Kawasaki Ninja 1000 | DOIN’ TIME

HealTech's GI Pro gear-position indicator finds a home on the Ninja's dash.

WRIST: Kevin Smith
MSRP (2014): $11,999
Miles: 5,806
MPG: **38
HealTech GI Pro gear indicator

The first order of business with our Ninja this month was to establish baselines: Get it as good as it can be in stock configuration, bank some logbook entries, and establish the priorities for refinements.

But I immediately wanted a gear-position indicator. The engine's busy-running character and the bike's short gearing had me constantly reaching for an imaginary seventh gear on the freeway. So I installed one of HealTech Electronics' GI Pro DS units (bluemonkeymotorsports.com; $160).

The DS series is small and simple to install, as it just plugs into the stock diagnostic port under the rider's seat. One quirk: On bikes lacking an internal gear sensor (including the Ninja), the unit needs a moment, with the clutch lever out and the wheels rolling, to calculate gear position based on engine rpm and wheel speed. Most of the time that's fine, but you can get ahead of the process. Declutch and kick down several gears coming to a stop, for instance, and the GI Pro will not know which gear you select to pull away until you have in fact pulled away. Not a serious problem, but it's notable.

After everyone in the office had twiddled suspension adjusters, I set everything by the book (including tire pressures at 36 front/42 rear) and found the combination pretty happy. Just two clicks more preload in back via the handy hydraulic adjuster and a half turn in on rebound at both ends worked for this 195-pounder (mostly commuting, without the saddlebags). The Ninja's suspension lacks the quality feel of high-spec, track-oriented systems, but it's fine for what the bike is trying to be, and I don't feel the need to upgrade.

A trip up the coast by Zack Courts and his dad, Tim, confirmed that the Ninja 1000 is sorely undergeared. Sprockets are on order, along with a SpeedoHealer (also from HealTech; $117) to allow recalibrating the standard speedometer. Stock, it reads almost 7 percent high. Ninja forum chatter suggests the longer stride provided by taller gearing transforms the bike. We'll see.

Kawasaki Ninja 1000

Kawasaki Ninja 1000
HealTech's GI Pro gear-position indicator finds a home on the dash. The device is truly plug-and-play. With the Ninja's short gearing, it usually shows "6."