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2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Track Comparison

Monday, January 16, 2012

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2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Track Comparison Video
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Check out MotoUSA's track sessions on the green machne in the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Track Comparison Video.
The Kawasaki Ninja 250R is the king of small-bore sportbikes, and there’s a good reason its Kawasaki’s best-selling Ninja. Once it received the major facelift in ’08, the remade 250R was hot enough that even long-time sportbike riders were tempted to pick one up as a fun, economical option. Not only does the small engine make it entertaining to ride, but the Ninja 250R is a proven performer with great styling and dependability.

At the heart is Kawasaki’s trusty Parallel Twin engine. The liquid-cooled four-stroke offers 249cc of displacement with a pair of 62x42.1mm cylinders. With an 11.6:1 compression ratio, the DOHC mill spins up to the tune of 26.3 horsepower and 13.4 lb-ft of torque. It’s not uncommon to see fuel-injected bikes with a sharp bottom-to-mid engine and carbureted versions churning out high-rpm performance. That holds true in this case as the Honda’s EFI-equipped engine relies on midrange torque while the Kawi’s dual 30mm Keihin carbs dump fuel through the jets as the engine revs up to 15,000 rpm. Riders will pull the most power from the Twin at 11,000, and it continues to make better horsepower than the CBR until cresting 13,000. Once the Ninja starts to fall off its curve, shifting becomes critical.

“The Kawi prefers revs but you have to shift before the rev-limiter comes in because power flattens out way at the top,” Waheed notes.

2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Track Comparison
The little Ninja has a more potent engine on the track. There are extra vibrations that come with higher rpm, but it also feels more racy and puts out more horsepower.
On the track, the carbureted engine is capable of pulling even large riders around the circuit thanks to a six-speed transmission. Waheed and this author are both at the 200-pound mark with a set of leathers, so any extra output is welcome, and the ability to harness that is equally important. The Twin is willing to go much higher than the Honda’s Single, which makes for a racy feel, but the transmission and easy cable clutch help the Kawasaki best the CBR in 0-60 acceleration testing by nearly a full second (7.7 vs. 8.5 seconds).

“I liked the acceleration power of the Kawasaki best,” admits Sorensen. “I felt like the power came on quicker and as I shifted and accelerated the power was there in midrange also. The Honda felt a little slower in the high end.”

The standard 37mm fork offers 4.7 inches of travel but is non-adjustable. Our slower riders found both ends too soft, but were happy with progress made by adjusting the rear end. The shock has 5.1 inches of travel and stiffening the preload helped stabilize the Ninja through fast sweepers and also give the front end more emphasis. A steel chassis with square-tube swingarm provides good feedback and adequate rigidity for track use, easily managing speeds that the engine can generate.

“The Kawasaki chassis is a little more planted at lean,” confirms Waheed. A slightly longer 55.1-inch wheelbase and more spread-out ergonomics make the Kawasaki a little easier to pilot for big riders, but the 30.5-inch seat height is still incredibly easy to mount for women or beginners. At 5’11” I was more comfortable on the Kawasaki with more room for my torso and comfortable reach to the pegs, but it doesn’t take a tall rider to appreciate the versatile layout.

“I felt much more comfortable on the Kawasaki all the way across the board,” says our shortest tester, Sorensen, “from my footpeg placement, to the cockpit, to the hand controls.”

Our Off-Road Editor was able to get some sportbike experience on the Ninja.
The Kawasaki chassis is a little more planted at lean.
Both of our new track riders could feel that the Kawasaki has a more aggressive engine. The ergonomics were also a favorite for the newbies.
A twin-piston Nissin caliper squeezes the 290mm front disc while a single-piston rear caliper grabs the 220mm rear. The combination provides plenty of grip to slow down. Both bikes slowed from 60-to-0 mph in the same distance, but our fastest rider, Waheed, gave the nod to the Kawasaki out on the track. He particularly praised the front binder, but also noted that both bikes have very effective rear brakes. Due to their lighter weight, the rear brake has a more noticeable effect on the bike which leads him to use it more aggressively.

“I can’t believe how fun these things are to ride at the track,” says the admitted horsepower fiend, Waheed. “Since these bikes don’t have any power you really need to focus on carrying corner speed, using the entire racetrack and trying to not use the brakes as much as possible. If you’re looking to improve your skill around the racetrack then you simply must spend some time on these bikes.”

While both bikes offer great platforms as all-around entry-level sportbikes, when considered purely for track use, the Kawasaki’s extra power simply can’t be ignored. It revs hard and the extra horsepower can be put to use at all times on a closed-circuit environment. As the author, I personally preferred everything about the Honda, except for the fact that I can wring the Kawi and it packs 200 pounds a little easier. Even Sorensen, who currently owns and rides a larger Honda sportbike, had to give the Kawasaki a nod on the track. “Hands down I would have to choose the Kawasaki, which is really hard for me to do because in our garage the Honda flag is the only one flying!”

We aren’t beating the Honda since it succeeds entirely for its intended use, but the Ninja 250R is the more popular choice for our test riders if the bikes were never going to see a regular highway. Waheed sums it up, saying, “Overall, if I was looking for a track 250 I would buy the Kawasaki as it is just plain faster. It’s got a little bit more ground clearance, more top-end power, stronger brakes and the chassis is more planted.”

2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Track Gallery
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2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Specs
Kawasakis Ninja 250R is the king of small-bore sportbikes  and theres a good reason its Kawasakis best-selling sportbike.
2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke Parallel Twin
Displacement: 249cc
Bore and Stroke: 62.0mm x 42.1mm
Compression ratio: 11.6:1
Valve Train: DOHC; four valves per cylinder
Fueling: Dual Keihin CVK30 Carbs
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorized with electronic advance
Transmission: Six-speed
Suspension Front: 37mm fork
Suspension Rear: KYB single shock with five-position preload adjustment
Brakes Front: Single 290mm disc with two-piston Nissin calipers
Brakes Rear: Single 220mm disc with single-piston caliper
Tires Front: 110/70-17 radial
Tires Rear: 140/70-17 radial
Rake/Trail: 26.0 degrees / 3.2 inches
Wheelbase: 55.1 inches
Seat Height: 30.5 inches
Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gallons
Colors: Ebony, Lime Green / Ebony (SE), Pearl White / Ebony (SE)
Curb Weight: 375 lbs.
MSRP: $3999
2011 Kawasaki 250R Horsepower/Torque
2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Horsepower and Torque
Kawasaki Sportbike Dealer Locator

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DJOakTree   June 12, 2012 02:26 PM
Wheelies with 30hp? Seems a bit of a stretch. I have a CBR250R (I know, 23hp), and I'll tell you, without some seeeeeeerious effort, you're not gonna get the front end off the ground in 2nd gear. So you can pop a wheelie in 1st, but you're not likely to ride it anywhere. A Z1000? Really? You would have someone start on a bike that has enough power to easily jump out from underneath them? Or maybe they sneeze while going around a turn and crack the throttle just a bit further and dump it because the back wheel starts to spin? Accelerate out of trouble? My friend, if you're often finding yourself in a position where your only option is to accelerate, you need to reevaluate your riding style. I will admit, it is not a bike for the highway. But in town, I can't imagine an easier or more manageable bike. And I DEFINITELY recommend ABS, it's saved my ass and cash twice so far (4000 miles). I happen to like small, light bikes, thank you very much, and you will see me in the fairly near future on either a Monster or a Striple R, I'm not willing to go much heavier. P.S. Good job trolling the "scooter" review. Nice to know that while you're too ignorant to tolerate the viewpoints of others, at least you're educating yourself on what those viewpoints are. Oh yeah, and I don't know what bike you're on, but I can tell you one thing (because I know everything about everything): it sucks. My scooter has a bigger... than your scooter. Good day sir.
Pavement   January 17, 2012 11:55 AM
Notably missing are the Aprilia RS125 and Yamaha WR250X. Perhaps one day the small bore entries will warrant a full blown smackdown? There are some interesting 450 supermotos floating around out there as well which should be a blast on the track.
Piglet2010   January 16, 2012 04:23 PM
Too bad the Ninja 250 is still carburated. If I were looking for a small-bore track bike, I would pick up a used Ninja 250 with less than 10K miles, which can be found for less than $2,500 in good condition. Fuel injection (which the European version has) would likely make me spring for a new Ninja instead.
bikerrandy   January 16, 2012 12:14 PM
You guys bring back memories when I used to amateur road race 305-350cc Yamahas and a 350 Honda back in the late 60's in SoCal.