How good is the Ninja 650 on track?
James puts the Kwak to the test at one of Europe’s most historic circuits
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