2012 brings a model year update that, though ostensibly subtle, addresses a number of quibbles with previous versions.
The most obvious change is the frame. Where the 2011 bike's frame tubes ran around the engine on the 2012 model they don't. Instead a new perimeter-style frame allows the engine to hang unsupported from the side. To go with this new frame is a redesigned subframe that is narrower to help vertically-challenged riders reach the ground and an altered fuel tank that is 20mm taller and slightly shorter, bringing the rider closer to the front of the bike.
On the styling side the seat becomes a split unit with the pillion and rider now separated. Other changes include a set of clocks that are now actually readable, which is a bonus. Kawasaki claims a few modifications to the motor's character too but these are down to little more than a new exhaust and air filter rather than any fundamental component changes.
Little bike, big heart
It's very hard not to enjoy riding the ER-6n. The 649cc parallel twin is a beautiful little motor that thumps along with a lazy nature and a pleasant burbling exhaust note. Many equivalent in-line four-cylinder middleweights lack bottom end but the R has stacks of easily exploited grunt that can be enjoyed in a relaxed and non-intimidating fashion.
So the changes to the engine over the 2011 bike are negligible but that's no bad thing, the biggest improvement over previous ER-6 models being the instruments. Not that this was the most difficult task, the jumble of letters and numbers on the 2011 bike's clocks so unintelligible spilling a can of alphabetti spaghetti on the dash would have been a marked improvement.
The ER-6n has always felt light to ride, helped by a low centre of gravity. At slow speeds this makes the Kawasaki very agile and nimble, making it excellent through town and reassuring for newer riders while proving surprisingly sporty when the pace increases. There are slightly faster steering middleweight bikes on the market but the ER-6n is no slouch and, though it can feel a bit light on its springs through fast corners, is very good at speed.
Suspension is often the first area to feel the pressure of hitting the necessary price point. And while the ER-6n has limited adjustability - rear spring preload is your lot - it seems to respond well and doesn't have the bouncy quality that lets down other budget conscious rivals.
Worth the cash?
For those looking for a 'first big bike' or just a hassle-free commuter you could do a lot worse than the ER. The motor is excellent, the handling sporty without being frisky and the riding position is very comfortable.
The distinctive looks and brash colours are appealing and the changes for 2012 are welcome. Details like moving the indicators away from inside the fairing (the first part to touch down when the bike is dropped), the clear clocks and the lowered seat height make this ideal for newer riders and the chassis is more than good enough for those with more experience.
At £5,799 it is on the money when it comes to the competition and with the option of the faired ER-6f (£5,999) or even the Versys (£6,549) there is certainly an ER for anyone.
2012 Kawasaki ER-6n
Engine: 649cc 2-cyl
Torque: 47ft lb@7,000rpm
Top speed: 130mph (est)
MPG: 45 (est)