Rides: Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS

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When we first requested the Ninja 1000 ABS from Kawasaki Motors Malaysia, we thought the bike will only be used for our long jaunts, to Penang or Johor Bahru.

Well, we ended up using it more than we have imagined and most of the time, it was around the city and between our home to the office. Occasionally, it went on long distance trips but yes, most of the time, it was in the town we found it most useful.

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The Ninja 1000 is actually more of a street bike in full-fairing, and it was engineered to provide a more direct response to allow riders to feel more connected to the road. Still, Kawasaki believes a street bike should not be too bumpy and so some degree of comfort level was dialed into the chassis.

The result is a fully clothed street bike that has a good balance between performance and comfort. Then Kawasaki added in its accessories that were designed specifically for the Ninja. Our bike came with its additional RM5,000 worth of integrated panniers, which is worth every single sen as it fits snuggly to the sides of the Ninja, making it slimmer than installing after market panniers.

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The panniers are lockable and uses the same key as the bike's ignition key. Taking them off leaves little tell-tale that there are pannier mounting mechanism on the bike. Being streamline also means there is nearly zero wind buffeting from the panniers. In fact, if we managed the weight properly, we didn't even feel the panniers were there. With its 28-litre size for each pannier, it can swallow a full-face helmet or our weekend luggage.

The engine is still the same 1,043cc liquid cooled, 4-stroke in-line four with DOHC and 16 valves. Fuel injection is digitally controlled and engine management system offers dual power modes for the riders - Full and Low. Ours was left in Full all the time.

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Also included in the package is the ABS (Anti-lock Brake System) and Kawasaki Traction Control or KTRC. The latter has three modes for you to choose but on our bike, we set it in the middle. This traction control is similar to the one on the more expensive Ninja ZX-14R where it combines the S-KTRC and KTRC traction control systems into one.

As a street cum sport touring, Kawasaki has a new remote preload adjuster which we found to be very handy. We can make adjustments for the rear suspension without using any tool. Just twist the controller (located under the seat on the right hand side) according to the weight you are carrying. It has always been a trial by error method and having such big knob to twist and adjust without leaving the saddle is simply brilliant.

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Adding to the comfort level is the front adjustable windscreen. There are only two positions, with around 20-degree difference but it suffice our usage. One has to stop and adjust it manually though. We know some claim they can do it on the go but we think that is a bit too reckless.

For long distance riding, one of the most important feature for the bike will be the seat. The Ninja 1000 has 10mm thicker urethane compared with the previous model, all for the name of comfort. Still, when we were riding fast around the corners, the seating position was still applicable to allow us to lie down closer to the tank (if our tummy allows it of course).

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One thing we noticed about the Ninja is the engine's character. It seems to have two characters. When we were trotting around in town, the engine felt docile and throttle friendly. It was also quiet, and frugal on the fuel. Even in the wet, we just had to scale down the power level to L (30 per cent lower power with even friendlier throttle control) and we could ride around in confidence. The ABS brakes sealed our confidence level at high all the time.

When we wanted a bit more power and excitement, we set the power back to F and twisted the throttle even harder. Once the tacometer needle passed the 5,000 rpm mark, you could feel the Ninja surging forward like a rocket was suddenly strapped to the back of the bike. You could easily hit 250kph if you are not careful, and this was even with the panniers on. We also noticed that when the engine started to open up, the intake noise changed from nothing to a deep raspy roar. Apparently, Kawasaki purposely engineered the engine so that acceleration could be enjoyed aurally as well as physically. This reminds us of the current crop of modern performance cars; sound effect is partly crucial to the package.

At high speed, the Ninja 1000 still felt solid, although it might not be as solid as the compact ZX-10R or the heavyweight GTR-1400. We could maintain a steady cruise without the engine feeling stressed.

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We also like the Ninja' stopping power - the radial-mount monobloc calipers with the triple petal discs ad radial-pump master cylinder are all part of the bike's good braking system. It managed to haul us down pretty quickly and a few times, we believed the Ninja's strong braking power and rigid 41-mm inverted front forks saved our lives from smashing into cars that suddenly came out from junctions. Some Malaysian drivers have this weird habit of surprising us bikers with their "it's my father's road the rest of you stop and give way" kind of attitude.

We have travelled more than six months with this Ninja and to date, it has never given us any trouble at all. The panniers received their fair share of bangs and scratches but that's about it. The only grouse we have is its looks - this Ninja looks a bit boring compared with the other options in the market. Perhaps that is why Kawasaki wanted a clean look with this Ninja, so that mature riders will prefer it more.

A good all rounder, a tough urban soldier and a comfortable two-wheel sedan, this is a gem in Kawasaki's huge stable of machines.

Engine: 1,043cc liquid cooled, 4-stroke in-line 4, DOHC, 16V
Max power: 140hp @ 10,000 rpm
Max torque: 111Nm @ 7,300 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed return
Front brakes: Dual semi-floating 300mm petal discs with dual radial-mount, monobloc, opposed 4-piston calipers
Rear brakes: Single 250mm petal disc and single piston caliper
Front suspension: 41mm inverted fork with stepless compression and rebound damping and spring preload adjustability
Rear suspension: orizontal back-link, gas charged, with stepless rebound damping and remote spring preload adjustability
Seat height: 820mm
Fuel capacity: 19 litres
Weight: 231kg
Price: RM87,900 retail (subject to change)

Author: TopGear
TopGear is the world’s best-selling motoring magazine. The Malaysian edition holds similar status, as acknowledged by the industry.