My first “big” bike was a 250. A used, 1996 Kawasaki ZZR250 to be exact. Honestly, not that we had much choices back then in 2006-2007 for brand new 250cc bikes, apart from Naza Blades and some new old stock Aprillia 2-strokers. Used, there are quite a number of them from the late 90s of various brands, but that’s another story for another day.
I had a lot of fun and learnt a lot from riding the ZZR250. Reasonable speed, linear power delivery and sensible fuel consumption, small cc as it may i can’t think of any other better newbie’s bike then. It is basically another iteration of Ninja 250 that is massively popular in western markets, basically almost the same engine, just different body. The inline twin 250 engine is tried and tested, easy to maintain and to troubleshoot.
In 2008 a newly updated Ninja 250 was revealed by Kawasaki worldwide and with its much sporty appearance, became the first model brought in CKD by Kawasaki Malaysia. It turn out to be a hot seller – filling in a vacuum that has been left empty for quite some years. Malaysian riders wanted a bigger than kapchai bike but yet remain within the limits of B2 license class. In fact i would dare say many big bikers in Malaysia today had started out with a Ninja 250. This series is facelifted with a more angular designs in 2013, and this year (2018) another round of redesign was introduced to streamline the Ninja family look with its other bigger cc models.
When I was given this latest model Ninja 250 by Kawasaki Malaysia for a test ride, my first sight is the size. Climbing onto the bike, the immediate impression is, wow this bike is compact! I felt like riding on a 150cc bike instead. Seat height is pretty low, i can flat foot and still have my knees in slight bend. On the pegs, the knees are perfectly positioned by the side of the tank which is pretty slim compared to previous Ninja 250, although the tank does felt slightly higher. Clip handlebar is angled downwards despite being mounted on top of the forks, so the feel is like steering a slightly raised Ninja 250SL. Overall, the whole riding position made it very easy to tuck in and lean on the tanks, and being compact I felt like a cub-prix rider. In fact this is a necessary position if one wants to ride out the top speed of this bike (more on that later).
Steering and maneuvering this bike is easy, due to the slim profile of the body. There is nothing to comment in open road, but in city traffic, especially while lane filtering in traffic jam, I recommend flipping in the side mirrors. This would allow easier lane filtering without hitting other vehicle’s side mirrors. With the mirror’s flipped, any tight spot a kapchai can pass, this Ninja can too. Talking about flipping the mirror, it is in fact pretty easy to pull and push it back out. It seems to be the same mechanism as what is installed on the Ninja 650 and current Z1000SX.
The engine, very typical of Kawasaki’s 250cc inline twin where it is rev-happy. While it takes some time to rev up past 10k rpm on previous Ninjas, This 2018 model revs up pretty easily and keep a smooth cruise at 10k rpm and yet responsive enough to pull up to 11.5k with a tug on the throttle. On a quiet and long straight highway, i have managed to get (speedo indicated) top speed of 173kmh (it hovers around 168-173 for about 3km run, mix of flat, incline and downhill). A check on my GPS unit shows a top speed of 163kmh, which is very good for a 250cc. That is with my body fully tucked in of course. A double bubble windshield should help smooth out the air flow and possibly give another 3-5km/h higher top speed.
Speedo is digital with analog needle for the tach. However i am unaccustomed to the negative display the speed indicator adopted. While it is less eye catching during night ride, it is also pretty hard to view during a bright daytime ride, especially when you have the sun directly on top of your head reflected on the display panel. The saving grace for the speedo is the existence of gear indicator prominently displayed in the middle of the speedo. While it does not matter to me, i have noticed that plenty of riders install aftermarket gear indicators on their bikes. So with gear indicator being a standard feature in the speedo it became a minor but significant feature that many would be happy to have.
Enough about speed, in day-to-day city run, we don’t go top speed often anyway. Next up i would like to tell you about the clutch and gear. It is interesting to note the the usual first gear clunk that we usually get on Kawasaki 250s and some of its 650s, is actually absent on this bike. Again the first gear just engaged with a click! At first i had to repeatedly return to Neutral and enter 1st gear just to be sure that i had indeed entered the 1st gear! Clutch pull is very light. Spec sheet say clutch assist and slipper clutch inside. Very helpful in frequent gear changing in city, but in open road or launching from traffic lights, i used clutchless upshifts from 3rd to 6th gear. VERY NICE. Revving up to 9k, a quick release and tug on the throttle and a quick notch on the gear lever, it just clicks into the next gear, feeling like it has Quickshifter on! I had on many occasions pulled away from traffic lights this way as if riding a much bigger bike. There is one time i had the joy of leaving a modded LC135 eating dust since he wanted to catch my tail so much. However, downshifting wise i have resorted to the conventional way of pulling clutch and rev-matching due to habit, so i didn’t encounter any chance to engage the slipper clutch.
All that speed is useless if you can’t stop in time. This is one place i would like to praise Kawasaki for. Visually, it seems that the Nissin brake caliper on this Ninja 250 is very similar to the ones used in Ninja 650/Z650 and Gen 3 Versys. Upon testing out the braking grip, i am convinced that it is the exact same caliper. Firm hold and easy to modulate. Stock brake pads is pretty grippy that i suspect that it is equivalent to HH rating. The front brake lever however is placed abit high and in city riding the wrist is quickly tired out due to its angle. I tried to rotate it slightly lower, however the cables and brake wires are in the way so I didn’t get to rotate it much. Potential owners might want to take note of this.
Up next is the lights. Rear tail lamp is LED, shaped like the latest ZX10r and (sugomi) Z1000. Front headlamp too, is LED which is a first for 250s sold in Malaysia. While it has double headlamps like previous Ninjas, however both sides are on at the same time. No more weird one-eye-blind when at low beam. However my only gripe is that the beam is pointed abit low, so despite switching on high beam all the time, the light throw distance is not much. I am not sure if the headlamp beam is adjustable or not since i didn’t explore it, but i do suggest future owners to get it angled slightly higher if possible. Signal lamps are the common standard bulb.
Over the 3 days i ran the bike, i have ridden roughly 400+kms. When i hit the 300km mark i have refuel it to full and it only took in 11 litres. Spec sheet stated it to have 14 litres capacity, so assuming that we ride a mix of highways and in-city commuting, we can safely estimate a range of 350km a tank with another litre to spare. Tyre size is 140 for the rear and 110 for the front.
In summary, while current selling price is the highest compared to other 250cc sportbikes available in Malaysian market, Kawasaki has also thrown in all those extra bits to justify the price. Compact size, reduced weight, up-tuned engine output, slipper clutch, LED front and rear lamps, gear indicator as standard and the enhanced appearance of Ninja sporty look, this may be a 250cc that many riders can keep riding for quite some time without the urge to quickly move onto bigger bike.