Wring the throttle & you’ll feel a relentless shove & if you don’t hold the tank tight enough, you are sure to test your hand grip strength.
BHPian harmanjeet14 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.
Like many of us here, I was born an automobile enthusiast. My mother says, as an infant, I didn’t use to sleep until I had car keys clenched tightly into my hands. As I grew up, my love for anything on wheels just grew. As a kid, I could recognize almost all car models just by their headlights.
My love grew stronger when my sister introduced me to automobile magazines. I learnt a lot about the different parameters a car is judged upon, maintenance and the overall automobile business.
But a real eye-opener was Team Bhp. Since the day I discovered the website, I haven’t gone back to commercial magazines. The detailed reviews, ownership experiences, and advice from fellow enthusiasts just got me hooked, and how. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all the enthusiasts out there who help thousands of people with their contribution to this one-of-a-kind blog.
Need for an Upgrade
As a teenager, it was always a dream to have a bike for myself. The freedom a motorcycle gives is unmatched. I spent many sleepless nights thinking about owning one. After multiple promises made and broken, finally in late 2011 came my Black Stallion, the fastest Indian version of Pulsar 220. It was a dream to own the bike at that time. It never let me down on the loneliest of the highways, and 10 years later I can safely say the bike exceeded my expectations.
My black stallion gave me the taste for touring. It introduced me to the sports tourer format. I did away with the myth that you need cruisers such as Avengers and REs of the world to cover long distances. From the scenic Himalayas to the beaches down south, I toured everywhere. In whichever part of India I resided, my Black Stallion was with me.
The only drawback with Pulsar as a tourer was that at speeds above 80, the engine felt stressed. With highways becoming better and better every day, maintaining a speed of 100 was a regular affair. But riding continuously at those speeds, although the bike never gave issues, it definitely didn’t feel comfortable.
Post my MBA, when I started working again, the itch to upgrade became quite strong. Also, as me growing older, safety was on my mind. Having experienced my fair share of skirmishes, I now wanted a motorcycle with at least ABS in the safety kitty.
With a budget capped at 5 lakhs, I started exploring my options. I have always been an advocator of pre-loved machines, and this time was no different. When looking for a used vehicle, the condition of the vehicle matters more than anything else. Since I will be keeping the bike for a minimum of 5 years, I was looking for a fairly new example. Delhi NCR is one of the best markets in India for pre-owned machines. Therefore I was confident about finding my next ride pre-owned.
RE 650 Twins
One of my riding buddies got a Continental 650 (in the pictures below), and I rode it extensively. The engine was a gem, no doubt. The power on tap was good enough coming from P220. The twin-cylinder sound, especially with aftermarket exhausts was music to ears, and boy the bike attracts attention. However, I wasn’t able to connect with the bike. Coming for Pulsar, I was used to a high-revving motor. Also, the bike felt jittery over the less-than-perfect tarmac. The bike didn’t feel very comfortable at the speeds the engine was capable of.
The last nail in the coffin was too much demand. The depreciation of a pre-owned vehicle was next to nil. So it didn’t make sense to go for a pre-owned example.
Boy, this bike made me think long and hard. 4 cylinders: the sound and the smoothness are a dream for every bike enthusiast. It was a bike you buy once in your life and be done with. However, they are not easy to find in the pre-owned market, even in Delhi NCR. I couldn’t find a single 650R on sale. I found a few examples of 650F, and even they were a little above my budget. So I had to finally let go of this option.
I finally decided to narrow down my search to a Ninja 650. The bike ticked most of the boxes for me. It was almost 3 times more powerful than my previous ride. This was a good enough upgrade in my biking journey. A Ninja can easily maintain expressway cruising speeds of about 100-120kmph. Reliable Japanese engineering and bearable Service/Parts cost.
The only negative was I wouldn’t get the 4-cylinder sound. This was something I decided to keep for the next purchase from Ninja.
Since I keep my vehicles for long, I was looking for a motorcycle which was less than 2 years old, single owner, less than 10k on the odo, and color black preferably. Although there was no dearth of black Ninja 650s in Delhi, it wasn’t easy to find a well-kept machine.
When dealing with pre-owned cars/bikes, I have a few rules:
- I will buy only from an owner and not at all from a dealer. Apart from getting a better deal, knowing the owner helps to understand how he/she would have maintained the machine.
- I specifically go out for a drive where I insist the owner to drive. This helps me judge the driving style and how the machine may have been driven.
After exploring a few examples, I finally met the one. It was a Black early 2018 ABS model, with about 13k on the odo. The bike was a little more ridden than the mileage cap I had in mind. However, talking to the owner, and also since the example in the discussion was black in color, I decided to check out the bike.
So one fine Saturday I rode on my Pulsar to the seller’s house, which was about 60kms from my place. The bike seemed well-kept. It had all the necessary accessories installed such as frame sliders, radiator guard, fork sliders. All from Evotech. This was definitely a plus. They were no signs of abuse or any issues. The owner seemed to be an enthusiast, and I could judge his love for the machine by the way he spoke about it.
I then made a note of the upcoming expenses:
- The bike needed a full service, as the last one was done almost a year ago.
- The chain wasn’t well kept and needed a thorough cleaning. Gear changes were also a bit clunky due to this.
- Tires needed a change soon.
- The brake pads needed a change in the next 4-5k km.
We bargained to a mutually acceptable price, and lo and behold a deal was made. I couldn’t fathom but the Ninja was coming home soon.
In my opinion the best view of Ninja 650 (2018).
Journey So Far
Having ridden the bike almost 7k kms now, in a variety of scenarios: expressways, city, mountains, here are my thoughts:
- Engine: It’s a performance powerhouse. It can surprise you with its efficiency as well. Engine braking is also quite good. Engine heat is very well managed.
- Handling: The chassis is just superb. The motorcycle is pretty chuckable for its size.
- Braking: The front Nissins are more than capable of the job. Especially the front ones.
- Slipper Clutch: A boon for noob riders who may not shift at the correct times. It has saved me a couple of times during enthusiastic riding.
- Clutch: It’s super light for a bike of this size and is well-modulated too.
- Looks: Yes, I dig it, especially the side view (have I mentioned this before)
- Engine note: It should have been louder. There is almost no drama before 4k RPM.
- Rev Limiter: At 10.5k RPM, it’s very conservative for the rev-friendly engine. It could have easily stretched till 12k RPM.
- Headlight: The halogen bulbs are not up to the task for the speeds this bike can cruise on easily. With just the headlights, it will be foolish to go beyond 80 kmph on a highway with oncoming traffic.
- Horn: Too meek. Even Activas have a better horn.
- Maintenance costs. Well, this is a premium bike, and it shows in its maintenance costs. But then the quality is top notch so you are ok to bite the bullet.
Let’s dive into the details now.
Well, what to say, the bike is all about its engine. It’s a gem. Low-speed tractability, mid-range punch, or the high-rev rush, it has it all. The only thing it lacks, and that too by much, is the sound, and the associated drama. It doesn’t sound half as good as it performs.
The engine is very docile under 4k rpms. A Splendor will sound louder at these RPMs. Yes, it’s that quiet, no kidding! The docile nature at low revs is good for newbies as the bike will not take you by surprise. Post 4K RPMs is where the 70 horses start kicking in. The engine note changes. The bike growls louder now, the two cylinders are in their rhythm now, and the engine note at these RPMs is quite sporty too. Wring the throttle, and you feel a relentless shove all up to the rev limiter. If you don’t hold the tank tight enough, you are sure to test your hand grip strength. The mid-range packs enough punch to blur the horizon. Let the revs rise higher, and the acceleration only increases. The engine remains smooth and rev-friendly throughout the ranges. Though it is quite vibey in nature, especially at low RPMs.
At just 10.5k RPMs, the rev limiter seems very conservative. It feels like the engine can easily do 12k RPM and much more. But then, you remember the bike doesn’t need the highest octane fuel. You make peace with the early limiter, and enjoy the mid-range. All is forgotten.
The highlight, well it has to be the swingarm. It’s a piece of art to look at (the right half). To keep it short and simple, the chassis is well-balanced. It’s spot on. Coming from 200-300CC the bike may feel heavy, provided you don’t already ride a bullet. Once you get a hang of the weight, it feels pretty chuckable too. You can do pretty decent angles, and carry speeds on turns.
The suspension is pretty simple by modern motorcycle standards but does the job well for touring purposes as it’s more comfort biased. Potholes are taken into stride quite well. The bike simply glides over small potholes and expansion joints. But you do feel the suspension is a bit soft. During hard breaking the front end dives quite a bit.
The rear monoshock is 6-step adjustable. I keep it at the highest setting as I prefer a stiffer setup. This setup is good for cruising at expressway speeds, but you do need to keep into account the undulations you see even on the best of the Indian highways. The bike is quite stable at highway speeds. But at the very limit, it’s not the most confidence-inspiring. The tank needs a special mention since it’s beautifully designed and you are very comfortable holding the bike from its tank.
Above the mountain line. With my friend’s Duke 390.
The front brakes are spot on. They have decent progression and enough bite as you increase the pressure on the lever. The rear brake is a bit underwhelming. But since the engine braking on the motorcycle is pretty good, you don’t feel the need for a very strong rear brake. The rear brake can definitely do with a lot more feel and bite though.
The brake lines are all rubber, and this is a bit concerning for me. As I plan to keep the motorcycle long, the lines will become harder with time and may lose their performance. Heck, why can’t Kawasaki give steel braided lines? Even my Pulsar 220 had a steel braided line for the front disc.
The motorcycle had done around 13k when I got it. Riding on the stock Dunlops, you always needed a prayer on your lips. No kidding! There was no grip remaining. The motorcycle felt very nervous on anything but the smoothest roads, which we all know just comes in parts in India.
I upgraded to Timsuns at around the 15k mark. Having ridden 5k on these tyres, they are quite decent for the money. The motorcycle feels much more confident than the Dunlops. Loose gravel doesn’t scare me much now. The wet and dry grip is decent. Tyre edges have soft rubber, which gives a decent grip and confidence while leaning the bike into turns.
Without the rear fender.
Horn, Headlight, etc
The stock horn was a joke. The Activas have it better. The meek horn was scarier on the highways as the motorcycle is capable of decent speeds, and in India, you need a loud horn to alert others at a reasonable distance. I upgraded it myself with a Minda horn (more on this later). Since then this fear has been alleviated.
The headlight is decent. Period. If you have no oncoming traffic they perform well. However, they are not meant for the high-speed runs the motorcycle is capable of. I do not recommend night touring on this motorcycle with stock headlights. My Pulsar, with the projector setup was definitely better. I am contemplating a LED upgrade. But I believe the upgrade will be more cosmetic than a performance upgrade.
Tank Range & Duel Economy
Boy, did I mention before the engine is the best part of the package? Hell yeah! The engine doesn’t deliver just performance, but good efficiency as well. This is Japanese engineering at its best. In the city, the motorcycle delivers around 22-23 kmpl. On highways, it’s an easy 27-28. And if you cruise at speeds of around a ton, this motorcycle can shame motorcycles from the segments below.
The performance is a bit limited by the tank range though. At just 14 litres, the tank gives a real-world range of around 280 kms. For a motorcycle which was meant for touring, a larger tank capacity would have definitely helped.
The motorcycle is quite a comfortable cruiser.
I plan to update the read with maintenance, riding gear, and upgrades as well as the trips I have done with her.
Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.
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