2017 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Ride Review

Don't get stuck just looking at its spec sheet.

Kawasaki Ninja 1000 in Motion
Kawasaki Ninja 1000 in MotionCourtesy of Kawasaki

Kawasaki got it wrong… The 2017 Ninja 1000 is not a sport-tourer. It's so much more than that. After traveling for two days from Los Angeles to Monterey, California, and experiencing equal doses of urban warfare, tight canyons, high-speed mountain sweepers, wine country roads, and some necessary highway running, I found the bike excels at almost everything. Despite a superb 1,043cc powerplant supplying perfectly fueled torque combined with top-shelf racetrack-infused electronics and a solid supporting cast of suspension, brakes, and all-day ergos, a lot of people might have overlooked this Ninja.

"Daily grind or canyon carving, this bike delivers far beyond the spec sheet"

The first glance reveals lean, aggressive bodywork inspired by the Ninja ZX-10R along with an updated three-position double-bubble windscreen that is 15mm taller than before. New, compact dual LED headlamps offer increased light projection, and other touches include smaller integrated front turn signals, smaller rear turn signals, and pannier mounts integrated into rear grab handles.

Climbing aboard the Ninja 1000 reveals a lower seat height of 32.1 inches thanks to a revised rear shock linkage, and it’s easy to tuck your legs into the 5-gallon fuel tank. A simple reach forward to the bars reveals five-way-adjustable levers as well as mirrors that are now 20mm wider and offer good clarity at speed. Switchgear on the left handlebar enables power modes selection on an all-new instrument display starring an oversize analog tach and LCD info screen. Additionally, the passenger seat is longer, wider, and angled to prevent forward movement.

Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Fairing
The Ninja 1000’s aggressively styled fairing outer portions are 28mm wider for better wind protection as well as a wider mirror positioning, three-position-adjustable windscreen, and new LED headlights.Courtesy of Kawasaki

The Ninja 1000’s engine first hit our shores in 2010 with the Z1000. The liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve, 1,043cc inline-four is deceptively quick and flexible, with revised ECU settings to meet stricter Euro 4 standards. Release the clutch lever and enjoy the immediate wave of torque from 2,000 to 7,000 rpm, where it begins to spin quicker until the rev limiter kicks in at 11,000 rpm. Vibrations increase a bit up top despite the engine counter­balancer and are felt through the seat more than the dampened bars and pegs.

The 2017 Ninja 1000’s racing-inspired electronics package now includes a Bosch IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit), KIBS (Kawasaki Intelligent antilock Braking System), and KCMF (Kawasaki Corner Management Function) in addition to the existing three-mode KTRC (traction control) and dual power modes. The new six-axis Bosch IMU enhances KTRC and KIBS performance, with the ECU using Kawasaki’s proprietary software to interpret input from the IMU and other data like wheel speed, brake pressure, throttle position, rpm, and more.

KTRC has three levels of intervention, plus off. I mostly used the least-restrictive Mode 1, allowing for more wheel slippage and better drive off corners in dry conditions. Mode 2 allows some slippage but is slightly more intrusive, and Mode 3 is designed for rainy conditions.

Kawasaki Ninja 1000
The first glance reveals lean, aggressive bodywork inspired by the Ninja ZX-10R along with an updated three-position double-bubble windscreen that is 15mm taller than before.Courtesy of Kawasaki

Front brakes offer a strong, progressive feel through dual 300mm petal-type rotors and radial-mount four-piston Monoblock calipers. The front ABS is remarkably transparent, going mostly unnoticed during normal riding, though soft pulses of ABS intervention were felt through the rear brake pedal. The KCMF system monitors engine and chassis data throughout the corner, assisting smooth transitions from acceleration to braking, which helps you stay on line. The steering is nice and neutral in the corners, with the steering geometry and 41mm fully adjustable inverted fork providing good feedback and a smooth ride without coming undone as you ramp up the pace. The horizontally mounted rear shock features revised settings and a new linkage ratio to provide better compliance over the big hits.

There were only a few minor issues we could find with the Ninja 1000. The first being that the small secondary information on the LCD instrumentation can be challenging to read on the fly or in bright light. An accessory seat with more padding would be worth looking into, and experimenting with slightly taller gearing to spread out the gears could pay dividends on long rides. And where’s the cruise control?

Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Dash and Seat
Left: The new analog tach features the same rpm color-change lighting as the Ninja 650. The LCD info panels are now negative lit (white on black background), with new gear-position indicator.
Right: The Ninja 1000's seating has been improved for 2017, with both the rider and passenger accommodations receiving numerous upgrades, including a lower seat height.
Courtesy of Kawasaki

Kawasaki’s optional 28-liter saddlebags ($979.85 for bags, mounting kit, and one-key system) mount easily and swallow an XL helmet and other gear with no issue. Add a little rear spring preload with the rear shock’s remote adjuster, and you’re ready for your next back-road adventure.

The Ninja 1000 doesn’t concede much to pure sportbikes at sane street speeds. It’s refined, not raw, while bringing a boatload of versatility, comfort, and updated electronics. Daily grind or canyon carving, this bike delivers far beyond the spec sheet. Just don’t call it a sport-tourer.

2017 Kawasaki Ninja 1000
MSRP $12,199
Type Liquid-cooled, DOHC inline-four
Displacement 1,043cc
Bore x stroke 77.0 x 56.0mm
Compression ratio 11.8:1
Induction Keihin DFI, 38mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax S20F N
Rear tire 190/50ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax S20R N