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        Track Attack: 2021 Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS

        Check out how this sport tourer fares on the track
        by Che Estepa Jun 29, 2021
        PHOTO: Ian Ocampo

        The Ninja 650 is Kawasaki’s middleweight sport tourer designed for everyday road riding. Since it started production in 2006, this bike has carried on the tradition of modern styling and the fabrication of low-seating ergonomics.

        So, what’s new about the Ninja 650 this year? How capable is it as a weekend track bike? Check out how it fares from its predecessors and how it performed at the Clark International Speedway.

        What’s hot about the 2021 Kawasaki Ninja 650?

        2021 Kawasaki Ninja 650 sport tourer

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        Revitalized to manifest the Ninja sportbike genealogy, the Ninja 650 shines with distinct styling updates and improved technological advancements. One of its most eye-catching features is the novel color combinations: Metallic Imperial Red, Metallic Graphite Gray, and Pearl Teal—all mixed with Metallic Spark Black.

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        You’d immediately tell the latest iteration apart from the previous models upon seeing the exclusive color of the locally released 2021 edition—the Pearl Teal. LED headlights are now installed, which gives it a more aggressive appearance that mirrors its more expensive counterpart, the ZX6R.

        In terms of the instrumentation panel, the new Ninja 650 comes with a full digital cockpit that uses the new full-color 4.3-inch TFT display—a more refined LCD than those in earlier models. Throughout the track day, the screen was adequately illuminated.

        It also has Bluetooth connectivity via the Kawasaki Rideology app, where smartphones can be paired to track lap times. This gives the bike an up-to-date feel.

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        How does the ride feel?

        2021 Kawasaki Ninja 650 sport tourer

        The Ninja 650’s upright bars and neutral footpeg placement provide standard seating position that resulted in a relaxed yet focused ride. For stock setting, I found the placement of the footpegs a bit low and scraping the ground when I banked the motorcycle while cornering. Replacing these factory-original footpegs with aftermarket rear sets will solve the problem.

        With a curb weight of 196kg, the Ninja 650 feels easy to maneuver. I also felt a high level of comfort and riding confidence because of the 31.1-inch seat height. The Ninja 650 lineage remains height-friendly to riders with less than average height like me who stand 5’2”.

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        What does the engine sound like?

        2021 Kawasaki Ninja 650 sport tourer

        At the heart of the Ninja is a 649cc parallel-twin, four-stroke engine that pumps out 67.3hp at 8,000rpm. Parallel-twin engines are known for its reliability, affordability, and fuel efficiency, but with less top-end power. So, I didn’t have to rev it at deadly speeds at the track, because a lot of power was already produced on the lower rev ranges.

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        While the Ninja revs beyond 9,000rpm, the engine starts to scream at around 5,000 to 9,000rpm. I was able to put the needle at 208 kph, although its acclaimed top speed is at 212kph.

        As I pushed the bike at CIS to its limit by hard-braking into the corners, the more I felt the responsiveness of the Nissin braking system.

        Does it behave well on corners?

        Che Estepa and the 2021 Kawasaki Ninja 650 sport tourer

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        The stock suspension is primarily designed for recreational riding, although a stiffer system would have been better for track purposes. Yet for its chosen market, the price hits the mark. I recommend the suspension to be properly adjusted to the rider’s weight to be able to corner fast yet with a comfortable level of safety.

        It came with a pair of Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 tires, which were quick to warm up and gave enough traction with just a few laps to get it to its operating temperature. This enabled me to lean the bike sooner than expected, not to mention makes it more reasonably priced for riders to max out the bike’s track performance without burning too much rubber. The tires were exceptionally sticky and track-worthy, and gave remarkable grip that translated into confidence during cornering.

        How much?

        With an approachable price tag SRP of P433,500, this middleweight sport tourer is a very capable and versatile track bike, yet also great for roads. The Ninja 650 is a machine that beginners can grow into, or never grow out of, but more importantly, enjoy for many years to come. The question for bike owners with previous models, though, is whether to upgrade or not.

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        2021 Kawasaki Ninja 650 LED headlights

        2021 Kawasaki Ninja 650 instrument panel

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        2021 Kawasaki Ninja 650 LED headlights

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        PHOTO: Ian Ocampo

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