Being a former owner of at least two EX500s, I was preconditioned to expect the ubiquitous vibration inherent in "sewing machine" twins. I was pleasantly surprised, to observe that almost no vibration found its way to me while cruising the freeway or darting around canyon roads. I say almost no vibration because a barely perceptible amount of buzz comes thru the all-metal foot pegs around 4,000prm. Kawasaki has done a wonderful job with the counter-balanced crank.
"The star of the show as far as I'm concerned is the ultra stable chassis."
With 25 degrees of rake and 4.2 inches of trail combined with the long swingarm and good leverage offered by the wide, standard-type handlebars this Ninja initiates turns easily and stays absolutely planted once it is set for the corner.
No amount of mid-corner line changing or braking could seem to get the chassis to flex or complain with threats of a high side; exactly what the beginning rider needs. It's like a Ronco rotisserie oven: Just set it and forget it.
The beauty of this Ninja is that it can adapt to different riding styles. Do you like to stay more upright and muscle the bike around dirt-tracker style, like most new riders will be apt to do? That's not a problem for the 650R. Fancy yourself a more aggressive, hang-off type? The Ninja will gladly let you stuff it into every corner if that's how you like to ride. And with ground clearance for days and days, you'll be taking full advantage of the Bridgestone 020s.
With a retail price of $6,299.00 and all the technology invested in the frame and engine this new Ninja had to suffer somewhere. Unfortunately that somewhere is in the poor suspension and brakes. With lack of adjustability of any kind up front and pre-load only via an easily accessible ramp-style collar in the rear, this 650 offers one harsh ride over high speed bumps. Too much compression damping also causes the front end to offer little in the way of feedback.
At one point, while pushing through a series of sweeping rights and lefts, the front tire lost traction while going over a section of rough pavement. The result was a moderate little slide. It wasn't anything that caused me to ride in fear for the remainder of the day but it did show me one of two weak points on this motorcycle.
If Kawasaki sourced the brake rotors from the ZX6 and/or ZX10, they must have sourced the calipers from the Ninjas 250 and 500. Twin-piston, sliding pin calipers are simply a poor choice. They don't provide much sensitivity and often had me thinking of the word "wooden." The only way for me to rectify their poor performance was to set the adjustable brake lever to position "1" to get the most leverage and control. What I would have preferred is a single rotor with a four-piston opposed caliper of higher quality in order to keep the price down but brake performance up.
Team Green has put together an absolutely great package for the intended audience. If you're a beginning rider, have a short inseam or just want a great commuter/all day rider that doesn't mind a spirited ride in the twisties, the Ninja 650R may be the bike for you. And with roughly $1,300.00 separating all the advanced design in this new bike from the Ninja 500R, the prospective buyer would be unwise to not consider the new over the old.
Anyone with advanced riding skills will almost immediately notice the less than perfect suspension and brakes. But if you're not looking for perfection and want the same things that a beginner wants, like a lightweight, quick handling bike with an engine to match, then this new Ninja may be right for you too. I'll step out on a limb (confidently) and predict that we are going to start seeing a lot of this bike once word gets out.
|** Specifications Provided by Kawasaki ** |
||4-Stroke, Liquid-Cooled, DOHC, 4 Valve Cylinder Head, Parallel Twin |
||649 cc |
|Bore x stroke:
||83.0 x 60.0 mm |
||DFI with Keihin 38mm Throttle Bodies (2) |
||O-Ring Chain |
|Rake / trail:
||25°/4.2 in. |
|Front wheel travel:
|Rear wheel travel:
||41mm Hydraulic Telescopic Fork |
||Offset Laydown Single Shock |
||Dual 300mm Petal Disc with 2-Piston Caliper |
||Single 220mm Petal Disc |
|Fuel Tank Capacity:
||4.1 gal. |
||Galaxy Silver/Metallic Graystone, Ebony/Galaxy Silver |
||12 months |
|Good Times Protection Plan:
||24, 36 or 48 months |
|* Pricing and specifications subject to change. ||Unique Features|
- Aggressive Ninja styling
- Compact size and weight
- Low seat height
- Powerful twin-cylinder engine
- 649cc twin-cylinder, DOHC engine
- Parallel twin engine is the most compact in its category. The engine is considerably smaller than that of the Ninja 500 and helps reduce the dimension of the entire motorcycle.
- Tuned to deliver smooth, responsive power in the low-to mid-rpm range with exceptional roll-on response for negotiating city traffic.
- Triangular crank and transmission shaft layout makes the engine very short from front to back, a semi-dry sump (KP) oil system reduces overall engine height, while narrow pitch of the chrome composite (KP) plated aluminum cylinders helps reduce engine width.
- Muffler with 3-way catalyzer and bullet-tip opening is mounted below the engine to help lower the center of gravity and aid weight centralization.
- 180-degree crankshaft plus balancer shaft for extremely smooth engine operation.
- Oil jets connecting rod big ends spray oil on the undersides of the pistons to aid cooling.
Liquid Cooling (KP)
- Maintains consistent engine temperatures for long engine life and sustained power during hard use.
- Allows closer engine tolerances for more horsepower.
- Coolant is routed through the engine cases to reduce external hoses.
Digital Fuel Injection
- 38mm Keihin throttle bodies feature sub-throttle valves (KP) for optimum performance and rideablity. The sub-throttles, located behind the main throttle valves, are controlled by the ECU so that the EFI system has more precise throttle response, similar to a constant-velocity carburetor.
- Precise fuel injection plus exhaust catalyzer significantly reduce emissions.
- Automatic fast idle system makes starting and warm-up easy.
Digital Capacitor Discharge Ignition (CDI) System (KP)
- Microprocessor-controlled timing never needs adjustment and is ultra-responsive to engine needs.
- Spark plug mounted "stick" ignition coils are compact and help reduce weight.
- Cassette-style transmission puts the transmission shafts and shifts into a compact layout that is easily removed as a single unit from the cases for easier maintenance.
- High tensile steel trellis frame is small and light.
- Designed using 3-dimensional computer analysis to achieve the optimum stiffness balance for better handling.
- Narrow at the knees and feet for rider comfort and control.
Single-shock Rear Suspension
- Braced swingarm and offset, laydown single rear and shock complement the frame design to create an integrated line flowing from the steering head to the rear hub.
- Short, compact frame and engine design allows the swingarm to be longer, which helps improve overall handling.
Triple Petal Design Brake Discs
- Petal design offers improved cooling and warp resistance.
- Same design found on the Ninja ZX-6R and ZX-10R supersports machines.
- Also found on the ZX-6R and ZX-10R, the 6-spoke design requires much less material between spokes so that the rim thickness is thinner and overall wheel weight is reduced.
- Low, narrow seat combined with the slim overall design allows riders to firmly plant both feet on the ground when stopped.
- Carefully designed ergonomics result in a natural, comfortable riding position.
- Textured seat cover helps keep the rider planted
- Stylish full fairing with aerodynamic windscreen cuts through the wind and helps protect the rider.
- Integrated front turn signals with clear lenses enhance appearance.