I bought the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 on a whim. I was never really in the market for a Ninja, except that I wanted something newer and more modern than my 2003 Kawasaki ZZR1200. My friend Akshay spotted this N1K for sale on BARF. The bike was priced well below comparables, but the catch was that the bike was located in Crescent City (almost 400 miles from the Bay Area). After test riding a few other bikes over the next 3-4 weeks (Kawasaki Z1000, Ducati 1098, Yamaha FJ-09) I bought the Ninja in mid August 2015. The seller met us mid way in Leggett, CA and a short test ride, the deal was done.
I rode 1000 miles on this bike in less than 2 months. That is quicker than any other bike I’ve had. So here is a review with some comparisons to my ZZR.
The Ninja is powered by the over square (77×56) 1043cc Kawi engine – shared with the 2010+ Z1000. The engine is superb – best described as a beefy muscular rottweiler ready for a riot. It makes a fair amount of grunt in the low and mid range, but does not have the maddening pull of the ZZR1200. It’s a fast bike by any standards and keeps me happily entertained. I like the power in the low and mid range, it suits my relaxed riding style. Just going by the numbers, the Ninja is faster than a ZX-10R till about 8000 rpm – after which the ZX goes ballistic.
The gearing on this bike also makes it easy to wheelie. This is the first bike I’ve had that can actually wheelie effortlessly, and I’m enjoying it a lot. I’ve found there are two ways to wheelie this thing. The first way is to simply gun the throttle 100% in first gear and the wheel lifts off at about 4-5k rpm. But by the time you land, the bike is going pretty fast and it scares me a little. The second (and easier) way is to rev the bike till 4-5k in first, cut the throttle to depress the front suspension and then immediately blip the throttle to 100%. This brings up the front at much lower speeds and makes it easy to control the bike. I’ve probably done a dozen of these wheelies now and I almost biffed the landing on one of them. That’s when I ordered a set of frame sliders and put them on asap.
At freeway speeds the Ninja runs between 5-6k RPM and does a good job of deflecting the wind. The ZZR was a lot more relaxed and composed at freeway speeds, while the Ninja feels a bit more buzzy. It does have a lot of torque though, even at 6000 rpm. I’ve opened it up a couple of times on an open stretch of freeway and the bike quickly rockets into the triple digits.
Ergonomics and comfort
At 6’2″, I’m pretty much sitting bolt upright on the Ninja, and it took me a little while to get used to that. I was very comfortable with the forward lean on the ZZR and I actually liked it at freeway speeds. On the ZZR the wind blast pushes you back and while bike makes you lean forward – this combination was perfectly relaxing. On the Ninja I sometimes struggle with the wind blast which is constantly pushing me back. The seat height of the Ninja is noticeable higher than the ZZR. It feels like I’m sitting on top of the Ninja, while I was sitting in the ZZR.
Suspension and handling
Here there is no comparison – the Ninja wins hands down. The Ninja is effortless to lean, turn in and change course in a corner. The stock suspension is good enough for me and I haven’t bothered to adjust the pre-load and damping yet. The ZZR was tiring on a twisty ride while the Ninja makes it much easier.
I’m starting to like the way this bike looks, especially with the fender eliminator and the black windscreen (both off eBay). I admit I like the looks of Z1000 so much better, but I think the Ninja is more practical and will come in handy on longer multi day tours. Interestingly the front forks are of different lengths so the standard Pitbull front stand does not work (they now make an adjustable one). I like the dual Transformer style mufflers and I like the throaty but quiet sound they make. A popular muffler mod for this bike is the Vance & Hines Urban Brawlers and I’ve heard them in person, but I think they are a bit too loud for my tastes now.
So anyway this is a great bike. I have a feeling I will be riding this bike for a long time. It does everything well – commute, back roads, long trips, around town, etc. It looks and sounds decent and is cheap to maintain.
But therein lies the problem. It does everything well, but nothing exceptionally well. It has no “f*** you” factor. You know what I mean,
The KLR says I’m ancient and underpowered, but f*** you, I just rode across Africa
The Panigale says I’m expensive, don’t get ridden much, but f***you, I look a million bucks
The GS says I’m heavy and obnoxious, but f***you, I’m going to Starbucks
What does the Ninja say? I’m still figuring that one out …