2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650

That kind of weight loss required a major rekiến thiết, which shows how important the Mã Sản Phẩm is lớn the company. It’s a xe đạp that appeals to a diverse phối of riders, & which must be ready khổng lồ serve just about any asphalt duty. And, it’s still available from $7,399 ($7,799 with ABS & $7,999 for the black-and-green KRT Edition shown below). Achieving all that required some compromises, but after a first ride I think they’ve sầu made good choices.

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The 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650 is available in four different color choices, including the black-and-green KRT Edition for an extra $200. Phokhổng lồ by Brian J. Nelson.

The original 650 Ninja was introduced in 2006, into lớn a conspicuously different sport bike market. The 600 cc Supersport-class bikes were still commercially viable, & although Kawasaki branded the twin a Ninja, it was positioned as a beginner-friendly commuter xe đạp, not a middleweight contender.

Nonetheless, the motor development team was led by an engineer from Kawi’s ill-fated MotoGPhường project. The first iteration of the 650 attracted the attention of road racers. Remember when MotoST tried to build momentum for a national endurance championship based on twin-cylinder bikes? And the motor has really made an impression in professional flat trachồng. Bryan Smith will carry the American Flat Trachồng #1 plate this year on an Indian, but he won that plate with Kawasaki power.

There"s apparently more than one Nin-Ja family now. Notice this one doesn"t include the ZX-10R or ZX-6R. Kawasaki execs assured me that despite the updated Nin-Ja 650, there"s still 636 in the 2017 lineup, though they admitted that the only update is new graphics. KMC-USA is not bringing any of the Supersport-legal 600RR models inlớn the United States. Phokhổng lồ by Mark Gardiner.The street bike hasn’t seen a significant tăng cấp since 2012, so it was due for more than Bold New Graphics. It’s in a growing market segment that Kawasaki has khổng lồ defkết thúc — since the 650 twins now outsell the ZX-6R by 10 to one. And while Kawasaki’s product guys told me that their customers don’t cross-siêu thị naked bikes, I have khổng lồ think that over the last year or two, the return of the SV650 and the arrival of the FZ-07 have sầu caused dealers lớn clamor for an updated Ninja 650.

I was one of 10 motorcycle journalists that KMC-USA invited khổng lồ Paso Robles for a first ride on the new twin (although the similar, unfaired Z650 broke cover a few weeks ago.) I’m not gonna lie to lớn you; the chạy thử was hampered by the Central Coast’s worse-than-average winter weather. We had khổng lồ shorten the test route and avoid Highway 1 altogether, due to lớn rochồng & mud slides. Rain in the days leading up khổng lồ our arrival left water and silt on area roads, & 28-degree lows the morning of our ride meant that shaded areas were frosty for the first hour.

In spite of weather delays và road closures, Kawasaki’s Jeff Herzog cobbled together a 100-mile loop up through wine country to lớn Fort Hunter Liggett, mostly on flowing, twisting-to-sweeping two-lane roads, with a few stretches that simulated highway commuting and just enough stop-and-go riding, getting inlớn và out of Paso Robles, to confirm the middle Ninja’s around-town manners.

Kawasaki has historically placed more emphasis on the “motor” part of its motorcycles than the “cycle” part, so I’ll tackle the new motor first.

Not much changed in the engine cất cánh. Accessory frame sliders provide additional protection. Photo lớn by Brian J. Nelson.

The fundamental architecture is unchanged (bore và stroke, valve sizes & included angle, & gear rattiện ích ios, for example, are all nominally the same as the năm 2016 model). However, valve timing is significantly more conservative, with less duration & overlap. Kawi staff couldn’t tell me if cam lift was changed, but they thought not.

The exhaust headers are shorter and laông chồng the old cross-pipe. And, the throttle bodies are smaller. Collectively, those changes cost the bike a little peak power, but yield a dramatically improved torque curve, according lớn both Kawasaki’s chart (which was presented devoid of numbers) and the dyno I had in the hip pocket of those Spidi jeans.

The motor itself is four pounds lighter, thanks to new castings that also enabled Kawasaki engineers to lớn use it as a stressed thành viên in the all-new trellis frame. As such, it’s rigidly mounted. (The old Ninja 650 motor was basically hanging off a beam backbone in rubber mounts.)

2017 Kawasaki Nin-Ja 650 KRT Edition. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

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As with last year’s mã sản phẩm — and this is a Kawi tradition that goes way baông chồng lớn the Meguro days — this twin has a 180-degree crank. (Most vertical twins have a 360-degree crank—the pistons move up và down together. In the case of the Ninja, one piston’s going up while the other’s going down.) This thiết kế is in some ways easier lớn balance; it suffers less pumping losses, & allows engineers to build a motor that’s happier at high rpm, although there’s an inevitable “rocking couple” imbalance. That’s not lớn be confused with a swinging couple, though you can get a buzz out of that, too.

But seriously… the motor does buzz a little right in the meat of the powerband. I did not feel it in the bars or pegs, but was aware of it through the seat. It was not a problem, but it was there.

Kawasaki engineers fought to take every possible ounce off the new Ninja 650, so you know they were loathe lớn add these small weights to lớn the footpegs. They"re there khổng lồ quell harmonic vibration. The handlebar also looked khổng lồ be carrying some bar-kết thúc weights. Those measures worked. I felt vibration in the seat only. Photo by Mark Gardiner.

Whereas the motor’s an evolution of a well-proven thiết kế, the chassis is dramatically different. The frame’s now a very elegant steel trellis. Both the frame & swingarm (which is also a steel component) are much lighter, và the shoông xã absorber now features a linkage for a progressive sầu action. It’s positioned almost out of sight, unlượt thích the stylish old side mount. The steering geometry is also a little more aggressive sầu. Rake is now 24 degrees and trail’s reduced to lớn 3.9 inches.

Kawasaki achieved a massive weight loss for the Ninja 650 largely by making the frame and swingarm lighter. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

The 41 milimet fork is not adjustable. The rear shochồng is adjustable for preload only. The work the suspension has lớn vày is made easier, thanks to new và much lighter five-spoke wheels.

The bike’s ergonomics are, if it’s possible, simultaneously a little sportier và a little comfier. The seat & footpegs are lower; the footpegs are a little further forward, for a reasonable leg bover. (Taller riders can opt for a seat that’s one inch higher, too.) Meanwhile the handlebar is almost two inches lower và further forward. The seat’s not only lower, it’s also narrower. I can easily flat-foot this xe đạp, and I have sầu only a 30-inch inseam.

Both clutch and brake levers are adjustable for reach, which is something I appreciate since I have sầu small (dare I say, presidential?) hands.

The groovy, organic shape of the fuel tank is also driven by ergos. The sides are sculpted to lớn allow for good knee pressure, và that concave area at the baông chồng of the tank makes it easy to tuchồng right down on it.

What vị the 2017 Kawasaki Nin-Ja 650 và Oprah have sầu in common? Pholớn by Barber Q in Portl&, Oregon.As a small, light bike (Kawasaki says 426 pounds with ABS và 419 without), the Ninja 650 is approachable and unintimidating. That first impression proved accurate as I got the xe đạp underway, too. The dash includes a user-friendly gear indicator in addition to the mandatory neutral light. The cable-actuated assist & slipper clutch is remarkably light, as is the action of the short-throw throttle.

Fueling at low rpm is conspicuously good. So are the Ninja’s slow-tốc độ manners. These tests always involve dozens of U-turns for pholớn passes, and those can sometimes be a real pain on hardcore sport bikes, but that mundane handling is important for real-world usability. Another little thing that stood out was that the rear brake pedal was easy lớn find & modulate.

Notwithstanding the nominally sportier bar placement, I found myself in an upright position that allowed for good traffic awareness and head mobility when shoulder-checking. Even the mirrors worked better than the usual “How vày my elbows look?” ones found on sharper sport bikes.

Once clear of Paso Robles, we were able to begin exploring the new bike’s handling at somewhat higher tốc độ, although cold tires, water, mud and even frost on the roads dictated more than the usual amount of caution. I was glad to be riding an ABS-equipped xe đạp and did determine that it worked at least once. (I suppose in a way, the road conditions encouraged a group of seasoned moto-journalists khổng lồ ride the bike a little more like the average buyer will ride it!)