Truth be told, I wasn’t entirely sure of what to expect from the Ninja 650 at the start of last year. Wannabe sportsbike, commuter, sports-tourer or a frugal and friendly bike for new riders? But the fact is, the Kawasaki is all of the above.
Now, the power delivery isn’t ever going to set your pants on fire and the 63bhp produced at the back wheel (with an aftermarket Arrow system) is only just enough to make those riders on litre sportsbikes scoff as they stand around "willy waving" at the local café. But, it’s not the size that matters, it’s how you use it.
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The thing I love most about the humble 650 is that it really isn’t overkill in the engine and tech department. And, as daft as that may sound, there’s also a strong argument for the less-is-more approach. It’s rapid enough to have fun but you don’t feel the pressure to be the fastest guy out there.
What this translates to is a machine that I have been able to ride close to its limit while not making myself the subject of one of those headlines about bikers who get caught doing 140+mph and I get a lot more satisfaction from this.
It handles well enough and has sufficient poke to mean that I can thrash it and still keep my licence. The cheaper end of mid- capacity market has seen a boom in recent years with bikes like Yamaha’s brilliant MT-07 and the reintroduction of Suzuki’s popular SV650. And, with a price of £6349 (£6549 for the KRT paint) the Ninja 650 slots right into this group.
What you get for the money is unquestionably the best looking 650 twin in the class, and also an extremely capable and competent all-rounder that’s as much fun to ride on track as it is to commute to work.
It’s a bike that will appeal to both newer and more experienced riders alike, with riding qualities that can compliment and flatter both.
The way the Kawasaki eggs you on to get the very most from its engine definitely makes it deserving of the Ninja name. The willy waving brigade can stay in the café and arguing over who’s the fastest. Meanwhile, I’ll be out hooning about on the 650, squeezing everything I can out of the bike and laughing all the way home. It’s a properly enjoyable machine.
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