Kawasaki Ninja 1000 vs. Suzuki GSX1250FA vs. Yamaha FZ1 Comparison Test | Battle of the Super-Standards

The all-new Kawasaki Ninja 1000 looks to prove it is the new king of the super-standards category, but the all-new Suzuki GSX1250FA may prove otherwise; the revised FZ1 will give them both a fair fight

Kawasaki Ninja 1000 vs. Suzuki GSX1250FA vs. Yamaha FZ1Adam Campbell

They started off as UJMs, or Universal Japanese Motorcycles: bare-bones naked bikes that could be used in an array of situations. Then came the standards: bikes that were sport-oriented, but still naked for the most part, and with that came the super-standards: bikes that combine sportbike performance with practicality and comfort.

Over the past few years super-standard motorcycles have received great approval, especially from everyday riders who are looking for a bike that is versatile enough to be used for commuting during the week and canyon carving on the weekend. But in 2011, the super-standards category has been somewhat jumbled. In years past the category has been dominated by naked bikes with little more than a fly screen up front, but thanks to the introduction of Kawasaki’s fully faired Ninja 1000 and Suzuki’s GSX1250FA (perhaps a response to the naked bike market’s dwindling sales in the U.S.) the category has received a healthy facelift. For 2011, we take a look at each of these all-new motorcycles and put them up against the just-barely revised FZ1 to see which bike is versatile enough to be crowned king.

"During our stints around town and through the canyons, it became quickly evident that Yamaha has finally got the fuel injection figured out."Adam Campbell

Yamaha FZ1 80.5 points
Since the second-generation FZ1 was introduced back in 2006, very few changes have been made to the motorcycle aside from color. Almost each year however, Yamaha has adapted the bike's ECU mapping with the hope of improving the bike's abrupt throttle response. Not so shocking then is the fact that for 2011, the sole revision to the FZ1 is to the ECU mapping, which has been revised to achieve improved throttle response in the low-speed range. And during our stints around town and through the canyons, it became quickly evident that Yamaha has finally got the fuel injection figured out; not only is the throttle response quick, but there isn't as noticeable a flat spot in the lower rpm range.

During our stints around town and through the canyons, it became quickly evident that Yamaha has finally got the fuel injection figured out

Where the FZ1 does come up short even still—especially in the company of the Ninja 1000—is in the midrange, and it isn’t until the tachometer gets close to the 8500 rpm mark that the 998cc engine really comes to life. Unfortunately, this means that the FZ1 feels more at home on faster roads than in day-to-day city riding and stints in the canyons, which is where most people will spend their time on these super-standards. Taking up some of that slack though is the FZ1’s buttery smooth transmission, which provides seamless shifts.

The FZ1's instrument cluster is the most intuitive of the group and its mirrors are on par with the Ninja 1000 in terms of visibility. The flat, rearward-slanted bars of the FZ1 put you in a rather awkward hunched-over riding position though.Adam Campbell

Despite being the only semi-naked bike of the bunch, the FZ1 is fitted with a decently sized front fairing that adequately deflects wind blasts at legal speeds, although there is slightly more wind buffet than on the Ninja 1000. And in terms of ergonomics, the FZ1 is a few nicks behind the competition thanks to its low, rearward-swept handlebar that tends to put you in an awkward hunched-over position. To its credit though, that tubular handlebar can be swapped out with a different bend from any of the numerous aftermarket handlebar companies. Of the group, the FZ1 has the hardest seat as well.

When the riding turns spirited, the FZ1 and its fully adjustable suspension are balanced—for the most part—and capable of whatever you can throw at it, although our test riders did ascertain that the steering gets a little heavy mid-corner when you begin to pick up the throttle and when lean angle is increased. And despite featuring rather aggressive suspension settings, longer stints on the freeway are comfortable and accompanied by little more than a slight buzz through the handlebar anywhere north of 5000 rpm.

Test Notes 2011 Yamaha FZ1
+ Turns into corner well
+ A lot of power up top
+ Smooth transmission
– Not much power until after 8500 rpm
– Pushes wide when lean angle is increased
– Slightly stiffer seat
x No real updates but hey, the fuel mapping is finally up to par
Suggested Suspension Settings
FRONT: Spring preload — 4 lines showing; Rebound damping — 21 clicks out from full stiff; Compression damping — 5 clicks out from full stiff; Ride height — set fork caps flush with triple clamp
REAR: Spring preload — position 5 from full soft; Rebound damping — 1 click out from full stiff

"All told, the Suzuki is by far the most comfortable bike of the group."Adam Campbell

Suzuki GSX1250FA 82.7 points
Based off the ever-popular but now European-only Suzuki Bandit, the all-new 2011 GSX1250FA combines sporty performance with touring comfort. The most obvious difference between the semi-naked Bandit and GSX1250FA is of course the full fairing that graces the latter (a change that was most likely made in part due to the lack of naked-bike sales in the U.S.), which provides a sufficient amount of wind protection and creates little buffet for the rider.

Where the GSX1250FA really sets itself apart from the competition is in terms of comfort, which is enhanced by the plush seat, more relaxed riding position and softer suspension. In standard trim, the upright bar and relaxed footrest position make the GSX1250FA the most comfortable bike of the group—especially for taller riders. Should the riding position need fine tuning to better fit your needs though, the seat can be adjusted up or down 20mm by flipping over the mounting spacers between the seat and frame seat rails. And as with the FZ1, the tubular handlebar of the GSX1250FA can be swapped out for a different bend, should you not care for the rather upright riding position the stock unit offers.

Opposite the FZ1 and Ninja 1000, the GSX1250FA features a conventional 43mm front fork and steel tube-type frame. Adjustable for preload only, the rather soft front fork of the Suzuki absorbs all of the breaks in LA’s finest highways exceptionally well and is surprisingly competent in the canyons—especially considering the bike comes in at a hefty 567 pounds. As expected though, the Bridgestone BT-021-equipped machine reaches its limits quicker than the FZ1 and Ninja 1000—which are both equipped with fully adjustable front forks—when the riding turns more spirited. Due to the GSX1250FA’s excess weight, transitions and corner entry require a bit more energy, although there is something to be said for how fluid the feel is from the bike and how well it tracks mid-corner.

In terms of power the Suzuki offers a great amount of easily accessible grunt at low rpm, which is beneficial around town. Even as you creep into the midrange, there is plenty of power to accelerate past cars, that proves to be handy when accelerating past traffic on the highway. Once through the midrange however, the GX1250FA does begin to run out of breath, and in contrast to the FZ1, there is practically no power up top. Also, noted during our test is the fact that the transmission of the Suzuki is not as smooth as the Kawasaki’s and Yamaha’s, and each gear change is accompanied by a loud clunk; a tune that wasn’t exactly music to our testers’ ears.

Compared to the FZ1 and Ninja 1000, the GSX1250FA has the most upright riding position, a direct effect of the tall tube-type handlebars. The analog tachometer and digital panel with its fade-in lighting feature and adjustable brightness are easy to read at a glance.Adam Campbell

Thanks to the Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve fuel injection, power delivery from the GSX1250FA is extremely smooth and fuel mileage is outstanding. In fact, throughout our testing, the all-new Suzuki consistently managed three-to-four miles per gallon more per tank than the FZ1 and Ninja 1000. Combine this with the bike’s large 4.9-gallon fuel tank and it’s obvious that this bike is ready for the long haul.

All told, the Suzuki is by far the most comfortable bike of the group.

Interesting to note is that of the three bikes tested, the Suzuki GSX1250FA is also the only one to be offered with ABS, which is perhaps one reason why it is roughly $600 more than the Kawasaki and $1100 more than the Yamaha. The ABS could be very beneficial though considering these super-standards will be used in an array of situations and you never know what kind of conditions you will find yourself in. Our testers did note however that the Suzuki’s brakes were not as strong as the Yamaha’s or Kawasaki’s and had a mushy feel.

All told, the Suzuki is by far the most comfortable bike of the group. Thanks to softly damped suspension, its plush seat and relaxed ergos, it certainly puts up a fight in this battle of the super-standards. Still, in a category where versatility is key, the Suzuki comes up just a hair short to the Kawasaki Ninja 1000.

Test Notes 2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA
+ Comfortable ergonomics and plush seat
+ Gets the best fuel mileage
+ Only bike with ABS
– On the heavy side
– Conventional fork is not up to par with the competition
– Brakes tend to feel a little mushy
x Hands down the most comfortable bike of the group
Suggested Suspension Settings
FRONT: Spring preload — 3 lines showing
REAR: Spring preload — position 4 of 7; Rebound damping — one turn out from full stiff

"Unlike most standards...the Kawi's 1043cc powerplant was specifically designed with commuting and canyon carving in mind."Adam Campbell

Ninja 1000 86.3 points
All-new for 2011, the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 is for the most part a dressed up Z1000 but does feature—among other small changes—revised ergonomics and a larger fuel tank. When compared to the Yamaha and Suzuki, the Ninja 1000 is definitely more sport-oriented thanks to its clip-on style bars, stiffer suspension and more aggressive ergonomics, yet the ergonomics aren't too aggressive and the seat, which is 10mm thicker than that of the Z1000, is plenty plush for decent-length stints.

Unlike most standards such as the FZ1, the Ninja 1000’s 1043cc powerplant was specifically designed with commuting and canyon carving in mind. As such, there is an abundance of low-end torque and plenty of power throughout the midrange to keep things interesting. Matched with the extremely smooth powerband of the Ninja 1000 is a precise transmission that is not buttery smooth like that of the FZ1, but not clunky like the GSX1250FA. Injection from the 38mm Keihin throttle bodies permits smooth power delivery and the counterbalancer-equipped engine permits only a slight buzz through the footpegs anywhere beyond 4500 rpm. And to help keep that buzz to a minimum, the footrests are rubber mounted. Even still, competing with the ever-smooth GSX1250FA is a challenge.

Compared to the Suzuki (the only other full-faired bike in the group) the Ninja 1000’s body panels do a much more competent job of dispersing hot engine bay air away from the rider. And thanks to the adjustable windscreen, which can be positioned to a high, medium or low setting, wind buffet is kept to a minimum. This is especially true when it is set to the high setting, where the contoured screen almost perfectly deflects the air away from the rider.

Unlike most standards... the Kawi's 1043cc powerplant was specifically designed with commuting and canyon carving in mind.

When the roads tighten up and the riding turns more spirited, the Ninja 1000 is by far the most adept bike of the group. And matched with the aluminum backbone frame, the suspension gives the Ninja 1000 excellent handling characteristics. The slightly stiffer damping of the 41mm fully adjustable front fork and horizontally mounted rear shock, which is adjustable for rebound damping and spring preload, are plenty plush for freeway stints, and albeit somewhat slower than the FZ1 in terms of turn-in, mid-corner steering is light with the Ninja 1000 and holding your line is a walk in the park.

The Ninja 1000’s ZX6-R-inspired analog tachometer and LCD screen provide all the necessary information, although our testers argued the block numbers for the speedometer readout could be better. Of the group, the Ninja 1000 is the only bike to feature clip-on style handlebars.Adam Campbell

Braking capabilities of the Ninja rival those of the FZ1, and the binders are plenty potent enough to get the stocky Kawasaki slowed down. While they do require you grab the lever with some force, they provide good power, feedback and modulation.

While the Ninja 1000 does feature a 5.0 gallon large-capacity fuel tank, its fuel consumption numbers are quite a bit lower than the Suzuki’s. This means you are definitely forced to hit the gas station sooner than you would hope. And despite the other bikes being fitted with harder construction touring-type tires, the U.S.-spec Ninja 1000 comes equipped with a set of softer Bridgestone BT-016s that proved in our testing to wear significantly quicker.

Test Notes Kawasaki Ninja 1000
+ Adjustable windscreen provides best wind protection of the group
+ Plenty of low-end torque and midrange power
+ Fairing keeps hot air away from lower body
– U.S.-spec Bridgestone tires wear rather quick
– Fuel consumption numbers are down compared to the Yamaha and Suzuki
– Brakes require some force
x This bike screams versatility
Suggested Suspension Settings
Front: Spring preload — 7 turns out from full stiff; Rebound damping — 2 turns out from full stiff; Compression damping — 1 turn out from full stiff. Ride height — 30mm fork tube protruding above top triple clamp.
Rear: Spring preload — position 5 of 10; Rebound damping — 1 turn out from full stiff

All Hail The King
At the end of the day, the Yamaha FZ1, Suzuki GSX1250FA and Kawasaki Ninja 1000 all prove to be good bikes. Each super-standard has made compromises, giving up a little bit of performance in the way of comfort and vice versa. But when push comes to shove, the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 proves that it has made the fewest compromises. And in a category where versatility is King, the Ninja 1000 takes the crown.

Of the group, the GSX1250FA is host to the most relaxed, upright position. Both the FZ1 and the Ninja 1000 feature a more sporty riding position, with the Kawi's being slightly more aggressive.
Specifications Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Suzuki GSX1250FA Yamaha FZ1
MSRP $10,999 $11,599 $10,490
Engine
Type Liquid-cooled, transverse inline four Liquid-cooled, transverse inline four Liquid-cooled, transverse inline four
Displacement 1043cc 1255cc 998cc
Bore x Stroke 77.0 x 56.0mm 79.0 x 64.0mm 77.0 x 53.6mm
Induction Keihin DFI, 38mm throttle bodies w/ oval sub-throttle plates, single injector/cyl. SDTV EFI, 36mm throttle bodies Mikuni EFI, 45mm throttle bodies
Chassis
Front Suspension 41mm inverted cartridge fork, 4.7 in. travel 43mm conventional fork, 5.1 in. travel 43mm inverted cartridge fork, 5.1 in. travel
Rear Suspension Horizontal monoshock, 5.4 in. travel Single shock, 5.4 in. travel Single shock, 5.1 in. travel
Front Tire 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016 BB 120/70ZR-17 Bridgetone BT-021 AA 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop D221 G
Rear Tire 190/50ZR-17 Bridgetone BT-016 BB 180/55ZR-17 Bridgetone BT-021 AA 190/50ZR-17 Dunlop D221 G
Rake/Trail 24.5 deg. / 4.0 in. (102mm) 25.6 deg. / 4.1 in. (104mm) 25.0 deg. / 4.3 in. (109mm)
Wheelbase 56.9 in. (1445mm) 58.5 in. (1485mm) 57.5 in. (1460mm)
Weight 503 lb. (229 kg) wet; 473 lb. (215 kg) dry 567 lb. (237 kg) wet; 538 lb. (244kg) dry 487 lb. (221 kg) wet , 458 lb. (208 kg) dry
Fuel Consumption 29 to 37 mpg, 33 mpg average 32 to 44 mpg, 40 mpg average 34 to 38 mpg, 36 mpg average
Performance Numbers
Quarter-Mile
Kawasaki Ninja 1000 11.30 sec. @ 123.5 mph
Suzuki GSX1250FA 11.38 sec. @ 117.3 mph
Yamaha FZ1 10.87 sec. @ 128.2 mph
Roll-Ons 60-80 80-100
Kawasaki Ninja 1000 2.60 sec. 2.80 sec.
Suzuki GSX1250FA 3.25 sec. 3.94 sec.
Yamaha FZ1 3.24 sec. 3.98 sec.
Dyno numbers show the Suzuki, with its longer stroke, makes plenty of torque but runs out of breath up top. Conversely, the third generation R1 based FZ1 has plenty of power up top but lower amounts of torque.
****
Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Suzuki GSX1250FA Yamaha FZ1
Fun to ride 8 8.5 7.8
Quality 9.3 8.7 8.7
Instruments and controls 8.5 8.9 8.7
Ergonomics 9 8.7 8.2
Chassis and handling 8.7 7.5 8
Suspension 8.2 8.2 7.5
Brakes 8 8.2 7.5
Transmission 8.3 7 8
Engine Power 9.5 8.5 8.3
Engine power delivery 8.8 8.5 7.8
Total 86.3 82.7 80.5
Battle of the Super-Standards!Adam Campbell

Opinions
John Reeves
I am always looking for versatility in a motorcycle, which I think is tough to find. For me these bikes are a cross between comfort and performance; giving up performance for comfort and vice versa. The Yamaha and Kawasaki were the performers of the three. Both of these bikes performed well with a different variety of features to choose from. The bike that stood out for me was the Suzuki GSX1250FA. You would think that a bike as comfortable as a La-Z-Boy on wheels would lack in the performance department, but to my surprise this was not the case and that's why my pick is the Suzuki GSX 1250FA.

Bradley Adams
When it comes to super-standards, the most important factor is a bike's versatility. More often than not, these bikes are going to be used daily for everything from commuting to work, to canyon carving, to long trips. That in mind, they need to not only be sport-oriented, but they also need to be comfortable and practical. And in this group the Kawasaki stood out as the bike that was most practical. It has features like the adjustable windscreen that makes jaunts on the freeway more palatable, but fully adjustable suspension and a strong engine that is favorable around town and in the canyons.

Kent Kunitsugu
To tell you the truth, I was very surprised by the FZ1. I'd ridden the previous versions, and they didn't impress me all that much. But the latest iteration is the most sorted edition yet, with much better fuel injection settings, and suspension rates that aren't too soft. It still lacks the midrange of the other two however, and if you're looking for coddling comfort with the low-end power, then the Suzuki is your choice. But the GSX's power peters out too quickly for my tastes, which is why I'd grab the Kawasaki keys when I want a jack-of-all-trades sportbike.