Some bikes simply never end up their statements about comfort, user-friendliness, manageable power, but mostly reliability. One such motorcycle is Kawasaki’s Ninja 500R, a consecrated two-wheeler with a taste for modern days too. Freshly painted in Kawi’s latest and greatest color (Plasma Blue), the 2009 model year carries on teaching beginners a thing or two about sports riding while providing an enjoyable ride too.
Although the more recent alternative known as the Ninja 650R has developed into a great success too, riders keep on heading towards this latest’s smaller sibling and so revive the traditional learning and then exploiting way.
The Kawasaki Ninja 500R stands out now thanks to the same qualities it did in the early 1990s: small, compact, powerful, economic, reliable and damn comfortable. These combined result into an incredibly fun motorcycle that unveils an unchanged character, be that good or bad.
Starting with the engine, the 498cc, four-stroke, DOHC, parallel twin has made a reputation for being both user friendly and fairly aggressive depending on the rider’s demands and skills. So although having started life as a beginner bike, this Kawi remains true to the Ninja name and proves able to deliver with every occasion that it gets. It seems like time passed over this model as the engine is still carbureted through the two Keihin CVK34 carbs. The advantages of liquid-cooling, electric starting and a six-speed transmission couldn’t have missed from any modern sport bike, not to mention the Ninja 500R.
What’s so great about this bike is that the chassis has always been perfect for the engine’s capabilities. The steel frame links to the 37mm forks at a 27 degrees rake and 3.6 inches trail, the adequate choice for what concerns great handling and excellent comfort. At the back, the Ninja works with a Uni-Trak shock capable of 3.9 inches of travel.
Qualities such as the low center of gravity, 30.5 inches seat and 434.4 lbs wet weight add on to the unbeatable package that the 2009 Ninja 500R represents. And probably the best part of it is that it has long been this way so a rider knows exactly what he’s buying before even going to the local dealer.
But Suzuki didn’t do any concessions either when first launching the GS500 and then the GS500F as a fully faired interpretation of the 1990s naked bike. Having followed a similar career to the Ninja’s, the GS is still powered by the 487cc, four-stroke, air-cooled, DOHC motor which is, as well, still fed by two BSR34 carburetors. The less aggressive looking bike, but definitely competitive features a six-speed gearbox for better highway fuel economy while wind protection and modern looks are both incontestable factors definitely worthy of being taken in consideration.
Yet, the seat is positioned at 31.1 inches from the ground, which is just a little bit higher than Kawi’s while the overall wet weight is 439 lbs, standing as another small disadvantage. Wait to hear about the $5,899 starting price in order to clearly make the difference between these bikes and then make a choice.
As much as that full fairing would help the 2009 Suzuki GS500F stand out, the Kawasaki isn’t falling any steps behind despite the fact that it wasn’t redesigned ever since it was first introduced. Characterized by a nice and good wind protective half fairing with a perfectly integrated headlight and a fairly tall windscreen, this bike’s front end reminds us of the early Ninjas from the very first glance. It would have been nice to see two disc brakes up front, but you can’t get it all, do you? Yet, the three-spoke wheel looks aggressive and so is the bike’s sharp front fender.
It’s hard not to notice how the half fairing provides a smooth pass towards that flatten out gas tank as the “Kawasaki Ninja 500R” decals help too. The handlebars are highly mounted in order to provide a proper ergonomic triangle together with the low seat and strategically arranged pegs, but as long as the rider isn’t on the bike, that won’t be the first thing you notice. The lower fairing is an eye-catcher and so is the partially unveiled motor.
The rear end is as sporty as they get in this class and is enhanced by the shiny exhaust silencer, three-spoke wheel and early-style sport bike taillight. It’s almost amazing to watch this bike and know it carried on unchanged ever since it was first introduced back in the debut of the sport bike age.
Only color schemes changed as the years past, ending up in 2009 with the Plasma Blue and Metallic Diablo Black.
Apart from the fact that it is powered by a liquid-cooled engine, the Kawasaki Ninja 500R offers the advantage of an MSRP starting at only $5,499. That’s 400 bucks less than in the case of the 2009 Suzuki GS500F and the ability to make burnouts comes standard.
Rather than concentrating on improving the looks and increasing the price, Kawasaki kept their recipe for the Ninja 500R unchanged and simply enjoyed the benefits. Also, being cheap to maintain and offering one hell of a ride most likely after bringing a major contribution to skill gathering, means that riders are as happy about the bike as Kawi is.
Engine and Transmission
Engine: Four-stroke, DOHC, parallel twin
Bore x stroke: 74.0 x 58.0mm
Compression ratio: 10.8:1
Carburetion: Keihin CVK34 x 2
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance
Final drive: Chain
Chassis and Dimensions
Frame: High-tensile steel, perimeter design
Rake / trail: 27 degrees / 3.6 in.
Front suspension / wheel travel: 37mm hydraulic telescopic fork / 5.1 in.
Rear suspension / wheel travel: UNI-TRAK® system with single shock / 3.9 in.
Front tire: 110/70x17 tubeless
Rear tire: 130/70x17 tubeless
Front brake / rear brake: Hydraulic disc / Disc
Overall length: 82.5 in.
Overall width: 27.6 in.
Overall height: 45.7 in.
Ground clearance: 4.7 in.
Seat height: 30.5 in.
Curb weight: 434.4 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 4.8 gal.
Wheelbase: 56.5 in.