I came across this ad while catching up on my reading. It came out in the October issue of Cycle World. I just thought it was cool that they used my quote in the full page ad. Click to open larger.
Category Archives: Ninja 1000 Experience
The time has finally come to return the Ninja 1000 to Kawasaki. It’s been a thrilling 3 months of riding and exploring the area around my house on what has proven to be an exciting motorcycle. I find it hard to believe that it’s already been 90 days. Time flies when you’re having fun. My only regret is that I didn’t have more fun. Life has a way of sneaking up and stealing time away.
Thinking back to my first ride out of the dealership on the Ninja 1000 and how different it was from my Harley makes me laugh a little. I’ve become very accustom to this bike and my Concours in a relatively short time. I can’t believe that I spent so much time shying away from sport and sport touring bikes thinking they would be uncomfortable or to much power to manage. The Ninja cured me of that by the time I got home on that first ride and convinced me that sport (touring) bikes are going to be a permanent part of my riding stable.
Living in Virginia in the shadow of the Blue Ridge mountains also gave me a unique opportunity to ride some of the best roads in the country. On these curvy and winding roads the Ninja was in it’s element. I also didn’t have to ride very far to get to those roads which helped. While I originally was unimpressed with the seat, and to some extent the riding position, as the bike and I got to know each other better I was able to put more time in the saddle with less frequent rest stops. This allowed me to enjoy the handling and performance of the Ninja more. Once we hit a groove, all the little niggles I’ve mentioned melted away.
My conclusions about the bike are a little mixed. Where I about ten years younger I would jump at the chance to own this bike. However, being a little older and moving into a different phase of riding, it just does not have the comfort and amenities that I’m currently looking for. As a second ride in my stable this would be a really fun day trip, around town bike. It does what it was built for well and I truly hope that it get’s the recognition that it deserves.
Comfort is a subjective topic. Being an avid reader of all things motorcycle I’ve observed that one person’s perfect bike setup is another person’s idea of medieval torture. Having read a number of motorcycle travel books and blogs comfort is a key topic but the approach varies widely. I’ve seen everything from an almost stock FZ1 taken around the world to a KLR fitted with a Gold Wing seat by it’s owner to thousands of dollars spent on new seats, handlebars, grips and pegs. What this means to me is that what’s comfortable is purely a personal choice. Having ridden mostly cruisers up until recently my idea of comfort was grounded in the standard ergos for that segment of the market. Big and wide padded seats, floor boards, and laid back seating are all standard elements of the riders contact with a cruiser and the reason that this is such a popular motorcycle type. It’s familiar. It’s the way we are used to sitting in our office chairs all day. The feat-under-the-seat riding position of a sport bike is pretty foreign to most people unless they’ve logged some time on a horse and even then only if they’ve ridden English vs. Western (which is a whole other debate/discussion). I’ve been fortunate (?) enough to have experience riding horses both ways and now bikes too. So, what do I prefer? Motorcycles, but that’s a little off topic.
The differences in rider ergonomics between the Ninja and the Concours are really one of scale. To make sure that I wasn’t just fooling myself into thinking this is true based entirely on the fact that the Ninja is smaller than the Concours, I rode them back-to-back down the same road. The Ninja has generally the same seat to peg to bars relationship that the Concours does, just more compressed due to the size of the bike. This ratio of the comfort triangle goes a long way toward the idea that this bike can be a sport-touring machine. It all but cements the Ninja as a great around town/commuter bike which I can attest to personally. As I mentioned before though, comfort is subjective. At 6′ 2″ the compressed ergonomics of the Ninja make an already small bike, for me, feel even smaller. In the twisty back roads and mountain passes near my home, this is a good thing. The Ninja feels small and maneuverable while also building confidence taking corners tight and exiting fast and planted. The Connie is more than capable of strafing the back roads too, however there’s a little more bulk to bustle around and as such greater effort needed to garner the same results as the Ninja. This puts the Ninja’s sweet spot, for me, at short or moderate length trips preferably on twisty fun roads or as an around town errand runner (like picking up some ice cream on a hot summer day after dinner).
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.
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 …
I also had a fuel up today on my ride home from work. You can check out my stats at Fuelly.com:
I love riding. I ride every time I get a chance as far and as long as I can. That’s the key phrase here … “as long as I can”. My H-D was a great bike for putting long days and many miles in the saddle. It’s not hard to enjoy a long ride when you have a seat like this:
The seat on the Ninja 1000 was a bit of a change for me:
It is really hard to compare the H-D to the Ninja because they are such different bikes. However I do feel that it’s fair to make the comparison since they are both street bikes and touring oriented. The similarities pretty much end there, but the overall mission for these bikes has the same roots. With that in mind I expected the Ninja’s seat to be softer and able to at least allow me to stay on the bike through a tank of gas. Unfortunately, at this point I can’t. I can do about an hour and then I need to take a brake, stretch and then I’m good to go. I never had delusions that the Ninja’s seat would anything like the couch that the H-D’s seat is, I did expect it to be a little more pliant. To be fair my backend has been babied by the H-D, so maybe it’s a combination of breaking in the Ninja’s seat and getting my rear toughened up. It’s still early in our riding relationship. I do hope that it get’s better because I think this is a terrific bike and I want to be able to ride the pants off it … just not the other way around.
Wind protection is important for a number of reasons. My first two motorcycles didn’t have any wind protection at all. I remember going on day rides with my friends and just feeling exhausted at the end of the day. Fighting the constant pressure of the wind on my chest made my arms and shoulders tired. The wind sucked all the moisture out of my body leaving me more tired than I would have been otherwise. So when I bought my next bike I made sure that I had protection from the wind. I think I went a little too far though. With the H-D very little wind gets to the rider, which is fantastic in rainy, cold weather but is not comfortable in the heat, especially in Virginia where the humidity makes summers pretty harsh.
I was instantly impressed with the windscreen on the Ninja the first time that I rode it. The wind management is great. Airflow over the front of the bike to the rider is very smooth, and that’s just with the screen in the lowest position, there are two higher positions the screen can be set at. I generally prefer the second position in warmer weather. It pushes the air right into my helmet vents and allows a good amount of air to get to me, but in a good way. In its highest position the screen works well for highway travel, and really that’s about it. It dramatically increases noise and stops air from reaching my chest. The noise isn’t a big deal when I’m on the highway, but not having to pull against the wind at higher speeds is ideal. I get a good range of protection from the three positions with excellent air flow management. I suspect that the highest position would also be great in colder weather, but I don’t think we’re getting any of that anytime soon.