2021 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX vs 2021 Honda CB1000R
Emotions are usually an important part of motorcycle purchasing experience, especially in Canada. As majority of riders are on the road less than 4 months a year, our needs and expectations are quite different than any other country in the world. As a result, manufacturers offer different types of bikes for different needs. This week, we have had a chance to ride the 2021 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX and 2021 Honda CB1000R back to back to see which one is a better fit for you.
Both bikes are not cheap, and they are not beginner friendly. This price range of bikes are not for an average rider, as you are getting into “exotic” range in terms of power figures and pricing. For $15k, you expect the bike to be able to pretty much everything. It needs to be fast, well-built, comfortable, but most importantly, it must look good.
In terms of looks, both bikes look very sporty, but Kawasaki’s fairings make the bike look a little bit sportier, whereas CB1000R looks more like a city bike with cafe-racer design elements. As they are both liter bikes with around 140 horsepower, performance is the biggest selling point for both bikes. However, you would be surprised how different they feel when you take them for a ride.
It is a subjective matter, but both bikes look beautiful, despite their difference. I love the CB1000R’s headlight and it gives the bike more classic look with modern DRLs. The bike looks gorgeous in every angle, including the single swing arm, license plate holder, and small details all around the bike. I think CB1000R looks a little bit more special when you look closer into the details.
Kawasaki also looks great, if you are into sport bike looks. The headlights give the bike more traditional sport bike looks, and fairings allow the rider to have more wind protection at higher speeds. I love the fact that Ninja 1000SX comes with manually adjustable windshield, though it is a little bit small for long highway trips.
Having fairings and better wind protection is not the only reason why Kawasaki is a better daily rider. You can add side bags for more cargo accommodation. Unlike the Versys 1000, they don’t come standard, but side bags can be installed without any modification. Side bags are quite good for small stuff, but my XL size helmet won’t fit in it.
Honda CB1000R is the sharper option in this comparison, despite being a naked bike. You feel the difference as soon as you sit on it. Footpegs are placed higher, handlebars are wide but reach is more aggressive than the Ninja 1000SX. It still feels comfortable unless you ride long distances, but it is obvious that riding comfort is not the priority.
Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX feels almost like a short-man’s Versys. The ergonomics are surprisingly comfortable, footpegs have rubber mounts, though it has clip-on handlebars they are not super low and the seat is cushier than the CB1000R. It still has traditional sport bike feeling combined with comfort features.
At 6’1″, I found both bikes are good for taller riders and you don’t feel cramped at all. For shorter riders, Kawasaki has a little bit lower seat height. Interestingly, CB1000R does not come with passenger seat for more cafe-racer look, but it still has passenger footpegs. You can always replace the cover with the seat, but it shows how Honda prioritizes the looks over practicality for the CB1000R.
Both motorcycles uses high quality plastic buttons on the handlebars, and their layout is similar. I think Kawasaki’s button layout is more user friendly, whereas you need to take your time to get used to Honda’s screen and button layout. Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX feels a little bit bigger due to additional fairing and windshield.
Let’s talk about the fun stuff, the powertrain. The Ninja comes with 4 cylinder 1043cc engine that produces approximately 140 horsepower and 82 lb-ft of torque that is available pretty much everywhere in the rpm range. The origins of the 1043cc engine dates back to beginning of 2000s, but Kawasaki heavily updated it to keep up with EU5 emissions.
They did a pretty good job with this engine. It is buttery smooth and you don’t have to worry about downshifting to go fast. It pulls like a freight train at every gear. It still sounds like traditional 4 cylinder, but it likes to stay in the mid-range more than Honda, as it has much flatter torque curve, you don’t have to worry about being in the right gear.
Honda CB1000R comes with a 4 cylinder 998 cc engine that produces 143 horsepower and 76 lb-ft of torque. As soon as you start the engine, you feel that the engine is sharper, revs faster, likes to be in the higher rpm, and it loves to scream at 12000 rpm like a traditional racing bike with more character and vibration.
Honda’s 4 cylinder engine is a hate or love situation. There is no torque below 6000 rpm, it starts to come alive after 7500 rpm. If you like to go fast, you have to keep the engine 10000 rpm to get the most out of it, otherwise you would be constantly gear hunting. CB1000R wants its rider to work for it, and as a result it is harder bike as a daily rider.
Both engines are extremely fun in a different way, but there is a difference in terms of fuel economy. I was averaging around 5.5L / 100 km with the Ninja 1000 whereas I just can’t get the CB1000R below 6.5L / 100 km, there is a significant difference and Kawasaki is much better in terms of overall fuel economy.
Both Kawasaki and Honda come with up and down Quickshifter, and I like the overall feeling of Honda’s transmission a little bit more than the Ninja. CB1000R’s shifts are very crisp, and Quick Shifter feels more solid. Kawasaki’s Quickshifter works well at higher rpms, but it can be hit or miss below 4000 rpm.
Each motorcycle has a highly adjustable TFT screen. Kawasaki’s screen has a little bit more glare under the sunlight, but it is easier to navigate around and fonts are slightly bigger, as a result it is easier to live with on a day-to-day basis. Honda’s screen gives you more detailed information, but it lacks app support or any type of bluetooth connectivity.
As you expect from an expensive bike, both comes with latest and greatest rider aids, and you can customize it the way you like in both. Kawasaki offers app integration (Rideology) that you can see more info with your smartphone, and customize the settings remotely. Both has IMU system and they work pretty seamlessly.
Both motorcycles offer exceptional braking performance on a public road. Honda CB1000R comes with dual 310mm discs and 4-piston Tokico calipers. Kawasaki used just a little bit smaller (300mm) dual discs and 4 piston calipers. I found Tokico calipers a little bit more sensitive to rider inputs with better initial bite. Kawasaki’s brakes are quite good for daily and spirited riding with less aggressive initial bite.
Suspension tuning is important for the bikes in this price range, as they need to be good in every condition. Honda decided to go with Showa suspension, while Kawasaki does not have fancy stuff, both bikes have adjustable suspension in the front and back. You can adjust Ninja’s preload with a knob while on the move, meaning that you don’t need a special tool.
Kawasaki’s suspension setup is on the softer side which is better for daily riding, it absorbs the road imperfections quite well. Even in the firmest setting, it feels softer than the CB1000R. Honda’s suspension gives you more feedback, and it is not punishing the rider. Though I like the Honda’s suspension tune better, I think Kawasaki’s chassis is more communicative and gives you more feedback at the limit.
Two similar motorcycles with similar power figures – though they deliver in totally different way, and a similar price tag. However, when you get into the details, you see that they feel extremely different and that’s what makes motorcycling unique. Both options are terrific bikes for different type of riders that have similar budget.
At the end of the day, there are three winners in this comparison. Honda CB1000R is a clear winner if you prioritize performance over comfort and practicality, and want that oldschool 4 cylinder engine character that wants to rev all day long. It is louder, it revs faster and more eagerly than the Kawasaki’s 4 cylinder engine. It combines retro looks with 1990s sport bike character, and that’s what makes the CB1000R more special.
Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX is the clear winner if you want more of a well-balanced package. It has tons of torque available at lower rpm as well as much flatter torque curve till you hit the rev limiter. It may not be as sharp as CB1000R from a pure performance aspect, but it will be more fun to ride on a daily basis. It is still a very fast bike, but the power delivery is completely different than a traditional 4 cylinder engine in a good way. Long story short, you don’t have to constantly downshift, or work as hard to be able to go fast.
The final winner is us, the riders. Unlike 20 years ago, now we have different types of bikes for all of us. You may find a naked bike with sport bike character, as well as sport bike with touring character. Both Ninja 1000SX and CB1000R show that there is a motorcycle for what we exactly need. You just have to decide which one is your type of bike.
2021 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX is priced at $14,999 and 2021 Honda CB1000R is priced at $15,799. If you add the optional side bags, both bikes are going to set you back pretty much the same. However, in my opinion, Kawasaki gives you more bang for the buck, considering how good it is as a daily rider, still as fast on a public road, and features that don’t come with the CB, such as app integration, and the cruise control.
There is no bad choice in this comparison, and I would prefer the CB1000R if I need a cool looking retro motorcycle that comes with 1990s racing bike character, full of drama and excitement. It can be a great weekend warrior or a track-day toy, if that’s what you are looking for.
For more details about 2021 Honda CB1000R – please visit https://motorcycle.honda.ca/
For more details about 2021 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX – please visit https://www.kawasaki.ca/en-ca/