High-minded, bevel-booted sportbike purists and disciples of the Committed Riding Position will dismiss the Kawasaki Ninja 650R, or ER-6F. It's not big or bad enough to inspire awe in all whom cross its path. It cost almost as much as a cheap new pickup truck. And it bears little resemblance to the sort of thing usually flung around Daytona or Misano or the Sachsenring by brave men in expensive leathers on Sunday afternoons.
And you know what? Such up-market elitists will miss the boat. You know why? Because it's fun. Contrary to popular mythology, fun is not all about money. It's not about impersonating Casey Stoner on Saturday morning, either.
The Kawasaki Ninja 650R, if you think this one looks a bit different from its predecessors, it is. The Kawasaki Ninja 650R idea started with questions about what riders want, aiming at a comfortable target that would inspire confidence and toothy grins in riders at either end of the sportbike learning curve.
Contrary to what you might think, hitting a target that big is lot harder than zooming in on a small one.
Beneath that plastic skin you'll find 2-cylinders parked side by side, four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve per head, 649cc engine, creating a layout that's narrower than a four and shorter than an equivalent V-twin. The Ninja's engine has a 83mm bore and 60mm stroke producing a 11.3:1 compression ratio. Aside from the internal combustion process, Kawasaki is adamant that this twin-cam, eight-valve parallel-twin engine shares essentially nothing with the Kawasaki Ninja 500R. The Kawasaki Ninja 650R engine procures a flawless power flow in a broad, steady stream from 4000rpm to 9000rpm, with a maximum of 64.8 horsepower's the Kawasaki Ninja 650R plenty of power.
Power pulses still arrive 180 degrees apart, with a balance shaft timed to counter nasty vibration. Pair of digital fuel injection with 38mm Keihin throttle bodies feed the fire, and a catalytic converter in the muffler scrubs exhaust gases to squeaky-clean Euro-3 emission standards. The Kawasaki Ninja 650R's engine may be tuned for manageable delivery, but it also has excellent roll-on response for highway passing and more than enough power to be an entertaining trackday companion.
Despite all that and another 151cc, the Kawasaki Ninja 650R is more compact than its erstwhile predecessor. Semi-dry-sump-lubrication makes the engine shorter top-to-bottom by doing away with the old fashion oil pan underneath, while stacked transmission shafts compress the for/aft dimension. Thanks to a thin, plated layer in place of bulky liners, the 83mmx60mm cylinders live happily in less space.
There's more careful execution than NASA technology in the newest Kawasaki Ninja's engine, which also goes for its chassis. Constructed from a lattice of semi-double cradle, high-tensile steel tubes instead of phat aluminum spars, the Kawasaki Ninja 650R skeleton puts efficient packaging above techno-pretense.
Rather than centering rear suspension hardware aft of the swingarm pivot, Kawasaki engineers used the Ninja 650R's shock to connect the frame and swingarm on the right side of the bike, doing away with the usual linkage bits in the process and making room for the battery.