How good is the Ninja 650 on track?

James puts the Kwak to the test at one of Europe’s most his­toric cir­cuits

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Garage -

Kawasaki’s new Ninja 650 cer­tainly has the looks, but I wanted to find out just what it was like on track, so I rode it to Bel­gium’s Spa Fran­cor­champs race cir­cuit for some throt­tle-happy ther­apy.

Spa is a fast track, and the 650 was eas­ily the low­est pow­ered modern ma­chine on the day. Add in the fact that I’ve not done too much rid­ing on track and I was re­al­is­tic in my ex­pec­ta­tions of what both I and the Ninja would be able to do.

It’s a wal­let-friendly ma­chine at £6500, so will ob­vi­ously have a few ar­eas in need of im­prove­ment. But I don’t re­ally view th­ese as a detri­ment to the bike over­all. I see it as more of a blank can­vas and think that the lower cost jus­ti­fies fac­tor­ing in a few ad­di­tional parts and ac­ces­sories that will com­pli­ment the way I’m rid­ing it and what I want to do on it.

Firstly, the sus­pen­sion could do with up­grad­ing. We were go­ing to give the preload a tweak be­fore go­ing on track at Spa but it is al­most im­pos­si­ble to ac­cess with­out ma­jor ef­fort – so it had to stay as it is.

The pegs were a sur­prise, too. I was con­stantly fight­ing to keep my foot planted as it would suddenly start slip­ping off the rub­ber when I was lean­ing off the bike. Along­side that, the right R&G pad­dock bob­bin (£20.50) melted with the heat of the ex­haust blow­ing over it, def­i­nitely some­thing I wasn’t ex­pect­ing. Fi­nally, the brakes started to fade quite badly af­ter a cou­ple of laps, some­thing I’ll try to cure with a new set of pads.

Over­all, though, and de­spite th­ese few nig­gles, the Ninja per­formed ad­mirably, pro­vid­ing pos­si­bly the per­fect tool for me to progress around the chal­leng­ing Spa cir­cuit.

It car­ried cor­ner speed well, was flat­ter­ing to my in­ex­pe­ri­ence with cir­cuit rid­ing and in­spired loads of con­fi­dence. Sure, I might have been in the Novice Group, but I was catch­ing guys rid­ing 1000s through the cor­ners – and on the hum­ble 650 that left me with huge sat­is­fac­tion.

I get that same feel­ing when I’m rid­ing the Ninja on the road. There’s some­thing to be said for rid­ing a ma­chine such as the 650 a lot closer to its limit than us­ing a frac­tion of a 190bhp sports­bike’s po­ten­tial. It makes me feel like I’m get­ting so much more from both my rid­ing and the mo­tor­cy­cle, and I find that to be a very re­ward­ing feel­ing in­deed.

Track novice James had a blast at Spa, even if his feet kept slip­ping off the pegs

‘I didn’t crash, it just melted. Hon­est!’

KAWASAKI NINJA 650

Price £6549 Fuel 15 litres @ 49mpg = 163 mile range Weight 193kg Seat 790mm Power 67bhp Torque 49ftlb JAMES ARCHIBALD Big miles rider who en­joys be­ing on a bike what­ever the weather/sea­son Height 5ft 11in Weight 80kg

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