It’s not often that we get to evaluate two brand new bikes from different genres in a single day, and on a resort island no less, so when Kawasaki Motors Malaysia Sdn Bhd (KMMSB) invited AF to the island of Langkawi to attend the launch and review their new 2014 Kawa Z1000 and Ninja 1000, I said yes even before the official invite actually arrived.
This was the first time in its 25-year history in Malaysia that KMMSB had organized an ‘away’ media ride and I wasn’t going to miss it; the fact that two very new and very distinctly different bikes were being launched made the proposition all the more enticing.
Despite sharing the same engine, the Z1000 ‘Streetfighter’ is definitely the ‘bad-boy’ in this dynamic duo, while the Ninja 1000 is the more ‘sensible’ of the two. In retrospect, I wish I’d ridden the Z1000 first, but as it turned out, my first stint was with the Ninja.
The Ninja 1000 comes in two variants, one with panniers for ease of touring and one without; said panniers are unique to the Ninja and can accommodate a full-face helmet each, yet somehow they don’t look in the least bit too obtrusive, unlike the car-wing-mirror-killing panniers on the Kawa GTR.
The upright riding position is perfect for long-distance travel, and the leg position is ideal even for taller riders. Its large 19-litre fuel tank is plenty enough for outstation trips and should cut down on the amount of time spent refueling, lest you ride like a nutter all the time, in which case, skip to the text on the Z1000 below, now.
Equipped with ABS and KTRC or Kawasaki TRaction Control which allows for three modes (Modes 1 & 2 for sporty riding, Mode 3 for enhanced control on slippery conditions), the Ninja is powered by a liquid-cooled 1,043cc, DOHC 16v in-line four cylinder that churns out 142ps, mated to a 6-speed gearbox.
What’s most impressive though is how the Ninja puts that power down on tarmac. The delivery is silky smooth (unlike the Z!) and linear, getting noticeably more frenetic around the 7,000rpm range. Of course being a tourer, one should not expect the kind of canyon-carving characteristics of a super-sports, but that said, the Ninja isn’t a beached whale either.
To begin with, its overall weight has been kept down, and that’s enabled it to offer the kind of sports-riding capability that’s not normally seen in a tourer. Let’s put it this way; remove the panniers and this tourer is a sports-bike, that’s as simple as it gets.
Yes you can ride it like a sports-bike if you want and yes, it’ll take it all in stride, but since I’ve always believed in testing a vehicle as how it was intended, the ride would be generally more ‘sedate’, well, for as long as we could endure anyway, which was not very long. Despite having a police escort, we really weren’t hanging around, and I distinctly remember seeing triple digit speeds in areas where doing 80km/h would have been pushing it.
But despite my best efforts to the contrary, the Ninja simply lapped it up and coped with whatever my deviant mind could think of throwing at it. While it doesn’t mind the occasional trashing, it does however prefer the kind of riding it was created to do, touring, and to that extent, it accomplishes this very well. I don’t think I felt tired or uncomfortable even once during the extended ride around Langkawi, in fact, I was a tad unwilling to hand the keys in for the stint on its sibling…
As I mentioned earlier, it should have been the other way around. I should have ridden the Z1000 first, followed by a more relaxed ride on the Ninja. How can I put this in a politically-correct way? Okay, there isn’t one, the Z1000 is just bonkers. I’m not kidding, it’s throttle has been replaced by a hair-trigger and just a little flex of the wrist is all it takes to set this thing off. It’s like a bottle-rocket with an extremely short fuse.
It has a semblance of a seat, about an inch thick that seems to be padded with plywood, and that really doesn’t matter because anyone expecting to use this bike for long-distance travel should really wear a looser helmet. The Z1000 is a bike created for one sole purpose; to canyon-carve and tackle the twisties with the kind of aplomb and assuredness that’s the hallmark of street-bikes or ‘Streetfighters’.
With its four reflector-less LEDs upfront bearing more than a passing resemblance to the ‘Predator’, and its very forward stance, the Z1000 looks always ready to pounce, and believe me when I say, it’s not all-show-no-go. Power from the in-line 4 is instantaneous and thanks to its low kerb weight, the Zee is as flickable as you would imagine.
While on the topic of performance, I feel I should interject at this point that the brakes on both bikes are simply phenomenal. Two-finger braking is possible on the Ninja, but on the Zee, one finger is all you’ll need. The first time I braked hard on the Z1000 I almost went over the handle bars. Then again, my personal bike is an old-skool GS1000, it’s a brute and which according to my fellow motoring scribe, the editor of Fast Bikes mag no less, it requires me to write in a letter to the braking department a week in advance before even thinking of coming to a stop. Nice. Bastard.
I’m not going to bore you with more specifications and numbers, true bikers really don’t give a toss about all that, but what I will try and impart for my closing is how these bikes will make you feel. While both may share similar powertrains, the Ninja is definitely Dr. Jekyll, while the Z1000 is the Mr. Hyde of this union.
The Z1000 makes no excuses for what it is, and that’s what I love best about it. It looks like a raging, snarling beast of a Streetfighter and has more than enough grunt and performance to walk the talk. It simply revels around the twists and turns that would turn most bikes inside-out, and likes nothing more than to be trashed hard from corner to curve. It’s not the most comfortable bike ever made despite its upright riding position, that seat really is quite nasty in terms of comfort, but as I said in the introduction, most of the time on roads like the aforementioned, you’ll be hanging-off anyway, getting your knee down, so it really doesn’t matter.
The Ninja 1000 on the other hand is the one to go for if you’re getting on in the years, but still want something a lot of fun for either a Sunday ride or a long-distance weekend getaway. I can’t find any faults with this bike, it goes, stops and handles brilliantly. It has ample cargo room for luggage and despite being labeled as a ‘tourer’, it’s also quite sprightly around the bends. It’s a very accomplished bike, one that owners will not tire of both in terms of looks and rideability.
At the end of the day there’s always one factor that determines whether a bike is going to be liked by the biking population or not, and that’s when after it’s all over, you still want to ride some more. Safe to say, with the Z1000 and Ninja 1000, none of us wanted to stop, and that’s a really good thing.
Engine: Liquid-cooled, in-line 4cyl, DOHC, 16v, 1,043cc
Transmission: 6-speed return
Power: 142Ps @ 7,000rpm
Bore/Stroke: 77.0 x 56.0
Price: Z1000 – RM76,900; Ninja 1000 – RM82,900 – RM87,900