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xBhp Rides and Reviews the Kawasaki Ninja 650R.
Chlorophyll Inorganica + HomoSapien = (C9H13NO3) *∞
Text & Photos: Sundeep Gajjar / motoGrapher.com
Today’s launch of the Ninja 650R will be remembered as an important checkpoint for Indian motorcycling . It marks the start of a new war involving the 600s in India. The first battle will be between the, you guessed it, Garware Hyosung GT650R and the new born Ninja 650R. However, this is not the topic for now.
I will start from the most important attribute that anyone factors while choosing their dream machine – the dough.
You will have to cough up 4.57 Lakh ex-showroom Delhi (which will be less than 5 Lakh [email protected] on road!). This is an extremely competitive pricing.
The next is the brand equity and its legacy. The Ninja brand name is pretty darn strong. Say Ninja in a biker’s meetup and everyone sees green and fast bikes. In retrospect, It’s unbelievable how bold a move it must have been to give a bike named Ninja the flagship color of lime green. I am sure it wasn’t by design, but destiny. Much like the success of our own Pulsar here. Kawasaki is also a reputed company, plus Ninja 250R has been there for a long enough time and has proved its mettle in India.
Then come the looks. No matter how good the engine is, it is the looks that make machines like these a commercial success. And with a country like India which just has a handful of options and an infatuation with faired bikes, this is again goes positively for the Ninja. My first look impressions involved me getting in love with that green again. It reminded me of my green Ninja 250 which I acquired an year ago. Coming to that, I felt a little confused, the N650R did not look as BIG as compared to its younger sibling. Now, before you get me wrong – discerning and informed motorcyclists like you and me know that they are two very different machines – but for many who will buy the N650R will be not be comfortable with a Ninja 250R standing besides it and getting equal if not more gazes from the curious onlookers. I have been around enough to be able to vouch for this predicament that will be inevitable for every N650R owner. However equally frustrated will be the N250R owners, when they will compare the price difference between the two Ninjas. This is for laters though.
The N650Rs most impressive design element has to be the side mounted monoshock which lends it a radical look. Following this are the broad dual headlights (again compare it with the R15 and the FZ16 and many might come to a conclusion that its not that radical or ‘big’ for a bike which is four times the capacity, but again this is India and lots of people think on these lines, ‘un’fortunately many of them also are probable customers).
Your eyes then track to the rather broad and tall windshield, which doesn’t look out of place but doesn’t aid its look as well, really. However, go past this paltry issue and you realize that almost everything about this bike oozes practicality. The good windscreen, the BIG LCD backlit console which has every thing digital – from a tacho to a very handy clock (which has CLOCK written below it just in case some over smart number crunchers might think of the numbers as something else ?).
The tube type raised handle bar along with the switchgear feels top notch, again putting function before form. The fuel tank is sleek and rotund at the same time, a little bulged up that the N250R’s but enough to carry 18 litres of gas. The seat looks svelte with the pattern grooved on to lending it a premium feel, however is it comfortable? Lets find out ahead in the long ride report. The mirrors are borrowed from the ZX6R, they are good but not great while the front set of fairing integrated indicators lend it a more contemporary and clean look.
The rear end is pretty sleek and rather simple. But before your eyes reach there you will stop and stare at the side-mounted monoshock. It definitely looks different. But beyond that I was forced to think what purpose could it have served on a bike, which had a relatively simple styling. Some research and pondering minutes later it boiled down to a m being a clever packaging solution (placement of ultra stubby exhaust, battery etc) plus maybe a distinguishing design element which is also found on the bigger Versys from the Kawasaki stable.
Track further down and you have the under engine exhaust which probably not only lends it a tricked out look but also better CoG (Center of Gravity) in terms of mass centralization and low CoG. However, in my opinion that definitely didn’t help it a lot when compared to the N250R, despite the younger sibling having a standard exhaust. Goes a long way to say perfection is achieved by a lot of interdependent components rather than a single component fixed in for a specific purpose.
The bike ends with a rather simple and sleek rear. No dramas there. A standard LED cluster tail lamp with practical longish grab rails greet the trailer.
The tyres (rear 160 and front 120) on the N650R are good enough, but could have been thicker to make the bike look, once again by popular demand, bigger.
The best view of the bike is rear 3/4th, the biggest from front 3/4th, most radical is the right side profile, the least impressive is the direct rear.
Zoom out and see the bike’s profile in totality. Something will strike you. The bike looks small than it is supposed to be, and that it sometimes looks like a semi faired bike. One of the reasons is because the lower fairing is matte black which merges it with the similarly treated engine casing. I fail to understand why it didn’t have the standard green all over it.
Overall, I would have preferred if the styling of the bike would have one justice to the R appended to it. The N650R doesn’t look off the charts but it isn’t a bad looker either. That’s about it for the styling part, now lets move on to how it moves.
X = 72 Bhp. 650 CC rounded off. The most important figures are these. Or are they? Sit on the bike, flick up the side stand (no main stand) and it feels light (unlike the Bandit 1250 which needs to start moving for its weight to disappear). With 203 Kgs of curb weight the bike is no feather light, but its no slouch either. The peak figures of Bhp (72) and Torque (66Nm) are achieved at 8500 and 700 respectively , keeping the engine relatively relaxed (compared to the N250R). This means that it will be easy touring on this and easier in traffic. And sure enough it was. I rode the bike intermittently over 200 kays and it was a delight, however not exciting as a Ninja 250R, especially in the hills. Maybe I am used to revving the N250 high, soaking in the delightful inline twin sound. Plus the 650R handles nowhere as sweet as the N250 but this doesn’t mean it’s bad at all! I am just trying to justify the R tag after the 650 like in the 250R, which needs no justifications.
Turn the key and you are greeted with pre ride checks, lots of characters flashing and running up and across. Makes for a delightful high tech experience. It was one of the biggest consoles I had seen after the Ducati 1198’s. At night the orange backlight looks very chic.
Thumb the starter and the two cylinders come life without dramas. In fact its little too simple. The exhaust note is totally uninspiring. You can expect the N250R to sound like this, but definitely not a middle weight class bike. I am sure one of the first thing many will be looking to do is get that sound to match the go and the show. However at high revs, especially around 7000, it does sound decent, but again, it wont touch your hear. To me, the sound of the machine is one of the most important experiential factors to make for a great ride.
Twist the throttle and the bike surges forward, hard, but not pull-your-arms-out-of-your-sockets-hard. 72 HP is enough power to propel you ahead of anything on four wheels (for a while at least) and will keep in the rear view mirrors of most superbikes being ridden sanely. Thought the acceleration and the adrenaline rush is nowhere near that of a 1000CC bike (of course, it cannot be!). Neither it can match the stupendous rush lent by its fitter sibling – the Ninja ZX6R.
The bike can cruise comfortably at 120 oddish for long hours. One of the best bikes to do a Saddlesore in India today!
The gear shifts are precise and you will find the green dot on your console with ease. The bike can be ridden pretty hard without the rider losing confidence. However, the bike which we got had braking issues. The brakes worked alright, but the kind of brakes that I was expecting after owning a N250R over 11,000 kays were missing. And that was a big deterrent for me to have real fun with the bike, especially on the ghats. However it could be an issue with the particular model given to us only.
I tried to lean the bike, it did well, and however it didn’t inspire confidence in me as the N250R does. This plus the N250R is also a very capable touring bike, as our own BlueVolt (Rahul) (http://www.xbhp.com/talkies/xbhp-roa…ete-blogs.html) had proved from his ride around India on the GQ early last year.
At this stage such comparisons are but inevitable.
At night the light of the Ninja on low (single side) is biased towards the right, however once you switch in the high beam things get much brighter (and uncomfortable for the people coming from the opposite side).
Thumbs up on the bike from me for the following:
• No side flanked exhaust and sleek rear means great space for putting soft panniers
• Metal tank means you can put a tank bag too! (like I did along with my camera)
• Green! Green! GREEN!
• Looks good
• PRICE! PRICE! PRICE! PRICE! Total VFM!
• The Kawasaki and Ninja badge under Bajaj’s aegis
• Hints of supersports styling
• Not BIG enough
• Not GREEN enough, why is the lower fairing black!
• The exhaust note
• Just hints at supersports styling, looks confused
• Not ultra flickable like the N250, depite the R tag
Overall the bike is great value for money, and simply great for long distance touring as well as off roading! And at 4.57 Lacs ex, this will make lots of dream come true and green!
BUT, the big question, what happens to the Ninja 250R?
Kawasaki India has clearly stated that the price of the N250R will remain unchanged for some time to come. However the price difference is not too narrow to warrant ay possibilities of cannibalization , however, like I said, comparisons will be inevitable. Below is a chart comparing the two green machines from the Kawasaki stable available as of June 2011 in India:
Satadal Payeng’s Review
Ninja 650R First Ride Impression
Foreword: “I am not someone who regularly rides the so called exotic “big bikes”.
This review therefore is basically from the point of view of an Indian “Biker Next Door”. Someone who has been so far limited to riding the basically so called “sporty” commuter bikes”.
(+) “Neck jerking” Torque
(+) Refined engine
(+) Top notch Quality
(+) Comfortable ergonomics
(+) Low seat height
(+) Value for Money
(-) Scope for improvement in styling
(-) High speed handling
(-) Bit too powerful and heavy for me
(-) Still can’t afford it
How did it all start?
Couple of day’s back, just before the Kawasaki Ninja 650R was being launched in India; I received an invitation to ride the bike. Unfortunately I could not match my schedule with the ride experience that Bajaj was providing to a couple of prominent Indian auto related sites. However on the day of its official launch, I did get the opportunity to take a couple of laps on the Ninja 650R at the Test Track of Bajaj Auto at Chakan, Pune.
I’d like to thank MG_Biker for taking a couple of snaps (posted here) as I rode the bike around the track.
Styling/Looks: “Sharp, Edgy, Aggressive from the front & sides, bit incomplete at the rear“
Usually the styling of a motorcycle gives away what kind/category it belongs to. A glimpse of the Ninja 650R in the flesh will clear all doubts that it is not another bike in the Super Sports mould. Unlike the crouching stance of a Super Sports motorcycle, the stance of the Ninja 650R is relatively upright.
The Ninja 650R (or ER-6F as it is branded in a few countries) is basically a fast street bike which can also be used for long highway rides and therefore the upright stance. The Ninja 650R is a decent sized bike. Bigger than our “desi” Karizma ZMR in terms of bulk. The front end is impressive with sharp edges and lines and aggressive looking twin headlamps.
The distinctive styling continues to the sides which features a prominent horizontally laid exposed monoshock that adds to the funky appeal of this motorcycle.
It is just the rear portion where the styling loses its flow. Compared to the front of the bike, the seat and the tail piece can be said to be relatively bland. With a slight redesign of the rear, Kawasaki can create a bike would be perfect from all angles.
The Ninja 650R would not attract glares at a traffic signal like Super Sports bike would, but for a biker who is more interested in riding his vehicle rather than posing on it, it is not a bad thing. For he can peacefully park his bike at a public place and be rest assured that it won’t be molested in his absence.
Top Notch Quality: “Looks and feels like a premium product“
The quality of the material used on the Ninja 650R is top notch. The tactile feel of the switches, the fit and finish of the body panels, the quality and texture of the plastic used, the paint quality, the weld joints..
Everything on the Ninja 650R that you can see and touch exude a plush feel.. which is naturally expected from a vehicle which costs almost at par a B+ segment hatch in India.
The LED Tail light of the Ninja 650R even though not that aggressive in shape is quite bright and does its job quite well. The speedometer console is all digital including the tachometer. Most would love the all digital display but I somehow still prefer the old school needle for the tachometer.
The rear gets a welcome grab rail which is handy for the pillion to grab on and also to strap on any luggage meant for touring.
Riding Stance/Ergonomics: “Ideal for Street riding as well as for long hours on the saddle“
Similar to the stance of the Ninja 650R even the rider sits on the bike in a comfortable upright stance. As clear from the photos, the stance on the Ninja 650R is comfortable yet sporty due to the rear set foot pegs.
The Ninja 650R is a generous sized motorcycle, much bigger and bulkier than the Karizma ZMR (the current desi benchmark for bulk). But even then thanks to a sub 800 mm seat height and a seat which narrows at the front, a 5 ft 5 inch small guy like me was still comfortable on it.
The only issue for me was the 200 Plus Kg of kerb weight of the bike. I had to be specially careful while taking slow corners with one foot down.
Engine Performance: “Truly Super Refined Aggression“
Boy o Boy..!! The moment I cracked opened the throttle of the Ninja 650R I was in for a big surprise. The acceleration was neck jerking. The low and mid range performance of the Ninja 650R is very strong. Most of the 66 Nm of torque seems to be spread thickly at the low and mid rpm range.
Only on a Boeing or on an Airbus have I experienced better acceleration from standstill. Despite the 200 plus Kgs of Kerb weight, the 72 Ps of Peak Power and 66 Nm of Torque is overwhelming for a “Biker Next Door” like me. I am sure that the Ninja 650R will be easily able to out accelerate most C-D segment Indian cars in the initial 0-100 kmph dash.
The 1.5 km long straight at the Chakan test track provided the opportunity to test the top whack of the Ninja 650R. I could see around 180 Kmph on the speedo just before the straight ended. With a longer stretch and someone with guts I am sure that clocking 200 kmph on the bike isn’t impossible. Now this is seriously fast by Indian standards.
Unlike the Ninja 250R where the power and torque is evenly spread across the entire rev range in a linear manner, the Ninja 650R is tuned like a torque monster. With generous amount of torque available from low rpm, the bike would definitely be a breeze to ride on our streets and for long distance touring as well.
Another aspect of the Ninja 650R’s engine was the refinement with which it goes about doing it job. Even when revved to its redline, vibrations are hardly felt.
There would be a few who would not like the throbbing exhaust note of the Ninja 650R. But once on the move, the note hardly makes a difference to the ride experience.
Handling: “Not exactly a track bike, but adequate for every where else“
Having ridden on the test track, it became clear that the race track is not the natural habitat for the Ninja 650R. The Ninja 650R would handle decently under normal riding but it is not the ideal tool to go knee scraping on the race track. Confidence while taking fast corners on the Ninja 650R is not in the same league as on the Ninja 250R.
The front brakes of the Ninja 650R also seemed to lack the kind of bite which the Ninja 250R and even my Pulsar 220 possess. Maybe it was just an issue with the particular model that I was riding. The higher seating and relatively softer (compared to the Ninja 250R) suspension setting makes the Ninja 650R clearly a highway tourer more than a track tool.
For someone like me the Ninja 650R is a bit too much power to handle, plus at 200 kgs it will be difficult for me to lift up the bike without any assistance in case of a spill. Also my better half would be scared to death at the kind of low and mid range acceleration that the Ninja 650R has.
Most importantly, I can’t afford it. But for those can cough up the Rs. 5 lakh (+), and plan to really use the motorcycle and not just limit it to a posing tool, the Ninja 650R is a very sensible option.