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2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Review

6547 Views 7 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Buelligan
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.

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.

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.

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 190/55-17 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.

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.
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Lot of great improvements here with the 2014 Ninja 1000, all for $200 move over last years price. It might make people who bought 2013 models regret their purchase.
great lengthy read.

vague front end feel can be solved. thought it would have been better if they designed it properly the first time around. steering dampers and upgraded front forks?
great lengthy read.

vague front end feel can be solved. thought it would have been better if they designed it properly the first time around. steering dampers and upgraded front forks?
fortunately it can, one more thing to consider when buying the new 1000, some people might be able to live with it being like that, i doubt i can
I've always believed that stock suspensions are built for a certain range of riders. And everyone rides differently and weighs differently. So tuning or changing your suspension is not a bad idea if you take your riding seriously.
MCN just reviewed the 2014 Ninja 1000, and noted the odd front wheel issue - flopping into turns, then heaving steering to straighten back up. They seem to think its the new front tire S20R's instead of the BT016s, and that a change of tires would get the old handling back. When they upped the front tire pressure to +4 over recommended, the odd behavior pretty much went away.
I purchased a Ninja 1000 three months ago, hoping to replace my Buell 1125 for long sport riding trips into Colorado. After 4000 miles, I can say, the seat sucks! Even the factory upgraded Gel seat sucks. I don't like the angle, constantly sliding down into the gastank. I've modified the front of the seat to raise it up an inch, and it is working much better. I've also lowered the pegs 1 1/4" by installing Buell Lightning footpegs. (Thanks to someone on another Ninja forum for mentioning they just bolt on!)
The bags are great! I feel they sit too high, raising the bikes center of gravity, but they hold a decent amount, and the mounting system is good. With the bags removed, you cant even tell the bike is made for hard luggage.
The suspension is poorly designed. As Stayup stated, this bike may be " built for a certain range of riders". Obviously, not for sport riders! The forks are decent enough, but with compression adjustment on only one fork leg, it is hard to fine tune the front end when one fork is doing all the work. I'm debating grafting a 10R front end to my bike, in the hopes of achieving the ability to tune the front end to my standards.
The rear is pretty much the same, with no compression adjustment, a rider is unable to fully tune the rear shock. Here again, perhaps a 10R rear shock will improve the bikes handling, but you will lose the adjustable preload...
My tires are shot, and i've never been impressed with the BT's. I like the pilot road 3's and plan to have a set installed this week. They have worked real well on my Buells, and also my Yamaha. I'm also going with a 180/55 instead of the stock 190/50. Perhaps this will improve my turn in...
The engine is sweet. It purrs like a kitten, with no noise whatsoever. After riding v-twins for many years, I've become accustomed to the instant pull of that sweet low end torque, especially on the 1125. So it's taking me awhile to adjust to the powerband of the inline four. The engine does make good power, but im having to pay attention to what gear I'm in as I set up the curves, because the power just isn't there when I roll out of the turn unless I'm in a lower gear and the engine is above 5000 RPM's.
Needless to say, I'm not selling my Buell anytime soon, it is still my #1 canyon carving bike, but the Ninja will hopefully replace it for longer distances. I typically ride 400 mile days on the weekends.
IMO the suspension is the biggest problem with the bike. Hopefully the rear tire size will help, and I will continue looking for ways to upgrade the rest...

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Changing the rear tire made a world of difference in the handling!
The bike turns in so much nicer now, I'm not fighting to get the bike through the turns now.
I've got the suspension adjusted about as good as I can get it, much better now, but still not up to real sportbike standards.
sad note: with the bags installed, the bike becomes unstable at higher, triple digit speeds. Understandable, but a little bit unnerving.
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