Kawasaki Ninja 650R Video Review:
Scroll down for our comprehensive review of the 2009 Kawasaki Ninja 650R.
Fast Tube by Casper
Over 40 updates make the Ninja 650R a real competitor for 2009. Its smooth 649cc engine, dynamic and aggressive styling, and modern chassis make it a real treat to ride. For a new rider looking for a first bike with longevity, the Ninja 650R could be a great match!
Our Kawasaki Ninja 650R Review:
We’ve always been fans of Kawasaki, and when I say “we” I’m referring to the collective group of motorcycle junkies that power BeginnerMotorcycleReviews.com. It’s not often that “we” all agree on something (countless debates over which first bike is ideal come to mind), but after experiencing the Kawasaki Ninja 650R for ourselves we have all come to the same conclusion: this bike is a good one.
The Ninja 650R is good for a lot of things, and because of that we’re inclined to recommend it to new riders looking for something that’s economical, but with a larger emphasis on fun and excitement. After all, while a 650cc sport bike may not get the same fuel economy as a 250cc bike (such as the 650R’s little brother, the Ninja 250R), but it still gets great mileage and seems to be adept at doing something much better than a smaller bike: implanting large grins on our faces.
There’s no denying that a new rider will find a 250cc bike a thrill, but unfortunately that thrill will tame itself over time as the rider becomes accustomed to the power and handling characteristics of that bike. Since it’s such a small engine, those limitations are found quickly and that’s when the “hum-drum” syndrome takes hold. The 650R, however, packs enough punch from its 649cc engine that a new rider should be satisfied for a few years before wanting to trade up- assuming they get tired of it at all!
The Ninja 650R is a great handling machine; a smooth parallel-twin provides plenty of power (right around 65-70 horsepower) and more than enough torque (around 45ft-lbs) for city riding and highway touring. As well, the comfortable seating position enables the rider to enjoy the Ninja for long periods of time without worry about back or joint pain.
Enter a corner and the Ninja 650R feels balanced, and after a few corners for practice the rider will quickly find the Ninja 650R to be predictable and controllable- traits that a new rider should seek out and an experienced rider always appreciates.
Let us be clear: this 650cc bike is not faster than the Ninja ZX6R (Kawasaki’s 600cc super-sport), despite having 50 more cc’s. However, a quarter mile time of 12.1 seconds and a 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds is hardly something to scoff at- all but the fastest supercars will be left in your dust.
Riders will enjoy the smooth-shifting 6 speed transmission, linear power delivery, and excellent riding dynamics. It may not sound like an F1 racer (like the 600cc super-sport bikes), but the v-twin has a great sound and combines with the rest of the bike to create a capable and well-mannered machine.
The Bottom Line:
As far as first bikes go this may be a bit much for some people, but spend some time riding it with caution and you will find yourself piloting a fast, good looking, capable motorcycle that you’ll enjoy for some time. Highly recommended.
Kawasaki Ninja 650R Update – April 23, 2009
When the weather is right, and a good friend decides to swap bikes with you for the last leg of your ride, you can really get a feel for a bike. In my case, it was the decision to swap my 2008 Suzuki SV650 (read my Suzuki SV650 review) for my friends 2009 Kawasaki Ninja 650R. Both bikes are fairly comparable in their capabilities, performance levels, and even horsepower figures.
There are differences, however. As one commenter noted, the 650R is powered by a parallel-twin engine, whereas the SV650 is powered by a v-twin. As well, the 650R features a slightly more upright riding position, where the SV650 is a bit more sports-bike like in its riding position (but not terribly so). These differences, along with the aesthetics of the bikes, are small, but they are significant enough to warrant switching from one bike to another over.
We were in Banff, Alberta and decided to make the final leg of the ride home to Calgary, Alberta. At just over an hour it’s not exactly a marathon run, but with varied terrain (mountain roads, followed by foothills, followed by prairie) I knew that I’d be able to get a great feel for the bike (I wasn’t the person who reviewed the Ninja 650R in the original review).
Launching the Ninja is easy, just like my SV, and the acceleration is brisk. It may be just me, but my SV650 feels a touch quicker- it may be the Yoshi pipe and K&N filter, or it may just be a mental bias. Regardless, the Ninja takes off with a reassuring growl from its engine and plenty of thrust forward. Every time, no matter how quickly it ends, the acceleration of a bike like this puts a smile to my face.
Through the mountains I found the Ninja 650R to be very predictable. Within a matter of minutes I found myself leaning it over quite a bit, and like my SV650, the power band is linear enough that I was able to apply throttle during the turn without worrying about breaking traction. Motorcyclists live for the twisties, and this bike is about as much fun as I’ve ever had in them.
I stuck with 3rd and 4th gear, finally moving into 5th and 6th once we reached the highway. The highway, which is a long and relatively straight/flat drive, made up the last 30 minutes of our ride. On the highway the Ninja is slightly more comfortable, and I believe that to be entirely due to the riding position that’s just a touch more upright. In 5th and 6th gear I found the Ninja to have enough power to pass traffic that was moving at highway speed with ease.
When we finally reached our destination my friend and I swapped bikes. “It’s a nice bike,” he said in reference to my SV, “but I think I’ll keep my Ninja.”
It’s funny he said that, because the Kawasaki Ninja 650R is a great bike… but I think I’ll stick to my SV
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