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MCN Fleet: There’s a new Ninja in town

Published: 22 March 2017

Updated: 22 July 2019

The new Kawasaki Ninja 650 instantly grabbed my attention when it was revealed at the Intermot show last year with the completely new styling and frame making this machine much more than just a re-hashed ER-6f. My job this year will be to put it to the through its paces and see if the baby Ninja really is worthy of the prestigious name it boasts.

At the forefront of my mind when I think of this bike though is riding development, it’s supposed to be a cracking little number for newer riders, and though I’ve been riding for nearly 6 years now, I’d like to see how I can use it to get better. To do this I want to take it to the track and learn more about my technique without having ridiculous amounts of power egging me on. The frugal 67bhp motor will help me focus on my riding the right way, while also seeing if the bike can excite and evoke an emotional response in a similar way to a ZX-6R or the big daddy of the family, the ZX-10R.


But alongside that, I want to find out just how comfortable, practical and easy the Ninja will be to get along with. Full-fat sportsbikes are usually fairly uncompromising and sharp, focussed solely on getting around a track in the quickest time possible, the Ninja 650 isn’t that, but I’m interested to find out how much of a compromise it is, either as a sportsbike or an everyday machine.

There seems to be some sort of resurgence of slightly more practical sporty looking mid-capacity bikes at the moment though, bubbling away under the surface of the motorcycling mainstream. With the introduction of Ducati’s new Supersport S and the fact that Honda will be stopping production of the tack-sharp CBR600RR to instead focus on the easier to live with CBR650F, and let’s not forget the CBR500R in the midst of all this offing a sporty looking practical bike. Could it be that the Ninja 650 is part of a shift to where middleweight sportsbikes will be going in future?

I had the privilege of spending 18,790 miles aboard BMW’s F800GS last year, and while I loved it both as a machine to comfortably and continually smash big miles, and for the opportunities it gave me by with its versatility both on and off road, I lost a little of the magic that made me get into riding motorcycles in the first place.

The GS was a fantastic machine but I realised at the end of my time with it that I seldom went on Sunday rides, or to races or riding with my mates, all the things that originally got me hooked and gave me reasons to ride other than to just get from A to B. I felt like a lone ranger in some respects, on my own mission. This year I want to rediscover the community spirit that unites us as motorcyclists and I want the Ninja 650 to be the bike that helps me find that again.

We all have dream garages, full of all kinds of expensive exotica, the reality though is that a lot of these bikes are beyond the financial reach of many riders. More so, they often aren’t bikes that owners would want to use on a regular basis. This is where the Ninja 650 steps into view, its wallet-friendly price-tag starting at £6,349 means it’s well within reach of a lot of motorcyclists. And that’s near enough it too, you don’t get slammed with extra hidden costs for electronic add-ons and endless accessories catalogues, it’s just a bike, pure and simple and that’s a very good thing in my eyes. 

More importantly and personally to me, of all the new bikes available this year, the reality is that it would probably be the one that I would be most likely to exchange my money for, with its sporty association, practicality and more importantly low cost all being boxes that are ticked by the Ninja.

It looks to be a straightforward motorcycle for simply riding and enjoying and I really can’t wait for it to arrive. 

2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650


Engine 649cc Parallel twin
Claimed power 67bhp
Claimed torque 48.5ft-lb
Frame Tubular steel
Weight 193kg
Fuel capacity 15 litres
Front suspension Conventional forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Single shock, adjustable spring preload
Front brake 2x300mm discs with two-piston calipers, ABS
Rear brake 220mm disc, single-piston caliper, ABS


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