Kawasaki’s Ninja 650R Has Been an Entry-Level Staple Since 2006
Bikes like the Ninja 650R, FZ6R, and SV650 are ideal for new riders that either needs something larger due to their height, or are confident in their ability to manage a bit more power than what the typical “beginner bike” ships with.
With an estimated 71 horsepower on tap, the 650R is significantly more powerful than the entry-level cruisers, sportbikes (such as the R3 or the old-school 500R), and sport-touring bikes. If you’ve been learning to ride your motorcycle at a riding school, the 650R likely has three times as much power as what you were learning on.
In addition to good power, the Ninja 650R is also a well-balanced machine that makes a great case for itself as the ideal city motorcycle. It has softer suspension that beginner sportbikes, most models come with ABS, and its parallel-twin engine has enough torque down low in the rev range that it also is a ton of fun to flick around the corners.
Our Take: Should You Buy a Ninja 650R?
Given how I chose to introduce the 650R, it’s fair to say that I recommend it. Enthusiastically, in fact.
If you’re keen to buy new (which I do not recommend new riders do), the Ninja comes in at under $8,000 with ABS. Brand new. Considering what it offers you, that’s a very fair price. But the real value is when you find a great used bike, because not only will you save a bunch of money compared to new, but you’ll also be able to recoup most of it when you sell (once these bikes are few years old they hang on to their value pretty well).
The 649cc parallel-twin engine is considered to be very reliable, and it’s fuel economy is also quite good (estimated somewhere around 40 mpg). Paired with sporty but also comfortable suspension, and you’ve got a great everyday bike.
Bottom line: The Ninja 650R is one of the best middleweight entry-level sportbikes you can buy. New riders should get several seasons out of it before they get that itch to move into something bigger.
Reasons to buy the 650R:
71 hp is plenty for a novice rider
It has comfortable suspension that won’t cause you to hate your life on long rides
Acceptable fuel economy
You can get a brand new one with ABS for under $8,000
They are easy to sell used because there is good demand for these bikes
Reasons not to buy the 650R:
Its height and weight may be difficult for smaller riders to manipulate
Not all models come with ABS
Production Run & Notable Model-Year Changes
Production Run & Model Generations
Kawasaki first introduced the Ninja 650R to the market in 2006, alongside the non-faired (naked) ER-6n (which wasn’t sold in North America until 2009). The 650R/ER-6n have received three major updates since its introduction: 2009, 2012, and 2017.
First Generation (2006 – 2009)
This was the first version of the 650R.
The styling is meant to be sporty while providing a more upright riding position
Second Generation (2009-2012)
The full-faired 650R is given updated bodywork, mirrors, lighting, and gauges.
The refined bodywork is more angular, aggressive, and ups the sport looks even more.
Third Generation (2017 – date)
A new trellis-frame is introduced, along with numerous small weight reductions and suspension that is tuned for better handling.
Engine torque is increased slightly, to 48.5 lb-ft (up from 44.7 lb-ft)
Owners Review of the Kawasaki Ninja 650R
Press & Magazines
2017 Model Year Review
“There’s plenty to like about Kawasaki’s cleverly updated middleweight challenger, which refines its deservedly popular ER-6f predecessor’s parallel twin engine, mounts it in a notably lighter and sharper-handling chassis, and tops the job off with an infinitely more stylish set of clothes that contributes hugely to the new Ninja’s appeal.”
“This is a lot of motorcycle for $6799. And while it is an excellent all-around machine, its strongest suit is the approachability and ease of use it offers, pleasingly coupled with enough performance headroom to allow a dramatic upturn in rider skill… tf you’re bargain hunting, the motorcycle market—like the Ninja 650R—provides an embarrassment of riches.”
“The 650R obliges as it accelerates effortlessly in top gear roll-ons, with no flat spots or bogging before it decides to get out of its own way. That is an excellent trait to have for any bike looking to be a commuter champion. The clutch and transmission were flawless, so much so that I never thought about them.”
The riding position – The riding position, while sporty, is more upright than typical sportbikes and is more comfortable people taller than 5’8″.
The price – They are a bargain on the used market, and they’re sub-$8,000 brand new (with ABS).
What I Don’t Like
The range – 290 km is about how far you’ll comfortably go on its 4-gallon tank.
No ABS – Not all models come with ABS. Be mindful of this when looking at older bikes.
The Bottom Line
The Ninja 650R is to modern middleweights what bikes like the GS500F and Ninja 500R were to their generation. Like those fondly remembered classics, the 650R represents the pinnacle of what a new rider can enjoy in a “beginner motorcycle”. It’s fast, but not scary; reliable and economical; stylish and good looking; comfortable and compliant; sporty and exhilarating.
For a new rider, few bikes offer you the whole package – a cake that you can actually eat – like the 650R does. And the 650R, like any decent wine, has only gotten better with age. It’s not often when you find a machine that is perfect for its intended function, but that’s what you get when you choose a Ninja 650R for your first bike.
Kawasaki Ninja 650R Competition
If you’re looking at a 650R, you may also want to check out these other bikes: