2009 Kawasaki Motorcycles Released - Motorcycle.com

Alfonse Palaima
by Alfonse Palaima

Slump? What Slump? Despite the slow motorcycle sales in 2008, Kawasaki Motors hasn't let off the throttle for 2009. Continuing its trend of delivering more and more new models each coming model year late this decade, Team Green unveiled more new models this weekend at its annual dealer meeting held in Dallas, Texas.

With a star-studded celebrity line-up presenting each model to the stage, the morning meeting was jam-packed with information. Kawasaki sure does live up to its motto, letting the Good Times Roll. It doesn’t see any reason to let off the throttle in what appear to be economic difficulties.

Despite overall motorcycle sales dropping in 2008, Kawasaki showed an increase in its market share for 2008, up 5% compared to a 6% drop in overall all-brand sales. That’s huge news to Kawasaki and its dealers. With category-leading products to offer, the dealers are selling for success in nearly every motorsport discipline.

The first announcement to the dealers was directed towards the personal watercraft market, and our man Lucas Cooney will give you the details on the new Ultra 260LX later this week on PersonalWatercraft.com, the next step in touring-capable personal watercraft, boasting a whopping 260 hp.

Racing is the key brand builder for Kawasaki, as it knows that winning races sells motorcycles. Racing gets dealers psyched up about their new products, as does having true racing legends present the new models to the audience.

The talk of the town for you MOfos is going to be the overhauled 2009 Ninja ZX-6R. Here at the dealer meeting, team rider Roger Hayden delivered the motorcycle in all its deliciousness.

Kawasaki’s designers have focused on setting quicker laptimes and still making a superior streetbike.

In addition to adding power across the entire powerband and improving mass centralization, they’ve refined the engine and chassis behavior in a number of ways. They’ve added a ZX-10R-like rear swingarm with more rigidity and balance.

They’ve also steepened the cylinder bank angle, rotated around the output shaft, to raise both the center of gravity (by 16mm) and the head pipe (by 10 mm). This is meant to improve turn-in performance.

Contributing to this new steering characteristic is the added “revolutionary” front fork design. The “Big Piston” fork now acts more like a shock than a traditional cartridge type fork. Now using a 45mm fork tube as the inner wall, the internal piston is now almost twice the size with almost four times the surface area to help calm the attitude changes with a reduced damping pressure. The damping force is the same, but adding an Ohlins steering damper, as found on the ZX-10R, helps to keep the good times rolling upright.

Contributing to the total weight loss of 22 pounds when compared to the 2008 model, the all-new lower right side-mounted performance exhaust has an under engine pre-chamber. The all-new ZX-6R will retail for $9,799 and come in three colors: Lime Green, Metallic Diablo Black / Flat Super Black and Candy Surf Blue / Flat Super Black as well as a special Monster edition retailing for $9,999.

Three-time drag race champion Rickey Gadson presented the revised and now rubber-mounted Ninja 650R. This spunky sportbike received several changes to the frame, swingarm and suspension that result in reduced vibration and lighter handling - making the new Ninja 650R more nimble and comfortable than ever. Its signature trellis frame and offset laydown rear shock design remains, but the frame was completely revamped and now sports a higher quality paint finish.

The 2009 650R with retail for $6,799 and be available in 3 colors: Lime Green, Passion Red and Metallic Diablo Black.

Although presenting a fuel-efficient (48 mpg) entry-level sporting standard bike to the dealers in attendance, Rickey reminded the dealers that they have on their showroom floors the “quickest and fastest production bike on the planet,” having recently set a new personal record last week at the Atco Raceway in New Jersey with a 7.77-second and 191 mph time,¬ faster than the next fastest ’Busa by 0.2 second.

The Ninja ZX-14R will return in 2009 with minimal changes beyond new paint and updated MSRPs.

The ER-6n is possibly the hardest model name to type, yet the best new naked bike we’ve seen this fall season.

The class clown of motorcycling that became the first sponsored stunt rider to a major OEM, Kane Friesen, rolled out on stage to present one of the best-selling sportbikes in Europe, now available stateside, the ER-6N. It shares nearly everything but the bodywork with the Ninja 650R, but the styling is where these two motorcycles differ. Some dealers described the front end as being similar to a KTM, while others thought it looked like the Z1000.

Kawasaki reps say there are a few reasons why they brought the ER-6N to the US, a bike mechanically similar to both the Ninja 650 and the Versys. Among them is the powerful and fuel-efficient motor that it shares. With a claimed fuel economy of 48 mpg and priced slightly less that the 650R, the ER-6N retails for a reasonable $6,399.

The big news for the most versatile standard in the Kawasaki lineup is that it’s finally a 50-state motorcycle. Not big news, but it ought to make the Californians happy. With a miles-per-gallon peak of 53, the Versys is ready and waiting for you in two colors this year: the new-for-Kawi Candy Plasma Blue and Candy Lime Green. MSRP is $7,099.

Presented by the 12-time Baja 1000 champion Larry Roessler and garnering applause even before its name was mentioned, the highly successful KLX250S is followed by a supermoto version, the KLX250SF. It shares the 240cc four-stroke powerplant and 6-speed transmission but adds 17-inch wheels and a lowered suspension that reduces seat height by 1.0 inch. Stopping abilities are enhanced by a 300mm front disc - 50mm bigger than the front rotor on the already lightweight package 250S.

Sipping gas at the rate of 70 mpg, the SF will retail for $5,299 and come only in the aggressive ebony color.

Kawasaki is also bringing back the mild dual-purpose Sherpa and the Eliminator mini cruiser for the obvious reasons: fuel economy.

Alfonse Palaima
Alfonse Palaima

More by Alfonse Palaima

Join the conversation