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Kawasaki Ninja Ride Day

Monday, March 11, 2013

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2013 Kawasaki Ninja Ride Day Video
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Watch as MotoUSA puts four Ninja models through their paces in the Kawasaki Ninja Ride Day Video.
Track days are not only a safe way to get your speed fix, they also condense the motorcycle experience into the most highly refined morsels of speed and handling. Every street bike rider should get out on a race circuit at least once. The problem is track days are like potato chips or cheesecakes – you can’t stop with just one. Now you may find many excuses on why not to give it a go. “I’m just a beginner.” ”I’m too old.” ”I’m too slow.” ”My bike is too small or too slow.” Nonsense. Just about any bike will deliver that rush on a closed course. Recently Kawasaki hosted a “for fun” day at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway that proved my hypothesis.

Kawasaki brought four Ninja models from its 2013 line for a day of wide open fun. A fleet of green machines waited for us to enjoy some spirited riding. From the beginner friendly Ninja 300R to the almighty ZX-10R, take your pick and get your lean on. This presented a unique opportunity to show that every Ninja is track worthy while finding out what type of rider would benefit from each machine’s particular character.

Ninja 300 - $4,799

If you think an experienced rider wouldn’t be caught dead on the Ninja 300, then you are sorely mistaken. While having the lowest tech, the most budget components and the smallest displacement, the 300 is fun and useful for anyone looking for some quality time and practice on the track. In fact, during our time at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, the Ninja 300 was the most in demand by the fastest riders.

Why would the most experienced riders on the track clamor for the slowest machine? Three letters – F, U, N. The lower power output brings the speed down to levels that lets the pilot concentrate on line selection, body position and momentum. One 20-minute session on a Ninja 300 will teach you more than an entire day on a ZX-10R.

Additionally the handling, despite non-adjustable suspension, is rock solid while being supremely agile. The braking performance is better than expected, although you won’t spend much time squeezing on the binders. Every bit of momentum is critical when racing a pack of Ninja 300s and you are the one being drafted. Even when matched against faster bikes, the 300 can stun you on how quickly it can lap a circuit.

So who is the Ninja 300 rider? Everybody – young, old, fat, skinny, slow or fast. You will never have so much fun on something that seems like it would be easily outpaced and outgrown. Smiles per dollar – the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 is the champ every time.

Ninja 650 - $7,599

It may look softer and more comfortable, but on the track the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 650 is still a blast. While Kawasaki dropped the “R” from the 650’s moniker for the current model, there is still plenty of sport bike DNA lurking inside, and all it takes is a lap around Chuckwalla to find it. Its unassuming demeanor is the perfect track day sleeper to wax unsuspecting weekend warriors.

A 650cc Parallel Twin powers the Ninja 650, and although it has less than 60% of the horsepower of a ZX-6R it’s an excellent mill for track day duty. With more mid-range grunt than screaming top-end boost, grunting around the circuit is supremely satisfying with an easy-to-control character.

What makes the Ninja 300 so fun is also what makes the Ninja 650 a blast. It’s simple, the speed is faster but still not into scary territory and the riding position is relaxed. All of this allows you to concentrate on riding technique while not having to reign in triple digit horses.

But unlike the 300, when the need for speed does strike, carry a little momentum and you can get the 650 to lap with respectable lap times. The suspension is planted even when pushed – just don’t get to herky-jerky. The smoothness learned on the 650 will help down the line if and when you step up to a supersport or liter-bike.

The 2013 Ninja 650 is a great track mount for riders that have some experience but are still intimidated by the power 600cc and open-class repli-racers. Additionally those that aren’t quite as flexible as they used to be will enjoy the room to stretch out while still going like stink.

Ninja ZX-6R - $11,699

Inline Four, traction control, big-piston forks and Nissin Monbloc brakes – this is serious business, and when you want to get serious the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R is ready when you are. Kawasaki added some extra cubes for 2013, bringing back the 636 engine displacement to make the 6R a better street bike. But that has also made it an even better track weapon.

The mid-range grunt has been bolstered with the additional 37cc’s and getting out of a corner is now easier and happens with more authority. This makes it more enjoyable for racers or riders that are less than sharp at the controls, but those on top of their game can also exploit the extra oomph for better lap times.

Compared to the Ninja 300 and 650, the 6R is a scalpel that cuts lines with precision that the lower spec’ed green machines can only dream of. The fully-adjustable suspension allows riders to fine-tune the Kawasaki to the rider and track. And there is no doubt that the track is where the supersport Ninja excels.

The ergonomics are much more compact and race specific. This could be an issue for those larger or less flexible riders, but it does put most riders in the position to make the most of the ZX-6R’s handling and performance.

If you are serious about getting the most out of a day at the track, the 2013 Kawasaki ZX-6R is the top choice. No other machine in the line-up has a much going for it at the racetrack. It’s got a great powerplant, awesome traction control and solid chassis.

Ninja ZX-10R - $14,299

Literbikes are the pinnacle of track-bred sportbikes, and the ZX-10R is the ultimate Ninja for the power hungry rider. Featuring all the technology present in the 6R, the 10R does it all with an engine that can warp space and time. Straightaways shorten and time between corners compress when the ZX-10R is ridden in anger. There is not much more fun than setting one of these 1000cc beasts loose out of a corner.

Even with a traction control system that can temper the aggression emanating from the 10R’s powerplant, the rider must be on point at all times. With so much power on tap, it’s easy to overcook a corner or come out too hot and run wide. Clarity of mission and honestly assessing of your abilities is paramount with the ZX-10R. Override this beast and you’ll be going backwards as smaller machines eat you for lunch in the tighter sections. Get it right, however, and you are a god among men.

If you like to make your time up on the straights, are power hungry or a highly skilled track day shredder then the ZX-10R would be the machine for you. Just be forewarned, the ZX-10R will magnify your deficiencies and expose the chinks in your armor. But all those other riders won’t see them as you blow by in a flash of green.

Hopefully this helps some of you choose the right machine for you and your abilities. Be honest with yourself where you belong in terms of experience and skills and I can guarantee you’ll find the right bike for a more enjoyable day at your local race track.
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2012 Kawasaki Ninja 300 Specs
Engine: Liquid-Cooled DOHC Parallel Twin 
Displacement: 296cc
Bore x Stroke: 62mm x 49mm
Compression Ratio: 10.6:1
Fueling: Fuel injected 32mm dual throttle bodies
Transmission: 6-Speed
Final Drive: Chain
Frame: Semi-double cradle, high-tensile steel
Rake: 27 degrees
Trail: 3.7 in.
Front Suspension: 37mm fork, non adjustable 
Rear Suspension: Uni-Trak single shock, with five-way adjustable preload 
Front Tire: 110/70-17
Rear Tire: 140/70-17
Front Brakes: Single 290mm petal-style disc with two-piston caliper
Rear Brake: Single 220mm petal-style disc with two-piston caliper
Wheelbase: 55.3 in.
Seat Height: 30.9 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gal.
Curb Weight: 379.3 pounds (claimed)
2013 Kawasaki Ninja 650 Specs
The 2012 Kawasaki Ninja 650 was the least expensive bike out testers rode.
2012 Kawasaki Ninja 650
Engine: Four-stroke, DOHC, four-valve, parallel twin
Bore and Stroke: 83.0 mm x 60.0 mm
Fuel Delivery: Digital fuel injection with two 38mm Keihin throttle bodies
Transmission: 6-Speed
Final Drive: O-Ring Chain
Front Suspension: 41 mm hydraulic telescopic fork / 4.9 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Single offset laydown shock with adjustable spring preload / 5.1 in. travel
Front Brakes: Dual 300 mm petal discs with two-piston calipers
Rear Brake: Single 220 mm petal disc with single piston caliper
Front Tire: 120/70-17
Rear Tire: 160/60-17
Curb Weight: 463 lbs
Wheelbase: 55.5 in.
Rake: 25 deg.
Trail: 4.3 in.
Seat Height: 31.7 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gal.
MSRP: $7,599
2013  Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Specs
Engine: 636cc liquid-cooled Inline-Four, DOHC
Bore x Stroke: 67.0 x 45.1mm
Compression Ratio: 12.9:1
Fueling: fuel-injection, 38mm Keihin throttle bodies
Transmission: Six-speed cassette-type
Clutch: Wet, F.C.C. w/ cable actuation
Front Suspension: 41mm Showa BP-SFF with adjustable compression damping, rebound damping and spring preload; 4.7 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Uni-Trak equipped gas charged shock with adjustable compression, rebound damping and spring preload; 5.3 in. travel
 Front Brakes: 310mm petal discs, radial-mount monobloc-style Nissin calipers
 Rear Brake: Single 220mm petal disc, single-piston Tokico caliper
Tires: Bridgestone Battlax S20 120/70R17, 180/55R17
 Curb Weight: 423 lbs (claimed, ready to ride)
Wheelbase: 54.9 in.
Rake: 23.5 deg.
Seat Height: 32.7 in.
Fuel Tank: 4.5 gal.
MSRP: $11,699
Colors: Pearl Flat Stardust White; Flat Ebony Metallic Spark Black; Flat Ebony Lime Green
2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Specs
2012 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R
Engine: Liquid-cooled 998cc Inline-Four, 16-valves
Bore and Stroke: 76.0 x 55.0mm
Compression Ratio: 13.0:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel-injection
Clutch: Wet multi-plate slipper clutch; Cable actuation Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive: Chain 17F/39R
Frame: Twin-spar aluminum
Front Suspension: 43mm inverted Showa BPF; 3-way adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.7 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Horizontal back-link Showa gas-charged shock; 4-way adjustable for spring preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound damping; 4.9 in. travel
Front Brakes: 310mm petal discs with radial-mount Tokico four-piston calipers
Rear Brake: 220mm disc with single-piston caliper
Tires: 120/70R17, 190/55R17
Curb Weight: 439 lbs.
Wheelbase: 56.1 in.
Seat Height: 32.0 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallon
MSRP: $14,299
Colors: Lime Green; Metallic Flat Platinum Gray, Passion Red
Warranty: 12-month, unlimted mileage

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Piglet2010   March 17, 2013 05:42 PM
@ jfc1 – I will bet you that Spencer and/or Pridmore would be faster around any road racing track in the US on a Ninja 300 than you would be on a ZX-10R. :) “They are too old to race and win, assuming that they ever had the talent and the bike to win, that's why they teach...racing these days is a young, rich mans' game, seats are going to the riders with the biggest sponsorship, not the best talent” - Sheesh, do you really believe that declining vision and reflexes with age has any bearing on proper riding technique? Ever had the talent? Be serious, with Spencer there is no doubt that he is one of the all time greats, and as for Pridmore, he was just at the level below great.
Piglet2010   March 17, 2013 04:54 PM
@ jfc1 – 5-year old CBR600F4i? Pretty clever to have one of those, since 2006 was the last model year. 2013-2006 = 7, not 5. ;) As for talking down to someone with a 1200cc motorcycle, you are the one who stated that you do not go fast around corners. And yes, I know my sag should be at about 25mm for a really smooth track, 35mm for a really rough track, and near 30mm for most. Rebound damping should be just enough to eliminate any bounce when testing the bike unladen. Compression damping is more trial and error, but fortunately, the best traction occurs at slightly less damping than feeling of maximum control, as well as the range of good traction and control being much wider for compression damping than rebound damping.
Piglet2010   March 17, 2013 04:46 PM
@ jfc1 – If you had ever attended Pridmore's Star School, you would know that he recommends riding within one's limits so as to not make mistakes that cause a crash. Students riding at the ragged edge are directed into the hot pit by an instructor and told to slow down and focus on proper technique. But keep on digging yourself a deeper hole with you ignorance based assumptions.
Piglet2010   March 17, 2013 04:46 PM
@ jfc1 – “There is an old saying about teachers. You know it? It goes "Those who can do, do. Those who can't, teach".” So this must be why Freddie Spencer runs a riding school; after all in 72 Grand Prix starts his best results were only 27 wins, 39 podium finishes, 33 pole positions, 24 fastest laps, and 3 World Championships – what a wanker, eh? ;) Maybe you should go give him some riding lessons on how to go slow around corners. ;)
Piglet2010   March 17, 2013 04:36 PM
@ jfc1 – Red herrings your favorite food? Because I see you have tried to turn the discussion to street riding, when the original focus is on what bike would be best for use on the track. Not clever at all. And yes, with your riding style, you would be the guy on the ZX-10R getting passed on every corner (and slower overall around the track) than the good riders on Ninja 300's.
Piglet2010   March 17, 2013 04:17 PM
@ jfc1 – Seriously, if cagers are trying to kill you, you are either very unlucky or provoking them. But if they follow you onto the race track to do so, I am sure the track management can have the police come and arrest them for trespassing.
Piglet2010   March 17, 2013 04:14 PM
When I have done riding schools and track days, there has been a distinct absence of cagers on the track trying to take out motorcycle riders. I suggest you complain to the track management if this is the case. ;) After all, we are discussing the best bikes for track riding (the focus of the article, no?), and not street use.
Piglet2010   March 17, 2013 04:09 PM
@ jfc1 – I hope you do not start a riding school, if you do not realize there is a huge difference between a bike that will easily spin its rear tire upon throttle application when leaned over (any liter bike and any hyper-sport without traction control, and even a super-sport under the right conditions) and a bike that will not. Besides, what will you teach the students – to tip-toe around the corners at lower speeds than a good cruiser rider can obtain, then gun it once the bike is through the corner (your self-described riding style)? I find the power of the F4i detracts from the more important aspects of riding well (such as vision, body position, line, etc), which is why I am considering getting something less powerful for a year or two. Unlike you, I realize that I have much to learn before I could consider myself a good track rider – you really need to have your riding evaluated by someone who is both competent and brutally honest.
Piglet2010   March 17, 2013 03:59 PM
@ jfc1 - “So in two statements you denigrated owning any 600cc bike, really any sport 500 or faster”. Your interpretation is utter nonsense. Super-sports and super-bikes are fine for riders who have first mastered riding lower powered bikes, but not for those who have not (such as people who can not keep up with cruisers in the corners). A Honda RCV213 or Yamaha YZR-M1 would be horrible choices for most people on a track, but are fine for the “aliens”.
Piglet2010   March 17, 2013 03:54 PM
@ jfc1 – No police intervention when riding at extra-legal speeds. Either you do not do this very often or are exceptionally lucky.
Piglet2010   March 17, 2013 03:53 PM
@ jfc1 – Jason Pridmore is an idiot? - So that is why he has two (2) more AMA top level professional class riding titles and one (1) more FIM World Championship title than jfc1? Why he runs a successful riding school, while jfc1 does not? The very same jfc1 who admits he cannot keep up in the corners on his sport-bike with good riders (who are on cruisers, no less), and makes up for it with power on the straights. No, by his own description, jfc1 is a classic example of a *poor* rider, who needs to learn how to ride on a less powerful bike. :)
Piglet2010   March 17, 2013 03:51 PM
Why have I been able to post on other threads, but not this one?
Piglet2010   March 17, 2013 03:49 PM
Piglet2010   March 17, 2013 10:40 AM
@ jfc1 - Why would I trade in my F4i for a Honda Dullsville, when I already own the latter? Maybe you should read a bit more carefully next time.
Piglet2010   March 16, 2013 01:55 PM
@ jfc1 - The F4i (just like the ZX-6R and ZX-10R) is too much for the street: by the time you get to the 2-3 upshift you are into go to jail territory. And it is no fun to putter around on doing early shifts - might as well ride my more comfortable and practical Honda Dullsville (NT700V) at that point. And on the track Pridmore is correct - something else would be a better learning bike. Maybe a Honda CBR250R with some suspension upgrades, or a Yamaha WR250X motard is what I really need.
Piglet2010   March 16, 2013 01:38 PM
@ jfc1 - 2012 Star Motorcycle School class at Blackhawk Farms Raceway: Jason Pridmore told us that most of us would learn a lot more on a SV650 than on a super-sport or super-bike race replica, specifically due to its lower power and more rider friendly (decent low-end and mid-range torque) power-band.
Piglet2010   March 15, 2013 06:30 PM
I have been thinking about getting something slower than my CBR600F4i for the reasons this article mentions, and I have considered the Ninja 300 and 650, but am leaning more towards the Honda CBR500R as it slots in nicely between the 250-300cc and 650cc class bikes. Or maybe the KTM Duke 390 - light weight and thumper grunt.
Piglet2010   March 15, 2013 06:27 PM
For what it is worth, Jason Pridmore agrees with Justin Dawes and not jfc1 - his recommended bike (since Suzuki is his sponsor) is the SV650, which is of course quite similar to the Ninja 650.
Justin Dawes   March 14, 2013 11:07 AM
jfc1 - If you think I'm a goob (one that can't spell - I'll give you that.) that's fine. My ebullience for the 300 is genuine. I really don't care to change your opinion; I care more to explain my position and refute your claim of me being paid by Kawasaki. I've done that. Take it or leave it. Please refrain from insulting any of our editorial staff and the readers of MotoUSA with accusations of being paid off to write positive impressions from manufacturers. It simply does not and will not happen. EVER. What you read is my honest opinion, always. As a writer all you have is your ethics and creditability, please understand that we take offense to any challenge of those, whether it is in jest or not.
Justin Dawes   March 13, 2013 08:53 AM
@mistery - Its a big difference, but it not as much about the lap times as it is the fun factor and the ability to learn with lower consequences. At Chuckwalla we would guess the lap times would be about 14-18 seconds slower on the 300 vs a ZX10. Now track with longer straights the difference is going to greater and tighter tracks would be less.
Justin Dawes   March 13, 2013 08:50 AM
@jfc1 - I get paid a ton. A few more payola articles like this I'll be set to retire. Take off your tin-foil hat and get real. It's much more valuable to learn on something that is EASY to ride rather than trying to reign in a superbike. Just take a look at the popularity of the 250 Production classes in WERA, AFM and CVMA. They are on of the only classes that is actually growing. Why do you think that is? A ZX-10R can be ridden slowly, but it's no fun and your learning curve will be much slower. As the saying goes - "It's more fun to ride a slow bike fast than it is to ride a fast bike slow." I stand by argument that a Ninja 300 is fun for everyone and a great learning tool for a beginner or novice. And I'm sure my counterparts in just about every motorcycle publication and media outlet will agree with me.
mistery   March 12, 2013 12:14 AM
Any chance we get to see laptimes so we can compare the 300 to the 600/1000?