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MCN Fleet: The Ninja 650 begins to shine

Published: 05 April 2017

Updated: 05 April 2017

The Ninja 650's been through its first service, so now I’m finally able to unleash the little animal onto the roads. With no regard for frugal riding or self-imposed rev limitations, it was time to really see if it could really be a fun machine. I’ve been looking forward to this bit…

I’d already established that it's pretty comfortable over fairly moderate distances and wanted to know now just what it’s like when let loose on some twisty backroads.


I decided to take the Ninja to Donington to watch the opening MCE British Superbike race, where my route takes me on the excellent A6006 from Melton. Conditions were perfect, the weather was absolutely glorious and the road empty enough for me to give it some. 

It’s far more fun that I thought it would be. The suspension does get a bit wallowy and can struggle when its pushed and I’m sure that this would be noticeable if pushed hard on track. For most riding scenarios, however it’s perfectly adequate.

The forks have no adjustment and the rear only has adjustable preload, though it’s so awkward to get to that it’s far easier to not bother playing around with it. To adjust it you need to remove a small panel from the side and awkwardly get a C-spanner to the shock.

To its credit though, it’s not too bad and feels better than some bikes that cost more. It doesn’t necessarily hint too much at a bike that only costs £6.5k. 

Kawasaki were going to have to cut costs somewhere though so I can understand the need to have very limited adjustment and it’s fine for my commute. 

I think the area that highlights the cost saving most though is with the Dunlop Sportmax D214 tyres that come as standard on the Ninja. They really don’t compliment the bike very well at all. Though for commuting and in the city, they are fine. When pressing on, the tyres don’t give great feedback and in the wet there’s even less feel.

I’ve taken advice from our Senior Road Tester Michael Neeves and have a set of Metzeler Roadtec 01s on their way to fit, so hopefully this will make the 650 even more fun.

Just in time too as I’m taking the Ninja to Cheltenham for the Prescott Hill Climb, I can’t wait to try them out. Let’s hope the weather remains decent.

Drop James an email at if there's anything you'd specifically like to know about this bike.


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