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2009 Kawasaki 650R Review


by Dustin A. Woods ,

While it is difficult not to be taken in by the bold appearance and performance capabilities of mid-range sport bikes, not everyone is interested in the aggressive ergonomics and steep insurance and registration rates that come as standard equipment when buying a supersport. In recent years, companies have been adding more comfortable crotch rockets to their fleets, in order to appeal to those who may be into spirited riding, but not necessarily the racetrack. Trusty steeds like Kawasaki’s Ninja 650R have been filling that need by offering many attributes of its sportbike stable mates but also fewer backaches and a cost of admission that won’t break the bank. Known as the ER-6F in Europe, the 650R has been a popular choice in this segment since its inception in 2006.

The Ninja 650r combines sportbike looks and performance, a straightened riding position for relaxed urban and fun road riding, and an unbeatable price.

The new for 2009 model received updates from Kawasaki intended to improve on its existing combination of sporty style and economical substance. Upgrades for `09 included the tweaking of the frame and some suspension bits, as well as updates to the fuel mapping and supersport-inspired styling. One look is all one needs to realize that Kawasaki`s ZX-6R served as the inspiration for the exterior revisions. The transparent signal indicators are also a nice touch, as is the camouflaged muffler.

Totalling over 40 updates and refinements, this new Ninja goes beyond just offering practical, efficient transportation in a package that is more stylish and refined. The liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC, eight-valve 649cc parallel twin engine is compact enough to allow for a slim footprint and a relatively lightweight frame that tips the scales at 204 kg, making it a popular choice for new riders. The 790mm seat height and low centre of gravity also assist those lacking in the inseam department.

Although it may be popular for newbies, that is not to say that the 650R offers nothing for the seasoned veteran. While it may not be the ideal choice for those looking to cross the country, it makes an ideal around-town commuter. Recently having the chance to clock over 1,200km on a Lime Green 650R, I was in serious need of a lime green bag of frozen peas to numb the discomfort in my derriere at the end of my excursion. If you plan on doing long distance riding, my suggestion would be to swap the seat for an aftermarket upgrade, unless of course you don’t mind stocking the freezer with various icy bags of vegetables. The angled seat doesn’t provide options for different riding positions either, which always helps on long trips. The tubular-steel swingarm offers extra rigidity to balance the frame’s extra flex, and the offset lay-down single rear shock can be adjusted for preload depending on the weight of the rider and their own personal riding preferences. This only adds to the flexibility of an already versatile mount.

The comfortable saddle in city riding does turn out to be a little too stiff over longer distances - look for a softer one if you are into touring.
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