang for the buck.”

In terms of outright performance the Kawasaki simply waxes the competition. Yet, it offers respectable touring capabilities with well-engineered luggage cases and comfortable, not overly sporty ergonomics which elevated the green bike to the top spot.

Kawasaki NInja 1000 ABS Tech Specs
2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS -  13 268.75  as tested with luggage.
Engine: 1043cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16 valve Inline Four
Bore x Stroke: 77.0 x 56.0mm
Compression ratio: 11.8:1
Fuel Delivery: DFI with four 38mm Keihin throttle bodies, oval sub-throttles
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance
Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive: Chain
Rake / Trail: 24.5 degrees / 4 in.
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire: 190/50 ZR17
Front Suspension: Showa 41mm inverted fork, adjustable for compression, rebound and preload, 4.7 inches travel
Rear Suspension: Horizontal linkage Showa monoshock, adjustable for rebound and preload, 5.4 inches travel
Front Brakes: Dual 300mm petal-type rotors with radial-mount four-piston Tokico calipers
Rear Brake: Single 250mm petal-type rotor with single-piston caliper
Seat Height: 32.3 inches
Wheelbase: 56.9 inches
Curb Weight: 524 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 5.0 gallon
Colors: Ebony, Candy Fire Red / Ebony
MSRP: $13,268.75, as tested

Adam Waheed

Road Test Editor | Articles | Adam's insatiable thirst for life is only surpassed by his monthly fuel bill. Whether rocketing on land, flying through the air, or jumping the seas, our Road Test Editor does it all and has the scars to prove it.