Ringleader: Ari Henning
MSRP (2009): $9799
Average Fuel Mileage: 31 mpg
Accessories & Modifications: Hyperpro steering damper, Dynojet Power Commander
Lots to report since my last update... To address the headshake I'd experienced at Infineon Raceway, I replaced the stock Öhlins steering damper with a Hyperpro RSC unit ($349.95; www.hyperprousa.com). The OE damper wasn't up to snuff: Crank it stiff enough to quell headshake at a corner exit and the steering became sluggish and heavy going into the next turn. The Hyperpro's active RSC (Reactive Speed Control) circuitry keeps steering light during normal conditions, but increases damping when the handlebar speed spikes-say, during the beginning of a tank-slapper. The Dutch damper works well and proved its worth when I took the Ninja to a track day at Buttonwillow Raceway.
As is customary at The Track Club's multi-day events, grand marshal Mark Duncan staged a mock race in lieu of the A-group's last session. Releasing the clutch lever at the start, the engine spun up abnormally quickly. And within the first lap, the clutch was slipping every time the engine ran into the meat of the torque curve, forcing me to short-shift and slip to the back of the pack. Bummer!
Back at the Motorcyclist shop, I saw firsthand what all those full-throttle launches and second-gear wheelies had done to the clutch: The friction plates were munched, and their steel counterparts were varying shades of blue. I ordered a clutch kit ($173.10) from Kawasaki, and while waiting for the parts to arrive put the bike back into its street attire and gave it a thorough once-over.
The seemingly everlasting Michelin Power Ones were finally completely shagged. Enduring two races and two track days, plus a few hundred road miles in between, they wore beautifully and lasted twice as long as expected. The French tires are seriously sticky, and the profile and carcass design complement the Ninja's handling and chassis balance. I'll be sure to get another set for my next track outing. In the meantime, I put the stock Bridgestone BT-016s back on. With the wheels off, I noticed the front brake pads were wearing thin. While there is still enough friction material for street riding, the pads will need to be replaced before returning to the track.
Hyperpro's RSC steering damper is the only non-electronic active unit on the market. Its 2
We typically follow a 3000-mile oil change regimen, but considering how hard the Ninja has
Noting that my boots had begun wearing the paint off the swingarm, head Kawasaki wrench Jo
Once the clutch kit arrived, installation was a simple one-hour ordeal. With fresh oil and a new filter, the bike felt like new again. The lowly clutch has a tough job, and I'm going to make an effort to be gentler on it ... right after I do this burnout for Art Director Joe Neric's camera.
On a free day I took the Ninja down to The Speed Shop in Torrance, California, and put it on the dynamometer to satisfy my curiosity regarding the Two Brothers exhaust and Juice Box fuel controller I'd installed previously. Power is up 4.5 horsepower at peak, and torque is up marginally as well. I've since installed a Dynojet Power Commander V ($359.95; www.powercommander.com
), which offers more precise fuel control and will permit the installation of a quick-shifter. In an attempt to recoup some of the Ninja's lost fuel economy, ace tuner Gene Thomason leaned out the fuel map a bit, but throttle response suffered and fuel mileage only went up 2 mpg.
In my last update, I mentioned changing the Ninja's gearing. I've since ordered several larger rear sprockets from Vortex and a longer chain from DID, but haven't gotten around to installing them yet. Hopefully I'll get the work done before my next track event.