For everyday riders, there is a lot to love about the Ninja 650. Using Kawasaki’s now-ubiquitous 649cc parallel twin wrapped in a steel trellis frame, it transforms the sizzling Ninja name into something tamer—a nicely mannered streetbike for nicely mannered riders. That isn’t to say the Ninja 650 can’t get down the road (or around a racetrack) in a hurry: After all, its DOHC motor is fuel injected and liquid-cooled, and boasts a six-speed gearbox and a slipper clutch, while the chassis carries a full sportbike fairing, rearset footpegs and controls, sporty 17-inch rubber on cast aluminum wheels, and triple disc brakes (with optional ABS).
Read in between the lines, however, and you’ll find that certain hyper features are absent, such as a super high-rpm powerband, traction control, a tunable inverted fork, a radial-mount front master cylinder, and monoblock calipers. But who cares? For those wanting a sporty ride without the dramas of uncomfortable seating, a high-strung four-cylinder engine, and the steep MSRP and insurance costs that supersport owners “enjoy,” the Ninja 650 makes total sense. The KRT Edition adds Kawasaki Racing Team paint and graphics.
Likes: Terrific design, mellow powerband, thrifty operation, affordable price
Dislikes: Low-rent conventional suspension and tires
Verdict: The sportbike for thinking guys and gals