Ninja 1000 – A much better Zed


Words: Steve Bond. Photos: Susan Brown and Kawasaki


Comfortable sportbikes are in the same category as the Loch Ness Monster, honest politicians and peace in the Middle East. Generally, it just ain’t happening.

Enter Kawasaki’s Ninja 1000 – a motorcycle with sportbike performance, fairly good wind and weather protection, and ergonomics that won’t fold, bend, spindle or mutilate the rider.

Based on the Z1000 — a motorcycle that looks like the unholy union between one of the Transformers and the Batmobile — the Ninja 1000 is thankfully modern looking without being gauche and offensive. It’s quite attractive from every angle and nothing looks added on or an afterthought.

Unfortunately, Kawasaki must still have a warehouse full of surplus Z1000 mufflers, but at least the Ninja’s are less hideous, being tastefully blacked out instead of a glaring bright metal finish.


Even the clocks get the Bondo seal of approval.

Another huge improvement over the Z1000 is the instrument cluster. The Z had an adjustable, unreadable, jaundice-yellow LCD video game, while the Ninja goes old school with a really nice layout.

The large, traditional analog tachometer has a side LCD display for the digital speedo, twin tripmeters, fuel gauge and clock. Simple, yet readable at a glance.

Underneath the bodywork however, the Ninja is pretty much a Z1000 – and that’s good. The rigid aluminum frame and swingarm ties everything together nicely and the fully adjustable suspenders on both ends deliver full-on sportbike handling.



The radical angles of the Zed are gone in favour of a more protective cover.

Kawasaki sure knows 16-valve inline fours, and this 1,043cc version is a gem, pumping out a claimed 138 horsepower. With no adjustable power modes, traction control or other electronic nanny-isms, the rider is in cahoots with the machine – mano a mano.


Frilly options not available.

And I find that a refreshing change these days – after all, shouldn’t the rider’s right wrist should be responsible for more than just the aftermath of the adult movie channel?

The motor is amazingly strong, yet surprisingly docile and smooth. Wick the throttle and it’ll peel your lips back, but you can also idle down to 20km/h in sixth and pull away with nary a cough, lurch or stumble.

Leave all four wheeled traffic in the dust without ever exceeding 4,000 rpm, but spin the tach needle past seven grand and it’s “yahoo” time as you get the full liter-bike kick in the shorts.

But power is nothing without control and initial turn-in isn’t exactly light, requiring either a bit of trailbraking or a firm push on the inside bar. However, once committed, it holds the line beautifully and if mid-corner corrections are required, they don’t upset the chassis.

Side to side transitions require a bit of muscle to pick the bike up and lay it over again – it’s not exactly “flick flick,” but it never degenerates into alligator wrestling either.

But that is somewhat to be expected as the Ninja tips the scales at 502 lbs, about 20 lbs more than the Z1000, but a whole 65 lbs less than Suzuki’s popular 1250FA Bandit – a bike with a lower price tag and similar full fairing, but less horsepower and lower tech suspension.


Not a flicker into corners but still very maneuverable.

One day, I got caught in a surprise thunderstorm. After several days without rain, all the oil and crap that falls off cars was sitting on the surface of the road.

The Ninja’s throttle response is so immediate and direct, I was getting wheelspin in fifth and sixth gear on the 401 and when traffic inevitably slowed down, a delicate hand was required on the brake lever so as not to lock the front wheel.

But the Ninja’s chassis and suspension offered so much feel and feedback, it didn’t seem all that hairy. It was if the motorcycle was connected directly to my cerebral cortex through the handlebars and levers.

I kind of enjoyed the challenge of being in total control of the motorcycle instead of relying on a computer to ride the bike for me.



The pipes are a little odd, but the styling works (in our humble opinion).

Kawasaki didn’t skimp on the brakes – radial-mount, four piston Tokico calipers grip a couple of 300 mm petal-style rotors and the whole system is activated by a Nissin radial-pump master cylinder. An adjustable lever fits any size mitt and, although initial bite is crisp and firm, the feel and feedback is top drawer.


Adjustable screen offers tailored protection.

In keeping with the “expert rider in control” theme, ABS is not even offered as an option. I never use the rear brake but I assume there’s one back there somewhere.

The riding position is upright, with a hint of sporting lean – it’s actually closer to an adventure touring motorcycle than a sportbike.

The Ninja’s fairing isn’t overly bulbous, yet it provides pretty good wind protection around the rider’s legs and torso, deflecting most of the windblast which lessens fatigue at the end of a long day in the saddle.

A three-position, manually adjustable windscreen requires the dexterity of a bomb defuser to thread your fingers past the brake master cylinder, around the cables to finally reach the lever. Worth it though, to have the convenience of changing the screen position without tools.

Fuel economy wasn’t exactly stellar, averaging 5.9 to 6.4 liters per 100 kilopascals (or whatever stupid way the government wants us to do it these days). My high school math tells me that works out to between 44 and 47 miles per gallon.

Of course, with the Ninja’s warp-speed power available, I wasn’t exactly thinking “green” most of the time. I suspect that steady, sedate touring velocities would return over 50 miles per gallon.


Z1000 pipes remain but are painted black.

The Z1000 has a 15 liter tank but the Ninja’s is burped out to a more touring friendly 19 liters, a capacity that should allow a 350 km touring range – IF you ride like an old woman. Er, I mean responsibly.


The Ninja 1000 fills a definite niche. It’s for riders who want sportbike performance and handling but don’t want the Spanish Inquisition ergos. They want to cover ground quickly and comfortably but aren’t quite ready for the extra 200 lbs of a sport tourer.

So now we’ve got a comfortable sportbike. Can peace in the Middle East be far behind?



Ninja 1000



1,043 cc

Four-stroke, dohc four,
 Power (crank)* 101.5 kW {138 PS} @ 9,600 rpm

110 N.m {11.2 kgf.m} @ 7,800 rpm
19 litres (4.2 gal.)

Electronic Fuel Injection

Final drive
Six speed, Chain drive

120/70 ZR17

190/50 ZR17

Dual semi-floating 300 mm petal discs

Single 250 mm petal disc

820 mm (32.3 in.)

1,445 mm (56.9 in.)

Curb weight*
228 kg (502.4 lbs.)

Candy Lime Green / Ebony, Candy Fire Red / Ebony

12 months
* claimed


  1. Am I the only one who thinks it looks like it got sandwiched between two trucks in a collision? . Having said this, I’m sure there is quite a lot  of sporting performance without being on a midevil torture rack.
    The weird Alice exhaust pipes must be restyled.

  2. Have toagree on the mounts. I have a Bandit 1250 and Suzuki mounting system (although they are re-badged Givi) is completely different from the Givi mounts. They actually look good. Without them my Bandit looks like something out of Road Warrior or something on of those stunt riders would bolt on to protect his bike. Maybe Kawasaki needs to take a page from Suzuki and make their own.

  3. Hard luggage is heavy. That is, we
    don’t want hard luggage. This bike
    is a bit on the porky side as it is.
    Personally, I would trade 38 horsepower
    for 83 pounds.

  4. It always seems like Kawasaki almost makes a great bike but misses on the details. With so many bikes offering hard luggage it’s a really big fook up for them not to offer something that looks half decent when the bags are off. Why can’t they get it right?

  5. “So now we’ve got a comfortable sportbike. Can peace in the Middle East be far behind?”

    Not as long as those mufflers remain and someone’s addiction to adult movies goes untreated.

  6. The OEM hard bags are made by Givi and look good, as they are the V35’s. Only problem is the frame work used to mount them is HIDEOUS!!!

    Totally ruins the look of the bike from the rear withe the bags on, and is even worse when you take the bags off and are left with the “iron work”. Whoever designed this obviosuly didn’t look at the more graceful mounting system on the Concours.

    That being said, SW Mototech makes their QUICK-LOCK EVO Side Carriers for Ninja 1000, which remove with a few quick disconnects fasteners when the bags are off, cleaning up the look of bike. And it’s easy to add any brand of luggage including the Givi V35’s to the SW Mototech racks.

    With those in place, this would make an excellent lighter weight sport tourer!

  7. Nice bike. Good review. However …

    “… shouldn’t the rider’s right wrist should be responsible for more than just the aftermath of the adult movie channel?”


  8. and where oh where are the nice hard saddle bags a la the Bandit and what ever honda calls that thing of theres
    then you would actually have a sport tourer instead of 700 pounds of Concours or ST 1300
    not that a passenger seat would not have been a nice touch too
    but I perhaps ask too much

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