Kawasaki's Ninja 650R breaks new ground with broad appeal and innovative design

Unique look and feel grew from specific design team objectives seeking to blend attractiveness with power.

Look at Kawasaki's all new NINJA® 650R sportbike and the first impression is one of pure design appreciation. Look a little longer and many of the innovative engine and chassis elements begin to come into play. But the entire package doesn't truly project its intended engineering outcome until the motorcycle is viewed with a rider seemingly melded into its unique posture. Because the 650R was meant to have broad rider appeal, Kawasaki's development team began its task with the rider—not the motorcycle.


Focusing on all kinds of riders, and all kinds of riding, Kawasaki carefully studied the interface between human and machine. Riding positions were studied to discover which instilled the most confidence. Narrowing the distance between foot pegs and striving for a lower seat height and low effort controls all played into the design efforts. Ultimately, this exceptionally well-proportioned NINJA 650R represents a genre of motorcycling new to Kawasaki—one that finds itself at home with both novices and experienced riders, and one that will be seen equally in daily midtown commuting situations as well as week-end highway getaways.

A combination of versatility, performance and style, this motorcycle knows no boundaries in terms of rider appeal. It will be a first-time purchase for some, a second or third motorcycle for others, and for all, it will be fun. Powered by a compact two cylinder engine mounted in a sleek, lightweight chassis, this extremely maneuverable model will earn its rank as one of the most rider friendly units in today's marketplace.

The very compact liquid-cooled, DOHC, 8-valve 649cc Parallel Twin with fuel injection delivers a smooth responsiveness that is tuned for rider-friendly power characteristics—especially in the low and medium rpm ranges that will inspire confidence in new motorcyclists. Its excellent mid-range characteristics will make the 650R a natural for medium speed commuting environments. And slipping in and out of traffic will be a cinch for this new entry, as its lightweight trellis frame and laydown shock also contribute to its overall compactness.

While the powerplant on this new NINJA is compact, it is anything but minimal in its output. Just gauge the 650R's roll-on response when making a highway pass and any concerns in that area quickly subside. The engineers called on their vast experience building NINJA supersport machines to develop a motorcycle possessing performance characteristics that will be a match for anything currently available in the middleweight arena, including those with larger displacement.

Some of the engine's characteristics:

- Triangular layout of the crankshaft and transmission shafts make the engine very short, front-to-back
- The transmission's input shaft, output shaft, and change drum are contained in a cassette-style package that both works for the 650R's compact layout, and facilitates transmission maintenance
- Engine height is reduced through the use of a semi-dry sump design
- This new Kawasaki has a plated, linerless aluminum cylinder which is lightweight; its narrow cylinder pitch reduces engine width
- Under-engine muffler improves mass centralization and lowers the 650R center of gravity

Some of the chassis design elements:

- Compact engine design allows use of a slim, minimalist frame, which results in a design that is narrow at the knees and feet
- Light and nimble handling characteristics are one of the benefits of the extremely short wheelbase of this motorcycle
- A long swingarm is used, so both rear suspension and handling are improved
- Engineers used 3-D analysis to achieve the ideal stiffness balance for the frame, which contributes greatly to its handling characteristics
- Frame construction is of high-tensile steel, rivaling the lightness of aluminum frames
- The layout of the offset single-shock rear suspension allows the battery to be located next to the shock rather than beneath it—making for a slim design and lower seat height

Bringing the motorcycle to a stop is handled by triple petal disc brakes that look as good as they perform. And the attractive six-spoke supersport-style wheels give the 650R a "light" look while reducing unsprung weight.

This new entry sports a very aggressive headlight design, an aerodynamic windscreen and full fairing, and front turn signals integrated into the faring. The flowing bodywork includes a slim tail cowl with flush-surface tail lamp lens giving the new NINJA 650R a slim, agile appearance from the rear.

Also contributing to the slim design appearance is a two-tone seat and a sculpted fuel tank.
Instrumentation abounds with this multi-purpose motorcycle. A compact step-motor speedometer features an LCD display with digital readouts for odometer, twin tripmeter, and clock as well as an LED water temperature warning lamp.

Few will look at or ride Kawasaki's NINJA 650R and fail to come away impressed. Both from a design and a performance benchmark, the team responsible for this new motorcycle has accomplished their stated goal—creating a new category for Kawasaki where every rider, new, old, male, female, experienced or novice—can find a reason to park this one in the garage.

Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. (KMC) markets and sells at wholesale Kawasaki motorcycles, ATVs, personal watercraft and utility vehicles through a network of more than 1,500 independent retailers, with an additional 8,400 retailers specializing in power products and general purpose engines. KMC and its affiliates employ nearly 2,400 people in the United States, with more than 350 of them located at the Irvine, California headquarters.

Kawasaki's tagline, "Let the good times roll.™", is recognized worldwide and the brand is aggressively carrying its heritage of leading-edge power, performance and exhilaration into the 21st century. Information about Kawasaki's complete line of recreational products and Kawasaki affiliates can be found on the Internet at www.kawasaki.com.

Source: Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. (KMC)

Click here to visit our forums to discuss this story