Kawasaki's Ninja 650L is a premium LAMS offering with more power and larger bike feel. Here's our Kawasaki Ninja 650L review. Test: Kris Hodgson
Kawasaki’s Ninja 650L is one of the premium options available to learners, combining the larger bike feel with additional power and a strong all round package. Taking styling cues from its larger ZX-10 sibling, the 650L also features a four-stroke parallel-twin for those requiring more power than your regular learner options.
Seat height is ideal at 805mm, although not the lowest in the learner market, while reach to the bars and pedals are generous and ensure an upright seating position, allowing good vision, further helped by good mirrors. Unfortunately vibrations from the parallel twin appear as the revs rise and while not an issue through the bars or pedals, do become an issue in the mirrors at higher speeds.
Dual 300mm petal rotors on the front are grasped by two-piston calipers, while the rear single-piston grasps a 220mm rotor. Braking has good strength and feel through the lever, ensuring the power on hand is easily managed, while ABS provides additional peace of mind for the newer rider. In all honesty I didn’t give the ABS package much work thanks to plenty of control and feel through the brakes and great grip from the tyres.
Suspension is relatively basic with 41mm telescopic forks and an offset shock with adjustable preload but the overall package handles Australian roads in its stride, providing a plush ride that isn’t unsettled across tighter, rougher roads or when you are out for a sportier ride. I weigh around 70kg however, so it’s quite possible heavier riders won’t have quite the same level of comfort.
The engine itself provides linear, manageable power, producing just under 50hp with smooth positive gear changes and good power delivery onto the road via the stock tyres.
In fact sporty riding can be quite exhilarating even coming from something considerably more powerful, as the bike is easily fanged around, similar to the smaller capacity offerings and still very thin thanks to its twin engine. Through open high speed bends you can really enjoy stretching the little twin’s legs and tipping the bike onto its side. Not with the throttle pinned of course…
One issue is transitioning off the throttle, as engine braking takes over which can unsettle the bike. Even cruising in a higher gear doesn’t fully remedy this issue, while heavy traffic can quickly become difficult unless special effort is made to transition between gears with plenty of clutch feathering.
One of the additional boons of choosing a 600cc learner offering is being able to take a pillion once you reach the appropriate licensing stage (P2s here in NSW), with the 650L provide a reasonably sized pillion seat, generous leg room to the pillion pegs and enough power to not feel the need to ask your passenger to jump off and push when taking off on a steep slope or at the sight of a big hill.
Between the Ninja 650L’s styling, prodigal power for a learner offering and well-appointed features it is hard to go wrong looking at one, although the price tag is on the larger end of the spectrum with the caveat that learner bikes hold their value well – especially if you keep them in one piece.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 650L
PRICE: $10,499 + ORC
WARRANTY: Two-year/unlimited kilometre
COLOURS: Candy Lime Green, Pearl Stardust White
CLAIMED POWER: 35kW[47.6hp]@7500rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE: 52.5Nm[39ft-lbs]@4200rpm
WET WEIGHT: 211kg
FUEL CAPACITY: 16L
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-stroke, parallel-twin, 649cc, 83 x 60mm bore x stroke, EFI, six-speed return type gearbox, 10.8:1 compression
CHASSIS: Perimeter high-tensile steel frame
SEAT HEIGHT: 805mm, WHEELBASE: 1410mm
SUSPENSION: Kayaba 41mm telescopic forks, Kayaba shock, adjustable spring preload
BRAKES: Dual 300mm rotors, Tokico two-piston calipers, single 220mm rotor, Tokico single-piston caliper
WHEELS: 120/70 ZR-17, 160/60 ZR-17, Dunlop Roadsmart II
INSTRUMENTS: Digital display, analogue speedometer