I had the fortune to stumble on a post on www.sport-touring.net back in May about a new podcast by the Wheelnerds. Weekly Chuck and Todd present motorcycle information and “stuff, ‘lots of stuff” in an informative and very entertaining way from their home base in Utah. I was hooked from the first episode. Actually, I had to pull my bike over the other day to stop laughing during the first few minuets of Episode 11: Gumming Up the Works. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to call into the show and talk to the Wheelnerds about the Ninja 1000 and the Cycle World Experience. I had a really great time and want to thank Chuck and Todd for having me on the show. If you ride a motorcycle and like to laugh then you need to check out this podcast.
Monthly Archives: July 2011
The first two motorcycles I owned had no wind protection, meaning they had no windshields. Being cruisers, they were also absent any protection from the weather, other than what I was wearing. It wasn’t until I purchased my Harley-Davidson Electra Glide that I even understood how much wind and weather protection can improve the pleasure of riding. Now after riding the Ninja 1000 and the Concours I understand even more. Both bikes have adjustable windshields, the Ninja’s manually adjusts to three preset positions and the Concours’ is electronically adjustable.
|Ninja Up||Ninja Mid||Ninja Down|
|Connie Up||Connie Mid||Connie Down|
In addition to their windshields, both bikes also have a fairing to help with airflow and protect the rider from the elements. The fairing in both cases also serves to push hot air from the engine away from the rider and they both do this very well. I am pleasantly surprised at how well both bikes manage heat. I’ve been stuck in hot weather in stop and go traffic and been cooler (relatively) than I ever was on my Harley. Part of that I’m sure is that these are both liquid cooled bikes, but I have to give credit to the engineering that went into moving the hot engine air away from the rider. No longer do my thighs burn as I stand at a stop light in 90 degree heat waiting for the light to change. Don’t get me wrong, there is heat, but not nearly the level of what is put off by an air cooled engine on a hot day. The similarity in the bikes regarding wind and weather protection pretty much end there.
For pure, clean airflow from the windshield to the rider the Ninja is better than almost any other bike I’ve ever ridden. In all three positions the air stream is clean with only a little buffeting in the tallest setting. I’m 6′ 2″ so that’s saying something for this little windscreen. The windshield is not adjustable on the fly (while riding) like the Connie (and as also indicated on the warning label next to the adjustment latch) but takes only a second to change at a stop light or sign. There’s no tools needed, just push down on the latch tucked into the fairing on the right side under the display screen. Not being able to adjust the screen while riding has not been a problem. I usually keep it set to the middle height which still allows air to reach me but does not blow me off the bike when at higher (legal) speeds.
I wish that I could say the same for the Connie’s windshield. In all possible settings there is wind noise and buffeting. The lowest setting is the quietest and the cleanest but it’s still produces some rough air and noise. The benefit to an electronically adjustable windshield however is that, in the few instances where I’ve encountered rain, being able to move the much larger Concours windshield all the way up has kept me pretty dry while in motion. The same cannot be said for the windscreen on the Ninja 1000, it’s just too small to really provide great weather protection. At it’s highest setting the Connie’s shield works well to keep most wind from reaching the rider. I know that this is helpful on the highway from personal experience and I’m sure that it will come in handy when the temperatures start to drop. Wind noise and buffeting when the screen is fully erect though almost negate these benefits. I’m just glad I wear ear plugs. A nice feature of the Concours is the ability to preset the windshield to one of 4 factory set heights so that the shield raises to that height when the bike starts. Setting 1 is full down and setting 4 is full up while 2 and 3 are mid-low and mid-high respectively. The shield retracts to full down when the bike is turned off.
On weather protection, the clear advantage goes to the Concours. It’s designed to push wind and weather past the rider and creates a nice bubble to sit in and just enjoy the ride. The Ninja’s fairing seems primarily built to decrease wind resistance and move engine heat away from the rider, but not for weather protection. In a side-by-side picture it can be seen that the Connie allows the rider to tuck in behind the fairing and the windshield where the Ninja 1000 just does not have the same level of protection.
It’s no surprise to me that the purpose built sport-touring motorcycle, the Concours, has better weather protection. It is surprising that the Ninja 1000 provides the cleaner wind flow and does that with a much smaller windscreen. I’d still not want to take the Ninja into a hard rainstorm, but I’d love to see a windshield built for the Concours that moves air past me like the Ninja does.
Next Up for the Comparison: Ergonomics, a chat with Isosceles …
I thought that it might be best before launching into a comparison of two bikes to make sure that I introduce them. While readers of the Cycle World Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Experience blogs may already be familiar with the Ninja 1000, you may not be as familiar with, what I consider its big brother, the Concours 14.
Kawasaki describes that Ninja 1000 as an “open-class sport bike” that is “bred for the street”. With its 1043cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, fuel injected, inline-four power plant mated to a slick 6 speed transmission with chain final drive pumping out 136 horse power, the Ninja 1000 is all sport bike at heart. Add to that an upright sitting position, padded seat, and adjustable windshield and Kawasaki has created a great all around platform for whatever riding style you may be interested in. I can personally attest to the Ninja 1000’s capabilities as a commuter and back road blitzer. The Ninja 1000 could easily be modified with saddle and tank bags to make it an excellent sport-touring bike, with a strong bias toward the sport end of that segment.
The Concours 14 is categorized as a supersport-touring motorcycle by Kawasaki. With a 1352cc four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four with variable valve timing connected to a 6 speed transmission and Tetra-Lever shaft drive pushing out 102.0 lb-ft of torque @ 6,200 rpm and 133 horse power, I think the designation is well deserved. The Connie is well suited, as I can personally confirm, for long distance touring and is also very capable on curvy back roads. Kawasaki have loaded up the Concours 14 with a plethora of gadgets and technology: traction control (KRTC), ABS, linked brakes (K-ACT with two modes), economy fueling mode, heated grips, electronically adjustable windshield, tire pressure monitoring, and a unique keyless ignition system (KIPASS) . All that and water proof had bags and you can understand why this is a touring bike to rival BMW, Yamaha or Honda. Voted Best Sport-Touring Bike by Cycle World in 2008, 2009, and 2010, the Concours 14 is truly a great bike.
I thought that it would be a good time to write up a comparison of the two bikes that I currently own. Both have roughly the same mileage on them since I bought the Concours 14 a few weeks after taking delivery of the Ninja 1000. I had considered writing up a comparison between my Harley Davidson Electra Glide and the Ninja 1000, but decided against it. There are too few similarities between the bikes and far too many differences. I felt that a comparison between the sport-touring bikes would be more appropriate and informative. I will say that making the switch to a sport-touring bike from the H-D was a pretty big one. I often feel like I’m learning to ride a bike all over again even with over 1,000 miles on the Ninja 1000 and the Concours. Riding position, shifting, lean angle, and power delivery are all vastly different between the two styles of bikes. I will, inevitably, make references to the H-D, and cruisers in general, in my review as that’s my primary reference from a riding perspective, but I won’t be making a direct comparison between the H-D and the sport-touring bikes.
Over the next few days I’ll be posting comparisons of specific features of the Ninja 1000 and the Concours 14. I plan to cover the following topics: windshield/wind flow, ergonomics, power delivery, general ride quality, fit and finish, and amenities. Since these two bikes are both manufactured by Kawasaki, and have a sport-touring bias, there will be some similarities in the areas that I plan to cover, but I can assure you that in most cases they approach them differently.
Stay Tuned …