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?

Kawasaki 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 SV650:

  • 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)

2006 Kawasaki Ninja 650R

  • 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)

2009 Kawasaki Ninja 650R

  • 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)

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 650R

  • 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

Kawasaki Ninja 650R on the track

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.”

– Roland Brown, Bennets.co.uk

2009 Model Year Review

“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.”

– Mark Hoyer, Cycle World

2006 Model Year Review

“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.”

– Pete Brissette, Motorcycle.com

What I Like

  • ABS – ABS on a bike is so dramatically better than non-ABS bikes that it’s hard to articulate the difference.
  • The power According to Motorcyclist, the 650R will do the quarter-mile in 12.06 seconds- that’s fast!
  • 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.

Review Summary

Kawasaki Ninja 650R in the mountains

The Breakdown

The Ninja 650R is a legend in the entry-level/beginner-motorcycle space. It deftly pairs a capable and powerful engine with a compliant chassis and suspension tuned for sporty street riding. It's aggressive, forgiving, economically, and great looking as well. For new riders wanting a bike that will thrill them for years to come, the Ninja 650R is hard to beat.
Engine 8.5
Accleration 8.5
Braking 8.0
Approachability 7.5
Pros
71 hp is plenty of power / great price / good looks / acceptable fuel economy
Cons
Relatively short range

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Kawasaki Ninja 650R Specifications

The important specs are listed below. See the Wikipedia page for more detailed specifications.

Dimensions + Chassis

  • Height:
    • 2006 – 2008: 47.6 in (1,210 mm)
    • 2009 – 2011: 50 in (1,270 mm)
    • 2012+ 46.5 in (1,180 mm)
  • Length:
    • 2006 – 2011: 82.9 in (2,105 mm)
    • 2012+: 83.1 in (2,110 mm)
  • Seat Height: 
    • 2006 – 2011: 31.1 in (790 mm)
    • 2012+: 31.7 in (805 mm)
  • Wet Weight:
    • 2006+: 211 kg (468 lb)

Engine

  • Engine Type: 4-stroke, 2-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke parallel twin
  • Maximum Horsepower:
    • 2006 – 2011: 71.1 bhp @ 8,500 rpm
    • 2012+: 71 hp @ 8,500 rpm
  • Maximum Torque:
    • 2006 – 2011: 48.7 lb-ft @ 7,000 rpm
    • 2012+: 48.5 lb-ft @ 7,000 rpm
  • Fuel System: Fuel injection
  • Fuel Capacity: 16L (4.2 US gal)
  • Fuel Efficiency: Approximately 45 mpg (5.1 L/100 km)
  • Range: Approximately 290 km

Brakes, Rims, & Tires

Note: ABS was optional for model years 2007+.

  • Front Brakes: Dual 300 mm discs with 2-piston calipers (ABS optional)
  • Rear Brake: Single 220 mm disc with a single-piston caliper (ABS optional)
  • Front tire: 120/70ZR-17MC 58W
  • Rear Tire: 160/60ZR-17M/C 69W

Suspension

  • Front suspension:
    • 2006 – 2011: 41 mm hydraulic telescopic fork, 120 mm (4.7 in) in travel
    • 2012+: 41 mm hydraulic telescopic fork, 125 mm (4.9 in) in travel
  • Rear suspension:
    • 2006 – 2011: Single offset laydown shock w/ adjustable preload (125 mm / 3.9 in travel)
    • 2012+: Single offset laydown shock w/adjustable preload (129 mm / 5.1 in travel)


Helpful 650R Communities & Resources

YouTube Reviews