August 5, 2011
Comparison: Ninja 1000 vs. Concours 14 Part IV - Ergonomics
Comfort is a subjective topic. Being an avid reader of all things motorcycle I've observed that one person’s perfect bike setup is another person’s idea of medieval torture. Having read a number of motorcycle travel books and blogs comfort is a key topic but the approach varies widely. I've seen everything from an almost stock FZ1 taken around the world to a KLR fitted with a Gold Wing seat by its owner to thousands of dollars spent on new seats, handlebars, grips and pegs. What this means to me is that what's comfortable is purely a personal choice. Having ridden mostly cruisers up until recently my idea of comfort was grounded in the standard ergos for that segment of the market. Big and wide padded seats, floor boards, and laid back seating are all standard elements of the riders contact with a cruiser and the reason that this is such a popular motorcycle type. It's familiar. It's the way we are used to sitting in our office chairs all day. The feat-under-the-seat riding position of a sport bike is pretty foreign to most people unless they've logged some time on a horse and even then only if they've ridden English vs. Western (which is a whole other debate/discussion). I've been fortunate (?) enough to have experience riding horses both ways and now bikes too. So, what do I prefer? Motorcycles, but that's a little off topic.
The differences in rider ergonomics between the Ninja and the Concours are really one of scale. To make sure that I wasn't just fooling myself into thinking this is true based entirely on the fact that the Ninja is smaller than the Concours, I rode them back-to-back down the same road. The Ninja has generally the same seat to peg to bars relationship that the Concours does, just more compressed due to the size of the bike. This ratio of the comfort triangle goes a long way toward the idea that this bike can be a sport-touring machine. It all but cements the Ninja as a great around town/commuter bike which I can attest to personally. As I mentioned before though, comfort is subjective. At 6' 2" the compressed ergonomics of the Ninja make an already small bike, for me, feel even smaller. In the twisty back roads and mountain passes near my home, this is a good thing. The Ninja feels small and maneuverable while also building confidence taking corners tight and exiting fast and planted. The Connie is more than capable of strafing the back roads too, however there's a little more bulk to bustle around and as such greater effort needed to garner the same results as the Ninja. This puts the Ninja's sweet spot, for me, at short or moderate length trips preferably on twisty fun roads or as an around town errand runner (like picking up some ice cream on a hot summer day after dinner).
July 27, 2011
Ninja Experience on the Wheelnerds Podcast
I had the fortune to stumble on a post on www.sport-touring.net back in May about a new podcast by the Wheelnerds. Weekly Chuck and Todd present motorcycle information and "stuff, 'lots of stuff" in an informative and very entertaining way from their home base in Utah. I was hooked from the first episode. Actually, I had to pull my bike over the other day to stop laughing during the first few minuets of Episode 11: Gumming Up the Works. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to call into the show and talk to the Wheelnerds about the Ninja 1000 and the Cycle World Experience. I had a really great time and want to thank Chuck and Todd for having me on the show. If you ride a motorcycle and like to laugh then you need to check out this podcast.
Episode 14: Terrible Fan Service will post on Friday July 27th. Visit the Wheelnerds site to download or search for them on ITunes.
July 14, 2011
Comparison: Ninja 1000 Vs. Concours 14 Part II
The Concours 14 is categorized as a supersport-touring motorcycle by Kawasaki. With a 1352cc four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four with variable valve timing connected to a 6 speed transmission and Tetra-Lever shaft drive pushing out 102.0 lb-ft of torque @ 6,200 rpm and 133 horse power, I think the designation is well deserved. The Connie is well suited, as i can personally confirm, for long distance touring and is also very capable on curvy back roads. Kawasaki have loaded up the Concours 14 with a plethora of gadgets and technology: traction control (KRTC), ABS, linked brakes (K-ACT with two modes), economy fueling mode, heated grips, electronically adjustable windshield, tire pressure monitoring, and a unique keyless ignition system (KIPASS). All that and water proof hard bags and you can understand why this is a touring bike to rival BMW, Yamaha or Honda. Voted Best Sport-Touring Bike by Cycle World in 2008, 2009, and 2010, the Concours 14 is truly a great bike.
I thought that it might be best before launching into a comparison of two bikes to make sure that I introduce them. While readers of the Cycle World Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Experience blogs may already be familiar with the Ninja 1000, you may not be as familiar with, what I consider its big brother, the Concours 14.
Kawasaki describes that Ninja 1000 as an “open-class sport bike” that is “bred for the street”. With its 1043cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, fuel injected, inline-four power plant mated to a slick 6 speed transmission with chain final drive pumping out 136 horse power, the Ninja 1000 is all sport bike at heart. Add to that an upright sitting position, padded seat, and adjustable windshield and Kawasaki has created a great all around platform for whatever riding style you may be interested in. I can personally attest to the Ninja 1000’s capabilities as a commuter and back road blitzer. The Ninja 1000 could easily be modified with saddle and tank bags to make it an excellent sport-touring bike, with a strong bias toward the sport end of that segment.
July 6, 2011
Comparison of bikes: Ninja 1000 Vs. Concours 14
I thought that it would be a good time to write up a comparison of the two bikes that I currently own. Both have roughly the same mileage on them since I bought the Concours 14 a few weeks after taking delivery of the Ninja 1000. I had considered writing up a comparison between my Harley Davison Electra Glide and the Ninja 1000, but decided against it. There are too few similarities between the bikes and far too many differences. I felt that a comparison between the sport-touring bikes would be more appropriate and informative. I will say that making the switch to a sport-touring bike from the H-D was a pretty big one. I often feel like I’m learning to ride a bike all over again even with over 1,000 miles on the Ninja 1000 and the Concours. Riding position, shifting, lean angle, and power delivery are all vastly different between the two styles of bikes. I will, inevitably, make references to the H-D, and cruisers in general, in my review as that’s my primary reference from a riding perspective, but I won’t be making a direct comparison between the H-D and the sport-touring bikes.
Over the next few days I’ll be posting comparisons of specific features of the Ninja 1000 and the Concours 14. I plan to cover the following topics: windshield/wind flow, ergonomics, power delivery, general ride quality, fit and finish, power delivery, and amenities. Since these two bikes are both manufactured by Kawasaki, and have a sport-touring bias, there will be some similarities in the areas that I plan to cover, but I can assure you that in most cases they approach them differently.
Stay Tuned …
June 13, 2011
Get a Grip Miles: 564 - 663
Being new to sport bikes I noticed fairly early that the grips where thinner. This combined with the forward riding position on the Ninja took a little getting used to. I received some advice that really helped me be a lot more comfortable. Basically, never lock your arms, and grip the tank with your legs to help support your body on the bike. I know this is probably sport riding 101 for most. Having only owned crusers this was all new to me. The other thing that really helped me was some information I picked up from Sport-Touring.net. To help with the little bit of buzz that comes through the bars and the smaller grips they recommended trying Grip Puppies from California Sport Touring. These are slip on covers for your existing grips made of CE Foam. They really do just slip right on with a little water and dish soap. I rode to work today after installing them last night and they made a world of difference. The Ninjas grips are now more comfortable and thicker. Problem solved. Now ... what to do about that seat ....
I also had a fuel up today on my ride home from work. You can check out my stats at Fuelly.com:
June 3, 2011
... by the seat of my pants: Miles 474 - 564
I love riding. I ride every time I get a chance as far and as long as I can. That's the key phrase here ... "as long as I can". My H-D was a great bike for putting long days and many miles in the saddle. It's not hard to enjoy a long ride when you have a seat like this:
The seat on the Ninja 1000 was a bit of a change for me:
It is really hard to compare the H-D to the Ninja because they are such different bikes However I do feel that it's fair to make the comparison since they are both street bikes and touring oriented. The similarities pretty much end there, but the overall mission for these bikes has the same roots. With that in mind I expected the Ninja's seat to be softer and able to at least allow me to stay on the bike through a tank of gas. Unfortunately, at this point I can't. I can do about an hour and then I need to take a brake, stretch and then I'm good to go. I never had delusions that the Ninja's seat would anything like the couch that the H-D's seat is, I did expect it to be a little more pliant. To be fair my backend has been babied by the H-D, so maybe it's a combination of breaking in the Ninja's seat and getting my rear toughened up. It's still early in our riding relationship. I do hope that it get's better because I think this is a terrific bike and I want to be able to ride the pants off it ... just not the other way around.
June 2, 2011
Wind: Miles 379-474
Wind protection is important for a number of reasons. My first two motorcycles didn't have any wind protection at all. I remember going on day rides with my friends and just feeling exhausted at the end of the day. Fighting the constant pressure of the wind on my chest made my arms and shoulders tired. The wind sucked all the moisture out of my body leaving me more tired than I would have been otherwise. So when I bought my next bike I made sure that I had protection from the wind. I think I went a little too far though. With the H-D very little wind gets to the rider, which is fantastic in rainy, cold weather but is not comfortable in the heat, especially in Virginia where the humidity makes summers pretty harsh.
I was instantly impressed with the windscreen on the Ninja the first time that I rode it. The wind management is great. Airflow over the front of the bike to the rider is very smooth, and that's just with the screen in the lowest position, there are two higher positions the screen can be set at. I generally prefer the second position in warmer weather. It pushes the air right into my helmet vents and allows a good amount of air to get to me, but in a good way. In its highest position the screen works well for highway travel, and really that's about it. It dramatically increases noise and stops air from reaching my chest. The noise isn't a big deal when I'm on the highway, but not having to pull against the wind at higher speeds is ideal. I get a good range of protection from the three positions with excellent air flow management. I suspect that the highest position would also be great in colder weather, but I don't think we're getting any of that anytime soon.
June 1, 2011
Tie Down Miles: 281 - 379
Most of the miles that I've put on bikes in the past few years have been from commuting. It's economical and a whole lot more fun that driving a car to work everyday. I find that I arrive at work in a better mood and am better able to clear my head from the workday on the way home. On my H-D I just slip my lap top bag into the side bag, latch it and go. Figuring out how to do the same thing, in a practical way, on the Ninja has been a fun challenge.
The easiest way, for me, to carry my bag to work has been to strap it onto the passenger seat on the N1K with tie downs. This proved to be a really easy solution because Kawasaki have provided some great tie down points on the back on the bike. There are two anchors/hooks located just behind the passenger foot pegs. The passenger grab handles and expansive room under the back seat provide more opportunities for lashing items to the bike. Here's a look at my rig for commuting:
May 31, 2011
Commuting: Miles 281 - 379
Commuting is the one of the primary uses of my H-D and so it will now be the primary use for the Ninja 1000. There are some challenges to commuting on a bike with no storage. The main one being that I have nowhere to put my lap top bag. Luckily I do have tie down straps and am able to lash the bag to the back seat without much trouble. This arrangement will work out fine as long as I don't run into any rain. So far so good on that, but I am looking at alternatives that will be more weather proof/resistant and that look better than wrapping my lap top bag in a lawn trash bag. The Ninja is a very capable commuter. My commute is about an hour one way which, as I mentioned in my longer ride report, is about the limit for me before I need a break. The Ninja is very smooth and easy to manage in traffic. The power delivery is not abrupt when leaving from a stop light or in stop-and-go traffic. She certainly wants to go faster, but is content with a more sedate pace. I find that refreshing because one of my main concerns about using a sport type bike as a commuter was that I would get whiplash every time I twisted the right grip. I'm seeing better gas mileage now that the bike is breaking in. My previous fill up came in at 33.2 mpg and this last at 40.1 mpg. As I get better (more restrained?) at throttle control and shifting I expect the mpg to be much better. The fuel up information is available at http://www.fuelly.com/driver/redkamel/ninja-1000.
May 30, 2011
Morning Ride: Miles 153 - 281
I pulled out of the garage with the sun just coming up and mist still hanging in the trees. The Ninja slipped out onto the road and I was off for a four hour ride (three hour tour?). This is the first time I've had a chance to go on a long ride and I was looking forward to seeing just how comfortable the saddle and the ergos really are.
My first stop was just a short hop from my house to get some water and a little snack for breakfast. It was going to be a hot day with the temperature already at 70 degrees and it was only 6:00 am. I had a great chat with a local rider about the bike, the blog and riding in general. He was drawn in by the Ninja's good looks, the California plates and possibly the guy in the yellow helmet wearing an H-D mesh jacket (me). This isn't the first time this has happened in just the few days that I've been riding the Ninja. Other riders have asked about her and wanted to know more. Good thing I read all those reviews and spec sheets. After my morning snack I was off down Rt. 17 to meet up with Blue Ridge Mountain Rd which snakes it's way up and over Mt. Weather. The elevation and tree lined road were much appreciated in the morning heat.
From Blue Ridge Mountain Rd I connected to Rt 7 for a just a second before turning onto Snickersville Turnpike, a long meandering road that passes through the heart of Virginia Horse country. Usually I'd take the turnpike all the way to Rt. 50 but I decided to turn off at New Ford Rd. and drive through St. Louis (VA) just for fun. Coming out on Rt. 50 I made my way to Middleburg and stopped for a stretch. One hour in the saddle is pretty much my limit so far on the bike. The seating position is good from the waist up. I get no strain on my back, arms or wrists from the seat to handlebars setup. Below the waist is a different situation. The seat is pretty firm and does allow me to move around a good bit which helps but I need to develop some riding callouses or I need to get a seat pad. The foot pegs are another area that, if I were able, I'd change. Sacrificing some lean angle for a little more room would be appreciated. However walking around for ten minuets every hour does the trick too.
After my stop in Middleburg I jumped on Rt 626 to The Plains where I picked up Rt. 55 to Front Royal. Route 55 is another long sweeping road that I love to lose myself on. The ride from The Plains to Front Royal has just the right amount of sweeping turns and rolling hills. There are roads close to my neck of the woods that have tighter turns and more of them but I'm still courting Ms. Betty and we haven't gotten there yet. We will, and I think she's ready, but I'm not ... not yet. From Front Royal I took Rt. 522 to Rt 211 all the way back to Warrenton.
All in all it was a nice ride with maybe a few more stops than I would normally have taken. Fun and spirited as I expected. I think I'm going to like this bike.
May 29, 2011
Ice Cream Run: Miles 128 -153
After a day of yard work I was able to sneak out for a short ride this evening. Mostly I needed to get gas for a longer ride I'm going on tomorrow morning, but I also took a little detour. More on that later, first for the fuel up. I made it 136 miles before needing to fill up the bike for the first time putting me at 33 mpg so far. I'm hoping that number goes up as I get used to the bike and how to ride it better. I plan on keeping a running tally of my fuel ups at the site fuelly.com. You can review the stats at http://www.fuelly.com/driver/redkamel/ninja-1000.
Now for the fun part. I wanted to pick up a treat for my wife and me on the way home and thought ice cream would fit the bill nicely after a long day of hot yard work. Before I left the house I put a small cooler inside my tail bag with a cool pack. When I got to Cold Stone Creamery and picked up my order I simply put it in the cooler, zipped up the tail bag and rode home. As I said before, I think the tail bag will do the trick, and tonight it did very well indeed.
May 28, 2011
Gearing UP: Miles 128
A sunny and not too hot Saturday. What else could I possibly do but go for a long ride ... oh, that's right, yard work. All the rain in Virginia that has prevented me from riding this week also prevented me from getting my yard work done so that I could ride all weekend. Still I had to fiddle with the bike a little, it is all shiny and new. I attached my Tour Master tail bag and Moto Fizz tank bag. I think these will do well to provide some storage. I'll see if I can sneak in a little ride tomorrow, even if it's just to the store. You know, to test out the bags.
May 27, 2011
Delivery: Miles 1 - 128
Arriving at Manassas Honda Kawasaki Suzuki this morning I was greeted by the very friendly and curious sales staff. After talking about the Ninja 1000 experience and the bike itself I filled out the paperwork, had a run through of the bike, and then I was handed the keys. My first obstacle to overcome was to get my lap top bag strapped to back seat. Once that was accomplished I was ready to go.
Right off the bat, there are many things so drastically different from my Harley, that I think I've got the next months' worth of blog posts all ready to go. I'll spare you the details for now, but there's going to be a lot to write about. My first impression is that this is a really smooth and easy to ride bike. I took the really long way into work. Several cars were gracious enough to drive slowly in front of me, allowing me the time I needed to get used to the power delivery, shifting and even to adjust the mirrors. About 25 -30 miles into the ride I was feeling pretty comfortable with the bike in general, but It's going to take some time to become proficient in shifting and to get used to the throttle and the lean angle that are possible.
I will say this though, I've read a lot of reviews of bikes over the years and there's a phrase that, being a Harley owner, I've never understood. It goes something like this "...bike XXX is a little buzzy when you ..." I always laughed at this because if you've ever pulled up next to a Harley at a stoplight and looked at the handle bars or the engine you understand how much these bikes shimmy and shake at idle. So, when I read that this bike was "buzzy" around 75 I wanted to see how that compared to the Harley 'stoplight shake'. It didn't. That's the short answer. I actually had to strain to feel the buzz ... any buzz ... at all. In fact the bike was so glass smooth at idle that I had to keep checking the tach at the first few stoplights to see if it was still on or if I'd stalled it out.
One last thing I had to get used to that I think no one else in the N1K 10 will, is that the mirrors and windshield don't move when you turn the handle bars! This totally threw me the first few turns (the first being out of the dealers parking lot) I took. I am so used to the fork mounted front fairing on the H-D that I was taken totally by surprise when the mirrors and windshield didn't move on the Ninja when I turned the handlebars. Now, rationally I knew they wouldn't, but instinctively I guess my mind just expected that they would like they have for the past 3 years I've been on the H-D.
I expect to be writing a lot more about the differences between the Ninja and my bike, but I'll also be writing about the Ninja and where her and I get to go. Oh, and I'm very excited the my Ninja is all black. All of my bikes have been black. They've also all been named Betty (long story that I'm sure I'll get to in a future post ... maybe). So the Ninja, since we're just dating for a while, will be Miss Betty ... we'll see if things get less formal as we get to know each other.
May 22, 2011
On April 20th while looking through my email I came across one that drew my attention. The subject of the email was "Cycle World and Kawasaki have selected YOU!". I immediately had visions of opening the email and seeing an Uncle Sam type ad with a man in big red, white and blue hat pointing a finger at me and declaring (in large font) what a great deal I could get on XXX bike from Kawasaki because I'd been a long time subscriber of Cycle World. I was perplexed to see a logo with the words Cycle World Ninja 1000 Experience and the words "Congratulations". As I read further it wasn't a sales ad, it was an opportunity to become a gust contributor for Cycle World and a test rider for the new 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000. The idea is to test ride the Ninja 1000 for 90 days and write about my experiences. I've always thought riding bikes and writing about them would be the dream job. I downloaded the entry form, I'll admit with a little skepticism, and with a small prayer I sent off my entry form. Fast forward to May 12 when I opened my email and saw the subject "CONGRATULATIONS!! You have been selected as a Cycle World Contributor for the Ninja 1000 Experience." I read the letter several times to make sure that this wasn't the next stage in a twelve step process, it turned out it wasn't it was the real deal.
So at this point I'm waiting with seven of the ten other guest contributors for our bikes to arrive and to start enjoying the "experience" for ourselves. Two of the ten have already received their Ninja 1000's and are making me really anxious to get mine. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for good news next week.
May 17, 2011
While I do not have extensive experience riding various styles and types of motorcycles I am an avid reader of all things motorcycle related. My favorite types of motorcycle literature are travel logs and stories of motorcycle adventures. By way of riding, I regularly commute to work 3-4 days a week (rain or shine) on my current bike, an '05 Harley Davidson FLHTI. In terms of non-utilitarian riding I belong to a small group in my home town that hosts day rides on to two times a month and overnight trips, including camping trips, four or five times a year generally three or four days in duration. This group also plans an annual ride from the top of Blue Ridge Parkway to the end and back. I regularly put between 7,000-10,000 miles on my bikes a year. I present this information by way of showing that I am not a casual rider but a dedicated one and even though my experience in riding different bikes is limited, my riding experience is not. I would very much welcome the opportunity to put that experience to work for Cycle World as a guest contributor for this project and hope that you will consider this application.