Kawasaki Ninja 650 Ownership Review by Sachin Nair

It’s been 8 years (Age 17) since I have started riding a motorcycle & today finally I’m a proud owner of a 2012 Kawasaki Ninja 650. Like every biker’s dream, it was my dream to buy a big bike one day and finally the dream has turned into reality.

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My first bike was TVS Victor which I rode for 3 years and covered 25,000 kms on it. My next bike was TVS Apache 150 which I rode for the next 3 years and covered 35,000 kms on it before I sold it. This was during that time when the Ninja250R launch news was revealed that Bajaj is going to launch soon.

This was the first time I had a good look at Kawasaki Ninja 250R and I was blown off by the styling of the bike. It was love at first sight. In fact, you might call me stupid as the reason I sold Apache was because I wanted to save that money to help me buy Ninja250R when it gets launched. When finally Ninja 250R was launched it was priced closed to 3L and it was impossible for me to buy it but that did not stop me from checking out this Green beauty.

It looked awesome and just by feeling the throttle I knew it will be one of the best motorcycles to ride. Due to high cost and high maintenance expected, I had to give it a miss. I ended up buying Karizma ZMR which I m still using till date and I have covered 44,500 kms on it. Be it riding in off roading high altitude conditions in Ladakh or be it riding in twisted single lane roads from Mumbai to Goa or butter smooth straight highways from Mumbai to Rajasthan, I have taken ZMR through everything and it did not disappoint.

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However, the thirst for owning a bigger bike kept growing on me and I was looking out for options. It was in 2011 when Bajaj launched Kawasaki Ninja 650 and I again lost my mind as soon as I saw the bike. It was screaming practicality all over and was looking like the best upgrade option available that time. I inquired about the finance options and had to set a goal in my mind to start saving money to own this green beauty.

The Plan

Well, the plan was simple. Save money every month, reduce all expenses and buy the bike. Is it really that simple for an average earning guy? Lol!!! The answer is simply No. As days passed by, I kept dreaming, thinking and brainstorming. Should I target buying N650? Should I rather buy N250R which is also good and will be easy on pocket too? Should I wait for something else? Blah Blah Blah!! Biker moans but I believe all of us face this dilemma.

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More I thought more I got confused and there was nothing happening. By this time Bajaj closed the booking of N650 for good and few who booked were waiting for their bike delivery. One of the guys who waited long is my friend / mentor Satyen Poojary who finally got his bike delivered sometime in Oct’11. Looking at his FB comments waiting for the bike and a big grin on his face after owning the bike inspired more confidence in me. By this time there were rumors that Bajaj will now re open the booking sometime in Apr’12 for N650 and it will be the 2012 model.

If I compare 2011 Ninja 650 with the 2012 model, all I can say is that Kawi made an excellent sports tourer even better. The 2012 version looked better with its aggressive styling like elder Ninja siblings & overall as an entire package it looked more appealing than the earlier model. Needless to say, I had fallen completely in love with the ’12 model.

I finally decided to start saving for the bike in hope that may be in a year, I would be able to save enough to pay DP for the bike. I opened a new savings account specially for saving the money for my next big bike something which I have never done before. This was to ensure no matter what happens I shall never touch this account even in worst case scenario.

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I started saving 10K each month and also planned to save complete bonus which I get twice a year and this was all to buy a big bike. With each month passing by, my savings gradually kept increasing and I realized I can do it. I can also save! It was Apr’12 and 6 months had gone by, with all my rides dried up and all my leisure expenditure was cut to almost zero there was nothing exciting to do but only a hope that one day Ninja would be mine.

Bajaj meanwhile was delaying the launch of new N650 and it was finally in Aug’12 when they launched the bike. Even then, I was not in a position to buy the bike and it was within a week the booking stopped again. My heart broke but I was assured by KTM dealers that booking will start again once they receive second lot. With more savings adding up by Oct’12, I was ready to pay the booking as soon as the bike was available.

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What would you do if your all set and waiting for over a month for booking to start again? Quite obvious, I started bugging KTM dealers almost every week until I finally got a miss call on 26th Oct’12. For some strange reason, I thought let me call back the person and guess what! It was a call from KTM Pune Dealer stating booking has open and if I would like to book the bike.

I was jumping in my seat in joy and I called up KTM dealer in Vashi and he also confirmed that I can come to book the bike. Next Day, as soon as the showroom opened I was the first one to visit the showroom and booked the bike. Gave a cheque of 40K and signed all the dotted lines given in the agreement. Waiting period was 45-60 days. Meanwhile, I applied for loan from Future Capital who were ready to give the loan at 7.1% flat rate. The deal was good and went through. Loan got approved soon, DP paid (the biggest DD I have ever shared with anyone) & I was waiting for update from KTM dealer on second lot.

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I wanted the bike in first week of Dec as I have a long ride planned end of Dec which I wanted to do on my new bike. Luckily, I was informed that I can take delivery of the bike by 2nd week. I was all excited and ready for the D Day 🙂

12/12/12 – MIDORI ARRIVES

I had applied for leave as I was sure I won’t be able to work after I get my bike. Many of my friends wanted to accompany me as they all have been hearing my rant day in day out about Ninja, Ninja n Ninja. One of friends took leave from office, one just signed in office and came with me, few others bunked lectures, etc and needless to say all of us were excited.

With all my friends and my younger sister [also bunked her college], I went to KTM Dealer in Vashi with a box of sweets and an everlasting smile which stayed on for the rest of the day. Seeing the bike in front of me is a feeling I cannot express in words. She was there, right in front of me and all I could do is hold my breath and stare at her. It’s a feeling, an emotion completely out of this world.

I was given a short demo and keys were handed over to me. Bike was taken outside and I could see a huge crowd building up in the building. With the first starter hit the bike roared to life, my friends blasted the party popper and it was celebration time. Probably, the happiest moment of my life!!!

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I named her Midori as it means Green in Japanese. Also, because I love the name.

The World Around Me Changed

Off the showroom and suddenly the world around me changed it seemed. My ride was suddenly getting hell lot of attention on the road and wherever the bike stopped there were many eyes staring at the bike, I could hear few guys shouting Ninja Ninja 😛 Rickshawala’s stopping at petrol pump and coming out of their auto to click photos and with their usual questions.

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Few street Rossi’s on their fastest Indian bikes are always available in plenty who want to provoke you by cutting your lane and giving a stare as if they want to race with you. The paint scheme on the bike is brilliant and it is much easier to see as it stands out from the rest.

About the ride, I have never ridden anything as powerful as 71BHP although I have ridden my friends N250R during my recent South trip for around 3500 kms. The feeling of riding the big bike was something I have never experienced but Ninja never made me feel as if I m not in control.

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There is ample amount of torque in this bike that even though I was riding below 4000 rpm I never felt as if I m slow than others. The bike is super smooth and ride quality is top notch. By the time we reached Thane I had ridden close to 50 odd kms and I got comments from my friends which said it does not look like I m riding this bike for the first time.

One of my friends said you looked as if you were riding your ZMR. Bwahaha. Well, that’s how comfortable one can become after sitting on the saddle of N650. The first ride of N650 left me speechless and I was in for a lot of fun for sure.

Why Ninja 650?

When I was finally firm on buying N650, there were few other options which I was always open to.

1) Triumph Street Triple – This is one bike which sounds brilliant, looks chic & has the best of both worlds [Parallel Twin & I4] Unfortunately, as Triumph’s initial plan failed and as the delays started to crop in I lost faith and decided not to wait any more for Triumph.

2) Honda CBR600F – Phew!! Have a look at this bike and you are speechless. There were rumours that Honda might bring this beauty to India but unfortunately with no news floating and with Honda busy in other smaller capacity bikes for India. I gave up hopes on them bringing this 600cc beauty to India.

3) Ducati Monster 795 – Probably the best looking naked bike. Color and detailing to die for, Italian charisma & charm, compelling attractiveness like no other bike. But Ducati India’s horror stories, lack of windshield and with me being 6 feet tall the riding position on M795 would have been a bit more cramped up as per review. Also, Cost of this bike OTR in Mumbai is Rs.7.32L which is more the expensive side compared to N650. I decided to give this a miss.

So finally, it had to be my love for Green and desire to own Ninja which made me finally buy it. Woh kehta hai na jo hota hai ache ke liye hota hai [Whatever happens is for your own good], probably I was destined to own Ninja!

Run in Rides & Initial Impression:

Initial 100-150 kms of bike run in was in city roads and although I was riding in traffic, heating problem was not too much considering I m riding a 650cc bike. Definitely not as much as it will make you fry your legs and it is pretty okaish and manageable.

At 4000 rpm i.e. 90 kmph, it is comfortable and you do not feel like you’re not in control. I was learning how to handle the bike at that speed and it was fun riding on open highways. Many times, the feeling of opening the throttle came to my mind which is something I had control and I did well.

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At Ghats, well, this is a sports tourer and it loves straight highways however it was fun riding in the ghat section too. Long leaning curves is were I enjoyed it the most, sharp corners I was really taking it easy. Probably, the more I ride the more comfortable I would be. One thing I would like to mention here is the weight of the bike, though it is 210 kgs on the paper but as soon as the bike is in motion the weight disappears and you do not feel as if you are riding a bike so heavy.

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Weight is one thing which I thought might be a problem in the bike but it helps the bike be stable at high speeds. About the brakes, at 4000 rpm you really can’t find out exactly how the brakes are but still I feel the brakes could be a lot better. They have a soft spongy feel and you have to be proactive in braking.

Another major issue which Kawasaki engineers should look into is the headlights on this bike. When you are at standstill the light seems adequate however as soon as you move the lights are just not good enough. It feels as good as the lights are not ON. Yeah, it is actually that bad. In comparison, N250R’s headlight is a blessing for night rides. Simply brilliant.

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The sound of the bike is good, not close to I-3 & I-4 but it has a unique character and grunt as the revs climb and I absolutely love it. Twist the throttle and the sound becomes merrier. It’s a treat to the ears. The upright seating position is a bliss, this was one the many reasons I opted for N650 and I have done close 150 kms in run in period at a stretch and I do not have any back ache issues. It feels great to be fresh even after spending so much time on the saddle.

Seat of the bike is super comfortable and very soft. Again, very good for long rides. As soon as you sit on the bike, it makes you feel comfortable. Gear lever is slightly front placed and I had to move my feet forward while changing gears although this is not a complaint as I m used to it.

Kitna Deti Hai 😀

Tank capacity is 15.5L and during run in I could manage to do 350 kms at a stretch when the final bar on the fuel level showed up. You have a good add on feature to use in ODO meter which is called ‘RANGE’ It shows how many more kms you can ride without filling fuel. When the final bar comes on, RANGE shows close to 100kms – 120 kms and is pretty accurate.

I managed around 29-30 kmpl during Run In ride 😛 Well, this mileage was delivered at 4000 rpm and now I get 25 kmpl post run in.

Brakes – Okaish but Kawasaki should consider bringing in ABS at least as an option. It is must in such bikes especially in Indian riding conditions. Hopefully, Hel Brake lines and EBC HH Brake pads will make it better.

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Tires – ’12 N650 is given Dunlop Roadsmart tires and they performed well in all conditions I took it. Off-road, No road, sand, tarmac – the tire does the job well. As per owner’s this tire can last upto 15k kms of-course depending on riding style and terrain it might vary. Cost of a pair is close to 25K. With the natural rubber cost getting reduced, I hope to see 15-20% reduction in this cost in near future.

Headlights – I have already swapped stock with Philips Xtreme Vision and I am happy with the bulb. It is sufficient to light up the road till 120 kms speed with my light smoke visor and I don’t intend to go faster than that at night anyways.

Seat and Overall Comfort – What to say in this department. The bike excels here. Couple of my friends who rode the bike said, “It Feels as if you are sitting on a sofa / chair and riding the bike” Yes! That’s how comfortable the seat of this bike is. I think I can ride good 150 kms at a stretch without any issues.

6th Gear RPM and Speeds [As seen on Odo]

  • 4000 rpm – 90 kmph
  • 5000 rpm – 110 kmph
  • 6000 rpm – 130 kmph
  • 7000 rpm – 150 kmph
  • 8000 rpm – 170 kmph
  • 9000 rpm – 190 kmph
  • 10000 rpm – 200 kmph

Mostly on NH you would always find yourself riding between 90-130 max and usual short burst if you see open stretch. I think this will continue to be my riding style as I like to ride not fly

Pro’s

  • Upright Ergonomics
  • Comfortable Seats
  • Tall Windshield
  • Abundant Torque and Immensely pleasing power delivery
  • Beautiful Metallic Green Finish
  • Grab Rails
  • Beautiful Console – I love it personally & lot of useful information, Only thing missing is the Gear position indicator 🙂

Con’s

  • Brakes – Does not inspire confidence and has soft spongy feel
  • Headlights – It sucks!!! Plain and Simple. There are no 2 ways about it. It feels as good as you are riding blind folded at night.
  • Low GC – With a heavy pillion on, you can be rest assured you would scrape a couple of speed breakers at least. GC is 130mm and while I have successfully covered 1000 kms without scraping even once as soon as I have pillion I have managed to scrape the bike twice 🙁

Cornering Aspect

Since the engine revs in linear fashion with healthy power it allowed me to have fun on small winding roads without scaring myself by carrying too much speed into a corner. In terms of cornering performance, I noticed that although you have good feedback from the front wheel due to the soft suspension and more upright position the bike is not comfortable for aggressive cornering but it fares pretty well in the twisties. Dunlop Roadsmart tires provide awesome grip and feedback, pretty gluey tires.

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As of now, I do not have the performance brake lines and better brake pads on the bike so I’m sure cornering it would be more fun once I have my brakes upgraded 🙂

Add On’s So Far:

  • R&G No cut Frame Sliders –
  • Keiti Kawasaki Transparent Tank Pad
  • Rascal Graphix reflective rim stripes
  • Philips Xtreme Vision 12V 55W H7

Add’s on coming up:

  • Hel Performance Front Brake Lines
  • EBC Brake Pads
  • Fender Extender
  • Radiator Guard

First Service Experience

Did 1st Service at Ghatkopar PBK after completing 1000 kms. Serviced by mechanic named Alam & supervised by Pravin. Service guy was professional and did oil filter change (supposed to be changed in every service), cleaned air filter (to be replaced once in 3 services) , chain cleaning, lube & oil change.

Few things I did not like about the service experience

  1. They were putting Veedol 10W40 oil and this is definitely not the preferred choice. However as per Pravin this is what the company recommends. The oil costs around Rs.400 & they wanted me to put Veedol whereas I pushed for Motul based on the suggestion I got from N650 owners. We called up the Motul dealer in Ghatkopar and Pravin went to buy the oil for me. Good proactiveness shown here however still trying to enforce first to put Veedol and only after customer saying to buy Motul and with lot of convincing he agreed.
  2. Chain Lube – They were using some unknown brand for lubing the chain. I thought again Motul chain lube would be used. Luckily, I had my friends Motul Chain lube with me which I used. Again, there is no quality maintained to service Ninja’s
  3. Specific to Ghatkopar PBK – I m glad I was present while servicing as there were Pulsars getting serviced where only KTM & Kawi should be present. It was chaos probably due to Free check up for 200NS which was organised. Very crowded and overall I think I will try and service N650 next in Sea Woods, Vashi.

I found their outlet much cleaner, well organised. Reaching Ghatkopar PBK is another pain as you have go through heavy traffic on LBS marg.

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1st Service Bill Details below:

  • Oil Filter – Rs.506.50
  • Motul 300V 10W 40 Oil – Rs.1970
  • Paid Service Ninja 650 – Rs.1140
  • Service Tax – Rs.143

Total – Rs.3,760

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Your comments please…

Regards,
Sachin Nair

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