Words: Rob Harris, Ed White Photos: Richard Seck, Ed White
Kawasaki Ninja 650R: North Bay and Bust!
|The grand tour soon became a drink-to-forget lost weekend (no change there then)
L-R: ‘arris, Bondo, Kevin & Ed White (Larry’s the cripple at the front).
In typical CMG style what started out as a grandiose plan for a tour of northern Ontario, with a stopover in North Bay to watch Larry win the Vintage Road Racing Association’s final round, turned out to be a quick dash to do a quick test ride and help get Larry drunk so that he could quickly forget that he not only crashed in practice, but broke his ankle to boot!
Ah, the world of CMG – never has so much been done by so few with so little to show for it … But lamenting on a life that coulda, shoulda, woulda is lamenting time wasted, so instead let’s lament a little on the only thing that came off at the weekend – Kawasaki’s new 650R Ninja.
THE TECHNICAL BIT
The Ninja 650R is Kawasaki’s answer to Suzuki’s popular SV650. However, just when everybody and their dog are moving to the V-twin layout, Kawasaki has stuck to the parallel twin that has done them so well in the Ninja 500R.
It’s a very compact motor (smaller than the 500’s unit, yet with an additional 150cc and the power that goes with), with the usual DOHC, liquid cooling and fuel injection. The crank is spaced at 180 degrees – one piston up and the other is down– which is pretty good at reducing vibes on its own, but Kawasaki has fitted a balancer shaft for additional smoothness.
To keep it all as small as possible, Kawasaki uses a “semi-dry sump”. What’s that? Good question. Well, it has the two oil pumps of a dry sump (scavenge and delivery) but instead of a separate oil tank, there’s a “transmission cavity” within the motor, away from the crank.
Gearbox is a six-speed setup, with the race-style cassette set up which means that you can take the whole lot out in one go without having to strip the motor … although I’m not sure why you’d really need such quick access to the gears.The muffler is hung underneath the motor à la Buell to keep mass centralized as well as a claimed lower centre of gravity (which seems a tad counter intuitive to me).
|Shock is side-mounted and is an integral part to the whole look of the machine.|
Chassis-wise the frame bucks the aluminium trend and goes classic steel, thereby keeping costs down; albeit in a tubular trellis-like set up, which fully encompasses the narrow twin motor.
The steel braced swingarm connects to the frame with a side-mounted shock. This is unusual (the usual being a centre mounted shock hidden away at the back of the motor), and makes it an integral part of the overall look of the machine with easier pre-load adjustment as a bonus. Front forks are standard telescopic types.
Braking is by twin discs up front, which get the cool looking ‘petal’ design (the wavy finish) that Kawasaki uses on most of their sportier machines.
Our test bike came in black with anodized red on the frame, swingarm, triple clamps and fork lowers, giving a rather unique look that you wouldn’t expect to see straight from the factory.
If you’re not one for the flashy paint scheme either, then you’ll appreciate the return to a distinctly subtler version for 2007, with options for either a solid deep red or solid metallic blue. The frame and bits will all be in an easier-on-the-eyes gray. With 2007 comes a minor price hike of $100.00, but your retinas will thank you for it.
NORTH BAY BOUND
I met Ed with the 650 Ninja up in North Bay, getting there on the trusty CMG 650 Strom. Although the North Bay expedition proved to be a bit of a bust with CMG’s racing aspirations getting nixed by Larry’s crash, the ride south gave me a quick opportunity to sample the Ninja on some glorious back roads (thanks Max for the suggestions!).
Despite the overall compactness of its dimensions (at 6’4” I’m a little on the large side – although my knees did actually fit within the tank cutaways … just!) it didn’t take long for me to fully blend with Kawasaki’s baby Ninja.
The free-revving nature and good power delivery of the twin meant that within half an hour I was screaming down the long straights of northern Ontario roads and scraping it around the 90 degree bends that break them up.