Kawasaki Ninja 650 long-term test update two | Big-mile chippy run to Whitby

I’ve said before that the Kawasaki Ninja 650 immediately struck me as a sportsbike I could do serious miles on, so I thought I’d test that theory and ride from my home in Northamptonshire to Whitby cross-country, have fish and chips at the Magpie Café, and then ride home again. That’s a 350-mile day, which isn’t going to break any Iron Butt records, but it’s enough for me. 

Leaving home at 7.30am, I warmed the bike up with a short blast up the A43 and A1, before turning right and aiming for RAF Conningsby, then north towards the Humber Bridge. The route I’d planned took in some sensational B-roads, eschewing the A15 for a windier, more entertaining one. 

This was my chance to open the 650 up. The long, sweeping bends had the bike feeling planted, yet its softness relative to other sportsbikes means it glides over bumps and never gets unsettled.

Kawasaki Ninja 650 on Lincolnshire B-road

A modest 68bhp doesn’t sound like a lot, and indeed isn’t when you’re properly wound on. This is an engine that’s at its best in the midrange, petering out at higher RPMs as many a parallel twin does. 

But the overriding impression is one of extreme refinement. The Ninja 650 feels very grown-up, with power delivery “like a turbine” in the words of Deputy Editor, Emma Franklin after we briefly swapped. 

Short gearing does help you get the most performance possible, however, and it’s fast enough point-to-point for overtaking. Plus, unlike a lot of the current crop of modern P-twins, it actually sounds quite interesting too. The throaty induction roar dominates, which means you enjoy it, but neighbours won’t bemoan a loud can. 

Fish and chips from the Magpie

Anyway, after crossing the Humber I headed into Yorkshire, through the hilariously named Wetwang, and on into the stunning North York Moors National Park. After nearly four hours, 173 miles and one fuel stop, I arrived in Whitby around lunchtime feeling surprisingly fresh. It’s a cossetting thing, this bike, despite its athletic looks, and the easy controls help make it a pleasurable ride. 

It was even fine on the A1 on the way back south, because due to a surprise pub deadline I had to take the direct route home. 

Would I like some more performance? Probably. Does it handle like a ZX-6R? No, but then I wouldn’t want to have done this trip on one of those anyway. As it is, I’m mightily impressed by the often-overlooked Ninja.