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Friday 14th September 2012

PH2: Kawasaki Ninja 300

Is Kawasaki's smallest Ninja the way to go for new riders?



The Ninja 250 first landed on the UK’s shores back in 2009. Despite looking pretty funky, underneath the fairing the 250 was little more than a GPX250 (ok, with 70% new internals) parallel twin engine and a steel chassis. On the face of it, the Ninja didn’t promise much - in fact, initially it wasn’t even destined to be released in Europe. It’s a damn good job that sales in America, where 23,000 were shifted in 2007 alone, prompted a re-think.

Since its UK debut, the Ninja 250 has proved a surprise hit. With a claimed 33bhp, it fell within the boundaries of power for restricted licence holders - but this wasn’t its only audience. There is a small yet significant section of the motorcycle community that don’t want to go mental on the roads. Commuters, new riders and some female riders considered that a lightweight, stylish bike with enough power to top 70mph to be more than up to the job. And they still do, believe it or not: last year the Ninja 250 almost outsold the ZX-6R.

Not so mean, but definitely green
Not so mean, but definitely green
So why 300?

Things change. As of 19th January 2013, new European A2 licensing laws will come into force in the UK. These will allow anyone with a restricted licence to ride a bike of up to 39bhp. To take advantage of this, Kawasaki has upped the capacity of the Ninja from 250 to 296cc. Although the Ninja’s bore is still 62mm, the stroke has been increased and various internal components redesigned.

The net result is a restricted, licence-friendly 39bhp bike that looks better than ever thanks to a new fairing, chassis, digital clocks and re-designed wheels. Oh, and it also has a slipper clutch with an ‘assist cam’ that reduces the effort at the clutch lever by 25% - but more of that later.

Small bike, big impression

I’ve ridden the Ninja 250 a few times, and I’m not a huge fan. It feels a bit small and unsubstantial and the motor is pretty gutless, even considering its 33bhp claim.

The new 300, however, instantly feels different. The styling updates give the 300 a far more ‘big bike’ feel, while the digital display is classier as well as more functional as it now contains a fuel gauge. I’d like to have also seen a gear indicator, but that’s just me. Yep, despite its small size, the Ninja 300 doesn’t feel too weedy, although when you fire it up the façade slips slightly…

There is no getting away from the fact the Ninja’s engine sounds like a series of wet farts. It’s not inspiring in any way, shape, or form, and I would strongly recommend that owners fit one of Kawasaki’s official accessory Leo Vince race cans.

Goodbye sogginess, hello fun
Goodbye sogginess, hello fun
But sound is one thing, performance is another, and the 300 is a wonderful little mover. The suspension on the old 250 was something of a weak spot due to soft settings that made the bike wobble and pitch through corners. For the 300, Kawasaki have kept the same physical suspension units but altered their damping to provided a far more compliant ride. It’s not hard or harsh, it’s simply had the sogginess removed. This, combined with pegs which are no longer rubber mounted, makes for a sportier ride. You can stir the Ninja into action and have a great time on the back roads, making full use of your corner speed so as not to lose crucial momentum. Although, having said that, the new 300 engine is surprisingly sprightly.

On a motorway the Ninja will happily hold 80mph and push up to over 100mph when required. Experienced riders will start to treat the throttle like an on/off switch after a few miles, but where the 250 was dull and slow, the 300 delivers an acceptable turn of pace. And it does it with a lovely light clutch lever action.

Speaking of which, why a slipper clutch? It’s nothing to do with racing, more safety. A lot of learners crash by shifting down too many gears and accidentally locking the rear wheel. Attempt this on the Ninja and the slipper takes over, gently re-introducing the power when the revs meet the rear wheel’s speed. An excellent safety aid and one I can see appearing on more ‘new rider’ bikes.

Random bollardage
Random bollardage
Worth a shot?

I didn’t expect to be, but I was actually quite taken by the Ninja 300. It’s not gigantically powerful, but it certainly has enough grunt for day to day use and looks fantastic. Where I would have struggled to recommend the 250 to a new rider, I would happily tell one to take the 300 out for a blast.

Is it worth upgrading to from current 250 riders? I’d say so. The extra capacity, power and handling make the 300 a far better bike, a feeling the new look only enhances.

Specs:
2013 Ninja 300          

Engine: 296cc, liquid-cooled parallel twin, DOHC, fuel injection
Power: 39hp @ 11,000rpm
Torque: 20ft.lb @ 10,000rpm
Top speed: 105mph (est)
Weight: 172kg (dry)
MPG: 60 (est)
Price: £4,800 (TBC)

Jon Urry
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Author Discussion

MGZRod

Original Poster:

6,426 posts

63 months

[news] 
Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
Fairly smart, do like.

Though not confirmed, £4,800?? Quite dear, no?

jp7152

133 posts

110 months

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Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
Isn't 172kg dry quite heavy?

Hooli

28,246 posts

87 months

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Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
20lb/ft? Is it pedal assist?

Gixer_fan

214 posts

85 months

[news] 
Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
Peak torque at 10K even with the longer stroke? You'll have to rev it some for any decent progress.
Not exactly cheap. Queue list of better value 2nd-hand bikes.......

sprinter1050

11,302 posts

114 months

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Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
I'd still like to think we'll see a 1/3rd Triumph Daytona 675 (i.e. 225cc twin) coming out as a "learner" bike.
or how about a 2/3rds one 450cc twin Triumph. Could be fun bikes.
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PaulMoor

1,627 posts

50 months

[news] 
Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
If the bars are mounted a little lower than the 250 I may be interested. The 250, for all its sports looks, always looked a bit to commuter bike in drag for my liking. It looks like they have sorted it with this, and it will be perfect for running round town.

Hopefully the price means that it is not built down to a cost, yet is still usefully cheaper than bigger bikes like the SV650 and the G650. Saying "you can buy X second hand for the same" is not comparing apples with apples.

Edited by PaulMoor on Friday 14th September 14:20

AlexKing

499 posts

45 months

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Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
I like my 250 Ninja. Perfect across town if a little stretched at motorway speeds (though I have seen triple-figure leptons out of it - you can't have been trying hard enough). For me the 250 is the MX-5 of bikes - never going to win speed contests but really very practical, reliable and a nifty handler (in my experience anyway - the default suspension setting is set up for someone of 65kg if I recall correctly, and I have it cranked up one notch despite the fact that I am abut 65kg, and it helps a lot).

Main gripe is that it feels a bit cramped on long journeys, even though I'm only 5'8", and from what I've read elsewhere, they've not really sorted that.

I'll not be 'upgrading' for the same reasons I'm not trading in my iPhone 3GS for a 5 - the newer model is undoubtedly better, but not sufficiently so to spend the money. I'm very happy that this bike exists though - hopefully it'll get more people onto two wheels who are looking for a nice, sporty-looking bike but were previously put off by the fact that they had to choose between something that was only really any good at city speeds, or a supersport 600 that scared the bejezus out of them and was too fat for city filtering.

stanthebiker

399 posts

72 months

[news] 
Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
Article said:
A lot of learners crash by shifting down too many gears and accidentally locking the rear wheel.
Really? I'm never come across any learner who actually managed to crash by doing that, so "a lot" seems inaccurate to me.

btdk5

1,473 posts

77 months

[news] 
Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
Gixer_fan said:
Peak torque at 10K even with the longer stroke? You'll have to rev it some for any decent progress.
Not exactly cheap. Queue list of better value 2nd-hand bikes.......
Around the same price as the yzf 125 but has more power.

Surprised they didn't sell more than then zx6r I see loads around in town.

Steve Evil

9,278 posts

116 months

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Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
Couple of years too late for cyberface, would have been the perfect alternative to that custom Aprilia he had built.

Vantagefan

592 posts

57 months

[news] 
Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
http://www.visordown.com/motorcycle-news-new-bikes...

If we're talking about a lot of bang for your buck on the A2 licence...

RedTrident

5,192 posts

122 months

[news] 
Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
Please Honda. Just re release the old vfr400.

Nice bike though. I remember looking at a new ninja 250 when I first started riding. It was just too much money.

Blackpuddin

5,726 posts

92 months

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Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
Anybody else remember this bike's ancestor, the belt drive GPZ305?

podman

5,409 posts

127 months

[news] 
Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
Blackpuddin said:
Anybody else remember this bike's ancestor, the belt drive GPZ305?
Certainly do, lets hope it doesnt share that models reliability record and belt drive..

I quite like it, a (claimed) 39BHP is what we had to punt us about on our 250LC's back in the day so it should be fairly nippy off the line, look forward to taking one for a punt anyway.

Thing is, at the price , Kawasaki are competing with their own ER6 range..which will still be a better all-round bike I wager.

Nice looking thing thou...looking forward to seeing how the 2013 ZX636 is rated.

3doorPete

8,280 posts

121 months

[news] 
Friday 14th September 2012 quote quote all
Blackpuddin said:
Anybody else remember this bike's ancestor, the belt drive GPZ305?
Certainly do - hateful thing! Really it's ancestor is the GPX250R. Superb little bike. 35kg lighter than this new one and put out more power than the Ninja 250 as it didn't have the emmission gumph.

GPX250R was my first big bike in 1995 and these little parallel twins like the Ninja 250/300 can be thrashed all day, do 200 miles plus to a tank and 65mpg+ on a run.

Unfortunately mine met an early demise with a m-way bridge support.



Before


After


FestivAli

973 posts

125 months

[news] 
Saturday 15th September 2012 quote quote all
I think it looks fantastic. If I were buying my first bike again (I got a Suzuki GS500F, we can have up to 650cc so long as power to weight is less than 150kw (200hp?) / tonne) I would definately consider one of these. In fact I think it would make my brothers that closer to getting their licenses. I also think parallel twins are great to start on as they are sort of torquey which helps you when you are a bit of a mug with the gears the first few rides. I have to say I am really liking where Kawasaki have gone styling wise in the last few years, starting with the ZX-10R. Where I think sharp angular lines can look contrived on cars, they seem to work on bikes. I think it will do very well down here, they've just launched it exactly as Spring decided to show it's head and we got some cracking weather in the last week here in Melbourne where it had been miserable for quite some time.

KingNothing

1,298 posts

40 months

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Saturday 15th September 2012 quote quote all
btdk5 said:
Around the same price as the yzf 125 but has more power.

Surprised they didn't sell more than then zx6r I see loads around in town.
Yamaha relly need to look at their prices, when I bought mine it was £3k, now they're £4.4k lol

Also the article is wrong, the limit that is coming in for A2 restricted riders is 46.6BHP not 39.

Pothole

20,260 posts

169 months

[news] 
Saturday 15th September 2012 quote quote all
stanthebiker said:
Article said:
A lot of learners crash by shifting down too many gears and accidentally locking the rear wheel.
Really? I'm never come across any learner who actually managed to crash by doing that, so "a lot" seems inaccurate to me.
Indeed. Any figures to back up this claim?

CBR JGWRR

6,365 posts

36 months

[news] 
Saturday 15th September 2012 quote quote all
KingNothing said:
btdk5 said:
Around the same price as the yzf 125 but has more power.

Surprised they didn't sell more than then zx6r I see loads around in town.
Yamaha really need to look at their prices, when I bought mine it was £3k, now they're £4.4k lol

Also the article is wrong, the limit that is coming in for A2 restricted riders is 46.6BHP not 39.
47 bhp is the crank output, 39 would be at rear wheel.

krisdelta

2,530 posts

88 months

[news] 
Saturday 15th September 2012 quote quote all
Smart looking bike, seems expensive at list price though.
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