Like it or not, the Age of Electronics is upon us. The horsepower wars have devolved into playground push-fests, and lighter/tighter/faster directives can only go so far. Black boxes are the new religion. Kawasaki’s all-new Ninja ZX-10R ($13,799) has multiple power modes, traction control and optional “intelligent” ABS (additional $1,000). Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC) is the child of MotoGP and can be dialed in for track, intermediate and rain use. Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Braking Systems (KIBS) is said to be the smallest, light ABS unit ever bolted to a motorcycle, adding only seven pounds to the non-ABS bike’s claimed 437-pound curb weight. This stuff won’t make you a better rider, but it might keep you from ending up on your head.
The Big Ninja’s 998cc in-line four has been thoroughly revamped with stronger internals, new intake and exhaust valves and porting, larger throttle bodies, higher-lift camshafts, lighter pistons, newfangled ECU with three power modes (full, medium and low) and race-spec exhaust with titanium headers. Bodywork is new, the frame and swingarm have been redesigned, chassis geometry has been tightened up and the suspension upgraded with a Big Piston Fork and Horizontal Back-link setup for the fully adjustable rear shock. A host of improvements were aimed at making power more manageable, mass more centralized and weight lower–a claimed 22 pounds less than the ZX-10R’s predecessor.
Whereas the ZX-10R was designed for the track, the new Ninja 1000‘s ($10,999) preferred milieu is public roads. Electronics are limited primarily to its digital fuel injection and a wowy-zowy LCD instrument panel. It has the same engine, frame and suspension as the new-for-2010 Z1000, but covered in sleek bodywork. Comfortable ergos, a three-position manually adjustable windscreen and touring accessories like hard saddlebags, top trunk and heated grips make this a very sporty sport-tourer.
Vaquero means “cowboy” in Spanish, and the image of a rugged frontiersman is exactly what Kawasaki is after with the latest addition to the Vulcan 1700 line. Riding the bagger-cool wave, the Vaquero ($16,499) applies matte black to the chassis and engine, with chrome on the cooling fins and cylinder head. Glossy tank, fenders, cut-down fairing and 10-gallon hard saddlebags (for your hat, get it?) are done up in either Ebony or Candy Fire Red.
A short smoked wind deflector, louver-style fog lamp covers, 28.7-inch seat, “muscle car” styled instrumentation and audio system complete the package. The 52-degree V-twin and everything else that makes the Vaquero start, go, shift and stop are the same as the rest of the Vulcan 1700 line. Customize your steel horse with a long list of accessories. Bring your own chaps.