2008 Kawasaki Ninja 650R

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The Kawasaki Ninja 650R is engineered to deliver the best of performance and accommodations in day by day riding as sportbike performance levels and a comfortable seating position are basic features of this interesting-balanced motorcycle.

 

Introduction

Kawasaki designed the Ninja 650R with versatility in mind, resulting into a bike that invites to be ridden daily. Blending an innovative engine and chassis when willing to create a sportbike is always a good idea and the bike obtained will definitely achieve the points previously established for the sales evolution. But when a bike outruns any expectation that is when you know that you’ve done a good job. This is also the case with the subject of this review.

History

Kawasaki Ninja 650R

Like all Kawasaki’s sportbikes, the Ninja 650R, even though was introduced very recently, has behind a model which lead to its creation. In this case is the ER-6n, a motorcycle launched at the end of 2005.

It planned on conquering the mountain named success by using a low center of gravity which results into a great handling motorcycle. In communion with a decent power output, this model formed the base of the Ninja 650R, a motorcycle launched a year later.

The idea was to create this Ninja by simply attaching a fairing with the purpose of obtaining less drag and better wind protection for the rider. Afterwards, by painting it in a two-tone color (Black and Silver), the exterior was radically changed and it was ready to shine.

Also characteristic to Kawasaki motorcycles in this lineup is the user-friendly behavior coming from a two-cylinder engine which is actually smaller than the one found on the Ninja 500R.

With the 2006 Ninja 650R, Kawasaki proved it can take an already successful product even further by simply adding all those attractive elements that make it a Ninja. More important, the riding feel speaks for itself.

Competition

Kawasaki Ninja 650R

The middleweight sportbike class is one very disputed and manages to gather most of the Japanese manufacturer for a piece of the cake.

Yamaha, of course, offers the FZ6, an awesome performer thanks to its 600cc liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder; DOHC, 16 valves engine. It says a lot more than the Ninja but they are both multipurpose, go-anywhere, do-anything middleweight motorcycles and implicit, are meant to do pretty much the same things.

Kawasaki Ninja 650R

Another example would be the Suzuki SV650SF. This motorcycle offers its own kind of middleweight agility combined with V-twin power. The engine configuration allows for great amounts of torque delivered from down low and the fuel injection tops the levels of performance.

But middleweights are built to handle and the Suzuki does it like a dream due to its aluminum-alloy truss frame and technically advanced suspension front and rear.

You would expect to find the Honda 599 offering refinement and sharp handling, but this model is out of the battle as Honda decided to retract it from the U.S. market. It was a blast, by the way, so I don’t understand the reason…maybe a surprise is awaiting.

Even so, the Hornet 600 is Honda’s alternative to comfort and sporty abilities.

Exterior

Kawasaki Ninja 650R

Maybe the competition does a better job with different engine types but it is no doubt that Kawasaki rules when it comes to styling. No matter the color (Green, Red or Black) this one is a turn header.

The biggest advantage is that it doesn’t sacrifice the riding position in order to achieve being a sporty looking motorcycle. No, its beauty consists in the fact that the low, narrow seat combine with slim overall design and it allows the rider to touch the pavement with confidence when stopping.

This bike was built to be a true friend on the roads so the manufacturer first considered the rider and created carefully designed ergonomics which present a comfortable, natural riding position.

If you take a look at the stylish full fairing featuring an aerodynamic windscreen, you will actually expect to be tired after a few hours on it, but this won’t become a reality. The visual impact is also upgraded by integrated front signals with clear lenses.

Personally I like it covered in Sunbeam Red paintjob, as it is kind of unique, and it matches the black colored rims, frame, swingarm, and pretty much everything that isn’t red.


Test Drive

Kawasaki Ninja 650R

Riding the Kawasaki Ninja 650R is easy and enjoyable for all kinds of riders, especially beginners. This is the result of a machine built starting with the rider. It may seem strange, but for this middleweight to be situated in the top concerning riding position and comfort, it had to be manufactured following such a strategy.

I was properly accommodated on this carefully engineered motorcycle and felt no disturbance whatsoever. I find the seat comfortable and its texture didn’t allow me to slip under powerful braking. Handlebars are at quick reach and the footpegs contribute to this ideal riding position found on the 650R.

The second high point of this Ninja is its responsive 650cc parallel twin-cylinder, DOHC engine fed through a fuel injection system. It enjoys being revved all the way through its powerband, with healthy torque starting with 2500rpm, but where this motor enjoys sitting is around 7500-8000rpm. Even though it can go easily up to 10,000rpm, I only took it there for few times because this is no race-inspired four-cylinder, but a permissive parallel twin which won’t surprise you by giving a rush between certain levels of its rev range. It is truly an awesome performer in the low and mid-range so it receives all my appreciation.

Mated to a six-speed tranny, the lively twin delivers linear power in every gear. I enjoyed exploiting the engine at its true value and it proved not to have any disappointment reasons. At around 80 mph, the crankshaft spins with 5000 revolutions per minute in top gear.

The counterbalancer incorporated does its job perfect because I didn’t detect any vibrations even if I was engaged in a highway passing or in an enthusiastic twist of the throttle. Also at relatively high speeds, wind protection is excellent thanks to the full fairing and the windscreen attached to it. I would compare a ride with the Kawasaki Ninja 650R as a trip on a middleweight cloud. It is that reassuring!

Being light, narrow, and allowing for a comfortable riding position, the Ninja 650R has pretty much what it takes to be true easy handler. It is almost too easy to be leaned in corners and it finds the way all by herself once you’ve seen how it likes to be treated (slower at the beginning of the corner and then accelerate progressively as you exit from it). Twisty roads are a true pleasure and this is also the kind of situation in which I appreciate being on a sharp handling motorcycle.

What I don’t find that confidence-providing is the front suspension system which felt a bit weak while cornering. But maybe that was just me fascinated by the looks of this bike and thinking that I’m on a ZX-R motorcycle. Better overall handling comes from the short, compact frame and engine design which allows the adding of a longer swingarm.

I appreciate the braking system though because it is ZX-R inspired and the brake discs feature triple petal design resulting in improved cooling and warp resistance. Braking power is more than sufficient and both the front and the rear receive the credit for that.

Overall, this is a recommended motorcycle for beginners and not only. It features predictable, linear power all the way through the powerband and everything is valued through a smooth operating gearbox. Already popular as a sharp handler, this Kawa sees its way through in a very competitive class.

Price

The Ninja 650R is also a cheap solution for the already enormous number of cars on the streets today. Comfortable, permissive, versatile, and confidence-inspiring, this motorcycle asks for a try and a try only in order to convince you that the ride is well worth the buck. With an MSRP of $6,499, it is the cheapest bike in its class, not necessarily the one that has less to offer.

Conclusion

Kawasaki used the Ninja designation for the 650R, and it made no mistake as the bike features the sporty character you would encounter on such motorcycles.

By proving user-friendly, reliable and manageable under all riding conditions, this middleweight not only stands as an alternative for beginners, but presents a totally new side of the Ninja lineup.


SPECIFICATIONS

 

Engine and Transmission

Displacement: 649cc
Type: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve per cylinder, parallel twin
Bore x Stroke: 83.0 x 60.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.3:1
Maximum Torque: 48.5 lb/ft @7,000 rpm
Cooling: Liquid
Fuel Injection: Digital fuel injection with two 38mm Keihin throttle bodies
Ignition: Digital CDI
Transmission: 6-Speed
Final Drive: O-ring Chain

Chassis and Dimensions

Frame: Semi-double cradle, high-tensile steel
Rake/Trail: 25”/4.2 in.
Front Tire Size: 120/70-17
Rear Tire Size: 160/60-17
Wheelbase: 55.5 in.
Front Suspension / wheel travel: 41mm hydraulic telescopic fork / 4.7 in
Rear Suspension / wheel travel: Single offset laydown shock with adjustable spring preload / 4.9 in.
Front Brake Type: Dual 300mm Petal Disc with 2-Piston Caliper
Rear Brake Type: Single 220mm Petal Disc with hydraulic caliper
Fuel Tank Capacity: 4.1 gal.
Seat Height: 31.1 in.
Dry Weight: 393 lbs.
Overall Length: 82.9 in.
Overall Width: 29.9 in.
Overall Height: 50.0 in.

Other

Color: Lime Green, Sunbeam Red, Metallic Diablo Black
Warranty: 12 months
Good Times Protection Plan: 12, 24, 36, 48 months

Features

 

Unique Features:

- Aggressive Ninja styling


- Powerful parallel-twin engine


- Compact size and weight


- Low seat height

Engine:

- 649cc parallel twin-cylinder, DOHC engine


- Most compact engine is the in its category, even smaller than the Ninja 500’s, which 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 oil system reduces overall engine height and the narrow pitch of the chrome composite plated aluminum cylinders reduce engine width


- Muffler with 3-way catalyzer and bullet-tip opening is mounted below the engine for a lower center of gravity and better weight centralization


- 180-degree crankshaft plus balancer shaft for extremely smooth engine operation


- Oil jets on the connecting rod big ends spray oil on the undersides of the pistons to aid cooling

Liquid Cooling:

- Coolant is routed through the engine cases to reduce external houses


- Maintains consistent engine temperatures for long engine life and sustained power during hard use


- Allows closer engine tolerances for more horsepower

Digital Fuel Injection:

- Sub-throttle valves in 38mm Keihin throttle bodies provide optimum performance and rideability


- Located behind the main throttle valves, the sub-throttles are controlled by the DFI system ECU to give a precise throttle response, similar to a constant-velocity carburetor


- Automatic fast idle system makes starting and warm-up easy


- Precise fuel injection plus exhaust catalyzer significantly reduce emissions

Digital Capacitor Discharge Ignition (CDI) System:

- Microprocessor-controlled timing needs adjusting and is ultra-responsive to engine requirements


- Spark plug mounted “stick” ignition coils are compact and help reduce weight

Six-Speed Transmission:

- Cassette-style transmission with the transmission shafts and shifts in a single, compact layout that’s easily removed from the cases for maintenance

Trellis Frame:

- High tensile steel trellis frame is small and light


- Optimum stiffness balance for better handling worked out in three-dimensional computer design analysis


- Narrow at the knees and feet for rider comfort and control

Single-Shock Rear Suspension:

- Short, compact frame and engine design allows a longer swingarm and better overall handling


- Braced swingarm and offset, laydown single rear shock, supplement the integrated visual flow from the steering head to the rear hub in the frame design

Triple Petal Design Brake Discs:

- Petal rotor design – like its Ninja ZX-6R and ZX-10R supersports brethren – offer improved cooling and warp resistance

Six-spoke wheels:

- Six-spoke design uses the same engineering as the Ninja ZX-6R and ZX-10R and requires much less material between spokes for a thinner rim and a lighter wheel

Confidence-Inspiring Cockpit:

Kawasaki Ninja 650R

- Low, narrow seat combined with the slim overall design allows riders to firmly plant both feet on the ground when stopped


- Carefully designed ergonomics present a natural, comfortable riding position


- Textured seat cover helps keep the rider planted

Bodywork:

- Stylish full fairing with aerodynamic windscreen cuts through the wind and helps protect the rider


- Integrated front turn signals with clear lenses enhance appearance


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