Intermot: Kawasaki Ninja 650 replaces ER-6f

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Right, calm down, this isn’t an over-bored replacement for the ZX-6R, it’s actually the parallel-twin ER-6f with a mass of updates and improvements, all dressed up to look like a closer relative of the Ninja family. Think of it as being more of a Ninj-ER, than Ninja.

It’s a genuinely impressive update for the nifty middleweight, though. While the 649cc parallel-twin has lost 3bhp at peak during the revisions needed to get it through Euro4, it’s also gained claimed better fuel economy, and when you offset the power loss against the weight loss – owners will still be winning.

There’s a claimed 6.8% improvement in fuel economy that goes with the retune, and an assist and slip clutch which reduces lever pressure for more effortless action in stop/start town traffic, while also adding a slipper facility for when the pace gets more fruity.

The new Ninja 650 has shed a hugely impressive 19kg compared to its forebear, a difference that even – or especially – the least experienced rider will be able to feel as they lift it off the sidestand. The new trellis frame is a big contributor to the losses, as is the new asymmetrical aluminium swingarm. 

The suspension hardware is still necessarily budget, with a conventional 41mm RWU fork that boasts no adjustment, and a preload adjustable rear shock which has been repositioned to sit in a more conventional position above the swingarm (rather than off to the side on the ER). 

The braking hardware gains new Nissin calipers, mated to Bosch’s 9.1M ABS module for superb braking control, even if you’ve lost the plot and grabbed the lever with all your might. The rider’s view is improved by a new screen, which is adjustable to three set positions offering a total range of 60mm between lowest and highest settings.

Nestled in behind the screen is new instrumentation, which is a welcome improvement over the current bike’s quirky offering – comprising a large analogue tacho and classy black LCD screen, plus all the usual idiot-lights. There’s also a new programmable shift light, and as part of the illuminations the usually white tacho needle goes pink when you’re approaching a shift, and red when it’s time to make the change. All very Ninja H2.

There’s an A2 licence-friendly restrictor kit available for anyone on a restricted licence, which can be removed later if the owner moves up to full entitlement.

Most notable though is the styling makeover. There’s no mistaking the inspiration, with everything fore of the swingarm pivot looking decidedly ZX-6R. The tail unit is far more redolent of the ER-6f’s item, but Kawasaki have shortened it, and given it a slightly odd upswept line. Viewed as a whole it looks out of scale to the rest of the bike, and anyone over 6ft might struggle as it makes the new Ninja feel quite small. 

The new model comes in four colour options: Lime Green KRT Edition, Metallic Spark Black, and Candy Burnt Orange.


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Richard Newland

By Richard Newland