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That kind of weight loss required a major rethiết kế, which shows how important the model is khổng lồ the company. It’s a bike that appeals khổng lồ a diverse set of riders, & which must be ready lớn serve sầu just about any asphalternative text duty. And, it’s still available from $7,399 ($7,799 with ABS & $7,999 for the black-and-green KRT Edition shown below). Achieving all that required some compromises, but after a first ride I think they’ve sầu made good choices.

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The 2017 Kawasaki Nin-Ja 650 is available in four different color choices, including the black-and-green KRT Edition for an extra $200. Phokhổng lồ by Brian J. Nelson.

The original 650 Nin-Ja was introduced in 2006, inkhổng lồ a conspicuously different sport xe đạp market. The 600 cc Supersport-class bikes were still commercially viable, and although Kawasaki branded the twin a Ninja, it was positioned as a beginner-friendly commuter xe đạp, not a middleweight contender.

Nonetheless, the motor development team was led by an engineer from Kawi’s ill-fated MotoGPhường. project. The first iteration of the 650 attracted the attention of road racers. Remember when MotoST tried khổng lồ build momentum for a national endurance championship based on twin-cylinder bikes? And the motor has really made an impression in professional flat traông chồng. Bryan Smith will carry the American Flat Traông xã #1 plate this year on an Indian, but he won that plate with Kawasaki power.

There"s apparently more than one Nin-Ja family now. Notice this one doesn"t include the ZX-10R or ZX-6R. Kawasaki execs assured me that despite the updated Ninja 650, there"s still 636 in the 2017 lineup, though they admitted that the only update is new graphics. KMC-USA is not bringing any of the Supersport-legal 600RR models into the United States. Photo by Mark Gardiner.The street xe đạp hasn’t seen a significant upgrade since 2012, so it was due for more than Bold New Graphics. It’s in a growing market segment that Kawasaki has to defover — since the 650 twins now outsell the ZX-6R by 10 to one. And while Kawasaki’s product guys told me that their customers don’t cross-siêu thị naked bikes, I have khổng lồ think that over the last year or two, the return of the SV650 & the arrival of the FZ-07 have sầu caused dealers to lớn clamor for an updated Nin-Ja 650.

I was one of 10 motorcycle journalists that KMC-USA invited lớn Paso Robles for a first ride on the new twin (although the similar, unfaired Z650 broke cover a few weeks ago.) I’m not gonna lie to you; the kiểm tra was hampered by the Central Coast’s worse-than-average winter weather. We had to lớn shorten the test route and avoid Highway 1 altogether, due khổng lồ rochồng & mud slides. Rain in the days leading up lớn our arrival left water và silt on area roads, và 28-degree lows the morning of our ride meant that shaded areas were frosty for the first hour.

In spite of weather delays & road closures, Kawasaki’s Jeff Herzog cobbled together a 100-mile loop up through wine country lớn Fort Hunter Liggett, mostly on flowing, twisting-to-sweeping two-lane roads, with a few stretches that simulated highway commuting & just enough stop-and-go riding, getting inkhổng lồ & out of Paso Robles, to lớn confirm the middle Ninja’s around-town manners.

Kawasaki has historically placed more emphasis on the “motor” part of its motorcycles than the “cycle” part, so I’ll tackle the new motor first.

Not much changed in the engine cất cánh. Accessory frame sliders provide additional protection. Pholớn by Brian J. Nelson.

The fundamental architecture is unchanged (bore & stroke, valve sizes và included angle, and gear ratios, for example, are all nominally the same as the 2016 model). However, valve timing is significantly more conservative sầu, with less duration và overlap. Kawi staff couldn’t tell me if cam lift was changed, but they thought not.

The exhaust headers are shorter and lachồng the old cross-pipe. And, the throttle bodies are smaller. Collectively, those changes cost the xe đạp a little peak power, but yield a dramatically improved torque curve, according to both Kawasaki’s chart (which was presented devoid of numbers) and the dyno I had in the hip pocket of those Spidi jeans.

The motor itself is four pounds lighter, thanks to new castings that also enabled Kawasaki engineers khổng lồ use it as a stressed thành viên in the all-new trellis frame. As such, it’s rigidly mounted. (The old Nin-Ja 650 motor was basically hanging off a beam backbone in rubber mounts.)

2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650 KRT Edition. Photo lớn by Brian J. Nelson.

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As with last year’s Model — & this is a Kawi tradition that goes way baông xã to lớn the Meguro days — this twin has a 180-degree crank. (Most vertical twins have a 360-degree crank—the pistons move up and down together. In the case of the Ninja, one piston’s going up while the other’s going down.) This thiết kế is in some ways easier lớn balance; it suffers less pumping losses, và allows engineers to build a motor that’s happier at high rpm, although there’s an inevitable “rocking couple” imbalance. That’s not khổng lồ be confused with a swinging couple, though you can get a buzz out of that, too.

But seriously… the motor does buzz a little right in the meat of the powerbvà. I did not feel it in the bars or pegs, but was aware of it through the seat. It was not a problem, but it was there.

Kawasaki engineers fought to lớn take every possible ounce off the new Nin-Ja 650, so you know they were loathe to lớn add these small weights to lớn the footpegs. They"re there lớn quell harmonic vibration. The handlebar also looked lớn be carrying some bar-over weights. Those measures worked. I felt vibration in the seat only. Photo by Mark Gardiner.

Whereas the motor’s an evolution of a well-proven kiến thiết, the chassis is dramatically different. The frame’s now a very elegant steel trellis. Both the frame and swingarm (which is also a steel component) are much lighter, & the shochồng absorber now features a linkage for a progressive sầu action. It’s positioned almost out of sight, unlike the stylish old side mount. The steering geometry is also a little more aggressive sầu. Rake is now 24 degrees và trail’s reduced lớn 3.9 inches.

Kawasaki achieved a massive weight loss for the Nin-Ja 650 largely by making the frame and swingarm lighter. Pholớn by Brian J. Nelson.

The 41 milimet fork is not adjustable. The rear shochồng is adjustable for preload only. The work the suspension has lớn bởi vì is made easier, thanks to new & much lighter five-spoke wheels.

The bike’s ergonomics are, if it’s possible, simultaneously a little sportier and a little comfier. The seat và footpegs are lower; the footpegs are a little further forward, for a reasonable leg bend. (Taller riders can opt for a seat that’s one inch higher, too.) Meanwhile the handlebar is almost two inches lower & further forward. The seat’s not only lower, it’s also narrower. I can easily flat-foot this xe đạp, and I have sầu only a 30-inch inseam.

Both clutch và brake levers are adjustable for reach, which is something I appreciate since I have sầu small (dare I say, presidential?) hands.

The groovy, organic shape of the fuel tank is also driven by ergos. The sides are sculpted to lớn allow for good knee pressure, and that concave area at the bachồng of the tank makes it easy to tuông xã right down on it.

What bởi vì the 2017 Kawasaki Nin-Ja 650 & Oprah have in common? Pholớn by Barber Q in Portlvà, Oregon.As a small, light bike (Kawasaki says 426 pounds with ABS và 419 without), the Nin-Ja 650 is approachable & unintimidating. That first impression proved accurate as I got the xe đạp underway, too. The dash includes a user-friendly gear indicator in addition lớn the mandatory neutral light. The cable-actuated assist and slipper clutch is remarkably light, as is the action of the short-throw throttle.

Fueling at low rpm is conspicuously good. So are the Ninja’s slow-speed manners. These tests always involve dozens of U-turns for photo lớn passes, và those can sometimes be a real pain on hardcore sport bikes, but that mundane handling is important for real-world usability. Another little thing that stood out was that the rear brake pedal was easy to find & modulate.

Notwithstanding the nominally sportier bar placement, I found myself in an upright position that allowed for good traffic awareness và head mobility when shoulder-checking. Even the mirrors worked better than the usual “How vì my elbows look?” ones found on sharper sport bikes.

Once clear of Paso Robles, we were able to lớn begin exploring the new bike’s handling at somewhat higher tốc độ, although cold tires, water, mud & even frost on the roads dictated more than the usual amount of caution. I was glad to lớn be riding an ABS-equipped bike & did determine that it worked at least once. (I suppose in a way, the road conditions encouraged a group of seasoned moto-journalists to lớn ride the xe đạp a little more like the average buyer will ride it!)