Comparing Kawasaki’s Ninja 1000 and Z1000 Ninja Motorbikes

I was looking at all the new Kawasaki motorcycles and was a little puzzled by the fact that there is a Ninja 1000 and a Z1000 Ninja. They’re both Ninjas, right? So what’s the difference? Why two?

The difference, I was told, is night and day.

“What kind of riding do you do?”

I’m mostly a touring kind of guy. I like heading out on the road for a week at a time.

“Then you should test ride the Ninja 1000.”

So I did.

The Ninja 1000

1985 Kawasaki Ninja 1000R
1985 Kawasaki Ninja 1000R—SkinheadSportBiker1 (

Mind you, I had never ridden a Ninja of any kind before and I had always been a little skeptical about them as something you would spend any serious time on. And yet I had read several times in the moto magazines about how the Ninja–some Ninja, I don’t recall what model(s)–are in fact quite good for all-day outings.

My eyes have been opened.

The reality is that I would call the Ninja 1000 a modern-day standard. It has a very upright riding position that is comfortable, not the tight crouch of a dedicated sportbike. The bikini windshield provided adequate protection from the wind, though I had some minor buffeting on the helmet. It stands a little tall but no more so than other bikes I’ve ridden and been perfectly comfortable on.

As for power, you’d better believe this is a scorcher. That huge, huge power tears off the line and you are gone. Plus, the suspension is very good, so when you encounter the imperfections in the typical city street–such as manhole covers–the Ninja just eats them up and you glide right over. The bike is light and flicks quickly and easily from side to side, making it beautifully maneuverable.

As for hitting the road with it, it’s still a little iffy. If you’re accustomed to a sport-touring bike like the Concours 14 you may feel a bit cramped for carrying capacity on the Ninja. Plus, whereas the Connie has hard bags as stock items, you would need to purchase luggage for the Ninja, and it probably wouldn’t carry as much.

My one complaint with the Ninja 1000 was the mirrors. They’re small and pretty much give you the choice of seeing what is behind you or what is in the lane next to you, but not both. Kawasaki really ought to do better.

And the Z1000?

Z1000 ninja, Kawasaki Sport Z1000
Z1000 ninja, Kawasaki Sport Z1000—Antoine Fink (

Of course, riding the Ninja 1000 only whetted my appetite to see how it compares to the Z1000 Ninja. So I did. Hey, it’s all in the name of research, right?

The Z1000 is definitely more sportbike-oriented than the Ninja 1000. That said, it still offers a surprisingly upright riding position that would certainly be comfortable for day rides with the guys, though perhaps not for long days on the highway. The fairing is even smaller than the one on the Ninja 1000 and did very little to block the wind blast.

And trust me, you’ll get the wind blast. This bike is a rocket ship, with acceleration that makes that of its sister bike seem tame in comparison. Between the torque and the wind, each time I would twist that throttle the bike would lunge forward and I would be thrown backward. I took to crouching down a bit toward the tank before cranking the throttle so as to minimize the jolt.

The Z1000 has very wide gearbands that made riding up nearby canyons smooth and easy. I hardly had to shift gears at all and it was so light and easily to toss from side to side that it gave a whole new meaning to the term “canyon carving.”

Like the Ninja 1000, the Z1000 does not come with luggage but in this case you would probably just opt for a backpack or some small saddle bags. You’re not going to go touring on this one. And also like the Ninja 1000, the mirrors come up short. But hey, that’s what the aftermarket is for, isn’t it?

So yes, two Ninjas, both 1000cc. And really, not so different as night and day. Maybe daybreak and noon.

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