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Green with Envy: Kawasaki 2016 Motorcycles


It's time for another installment of our favorite new 2016 bikes (aka. what we would buy for ourselves should we happen to come into a large sum of money)! We're going to focus on Kawasaki this week and a few models we're hot on because, hey, you gotta have dreams!

Seemingly quietly, Kawasaki hasn't missed much of a beat by releasing a strong line-up of sport bikes over the past 5-8 years. Although I can't seem to mentally cheat on Yamaha, it's hard to ignore the impressive models being cranked out by Japan's team green. 2016 isn't full of all-new models but there are a few that are tried and true and have been seen vast improvements through the years.

Here we go...!

Ninja ZX-10R 

Kawasaki Photo
The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is already one of the fiercest bikes out on the racetrack (with two World Superbike Championship titles!), so this version definitely has got us drooling! Made using all the racing technology that propelled the Kawasaki Racing Team to stardom, this is a machine that dominates from the track to the street with looks to boot.

When this electronically assisted superbike platform first arrived on the scene a few years back, it was a grand debut from any Japanese manufacturer. With Honda still a bit in the stone ages as far as superbike electronics and power goes, Kawasaki was sitting at the top of the mountain for a bit...only to be challenged by S1000RR, Panigale and the new R1.

The Ninja ZX-10R features a 998cc four-cylinder 16-valve engine, delivering incredible power. It boasts an electronics package carried over from Kawasaki's World Superbike experience and is exclusive to this bike, including a sophisticated traction control that automatically adjusts according to conditions and a new Bosch five-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) that allows for even more precise control. The new launch control modes and power modes allow the rider to control the power delivery to suit different rider abilities and conditions.

Other new features include a lighter crankshaft that allows for quicker revving and increased low-mid-range power, a computer controlled electronic throttle valve, lightweight titanium alloy exhaust system, and World superbike-derived Showa suspension (a first on a production bike!).

At a US MSRP price of $14,999, it's certainly more in the splurge category, but we feel like this bike is a great choice for those looking to buy a high performance liter bike that offers high performance suspension and a strong electronics package.

Z1000

Kawasaki Photo
The Z1000 is the ugly sibling everyone loves to hate! This is a beyond powerful naked style street bike wrapped up in a compact chassis and minimal bodywork. It features an impressive 1,043cc inline four-cylinder engine, which out-cranks a lot of sportbikes even! The engine provides a wide range of power and delivers impressive low and mid-range torque for street riding. It also has a more comfortable, upright riding position for greater leverage on the handlebar and better control at those corners.

The Z1000 is designed for a high degree of mass centralization, which results in crazy light, sharp handling and it is a blast to ride! This is achieved with an exhaust system design of a large pre-chamber and short silencers, lightweight aluminum rare frame, horizontal back-link rear suspension and the use of downdraft throttle bodies. Most of us will be slapping on an aftermarket exhaust system but it's good to know manufacturers are keeping this in mind during development so we can still enjoy a good 'ole time in stock trim.

As an off-the-showroom-floor hooligan bike from Japan, Inc., well, this would be our choice for a fun weekend bike and low mile commuter - given the lack of a fairing. If you're looking to put on the miles and do a little light touring however, Kawasaki offers the near identical platform Ninja 1000 for just that purpose!

It's priced as a non-entry level machine at $11999 for the US market. It's definitely a lot of a bike but in the hands of an experienced rider, there can be endless fun (...and speeding tickets). The look of the Z1000 leaves some scratching their heads but we really love the bike's presence - even when sitting alone in the parking lot. There's a little bit of mystery behind it. And we like mystery.

Ninja 300

Kawasaki Photo
The Ninja 300 is every rider's bike! Whether you're a beginner, a track enthusiast, a commuter, or leisure rider, this lightweight and nimble sportbike has enough cool features to perform in any situation at any level of experience.

Unfortunately, in a macho, over-hyped US marketplace where cc's and horsepower are king, the Ninja 300 (and most 300 class motorcycles) are often scooted into the dark corner of 'beginner land' and mocked. Recently however, with the introduction of Honda and Yamaha's 300 class sportbike choices, the segment has opened the way for more new riders to get into motorcycling. Back in the day (oh, say 2004), the majority of the options from a major Japanese manufacturers was either a 600 or 1000cc sportbike. Today, we have so many choices that the industry has us eyeing more than one machine.

This little bike is powered by a compact but potent liquid-cooled 296cc parallel-twin engine, delivering strong low and mid-range torque, as well as excellent high-RPM power on the open road. Its advanced Digital Fuel Injection (DFI) helps manage cold starting while providing excellent throttle response and great fuel efficiency. Experienced riders will have a hoot with this thing!

The beginners will find the six-speed sequential transmission helpful, and the premium race-inspired FCC clutch offers assist and slipper functions to provide a lighter lever effort and reduces the effect of back-torque. All this makes the Ninja 300 a super agile little sportbike that's easy and great fun to handle.

The Ninja 300 goes for a US MSRP of $4,999, making this powerful nimble little number one of the best deals out there. It was the first of its kind in the US market, basically setting the stage for 300 class machines, and it is still a great option whether new or used. Don't rule it out!

KLR650

Kawasaki Photo
This is the ultimate adventure bike that will take you from the street to twisty canyon roads! The KLR650 features a solid torque pushing 651cc four-stroke single-cylinder engine for smooth power delivery. The bike offers superb balance with a long-travel 41mm telescopic front fork and Uni-Trak rear suspension, which can take you comfortably across any terrain. The large 6.1 gallon tank provides an unbeatable fuel range for long distance touring.

The KLR650 is a well rounded choice for a basic dual sport and adventure bike since its been around from what seems like forever. It isn't going to have crazy power or all the fancy electronics or a fancy shaft drive but it'll do what you need it to do. Take it across the street or across a continent, the KLR650 is easy to maintain, easy to repair and easy to ride. There's a lot of aftermarket accessories available so the bike is easy to customize for any kind of riding.

Other features include a multi-contoured seat for long-range comfort and stability,  a taller windshield to reduce buffeting, an engine guard to protect against loose rocks, and a lightweight sturdy rear luggage rack. This is a bike built with the adventurer in mind but it also commutes around town or to your local Starbucks juuuust fine.

The KLR650 goes for a US MSRP of $6,599 - a great value for those looking to get into motorcycling but aren't interested in a sportbike. On the road or off, new or used, the KLR650 is a strong choice for a basic do-it-all kind of a workhorse.

Which of these are you favorites? Or are you eyeing some other models? Do tell! 



* images courtesy of Kawasaki
By Daniel Relich

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