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Old 8th June 2011, 12:55   #1
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Default Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

The Kawasaki Ninja 650R has been launched in India at a price of Rs. 4.57 Lakhs (ex-Delhi).

What you'll like:

• 649cc SBK with official sales, service & warranty support. Financing possible too!
• Astonishing torque and urban driveability. 50 kph in 6th gear without jerking or lugging
• Excellent all-round performance
• Very comfortable long-distance tourer
• Practical daily-rider. Comfortable (high) riding position
• Full seat for two. Ride with your better half comfortably

What you won't:

• Lacks the "wow" factor of full-fairing motorcycles. Plain-jane rear
• Cumbersome to maneuver bike in narrow lanes, because of its weight & geometry (rake & trail)
• Heat from the exhaust at 100 kph
• Sticky gearshift at low rpms (<4,000 rpm)
• Small 15.5L tank capacity results in limited touring range (≈ 250 kms)

NOTE: Click any picture to open a larger high-resolution version in a new window.

Last edited by GTO : 10th June 2011 at 12:50. Reason: Fine-tuning 5th point
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Old 8th June 2011, 12:55   #2
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Default Re: Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

I arrived in Pune a day before the scheduled test-ride of the 650R; the sheer excitement of riding the Ninja kept me awake for a large part of the night. I actually reached the showroom about 30 minutes ahead of schedule, at 0600 hours! Admittedly, I was a bit nervous that the superbike would be difficult to ride.

At 0615 hours, I got to see her in the flesh. Green Machine. The plastics on the bike are of a very high quality. The fit & finish is consistently superb. No ugly panel gaps anywhere. This bike is a CKD and Bajaj has done a good job of putting it all together:

The bike looks very simple. In fact, this simplicity of design appeals to me. But the others in the team (namely GTO & Stratos) felt that it is not as attractive as the full-fairing motorcycles.

The twin disc brakes at the front are eye catchers. These twin-petal discs have a nice shine to them, and look beefy:

The silencer ends under the rider's foot pegs:

The rear is a simple affair. Just the indicators and brake lights, accompanied with long grab rails:

Closer look at the long grab-rails for the pillion:

The front has a twin headlight design. As with nearly all modern motorcycles, the lights always stay on. My ride was in full daylight conditions. The only time I got to use the headlamps was inside the tunnels; they seemed to be adequate:

Importantly, the rear lamp is very bright. GTO's Civic was on my tail throughout, and he adds that the brake light demands attention:

The 650R looks best when viewed from the side:

Riding gear highly recommended. That's me wearing CE approved body armor, knee guards, a kidney belt and a Snell 2010 rated helmet:

The side stand keeps the bike at an angle. The Ninja rests comfortably and does not shake or slide in any direction. A main stand was sorely missed though. When we stopped for breakfast, a bunch of kids spotted the bike and, of course, wanted to lean on it. One even tried to jump on the bike. @ Bajaj : You need to consider adding a main stand for Indian conditions.

Here is a picture of Moderator N_Aditya's 250. Apart from the fact that it has a fairing, is green in color, has two cylinders and is made by Kawasaki, the 650R doesn't look anything like the 250:
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Old 8th June 2011, 12:55   #3
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Default Re: Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

The seat is on the firmer side. It's quite long and can easily accommodate both, the rider and the pillion. But given the awesome torque on this bike, coupled with powerful brakes, you better wear proper fitting pants. My loose jeans would bunch up once in a while. After 6 hours on the bike, I was cursing my choice of pants.

As you can see, there is adequate space for a pillion. Also note the ground clearance. We crossed some nasty speed breakers during the ride from Pune - Panvel bypass - New Bombay - Pune. The bike did not scrape on any of them:

The instrument cluster is bright, and very easy to read even under direct sunlight. In a dark riding condition (like a tunnel, for instance), it has a mild orange'ish glow. Speed is displayed in an XL size font. The console also houses the fuel level & engine rpm gauges. The top right displays a digital clock, while the odometer is to the top left, along with 2 trip-meters.

Lined up are lights for neutral gear, side indicators, side stand down, FI issues and Engine Check:

LHS controls for the indicators, parking lights, horn, hi-beam and pass light:

The RHS has the engine start & cut-off buttons:

Both levers have adjusters for varying palm sizes:

Switched on, the Ninja 650R has an irregular pitter-patter kind of sound. This is thanks to the way the twin cylinders fire. Non-tourers may hate it, but one long ride and you will bless the engineers at Kawasaki. The engine note is very calming, it does not shout or scream. At high rpms, the 650R playes a one note song which is a treat to listen to.

Last edited by bblost : 14th June 2011 at 17:17.
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Old 8th June 2011, 12:56   #4
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Default Re: Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

As I mentioned earlier, I was tired before I arrived at the showroom. Seeing and hearing the bike got me recharged. Getting her on the road, I was still a little worried:

Will my back ache, will my wrists hurt?

Power comes from a 4 stroke 8-Valve Parallel Twin 649cc engine rated at 71 BHP (@ 8,500 rpm) and 66 Nm torque (@ 7,000 rpm). The power-to-weight ratio of this motorcycle is 348 BHP / ton.

I had decided even before starting the bike that I will stop in 15 minutes. Relax a little and call home. Pune city is slowly waking up, with traffic building up gradually. Lots of pedestrians as well. I starting riding & quickly realized that this is one motorcycle on which you feel at home instantly. The high seating position is completely spot on. The accelerator is easy to modulate, and the desired speed easy to control. She does not leap forward unpredictably, or has any such drama. The ride is mature too. There is a lot of power on tap, and I can feel it with every twist of my right wrist. Give the 650R some open space, and the rider can be at triple digit speeds within seconds. I tear my eyes from the road and check the clock. Some 30 minutes have elapsed since I started riding the Kawasaki. There is absolutely NO pain anywhere. This bike is perfect for riding in the city and as I would realize shortly, she loves the highways as well.

The monoshock rear gives a comfortable ride at higher speeds. It's stiff at slow speeds though; you can literally "feel" every bit of the road. The toolkit has a spanner that can be used to adjust the suspension:

The gears are very sticky. They are smooth enough when down shifting, but upshifts, especially at less that 4k rpm, are painful. In fact, at one time, I was not able to shift from 2nd to 3rd. In the resulting confusion, when I left the clutch, the rear wheel did a bit of spin and the bike fishtailed. Fortunately, the Ninja is easy to control & keep straight. The moment passed without my support team, driving right behind, even noticing.

The gear lever's position is easy to find. No shoe slipping on it. It would have been nice if there was a gear indicator on the bike, at least for the newbie riders who form a good part of the target market. There is so much torque, even in the higher gears, that I kept forgetting I am in the top gear. There is so much speed in the lower gears, I kept forgetting I was in 3rd:

There is excellent power on tap in all the 6 gears. The engine also generates superb torque at the low to mid rpm range. This gives it amazing city & highway riding characteristics:

In fact, if you are riding on regular roads under <120 kph, you can ride in any gear between 3rd to 6th as if the bike is an automatic. The 3rd has a riding range of 30 - 120 kph. If you are feeling lazy after being on the open road for a long while, stick to 5th gear. You can ride as low as 50 kph without any jerking or lugging from the engine.

The rear disc brake does its job well too. The international version of this bike has an ABS variant that, unfortunately, is not currently available in India. ABS is already offered in lower segment bikes like RTR/CBR250 which make far less power and its really a shame that a bike capable of 0-100 in 4s omits this. We strongly recommend that Bajaj offer it as an optio:

The rear view mirrors are a letdown. My armored jacket blocked out nearly 50% of the view. At speeds between 90 - 100 kph, resonance does set in. The mirrors shake and the image gets badly blurred. Since most touring happens between 80-120 kph, this is a problem (more so at night). You might want to experiment with rear view extenders:

After riding solo for about 100 odd kilometers, I met GTO and Stratos. All the pictures have been clicked by Stratos, and I had a lot of fun posing for them:

The fuel gauge display has 5 bars. By now, 2 bars have disappeared and the third is toggling between on and off. We decide to top up on fuel. The tank drank a little over 7 liters after having run of 120 kms, making for 17 kpl. On the highway, we filled up regular petrol and the bike didn't portray any hesitation at all:

While I am following Stratos' directions for the photo-shoot, my respect for the bikes slow speed riding capability increases.

Sure, taking turns at slow speeds is a problem, due to the large turning radius. You will fumble in a tight space, like a parking lot. But riding slow in a straight line is a lot of fun. The engine is butter smooth. Try the same in a slightly lower gear, generously dial the accelerator in, and the wild ride starts. You get pushed back as the bike leaps forward!

Having done my share of long distance touring, I am wary of Indian riding conditions. I never take a blind turn at high speeds. This causes a considerable loss in overall touring speeds. The rapid acceleration available on the Ninja helps reduce this problem to an extent. You can enter a turn slow, yet exit at almost double the speed. Just keep your eye on the perfect line. This makes touring safer while allowing the rider to save on valuable time.

We hit a long traffic pileup on a bridge. Since my navigators were in a car, I had no option but to ride behind them. I could not leverage a bike's inherent advantage of taking the sides of the road and leaving the traffic jam behind. The clutch is very light within the city. The brakes are perfect & easy to get a hang of. Despite being on a bridge with broken tarmac and lots of truck traffic, the bike was not uncomfortable. The radiator and cooling fan keep the 649cc engine cool. When switched on, the fan makes a mild humming sound:

The puny horn is no match for Indian roads:

GTO could not resist anymore. We traded places for a few kilometers. I had ridden close to 180 kms at this point. While the air-conditioned car was comfortable, I could not wait to reclaim the bike.

Obviously, the Civic is no match for the Ninja in terms of acceleration or mid-range punch. I doubt any, but for the fastest sports cars, would be able to keep up with the 650R in a 0-100 dash. I just hope that the riders who buy it are able to appreciate its power in a responsible manner.

Last edited by bblost : 14th June 2011 at 17:22.
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Old 8th June 2011, 12:56   #5
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Default Re: Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

A Closer Look:

There are no ugly welding bubbles. Everything is fixed tight. No rattles or unnecessary noise anywhere on the bike. Paint finish is top notch:

No loose cables either:

Sturdy hooks under the seat, to wrap your luggage with bungee cords:

While the visor does a decent job of deflecting the wind away, at high speeds I experienced some helmet wobbling when I turned my head. This coupled with the fact that the rear view mirrors are inadequate may require taller riders to either opt for an after-market visor, or rear view mirror extenders (preferably both):

Engine oil level checker and cap. There is no dipstick attached to the cap:

The int'l version gets an override for the fuel-air mixture. This has been removed in the Indian 650R. The override is for extremely cold weather conditions:

Radiator and exhaust pipes:
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Old 8th June 2011, 12:56   #6
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Default Re: Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

Other Points:

Thanks to Moderator Stratos for the pictures!

This is our first, official Motorcycle review. Thanks to Moderator Technocrat for his support.

Newbie friendly. It's probably a great bike to fine-tune your skills before graduating to a liter bike. A super beginner's motorcycle.

This Ninja is actually creating a segment (not becoming part of one). It's fantastic that you can finally buy a fully-legal 600 (650 cc) motorcycle in India.

Bike has a very limited turn radius. Turning at low rpms is scary. Rev her and lean in.

Service interval = 6,000 kms.

Wherever we stopped, everyone (and I mean everyone) drooled over the front disc brakes.

Riding position is upright, and not low + stretched like Superbikes.

Wide handlebars.

Exhaust note is a let down. It lacks the traditionally sporty note of SBKs.

BRILLIANT high speed stability.

Saree guard for complying with Indian regulations?

They are working on some accessories, like the crash bobbins and rear view extenders.

Technical Specs:
Source: Kawasaki - Let the good times roll
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Last edited by bblost : 8th June 2011 at 14:34.
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Old 8th June 2011, 13:04   #7
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Default Re: Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

Awesome , test ride of 650 R already . Rated 5 stars . .
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Old 8th June 2011, 13:06   #8
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Default Re: Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

BBlost, thanks for Team-BHP's first official motorcycle review! Rating your thread a well-deserved 5 stars.

- Mouth-watering pricing. Manson & I were thinking 6.5 lakhs on road in Bombay. Hyosung must be sweating right now (Hyosung's 650 is more expensive!!)

- Newbie friendly. I felt completely at home within 1 km of riding. It's probably a great bike to fine-tune your skills before graduating to the liter class.

- Buying a brand new bike from the showroom with full warranty, service and parts support is beautiful. You can also take a loan!

- Build quality is OUTSTANDING. Even places where you won't usually look (e.g. our observations on the areas below instrument cluster). Fit & finish is top notch consistently....something even a 20 lakh Harley fails to provide.

- I GREATLY missed a gear indicator. Manson laughed at this (I also would, if someone told me they need a gear indicator in a car). But if its a beginners bike, a currently chosen gear indicator would greatly help dudes like me.

- Riding position is not low slung like racers. Rather upright like a regular bike. I prefer the low slung. No pain on the hands after riding.

- Found the handlebars to be unusually wide?

- Is F-A-S-T. Before I realised, I was already at the triple digits! Mid-range is wild. Was quite an experience for a car guy like me.

- Gearshift wasn't as slick as I remember from Rtech's Kawasaki ZZR 400.

- HATE the exhaust note. Would have liked something sporty.

- Vibration-free. All through the revv range.

- Handling through mild fast corners was confidence inspiring.

- Pain to turn at 0 kph, when parking for instance.

- Ride quality was stiff at low speeds. Could feel every small bit of the road.

- LED brake light was very powerful. Even when I was following you during the day in my Civic, they immediately got my attention when you braked.

- Did NOT scrape on any speedbreaker. Including the really large ones on the Panvel bypass.

- 5 stars to the solid braking capability.

Last edited by GTO : 8th June 2011 at 14:40.
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Old 8th June 2011, 13:09   #9
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Default Re: Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

The Team was around my workplace and it did not take much thought to checkout the latest offering in the premium two wheeler space. I got about twenty minutes of riding time, from the C.B.D. Belapur down to the Macs outlet just before the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.
Few things that I took note of whilst around and stop the Ninja:
  • The perfect bridge between the Ninja 250 and the liter class bikes in terms of anticipated pricing and maturity required to ride either bikes.
  • Superb premium fit & finish all around, absolutely nothing seemed sub standard, infact anything short of premium.
  • The seat is certainly very welll finished and looks expensive. The touring class crowd would have definitely loved more support at the 'step up' level though.
  • One could do with a pair of mirror extenders, especially the immigrants from the cruiser genre.
  • The cargo hooks are a big plus for the typically touring riders. Good quality again. Definitely not an afterthought.
  • Inspiring ride. Slotted into the right gear this is a very inspiring bike to ride through corners. How I wish the 650R was an option for me before I heehawed onto my Yamaha Thunderace.
  • Bridgestone Battalax tires - indication of no cost cutting.
  • Mind blowing mid end, you just want to power out in second-third-fourth, definitely the 'fun' range
  • Ordinary top end, nothing like the more famous inline four cousins. I initially expected it to be slightly better based on the mid range of the bike.
  • Quiet, ordinary exhaust note. I would ideally go the aftermarket route to make announce the bike's arrival. Also a good way to alert fellow motorists. Loud exhausts save lives.
  • Sub 4 seconds 0 - 100 kmph, too bad we did not have timing equipment compatible with two wheelers. Google suggests figures between 3.1 - 3.9 seconds to a ton.
  • Sticky gearshift, typically Kawasaki from the Kwackers I have ridden till date.
  • Perfect bite from the front brakes, the petal discs (usually an aftermarket option) deserve a mention here.
  • The rear brake felt noticably wooden. Agreed that one seldom make serious use of the rear brake, but it was just way off.
  • I am 5 feet 8" tall, and I loved the windscreen whilst crouching. Seated straight up I did come into somewhat of a wind blast, but minimum. Anyone taller could certainly do with a larger aftermarket option.

Last edited by manson : 13th June 2011 at 15:23.
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Old 8th June 2011, 13:10   #10
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Default Re: Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

there is an Initial ownership thread by BlackPearl of the variant 2009 Kawasaki Ninja 650R EX for reference.

you can click on the following link for the ownership and long-term review:


take care all.
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Old 8th June 2011, 13:12   #11
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Default Re: Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

Superb review there Imran. Finally a bike which is almost in the reach of working class due to its mouth watering price. Only that in south india, it will hit the 6 Lakhs OTR mark.

This indeed should be a great bike to get started before graduating to the bigger SBK's.

Special mention for the pictures. Stratos, awesome lenswork
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Old 8th June 2011, 13:22   #12
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Default Re: Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

Awesome work guys! Thanks a ton for the review. Really glad to see the motorcycle section being populated with reviews.

Rating the thread a well-deserved 5 stars.
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Old 8th June 2011, 13:24   #13
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Default Re: Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

Indeed an awesome bike with mouth watering pricing.
Sales guys of Hyosung must be having sleepless nights
They really have to come up with something to cope up with Kwacker Cracker.
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Old 8th June 2011, 13:41   #14
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Default Re: Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

Thanks bblost, for such a nice review on the most awaited one. Lots of information shared.
Some how it lacks the look of a 250, may be it is only me having this pinch.
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Old 8th June 2011, 13:46   #15
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Default Re: Kawasaki Ninja 650R : Test Ride & Review

Excellent report on the 650 ! Thanks. Finally a proper review of a motorcycle here at T-BHP.

The bike looks fantastic and I am sure it will sell in big numbers specially with that mouth watering price of 5 lacs OTR here in North India.
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