Kawasaki Ninja 650

Motorcycle.com  650 comparison photo shoot

Bringing up more rear than Miley Cyrus and the NC700X combined, would be the green machine. I kid! It was very close, but the Ninja is hurt by its 465-pound weight, only 10 less than the NC700, and by the fact that it just looks a bit long in the tooth in this more modern company, with dated styling and unseemly gaps in its bodywork. Were the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles really that long ago?

The old Kawasaki Ninja 650 got hammered hardest in the Ergonomics category, mostly for having the least legroom and the most rearset footpegs, causing our taller riders to kink up and our shorter ones to complain about their boys being squeezed against the gas tank. Rather than the more modern, broad and thin saddle, the Ninja goes for old-school narrow deep-dish. For most of us, it’s less comfortable, and makes the rider feel more locked into position. But if you’re a long-torsoed person with an inseam on the short side, this could be your bike.

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

The Ninja navigates tight roads almost with the best of them, but its more oversquare 649cc doesn’t pack quite the horsepower on top, nor the more potent midrange of the bigger FZ-07 engine – or the SFV for that matter. Rubber-mounted bars, that thick seat, and relatively awkward ergos add up to to a bike that just doesn’t quite connect you to the asphalt as well as some of the motorcycles here. Slightly vague. Its brakes are strong, but lack the feel of some of the other bikes’. “The Ninja’s a heavy bike, and it steers heavier,” says E. Brasfield. “After riding the FZ, where I felt as if I was sitting on the front wheel, the Kawi’s front wheel feels like it’s a half-mile away.”

Go ahead and trust it, though, and the Ninja’s suspension does a great job smoothing out rough backroads and slabby freeways; as a commuter/runabout, the Ninja cruises smoothly along as nicely as any bike here, with the most wind protection. And if you require antilock brakes (smart), the Ninja 650 ABS adds just $400 to the base $7,199.

2015 Versys at Intermot

EIC Duke points out that Kawasaki’s Versys might’ve been a better match in this bunch, but Yamaha ID’d the Ninja as a target for its new FZ, so we included it. There’s a new Versys on the way … stay tuned.

It’s a little Buck Rogers, but all the information is there, including gear-position indicator.

It’s a little Buck Rogers, but all the information is there, including gear-position indicator.

+ Highs

  • Excellent intake honk
  • Most weather protection
  • Adjustable levers, nice cockpit
– Sighs

  • Only 10 lbs lighter than NC
  • Slower to turn and burn, rubbery reactions
  • Least comfy ergos

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