The middleweight sport category is one of the most hotly contested segments in the motorcycle industry. Situated as motorcycles capable of doing a little bit of everything, from fun in the canyons, commuting, and even the occasional visit to the racetrack, bikes such as the 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 need to be as versatile as they are financially accessible.
We took to the chilly back roads of Santa Barbara County to see if the 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 still ticked all the right boxes, and without further ado, here are the Fast Facts.
1. The 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 is looking sharp in the New Year with inspiration taken from the Ninja ZX-10R superbike. We don’t have to dive too far into the history books to see that middleweight machines were often left in the cold when it came to alluring, sporty styling. Kawasaki has taken another good dose of artistic direction from the ZX-10R, by widening the upper fairing and increasing the slanted profile of the nose section, creating a much sharper, assertive appearance. The windscreen has been lowered slightly and is now integrated into the fairing itself, creating a much more streamlined mien.
2. Fit and finish are on the rise, without breaking the bank. Back in 2017, Kawasaki made marked improvements to the visual experience of its middleweight steed by improving the finish quality – the integrated turn signals and pleasantly designed plastics are evidence of that. For 2020, Kawasaki has expanded on that promise by a noticeable step, working harder to remove offending fastener bolts from the broadside of the fairing, and anywhere else when possible, to give the Ninja 650 a sleeker profile. While it’s a small change, when this aspect is coupled with the far more pronounced styling features and graphics, it helps raises the bar within the Japanese middleweight class.
3. New LED headlamps light the way for commuters. From a purely functional stance, the new LED headlights will surely help those who commute into the night. Outside of that, this is another area where designers have pilfered from the ZX-10R, giving the Ninja 650 a much meaner and sporting edge. In the rear, the LED X-pattern light remains.
4. Pack your saddlebags, because the Ninja 650 is moving on up to the Eastside with its 4.3-inch color TFT display. In a first for the Japanese middleweights, Kawasaki has bestowed the coveted TFT display on the Ninja 650 that is clear, functional, and adjusts brightness automatically, allowing riders to stay continuously informed. The pronounced gear-position indicator, tachometer, and speedometer are incredibly easy to read while also looking quite dashing. Owners can also switch between white and black backgrounds. All in all, it’s a nice little piece of kit. Further, the inclusion of a TFT display has opened the door for new technology.
5. The Kawasaki Rideology app and Bluetooth connectivity kick it all up a notch. An important part of the 2020 update is access to Kawasaki’s Rideology app, putting it in line with the illustrious H2 SX SE+ and Versys 1000 SE LT+ sport-tourers. The app allows users to track rides with the Riding Log, monitor maintenance intervals, and check fuel levels from the comfort of the couch, while the motorcycle is parked. I used the Riding Log feature, which collected mileage and time correctly. However, actual routing was inaccurate if it began tracking in low signal areas; experiences may vary depending on the mobile device. Also, you must keep the app running in the background; otherwise, it will not record the ride. Parameters such as lean angle, riding mode, and others cannot be recorded because the Ninja 650 doesn’t have an IMU like its costlier brethren.
6. All-around ergonomics get a tad more comfortable in 2020. The rider triangle hasn’t changed, as the comfortable reach to the clip-on style riser handlebars and the low 31-inch seat height return. What has been altered this year is a touch more foam at the center and sides of the seat, without adding appreciable girth to the chassis. Between the low saddle height and slim chassis, the Ninja 650 is wonderful for riders with shorter inseams. In practice, my average 32-inch inseam is quite comfortable, though taller riders could feel a bit cramped. Kawasaki offers a taller seat to help alleviate knee-bend for those with longer inseams. The four-gallon fuel tank provides considerable range, and makes for a great anchor when handing off the Ninja. The lower windscreen doesn’t compromise comfort at all, as wind protection is still quite good.
7. The liquid-cooled DOHC parallel-twin is just as grind inducing as it ever. Packing a perfect amount of punch for the street, the perky powerplant delivers a healthy serving of low-end torque and mid-range that will have you darting around the city streets with ease. Better yet, Ninja 650 has some top-end lung capacity to keep things fun when you get out on the twisty bits of highway and need whack that crisp throttle open. It offers the kind of power that isn’t overwhelming for newly licensed riders, while also giving something intermediate riders can truly sink their teeth into. Advanced riders will laugh maniacally at the spunky performance on tap. There’s a hint of buzz through the footpegs if you keep it pegged near redline, but with its peak torque available at 6500 rpm, you’ll rarely be rattling your fillings.
8. Kawasaki Air Management System is a helpful summertime comfort feature. KAMS redirects hot air from the engine towards the ground, as opposed to the rider, and is a great help for commuters riding in hot weather. It’s one of the thoughtful features that make the Ninja 650 a more versatile platform.
9. A slick six-speed gearbox with an assist-and-slipper clutch brings it all home. A nippy cassette-style transmission offers up a sporting experience. Smooth, positive shifting has been a part of the Ninja 650’s appeal since 2017, and there’s no change this year. The assist-clutch pull is nice and light, while also offering a safety feature in the form of the slipper function that eliminates wheel-hop when downshifting too aggressively.
10. Agility is part and parcel of the 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650. The tubular steel trellis frame does an effective job of telegraphing the road to the rider. The Ninja 650 feels light and whippy with its sporting 55.5-inch wheelbase and 24-degree rake, making it amazingly maneuverable at any speed. The middleweight Ninja is at home when crawling the city streets, or when exploring the tight canyon roads. It is particularly fun when railing through a choice set of canyons with a confident package beneath you.
11. The Ninja 650’s adjustment-free KYB suspension is designed for comfort, but not afraid of some thrills. At slower city speeds, the Ninja 650 is as comfy as a Cadillac, soaking up potholes and the like with street-soft settings. When the pace picks up, those same settings keep the chassis riding true, though the relaxed damping rates can upset the rhythm and abused asphalt. Just reel it in over those areas of road and save your energy for the good bits where you can send the rev counter flying.
12. Budget brakes have a top-shelf feel. The dual two-piston Nissin calipers and 300mm rotors might not be anything to write home about on paper, but Kawasaki managed to get loads of feel and stopping power out of an economical setup. In short, they’re a great match for the 650. It’s the same story for the rear single-piston caliper and 220mm rotor that can be modulated easily for low-speed cornering or when trailing the rear. ABS is optional on all three colorways for an additional $400, and is worth every penny.
13. New Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 tires are part of the program. Replacing the Sportmax D214 tires, the Roadsport 2 tires are offered in the same common 17-inch sizings of 120/70 and 160/60. In practice, they have decent feel and grip, If you feel the need to push on a chilly day, as we did, definitely get some heat in them before putting your head down.
14. If you’re after a fun, light, versatile middleweight sport machine, the 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 should be on your shortlist. The Ninja 650 has always made a compelling proposition for middleweight buyers, and these helpful updates definitely spice up the offering. Built on the same laughably fun platform we acquainted ourselves with in 2017, the 2020 Ninja 650 kicks it up a notch with a TFT display and other updates that please our visual sense, while still satisfying our performance needs in the class. The best part is, Kawasaki has done all that without raising the price.
- Helmet: Arai Corsair-X
- Jacket: Alpinestars Missile Ignition Airflow
- Gloves: Alpinestars GP Pro V3
- Jeans: Alpinestars Crank
- Boots: Alpinestars Faster 3
2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Specs
- Type: Parallel twin
- Displacement: 649 cc
- Bore x stroke: 83.0 x 60.0mm
- Maximum torque: 48.5 ft/lbs @ 6,500 rpm
- Compression ratio: 10.8:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC, 4vpc
- Fueling: EFI w/ two Keihin 36mm throttle bodies
- Cooling: Liquid
- Transmission: 6-speed w/ Positive Neutral Finder
- Final drive: Sealed chain
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 41mm fork; 4.9 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted spring-preload adjustable shock; 5.1 inches
- Tires: Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 160/60 x 17
- Front brakes: 300mm petal discs w/ two-piston calipers
- Rear brake: 220mm petal disc
- ABS: Optional ($400)
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 55.5 inches
- Rake: 24 degrees
- Trail: 3.9 degrees
- Seat height: 31.1 inches
- Fuel tank capacity: 4.0 gallons
- Curb weight: 419 pounds (ABS: 423 pounds)
- Metallic Spark Black
- Pearl Blizzard White
- Lime Green/Ebony (Kawasaki Racing Team [KRT] Edition)
2020 KAWASAKI NINJA 650 PRICES
- $7399 (standard); $7799 (ABS); $7599 (KRT Edition); $7999 (ABS KRT Edition)
2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Review Photo Gallery