The Kawasaki Ninja 650R, arcing off into its natural twisty road habitat, the Kawasaki Ninja 650R feels small and lighter than its fully fueled 182kg would suggest. At the sort of casually sport pace that leaves time to look around riding the rural regions of Thailand and wave at Thai police on small motorcycles, the Kawasaki Ninja 650R is virtually flawless. Engine power flows from 4,000rpm to 9,000rpm, and about where all 71 horsepower arrive.
The front brake rewards the serious squeeze with stopping power to match the acceleration, but is noticeably short on initial bite; first time riders won't like this much, as it can feel to them like the brakes are a bit weak. Light, quick steering makes the Kawasaki Ninja 650R feel more like a 400cc on tight roads, and narrow roads seem almost 2 meter wider. Life is good.
Enthusiastic compression damping and softish springs can add up to a semi-harsh ride when you wick it up a notch or three, transferring jolts to the rider and letting the chassis move around more than we'd like. But that high-effort front brake is the expert's main complaint. The upright riding position enforced by the standard handlebar and cupped seat pushed us too far back in the saddle, making it tough to tell what's happening where the front tire meets the road.
There's a lot to be said for a motorcycle with capabilities that don't exceed the average rider's by a factor of 10 – or better. In fact, there's saying that says being able to use all of a motorcycle's performance can be quite satisfying. Well, Kawasaki's Ninja 650R fits perfect into that saying. All of which makes the highly affordable, accessible, adaptable Kawasaki Ninja 650R a refreshing alternative to spending twice as much money on something else.