Ninja 650R ride/ownership report

Discussion in 'Road Warriors' started by Grainbelt, Jul 30, 2006.

  1. Grainbelt

    Grainbelt marginal adventurer Super Moderator

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    *Really old thread alert: 30,000km update in last post*

    Also, who is the young skinny bastard at the bottom of this post?

    *Old thread alert. 20,000km update in last post*

    Decided its time to give you folks an update on the Kawasaki Ninja 650R I purchased a few weeks ago. Yes, break in is completed, I've done a 300 mile day, and I feel compelled to share my opinions on the mount.

    Following is a pictorial/editorial of my 8 hour round trip for a bacon sammich in the lakes of northern Saskatchewan. Specifically, Candle Lake, a 240 km ride from the grainbelt garage in Saskatoon.

    As always, the needles sweep through their range when the bike is switched on. Starts right up -- fuel injection is a beautiful thing. Stock exhaust reverberates around the stucco hell that is my townhouse complex.
    Tourmaster Cortech Mini-Magnetic mounts right up, even fully extended it is not obtrusive. Ready to rock and roll.

    [​IMG]


    1.5 hrs later, I'm entering Price Albert, SK. My ass hurts, and I need sustinence. Stock seat is hard, and slopes forward enough that I frequently slide my butt back, then it rolls forward to crush my junk, then I slide back. As for the sustinence, queue Timmies!!! Raspberry filled powdered sugar donut holes. Oh yes, they are as good as they sound.

    [​IMG]

    I make quick work of the last 80 km, using the plentiful power available in 6th gear to move around RV's and churchgoers. One time I downshifted to 5th at 70mph, only to be aware moments later that I am shifting into 6th at 95mph. :eek1 Very pleased with the power, both roll-on and more specifically the 7-9k RPM range. :D Redline is 11, but its all overrun after 9ish.

    Soon enough, I'm in Candle Lake, dodging potholes and riding on rutted gravel 'roads' provided by the Saskatchewan Provincial Parks. People were swimming and fishing. I just kept riding. Obligatory lake shot:

    [​IMG]

    I forgot to take pics of my bacon sammich - thank doG this isn't Jo Momma. Mid-ride thoughts over lunch are
    -can't fault the fueling, power, or delivery
    -transmission is still snatchy, lets hope it smooths out over time
    -suspension does not like frost heaved, bumpy, pothole-repaired highways. Preload is the only available adjustment, I have it on setting 3 of 6. May mess with that later.
    -low speed handling is tremendous, and I think the low CG gets the credit - weight is the same as my GS500, both are parellel twins, but the 650R is much more forgiving at low speeds. I don't notice a full tank/empty tank difference w/the Kawasaki, whereas the ancient suzuki was sure to let me know.
    -high speed handling is unknown, as there are no twisties. I took a few 40mph sweepers at 70+, and she was stable and composed. Not much of a test, but there is plenty of clearance, mid-corner adjustments are tolerated, and all is done with no drama.

    On the road again, my ass hurts sooner this time, and I'm trying to find room for my 33" inseam legs. So I gas up in PA again. 30km later, I'm restless. Luckily there is a sweet old grain elevator, colourmatched to my bike, that I want photos of. This reminds me - dual disc brake setup is very effective. Feel isn't great, even compared to my 13 y.o. single disk suzuki, but a pad compound change may help. I think the ride reports forum has a mandatory barn clause - again, luckily this is in road warriors, as elevator /= barn.

    [​IMG]

    A little over an hour later, home again. Still very pleased with my purchase, but I definitely have some fine-tuning to do before it is a comfortable all-day touring mount. Seeing as that is how it will spend about 5% of its time, I can't complain much. Commuting, cruising, flogging, and errand-running are accomplished in stock form. :D

    One last pic, so you know to ignore this n00b and leave the reviews to the professionals. :rofl

    [​IMG]


    - Mike

    P.S. Just walked out to the garage. The shorty fender has got to go! dirt and whatnot all over the lower fairing and exhaust. Reminds me, aftermarket support starting to pick up, but a lot of things need to be imported from the UK. Corbin wants $700 for a seat, the available huggers are lame, and Sargent doesn't have a seat out yet. They'll likely have mine this winter for a custom fit. :deal
    #1
  2. Poolside

    Poolside Syndicated

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    <BR>Nice. Thanks for the review. Sounds like a great medium dasher. And you sound happy; the only test that matters.

    You have a GS500 eh? When I read that it has the same 0-60 time as the 1150GS, the 500 took on a special status. Like they're cousins or something. I don&#8217;t own a 500, but the factoid is a fun conversation item.

    I went and took a look at the new 650 when they hit the showrooms late last year. The engine, undercarriage exhaust, asymmetric shock, and steel tube frame caught my eye. And I figured that the frame color was one of two choices. You know, stupid red, and black.

    Too bad for me though. The US models arrive with the RIDICULOUS candy apple red metallic on the frame, swing arm, shock spring, BOTH triple clamps, the fork lowers, even the handlebar mount. Like everything but the engine and bodywork were dunked in it. And no other choice but that funky red.

    It is one of the most uncomfortable-on-the-eyes paint colors I've ever seen. It makes the copper-colored Rockster look downright appealing by comparison.

    All may not be lost though, next year they will prolly show up with a black frame and candy red wheels. Which will make a simple wheel switch possible. But that would be too easy, so it'll likely have a barbeque black engine.

    It seems more than obvious that US Kawasaki marketing is doing the best they can to sell into a higher margin. It's the American way or something. Corollas with wonky positive camber and numb steering exist only to sell Camrys. I'd buy one otherwise, but too many others would too.

    Thumbs down US Kawasaki (thanks Thom) on saddling an otherwise nice little lightweight with a garish paint scheme.

    - Jim<BR><BR>
    #2
  3. soboy

    soboy Long timer

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    Good review. I sat on one at the bike show and it felt pretty good. As far as the red frame goes, I liked it. A stock seat that is comfortable is fairly rare these days - I have had to change out the seats on my last 3 bikes.
    #3
  4. Mobiker

    Mobiker Long timer

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    Nice review and good pics!

    Did you check your fuel mileage. I've been curious about what the real world mileage would be after reading the magazine tests. Rider, Motorcyclist, and Cycle World all got in the 40's while Motorcycle Consumer News got an average of 65 :huh I know fuel mileage varys with the riding style and conditions, but a difference of 50% is huge.

    BTW those mileages are all for US gallons.

    Glad you like your bike. FYI, I've had 3 Corbin seats, 2 on Harley's and one on my FZ1. None of them fit perfect, but both the Harley seats (several years ago) were very comfortable and held up ok. The FZ1 seat is a major improvement over stock, but a 400 mile day left me with monkey butt, and after about 300 miles of use it developed 2 small slits in the fabric where it folds under the seat. Quality of construction has definitely gone downhill.
    #4
  5. ThomD

    ThomD Is this thing on?

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    Uh, Jim. Kawasaki. :lol3

    I like the red. Maybe the lighting at your dealer is weird, but the frame is more metalic burgundy than candy apple.

    I get 48-51 mpg, depending on how I ride. This is consistent with the others in the 650r forum. I was getting 55-58 when I first got, but I was riding very conservativlely.

    -thom
    #5
  6. Commuter Boy

    Commuter Boy Long timer

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    All of the moto mags commented on the vague feel of the brakes. Swapping out the pads supposedly makes a difference.

    Have you looked at getting a Givi rack for it? I know Kawi UK offers it as a stock option. Having a hard topcase makes a world of difference in how much I can commute.
    #6
  7. Grainbelt

    Grainbelt marginal adventurer Super Moderator

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    You can get the Givi top case setup thru Twistedthrottle.com, and probably elsewhere as well. Rack is about $100 I think, plus whichever case you want to buy.

    I'm thinking about either the top case or dual side cases with an SW-Motech rack. ThomD (above) has the side case setup.
    #7
  8. Robert_C

    Robert_C Long timer

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    Thanks for the review. I am glad that you included the seat issues. I put down a lot of long rides; it is just the nature of where I live.

    The only thing that saved me from purchasing the 650r when it first came out was the decision, by Kawasaki, not to include the ABS on the US version. I am glad I didn't, due to being laid off. However, it is frustrating when an option is made for the bike and sold in other markets, just not this one.

    Thanks for the review, I like the growth in interest that I am seeing in the middle weight street bikes. Any idea if it will run an electric vest on a consistent basis?
    #8
  9. Grainbelt

    Grainbelt marginal adventurer Super Moderator

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    No idea. www.ninja650.com has an accessories forum, I'd check there. One guy put in a sweeeet GPS mount.
    #9
  10. Poolside

    Poolside Syndicated

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    <BR>
    Doh! :D So THAT was the problem. No kidding, I stopped into a Zook store the other day to see if there might be a mid-year frame color change. There were no 650s to be seen so I asked a salesman. The guy looked at me like well, I guess about how you looked at my post. I figured they were just out of them.

    I've seen them outside too Thom. 'Metallic burgundy' sounds right. And that's the issue for me. If it actually were candy apple that'd be fine. But it's candy burgundy. It's sort of like the VFR 'almost-red' color.

    You guys that like your bikes, hey, I like em too. The paint color is certainly an insignificant design feature.

    Does anyone know if the forks are RaceTech Gold Valve-able? Some of the newer forks have a 'fixed cartridge' that cannot be removed, or drilled out like a simple damper.

    The 'excessive lever movement' portion of brake feel is easily fixed with steel-braided hose. You can actually see the OE rubber hose expand. Galfer 'green' for the brake pads. Non-metallic, super progressive, work right now, do not fade. Front metallics last about 10K on a GS for me (at least the last 4 sets did). The Galfers go about 8K.

    - Jim<BR><BR>
    #10
  11. camfarm

    camfarm Been here awhile

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    Paint colors are , of course, very debatable. Overall, I think Kawa nailed a winner.

    Not a straight at 'em SV650 killer as much as a new niche market that had the design team focused on ergos, performance mid-range, and price to feature ratios.

    I picked one up as a commuter (65 miles one way to train station) that I don't mind leaving outside semi-secured. Carries the light load and rider, feels good (I think the Parallel twin is very like a thumper below 4K rpm and very interesting above that rpm.), and handles so smoothly and lightly, that it is almost not there. Good brakes, not outstanding, but they work fine. Lighter suspension components do mitigate against excessive exhuberance.

    Overall, the market to which they aimed was hit accurately.
    #11
  12. bross

    bross Where we riding to?

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    One word "AirHawk". Jodie put one on her 650R before our Montana trip and we did over 3000 kms and no complaints from her about the seat. Our last day was a long one (for us) 11 hours and the only thing that was starting to bug her were her knees. She wants me to fab up some highway pegs. :huh She's still a cruiser girl at heart. :norton

    Great write up.
    #12
  13. Grainbelt

    Grainbelt marginal adventurer Super Moderator

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    Time to reopen this thread. Took a very dirty and rainy ride through the countryside tonight, photos and commentary are in the ride report here.

    Overall its been a great bike. I've been travelling alot for work and not spending as much time out and about as I'd like, but its always ready and willing. Beats the hell of out my last girlfriend in that regard.

    Here are a few of the photos from the other thread:

    Cows:

    [​IMG]

    Landscape

    [​IMG]

    Lake

    [​IMG]


    Any potential buyers with questions, let me know. Clearly, I'm not babying her. She does light dirt and highway blasting in any weather with nary a complaint. Good stuff.
    #13
  14. bross

    bross Where we riding to?

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    Jodie's still happy with hers, just rode in to meet me for lunch today and we went for a nice ride. She's liking the heated grips and using her heated vest now so she's happy and warm. :clap
    #14
  15. H2OKarensa

    H2OKarensa Free Range Chick

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    After a bone chilling ride this morning on my 650R, I think I've finally decided that I need some heated grips. Contrary to popular belief, Tucson does get cold!!!
    So, which grips did she choose? Ease of installation? Anything?

    Thanks!!!
    #15
  16. Cat0020

    Cat0020 El cheapo

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    I think heated grips are over-rated, they heat you palms but the back of your hands that are exposed to the wind still get cold.
    If you don't mind the looks, Hippo Hands are great for keeping hands warm for long hours. Combined with latex gloves under my normal riding gloves, I have yet to need heated grips in sub 20 degree rides up here in the NE states.

    PS, You'll need to turn the latex gloves inside out so that you could slide your hands into your normal riding gloves.
    #16
  17. bross

    bross Where we riding to?

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    I always put these on the bikes that don't come with heated grips. Around $30 and work well.
    [​IMG]

    Just make sure you get motorcycle heated grips, not ATV grips. The ATV grips get too hot and will melt the throttle sleeve. DAMHIK. :evil

    Takes a couple hours, could do it now in probably 30 minutes after installing them on half a dozen bikes. Basically remove your old grips either by pulling off, or cutting off if necessary. You can usually loosen the glue by running a very thin bladed screwdriver under the grip and work it around between the bar and the grip. You can squirt to WD40 in between the grip and the bar to help slide it off.
    Once off, clean the bar really well and get all the old glue off, you can even use some fine sandpaper if necessary. Clean the old grips if you're re-using them to get any WD40 and old glue off them.
    Install the grip heaters, apply your grip glue, and I use a little soapy water on the bar and in the grip tube to ease sliding the grip on. The soapy water evaporates and leaves the grip glue to setup. Wire the heaters to a switch placed in a convenient location and preferably through a relay. Wiring takes the longest, it takes me an hour or two to run the wires and get them all tied neatly. And best to use a switched circuit so the grips turn on/off with the key.
    #17
  18. Grainbelt

    Grainbelt marginal adventurer Super Moderator

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    Yes, it is the 20,000km update. Just returned from a trip home to Minnesota with a detour through the Black Hills.

    The touring conversion is nearly complete. Full mod list:

    Kawasaki +1" seat
    R&G Frame Sliders
    Givi FZ445 rack and E470 topcase
    Givi PLX445 rack and V35 sidecases
    Michelin Pilot Roads
    Garmin Zumo 450


    Obligatory pic:

    [​IMG]


    The attributes I appreciated two months ago are still its redeeming values - flickability, power delivery, light weight, versatility, looks. I still love the way it looks, even after the min-concours conversion. :lol3

    My gripes from back then are made more obvious by the additional strain of touring with about 80lbs of crap - the brakes have about zero feel, the suspension is taxed. A new gripe - the fairing is more for looks than wind protection. Cold days are, well, cold.

    You may recall a moment of insanity this spring when I mounted Avon Distanzias and thought I had instantly constructed a dirtbike. The purchase of a DR650 quickly put that to rest, and the 650R is happy to be back on street duty. The new Pilot Roads performed very well on the trip. 4800kms later, no appreciable wear.



    I find myself at a crossroads. I own a paid-for, depreciated, 3 year old middlweight that is *almost* what I want. I may opt for some suspension and brake upgrades this winter to see if that takes care of my complaints. Perhaps a new windscreen and heated grips as well.

    This is the longest I've owned a bike, and has seen 80% of my total mileage as a rider, so I'm a bit attached.
    #18
  19. Evans

    Evans Adventurer

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    Great write-up and follow up !! Just what I needed as I just picked up an '08 a couple of weeks ago and have been trying to figure out what I wanted for luggage , yours fits the bill perfect and looks good to boot !!!
    #19
  20. Commuter Boy

    Commuter Boy Long timer

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    You're due to have the suspension overhauled by next season anyhow.

    RMR in Vancouver comes highly recommended for suspension tuning, might be worth a trip to the coast come spring.
    #20