Kawasaki Ninja 650 (2013) 3-Year Review

After 3 years and around 50,000km of riding my Ninja 650 (2013) I thought I’d post a few comments about how I’ve found it.

The Pros

  1. Looks amazing. Lots of people comment on what a beautiful bike it is.
  2. Great riding position, much more comfortable than the sporting, lowered handlebars.
  3. Handles beautifully. It loves the winding roads.
  4. The power is great. I rarely (if ever) hit situations where I wished for more power. Low end torque is nice, but in the mid-to-upper range it’s really exhilerating.
  5. I love the dashboard — big digital speedo, with analogue tachometer. The white backlight is much nicer than the red of earlier models. Displays remaining fuel tank range and average fuel usage which is helpful. Also has a permanent clock which I refer to all the time.
  6. The ABS brake system (which is possibly an optional extra?) is amazing. I wouldn’t go back to a bike without ABS.
  7. It’s reasonably comfortable with a pillion passenger.
  8. Works well as both a commuter bike and weekend tourer.
  9. Reasonably easy to unrestrict from a LAMS (learner-approved) bike to access the full range. Unplugging the ECU limiter was easy, and unscrewing the throttle limiter took my mechanic 30mins or something.
  10. My Givi top-box attaches perfectly to the rear with ample room for pillion passenger.
  11. Has been very reliable. Very little has needed fixing/repairing. I had a stator burn out which fried some electronics, but that may have been due to heavy use of my aftermarket heated grips during winter.
  12. With Michelin Pilot-Power-3 tyres, the grip is amazing. Rarely slips at all, even on wet, greasy roads.

The Cons

  1. The gearbox is too “clunky” for my liking. Even after three years of trying to tame it, I regularly get a loud, distracting *clunk* when changing between some gears at certain rev-ranges. I’m trying hard to learn how to get it to change more smoothly (like my old Suzuki used to) but still struggling. My mechanic tells me it’s just the Kawasaki gearbox and there’s not much he can do. It’s annoying enough for me to consider moving to another bike, though.
  2. Vibrations can be pretty intense — I think this is because of the syncopated engine timing. This gives the faring an annoying buzz at approx. 4000 revs, and also causes some mild discomfort in the foot pegs, especially for pillion passenger. My girlfriend says this gets quite annoying and uncomfortable after an hour or so of her riding on the back.
  3. The engine sound is not fantastic. At lower revs it chugs a bit like a lawn-mower rather than purring like a refined machine. At around 6000–9000 revs (which I rarely reach) it sounds much smoother. Unfortunately the after-market exhausts I’ve seen make it sound even worse — making it sound like a truck. I’m a bit jealous of some of the GSX-R’s and Yamaha’s which have a nicer tone in my opinion.
  4. Although it has dual headlights (which I love), only one headlight is on by default — yuck! I have to ride with high beams on permanently to get the second headlight on, and then angle the high beam down so it doesn’t blind other drivers. This is easy enough to do, but then I lack true high beams when I might really need them out in the country. A policeman nearly fined me for riding toward him with the high beam switch on (even with the light lowered). Argh.
  5. While it’s more comfortable than a super-sport, I can probably only ride 1.5–2 hours at a time before getting a bit stiff and sore. So it’s probably not a true tourer. But for a hybrid, I’m pretty happy with that.

(I’ll flesh out more here, soon.)

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