“Night and day” is what the Kawasaki folks told me when I asked the difference between the Ninja 1000 and the Z1000 Ninja. So I rode both of them and I have to disagree. Maybe “daybreak and noon,” but certainly not “night and day.”
Which is to say that they were definitely different animals but they had a lot of similarities as well. And one of those similarities was that I was surprised how much I liked both of them.
I rode the Ninja 1000 first and I thought it was a rocket. Amazingly, this is where the two are different. The Z1000 Ninja makes the Ninja 1000 look pokey. This thing is fast like I could not believe. And while you might think on a guided demo ride you would not have the opportunity to really see what a bike can do, this one was different.
One thing they always tell you before the ride is no sling-shotting. That is, don’t drop back so you can then crank the throttle and catch up. Well, that’s exactly what the guy in front of me was doing, again and again. And I understand now why they tell you not to do that. It means everybody behind you has to also blast to catch up or they can totally lose track of the group in front of them.
So we pulled out of the parking lot and rode about 200 feet to the highway and stopped at the stop sign. The leader and three others pulled out and the guy in front of me came to a complete stop at the sign. And sat there. I expected him to pause and then go, and when he didn’t, I had to grab the brakes to keep from just cruising right past him, another demo ride no-no. And with that sudden stop I stalled the engine. Then he took off.
At this point I had to wait for traffic. When I could go I hit the throttle hard. Really hard. And oh, man, did that motorcycle go! I jogged over to the on-ramp to the beltway and turned up the ramp and opened it up and it threw me back with screaming acceleration. Up the ramp and onto the freeway I was hitting 80 and 90 in third gear and every time I upshifted it would throw me back again. The Ninja 1000 has power but not like this.
I finally did catch up, just barely before the group exited the freeway, and we then went up Deer Creek Canyon. This is a curvy canyon road that winds its way up into the mountains and was great for testing handling. Out here in Colorado you hear the term “canyon carving” and that term has a whole new meaning for me now. My Concours has lots of power but it’s heavy. The Z1000 is light and you just flick that thing back and forth and blast right up that road.
Even on the tight turns the gearing is so broad that I almost never needed to downshift or upshift. I just dropped it into third or fourth and left it there. It was a dream. The suspension was good, soaking up the bumps with ease, and the upright riding position and seat were comfortable. The Z1000 has more a forward-leaning position that the Ninja 1000 but it still isn’t bad. Nothing at all like the serious sportbike crouch I experienced when I test rode the BMW S1000RR. That was way too extreme for me; this was just fine.
One big difference in this bike vis a vis the Ninja 1000 is that the Z1000 does not have a windshield. That made a lot of difference to me when I was at high speed. I’ll take the windshield, thank you.
The one big gripe I have with the Z1000, as I do with so many of Kawasaki’s bikes, is the mirrors. They suck big time. You can see what’s in the lane next to you or you can see what’s behind you but you cannot do both. And that’s just wrong. Fortunately that would be one thing you could fix at relatively low cost. But why do they put those things on their bikes to begin with?
So the bottom line on the Z1000 is that I liked it more than I expected to. Between the two I would choose the Ninja 1000 but if you’re more interested in the sportbike genome your choice could easily be different from mine. I sure wouldn’t want to go traveling on this bike but for riding around town and running out with the boys it’s a darn nice motorcycle.
Oh, did I tell you it’s really, really fast?