Experience: 20+ years
Facebook: Michael Mills
July 21, 2011
Ninja 1000 First track day
Location: Summit Point Raceway, WV
Going fast on the street is fun. A bit dangerous maybe, but fun nonetheless. But there are limits. Speed, lack of ability, environment, etc. Many of these are taken away at a racetrack. First of all, everyone is usually going in the same direction. There are no cops. There are two ambulances sitting ¼ mile away with their engines running just in case you were to need their services. You can practice hard braking and leaning really deep into turns gradually. The track surface is predictable. No blind corners where a gravel truck may have had an oops moment just before you arrived there.
I asked Cycle World what they would think of me trying their Ninja out on the track and was told ‘go for it’ as long as I provided pix and vids. So I did. Last weekend I loaded up the bike on the trailer and headed out to Summit Point racetrack with Roger Lyles’s Motorcycle Xcitement track club. I ended up riding in Intermediate, as I hadn’t ridden this bike ‘in anger’ yet, and I also coached my friend Dave on his Ducati Diavel along with a few other novices in the beginner class.
So how did the big Ninja perform? Well, I can say I haven’t been more comfortable at a track day ever before. Compared to a typical track bike, the seat is like a lazy-boy. The upright bars were a little awkward in the tighter corners, but acceptable and they felt ok. The footpegs are lower and more forward than I’m used to and I ended up removing the footpeg feelers as I dragged them through two corners in my FIRST session. I didn’t even think I was leaned over that far. The brakes were fine, as I experienced absolutely no problems with them after repeated hard stops. And the power… well this thing had NO problems accelerating or shifting all day. I was able to rub the chicken strips right off the sides and have some nicely warn tires now. All in all, I had a good time on the big Ninja and it just goes to prove that Kawasaki built a bike that you can have fun with at a track, commute to work on, or add a few bags and go cross country touring two-up. Not many other bikes you can say that about.
Here is a link to some vids and pics if you’re interested.
Nobody loves traffic. But, if you do decide to commute on a bike, you inevitably end up in some sort of traffic. The 405 in California is famous for it, but anywhere near a large city can be just as awful. I used to ride from Jersey City, NJ through the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan nearly every day in order to avoid taking busses, subways and cabs to get to work or to visit friends. Traffic there could range anywhere from ok to bad to shoot-yourself-in-the-face torture. Living in Maryland now, dealing with traffic in and around Baltimore and DC is a common occurrence. A local highway is the main route into and out of my neighborhood. There really is no other way to go most of the time, so we end up sitting on a highway with a close-up view of road kill, trash by the roadside and the assortment of plants and trees in the median and shoulders.
One thing I have noticed about the Kawasaki Ninja1000 is how smoothly it behaves while crawling around at or near walking speed in heavy traffic. I’ve ridden many bikes over the years, but I must say that none of them ever idled so smoothly in 1st gear with the clutch out and no throttle input. Most bikes feel jerky, they shudder, wobble and twitch like they’re just jonesing for the carbs to get opened up, the rpm’s to climb, and for the bike to take-off. This bike takes traffic and turns it into a (nearly) pleasant experience, allowing the bike to roll forward at about 2mph whether uphill or down with little drama. The engine is tuned well and has such good power at low rpm’s you don’t always have to constantly work the clutch in and out until traffic clears. On another note, there is no temperature gauge on the Ninja. Now normally, this bothers me as I’m programmed like an on-board diagnostic computer. I’m always listening to and feeling how a bike (or a car) is running based on feedback, noises, vibrations, etc. The Kawasaki engineers have taken care of this for us. The bike does get a bit warm under you when stuck in traffic, but the last time this happened, I heard the dual fans come on for a few minutes and the bike cooled down just fine. One less thing to worry about on the way home from work.
June 12, 2011
Don't waste your time trying to explain the excitement of a basketball game, the allure of soccer, or the more recent fascination with Ultimate Fighting. I'm a football (EAGLES) and MOTORSPORTS kind of guy. If it's got an engine and wheels and makes beautiful music, or noise - to the rest of the world, then I'm a fan.
When I am not able to ride, I can still glean vicarious excitement from my DVR, the back-log of action includes MotoGP (SPEEZ!); World Superbike (Max Biaggi); AMA Pro Racing (Eslick, Hayes, Rapp); F1 (Vettel); Indy (Danica, hey, she can't win but she's cute! :D); and occasionally NASCAR. If I had to select ONE channel to watch for the rest of my life, it would be the SPEED channel. So when the opportunity to ride and critique a Brand New Bike, the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja1000 for 90 days, I couldn't believe I was selected from hundreds of applicants. I am very grateful, thank you Cycle World.
The day I picked up the bike, I had to leave work early to make the dealerships cutoff of 6PM closing, so I had to run home, grab my gear (which I wear every time I ride), then head off to Pete's Cycle in Severna Park, Maryland. The bike had been assembled that day and had ZERO miles on the odometer. For the first time in my life, my butt was gonna be the first to put miles on a new bike. I've owned many bikes over the years, but I've always obtained them used in various states of disrepair, some better than others, but had not been the first one to turn the key and leave the parking lot, ever!
First observation, too much slop in the throttle, no problem, I'll fix that at home. Second, holy cow, this thing pulls hard from any gear at any RPM. Pete's is on a semi-busy highway and you have to go from 0-50 in a hurry to not get run over and the Ninja accomplished that with minimal effort. It's a fairly large bike to look at and has some extreme angles, namely the gas tank, exhausts, and windshield (which was in the upper position and I had no idea how to move it yet), but it certainly feels light and knows how to MOOOVE when you ask it to. But, being that this was my first ride, I was kind of taking it easy, knowing that the tires were new, the brakes were new and it was just assembled that day.
I rode from the dealership to my wife's workplace to show it off to her. She thought it was really cool and menacing looking. We nicknamed it the Stealth Fighter, as it is fast and quiet. I put about 150 miles on the bike that day on one tank of gas. I later took my wife out as a passenger. She felt the bike was very comfortable compared to the 04 Concours I used to own. She wasn't a big fan of that bike as it was heavy, hot, and very buzzy, not to mention she felt cramped on the backseat and we were always bangin' boots and helmets. The New Ninja1000 felt better, was smoother and her only request was some type of backrest so that she wouldn't fall of when I went WFO in second gear (ok, not really, but it does accelerate quickly). A top case and saddlebags are definitely something I'll consider if I end up keeping this bike.
Ok, enough chatter about the first day. Approximately 3 weeks and 600 miles later I look forward to my next ride and learning something new about the bike each time. Each tank of gas easily extends to about 150 miles when ridden quickly and I've only had the reserve light come on once (the bottom indicator light blinks at you), and even then it only took 3.8 gallons of gas, leaving approximately 60 miles still in the tank. I have an aversion to riding on reserve for very long, but am always curious as to how far a vehicle might go before being down to fumes and threatening to really run out.
Living in Maryland, we don't have quite the scenery and beautiful mountain roads some of the other guest contributors have to choose from, but there are some nice twisties and tree lined mini-rollercoaster roads that have about 50 feet of visibility around the next corner not far from my house. There are also some long country roads through the hills of upper Maryland with gentle bends and rises that allow you to see for miles over some of the crests and take in the hills, fields, and skyline all at once. Nothing but cows and trees out there so when we're up for a quick ride these are my favorites. When my friends and I are up for a little more technical riding we tend towards the tighter, slower, tree-lined roads.
When I feel like really wringing a bike out for everything it's worth, it's time to hit the racetrack. I'm a coach and member of three sport-riding clubs in my area (Absolute Cycle, Sportbike Track Time and Motorcycle Xcitement) and if you are still reading this with interest, I would HIGHLY recommend checking out one in your area if you have not already. There is nothing like riding a sportbike the way they are designed to be ridden while doing so in the safest way possible on a track where everyone is going in the same direction (hopefully). There are no cops, no deer, no Camry's, no SUV's, no tractors, and no other road obstacles you would typically encounter on any ride on any given day, PLUS there is usually one or two ambulances sitting within a ¼ mile of you with their engine running just in case you were to encounter a need for their services. I'm not sure at this point that the Ninja1000 would be a good choice on the track, and I'm not sure what Cycle World would think of this, but it is a consideration for one of my upcoming track days. I typically ride an '05 GSXR750 on the track and am most likely going to bring my new 2010 Aprilia RSV4R to the next one, so for now, I will continue to use the Ninja where it excels - as a daily commuter and weekend corner carver with comfort to last for hours and plenty of power and agility to have fun on public roads.
I am just about up to the 600 mile service interval at this point. I just have to drop it off for a few days, do a little more blogging about my adventures with the Cycle World Ninja1000 Experience and look forward to my next few hundred miles.
PS, if you're curious about track days, check out my youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6zzE298pO0
I have multiple videos of coaching and riding that might whet your whistle and get you off the street and onto the track when the NEED for SPEED strikes for real.
May 25, 2011 Michael Mills picks up his Ninja 1000.
May 16, 2011 I was given the opportunity to Drag Race a brand new BMW S1000RR as a guest journalist for www.throttlehand.com last year and wrote up a story describing the events of the day and my first time drag racing a bike. I had run some street Mustangs and such years ago, but never a bike. I'm a sportbike track-day coach and although I can get my knee down routinely in corners, drag racing was a new experience, so I wrote about it as a true novice. See article here: www.throttlehand.com/fblog/?p=145 I would love to review and write about the new Ninja 1000 as what I've already read about it sound great. I also have multiple on-board videos posted on youtube of my track day excursions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zj-b3Br6tD4 Thanks Mike