You're in the market for a middleweight motorcycle, and Kawasaki's ER-6N is what you want, with a good parallel-twin 650cc engine, snappy styling and with important compact dimensions – perfect for riding in Bangkok and do some road trips around Thailand. But reading some forums and hearing advice from other riders you quickly discover that fairing is something you should have...
Fear not, for Kawasaki has covered that base with a fully-faired version known, as the Kawasaki Ninja 650R.
The addition of the fairing extends the concept of the ER-6N to cover touring duties and give extra weather protection for those who prefer their motorcycles with a wrap-around layer of plastic at the front and sides.
From a styling perspective, Kawasaki's designers have done a good job of integrating the fairing with the ER-6N's basic design. It certainly doesn't look as if the bodywork has simply been slapped on in a rushed effort to another variant for dealers to flog, and nice touches such as the painted frame and side-mounted, cantilever rear shock are still clearly visible. If anything, the faring on the Kawasaki Ninja 650R adds more visual weight to the design, but it could be argued that it also gives the motorcycle a slightly more conventional appearance compared with the rather quirky lines of the ER-6N version, which could be an additional selling point for riders with mode conservative tastes.
Underneath the fairing, the Kawasaki Ninja 650R is largely identical to the Kawasaki ER-6N. The fuel-injected, eight-valve, DOHC, liquid-cooled, parallel-twin 650cc engine is the same and just as much fun to use as on the Kawasaki ER-6N, which its generous low-end and midrange performance and a surprisingly fruity top-end, while the front forks and rear shock are all unchanged. The same for the petal-disc braking package.
The tubular steel perimeter frame is slightly different, although it doesn't look that way from the outside. To facilitate the inclusion of the fairing, the rake has been bumped out by half a degree to 25 degree, and the trail has been extended from the ER-6N's 102 to 106mm.
Consequently the wheelbase is slightly longer at 1410mm (1405mm for the ER-6N). Interestingly, the seat height is a claimed 790, compared with the ER-6N's 785mm seating height...
Mind you, these small dimensional changes are barely noticeable when it comes to the ride. The Kawasaki Ninja 650R feels just as slim and compact as the ER-6N, and has the same great balance and easy handling. However, there is some vibration evident form the fairing in certain sections of the rev range, and I would have preferred the screen to be either a bit higher or a bit lower to suit my body size – on the open road, the windblast was directly straight at my helmet, which made a for a noisy ride with some buffeting.
Another difference worth mentioning is the instruments. The neat little stacked instrument pod on the ER-6N has been replaced by a more conventional console on the Kawasaki Ninja 650R, with an analog speedo and tacho side by side. It's all very legible and easy to use, but personally, I reckon the ER-6N instruments are better looking...
Wherever your preferences may lie, you have to commend Kawasaki for offering two distinct motorcycle versions that both offer the same versatile, user-friendly riding experience.