June 4, 2011
Great day on Kuro today! I got the hall pass for a couple hours and took the Ninja out on some back-road rides today. We were having intermittent rain throughout the day, so that slowed me down a bit, but it was also good to see how the bike would behave in these conditions. I’ll say this—the bike is so damn smooth that accelerating through the corners in these rainy and wet conditions wasn’t a concern at all. Total throttle control, very predictable turn-in, and excellent brakes all contributed to a fantastic ride. After the first couple days of riding this bike, I wasn’t sure if it was enough “touring” for me and possibly too much “sport.” At this point I’m starting to see how the touring personality in this Gemini of a bike could be quite the performer. Sport—no doubt, it has it in spades. I need some more extended seat time to give a firm vote on the Touring aspect though…
June 3, 2011
Well, my black beauty has been resting in the garage while we’ve been experiencing a ton of rain these past few days. I only had a chance to take the bike out for a couple quick rides today, but the more I ride it, the more I love it! I haven’t been back on any extended highway rides yet, but those are planned and hopefully with a well massaged back and some better gloves (gel padding in the palms), the tingling won’t be an issue. One thing I’ve noticed is that this bike gets a TON of looks from passers by…
May 31, 2011
Today was a disappointing day on the Ninja. Kuro was eager to go as always (love that electronic fuel-injection and computerized choke mechanism), and just looking at the bike makes you want to go for a ride. However--and I’m hoping it was more my body mechanics than anything else--but after spending 40+ minutes on the bike at highway speeds, my right hand was going totally numb. I’m getting a buzz at 4500 rpm (roughly cruising at 65-70mph in 6th gear) that has my fingers on my right hand tingling after 20 minutes and nearly totally numb after 40. I’m also feeling it through the right foot peg, but it’s the throttle-control hand that is the big concern. Add to this that today it was pouring rain, and I was probably a little heavier on the bars than usual for fear of being on a set of tires that aren’t really scrubbed in yet, and it all adds up to a bad situation. I pulled over and tried to relax my shoulders, warm up, and get the feeling back in my hand. After about 10 minutes I got back on the road and was hyper-aware of my body position, being super-light on the bars, etc., and it seemed to help quite a bit. I got the Ninja home and in the garage and made an appointment with my massage therapist. Hoping to get some of the stress out of my back, loosen up the hands and get out again. Stay tuned…
May 30, 2011
One thing I forgot to share on this blog was my 3 ½ year-old’s reaction the first time he saw the Ninja. I had already moved it into the garage, and when he came around the corner to check it out his eyes got HUGE, he threw his hand over his mouth and exclaimed, “OH MYGOSH PAPA!!!!!!!!” Then he just started laughing, ‘cause he intrinsically knew how cool this bike is, even at his age. Of course he immediately wanted to sit on it and make the “vroom vroom” sound while trying to reach the throttle…
So I’ve had Kuro for a couple days now and have put about 150 miles on her of mixed riding: highway commuting, in-town errand running, etc. I took advantage of the holiday today, and kept “forgetting a couple things at the hardware store” so I could go on some quick sprints out to the store. My impressions so far are that the bike really and truly is quite good at doing all of it. In around-town jaunts, it continues to surprise me at how comfortable it is. Stoplight-to-stoplight stretches aren’t a problem because again, the low-end torque on this thing makes the launches very easy—no need to crank it up to 5 or 6K rpm just to get it off the line, and you don’t have to go through all the gears, either. Sharp, low-speed turns and U-turns are quite easy, as is maneuvering the bike in parking situations. On the highway, it cruises along nicely, the standard gel seat is very comfortable, and I’ve found that the windshield does a decent job of deflecting the wind. For the record, I’m 6’ even and 215lbs…
May 29, 2011
Much to my dismay, I didn’t get a ride in on Saturday, but I had a couple really good reasons: my band had a gig Friday night that resulted in my getting all of 3 hours sleep Friday night, and my daughter arrived for her summer vacation on Saturday, which required my picking her up from the airport in something a little more practical than the Ninja. Regardless of the latter, I was in no shape to be riding a new bike with the kind of power Kuro has with only a handful of sleep-hours in my system. However, today was a new day and I was well rested and ready to ride! I took the Ninja out on some of my local favorite and familiar roads up in Bonny Doon (just north of Santa Cruz), so I could get another taste of what the bike can do. Flickable comes to mind. As I get more comfortable with the seating position of this bike (remember, I’ve been on an up-right dual-sport for over 2 years), the ability to transition this bike from side-to-side on the S’s up in the mountains becomes more natural. I’ve been focusing on being smooth, as I know the speed will come with the more light on the bike I am and smooth through the turns I become. So, back to basics and focus on my lines, not my speed.
Another word that comes to mind is balance. This bike’s dry weight is a little over 500 lbs, yet it feels way lighter at speed than the V-Strom 650 I use to have, which was a little bit under 500lbs with fluids. I guess that’s an obvious statement, and granted, the Suzuki DL’s are very top-heavy bikes, but the difference in how it relates to handling is worlds apart. This week coming up I’ll be commuting to work quite a bit on Kuro and am looking forward to reporting on how the bike does in start-stop traffic in town. Stay tuned!
May 27, 2011
Kuro (pronounced “KOO-doe”). It means “black” in Japanese. Kuro shall be the name of the Ninja 1000 I picked up today after much anticipation. The formal adoption took place at Monterey Peninsula Power Sports in Seaside, CA, just a few miles away from Laguna Seca Raceway. I live in Scotts Valley, CA, about 45-50 miles to the North, and as my wife and I pulled into the Monterey Peninsula Power Sports parking lot, there were 2 Ninja’s parked outside—a maroon one and a black one—with a few people milling about. Clearly this was our group. Did I get to pick my color?? No, the red-ish one was the bike Andy Leisner was riding, so the black one would be mine. That’s not a bad thing—I’ve had many black bikes, and I hold fond memories of them all.
For those who don’t know, Andy Leisner is the VP of Integrated Sales and Marketing for Cycle World. He’s also quite an accomplished road racer (now retired), and is fast as hell. He lives locally in my neck of the woods and is who I would go for a ride with for the Ninja’s inaugural ride. We decided to go up the 1 Highway for a little bit from Seaside and over through Elkhorn Slough to catch some fun twisties. It should be noted that I’m coming off a big 660cc Super Moto that’s been converted to a dual sport bike (an MZ Baghira), and I haven’t ridden a sport or sport-touring bike in a few years, but I was up for the ride.
As we pulled out of the parking lot and headed towards the highway, I was struck by how well-mannered the Ninja 1K is at low RPM’s. No need to really slip the clutch too much when pulling away from a stop, and no twitchiness or bucking—just lots of nice low-end torque and smooth power delivery, regardless of speed or RPM. Regarding that power delivery--it is near-instant and very smooth, unlike other fuel injected bikes I’ve been on. Case in point—as I was getting acquainted with the bike’s ergonomics, I realized Andy was well on his way to the onramp and that I had better catch-up, so I goosed the throttle and WHOOOOOP—I was right on his tail in about 2 seconds. Note to self: this bike is seriously fast!
We made our way up the coast and to our exit for the curvy part of our ride. My first impressions of the N1K is that it’s quite comfortable, not too buzzy, and the bike just has gobs of get-up and go-go. As we entered the Elkhorn Slough section of the ride, Andy was itchin to get some fun in, and off he went! I kept a brisk pace (for me), but the former racer was a thing of beauty to watch—at least for the few moments while he was still in my sights! At one point he took a right-hand sweeper at a pace that was well outside my skill level, and caution took the reigns as I knew there was no catching him. The next couple of sweeps and turns I kept saying to myself, “he’s gotta be right around this corner……OK, well maybe this next one….hmmmm….no sign of him….and eventually (truth be told it was about 1 minute of riding), I found him pulled over and eating a sandwich! OK, he wasn’t snacking on anything but probably the thrill of having those kinds of riding skills, but he politely apologized for indulging, to which I couldn’t fault him at all. From there we finished the snaking road at a more reasonable pace for me, with Andy filming me from in front of me (camera facing rearward). We reached the proverbial fork in the road where Andy would return to the South, and I to the North. I sat on Kuro—my black Ninja—and watched Andy go back down the winding road, soon to only hear his Ninja in the distance. I fired up my new ride and eased it back out on the road, grinning from ear to ear as I headed home to show off the new bike to the neighbors…
May 16, 2011
At 46 years old, I'm an excellent choice to serve as one of your guest editors. I'm mature, responsible, enthusiastic, professional and I love to ride. I have the riding AND writing skills you need, and I'm a gadget guy too, so posting video editorials is no problem. I'll be commuting and going on sales calls during the work week, and I always make a point of getting out on the weekends to enjoy the amazing riding we enjoy here in Central/Northern California. So, you get real-world mixed use riding out of me – lots of perspectives covered. Laguna Seca is in my backyard as well, so if a track day opportunity presents itself and you're in favor of that kind of use, I can do that as well. For the record, I'm an "ATAGATT" guy, and I've never had a ticket of any kind (while riding my bikes). In short, you'll get those "real world" experiences from me, on time, well written and seen by many. As if that weren't enough my first street bike was a 1985 Ninja! Oh yeah, and I'm also a home owner with plenty of room in the garage for another bike…Cheers