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2014 Kawasaki motorcycles bring thrills at both ends of the spectrum

New and updated bikes have us looking forward to spring

Published: January 02, 2014 04:00 PM
2014 Kawasaki Z1000

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The motorcycle industry is seeing a sales resurgence, with riders coming from different quarters looking for two-wheel escapism. Kawasaki is among the manufacturers freshening existing models and adding new ones to appeal to the shifting interests, luring new and returning riders, as well as discriminating wrist-twist veterans, into showrooms, as we were recently reminded.

At the international motorcycle show in New York City last month, we toured the displays, spoke with company reps, straddled some iron horses, and came away enthused for spring. For instance, at the Kawasaki booth, there was action in multiple categories for the 2014 model year.

2014 Kawasaki Ninja 300

The spotlight was clearly shining on the Z1000 ($11,999), a striking street fighter that is essentially a stripped Ninja, with katana-sharp styling. Updated for 2014, the Z1000 is powered by a 1,043-cc liquid-cooled inline four and attitude. Built around the Ninja ZX-10R superbike frame, the Z1000 is engineered for corner carving, with its adjustable suspension, shortened final-drive gearing, and revised powerplant. Updates abound, from the LED lighting, to the new brake pads and antilock pump.

At the other end of the sport bike spectrum, the Ninja 300 ($4,999) was on display. The Ninja 300 was released last year, updating a popular model with a slight bump in displacement, distinguishing it among the 250 class, and it benefited from a consequent boost in low-end power. The goal was to stand out from the competition. Kawasaki reps said their strategy is drawing in the ladies, citing 20-percent of Ninja 300 sales to women, compared to about 11-percent for the class.

2014 Kawasaki Vulcan 900

While neither new, nor updated, several of us were drawn to the Vulcan 900 cruiser, offered in basic, custom, and touring trims. After sitting on a wide range of American cruisers priced like sedans, this $7,999 midweight sure seems appealing, especially given Kawasaki’s reliability.

In other Kawasaki news, 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the Ninja and the 40th anniversary of the Jet Ski. This is a big year for brand green, and it looks like riders will benefit from the product celebrations.

Jeff Bartlett

Learn more about riding in our motorcycle hub, buying guide, and in our reliability and owner satisfaction report.

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