Ultimate Motorcycling Associate Editor Nic de Sena spent the day exploring the twisties in and around Paso Robles, Calif., aboard the 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650. Introduced in 2006, the Ninja 650 has become a staple within the affordable, middleweight motorcycle segment. With eight hours of saddle time on the new Ninja 650, we’ll hit you with the First Ride Fast Facts.
1. The Kawasaki Ninja 650’s powerplant has been redeveloped for 2017. No, the 649cc parallel twin is not a newly developed engine. That isn’t a bad thing, as Kawasaki claims that it is the company’s most reliable platform. Notable updates include new 36mm throttle bodies and narrower intake ports, reduced valve timing overlap, and updated fuel injection systems, plus a new exhaust that eliminates the cross-over and is lengthened for more mid-range power. Aside from that, a new airbox was introduced that offers a wonderful induction howl when the engine is pushed.[Visit 2017 Motorcycle Previews]2. This is a motor that works for all kinds of riding and riders. New riders will appreciate the flawless fueling, and tractable nature, while more experienced riders will be happy to know that the entire rev-range can be utilized. This year, Kawasaki has focused on bringing out low-end and mid-range power, meaning that the claimed 48.5 ft/lbs of torque is available at 6500 rpm. Suitable for many conditions, riders get an almost docile feel from the Ninja 650 below 5000 rpm, which is great for cruising about town. Should you choose to crack the throttle, the Ninja 650 will let loose a grin-inducing snarl and make quick work of the twisties, or better yet, the track.3. Throwing a leg over the 2017 Ninja 650, you’ll be met with an amicable riding position. Not as demanding as a supersport, the Ninja 650 offers a riding experience that leans towards sport riding, without sacrificing comfort. This year, the handlebar position, as well as rear-sets have not only been lowered, but moved slightly forward. In all, those geometric changes encourage a much more sporting stance. Movement isn’t impeded and, when shifting positions, the sculpted tank makes for a perfect anchor.4. Handling isn’t a worry, as the 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650 is stellar. Featuring a 55.5-inch wheelbase, and a fairly aggressive 24 degrees of rake, the Ninja 650 is a remarkably agile machine. Requiring little input, riders will most likely appreciate how compliant, and forgiving the new Ninja is. Whether you’re gallivanting around the city, or headed out into the canyons, the Ninja 650 can handle it with ease.5. Sporting suspension doesn’t need to be harsh. The 41mm KYB forks and the spring-preload adjustable shock are sprung on the light side. Dealing with harsh, bumpy roads is a breeze and certainly won’t send a shock into the rider’s spine. Though non-adjustable, the factory-determined compression and rebound damping setting provide stability when cornering to an already solid platform. However, due to the light spring-rate, aggressive braking will dive the forks.6. The Ninja lost a claimed 42 pounds. Kawasaki engineers worked hard to shed weight within the Ninja 650 platform. Between new wheel assemblies, a new swing-arm, chassis, and various other components; the team at Kawasaki got this bike’s weight to a respectable 426 pounds (ABS version).7. A lot of attention went into the new trellis frame. Engineers not only shed roughly 18 pounds from the Ninja’s chassis, but worked to disperse stress appropriately. The result is a chassis that doesn’t become unsteady easily, which is an aspect that riders of all skill levels can appreciate.8. Low seat heights and narrow chassis means accessibility. With a seat height of 31.3 inches, the Ninja 650 will cater to a wide demographic. At 5’ 10’’, with a 32-inch inseam, I don’t find the Ninja 650 to be uncomfortable, even though I do get considerable knee bend. If you happen to be taller, Kawasaki does offer a riser seat to reduce knee and leg discomfort.9. Kawasaki’s Assist & Slipper clutch makes riding easier. Whether you’re an experienced rider, or new to the fold, the Assist & Slipper clutch will help you out when you get a downshift wrong. First, the assist function reduces clutch pull to a relatively effortless point, but the slipper function hinders wheel hop when a downshift has gone wrong. If you don’t match your revs while downshifting, don’t expect the rear wheel to lock and send you tumbling.10. Braking is progressive. Owners can expect a confident braking feel from the basic triple-disc setup, without suffering the pangs of an overly aggressive initial bite.11. A completely redesigned dash adds more info. New for this year, the Ninja 650 features a fresh look on the dash, but my favorite inclusions happen to that of the gear indicator. Of course, you’ll also find handy features like a fuel gauge, but multiple shift indicators as well. When within 500 rpm of your chosen upshift timing, which can be adjusted to your liking, the tachometer needle will change to a bright pink and you’ll see the standard shift indicator light flash.12. It might not have clip-ons, but it has plenty of sport DNA. The Ninja lineup has always been dedicated to Kawasaki’s premier sport machines. One look at the 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650, and you can see that heritage. Taking styling cues from the Ninja ZX-10R, the new Ninja 650 features a far more aggressive take on this well-loved middleweight bike.Riding Style:
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!