Kawasaki Ninja 250R

A Long time ago (well, sure seems like it) I had prophesied about a possible Ninja invasion in the land of Suzuki's Samurais (me and my puns, I know.), regular readers would probably recall this post right. However, the baby Ninja (as it is popularly referred to in reverence to its much bigger siblings) has drifted on and off coffee table chitchat for many years now. Bajaj had always planned a coup of sorts but things never seemed to fall into place. So the prophecy by itself, was nothing new, its actually rather poignant that its that time of the year again (ritual when we recall and revisit and re-hope the forthcoming, hypothetical launch).

There's a festive mood all round automotive circles, ignoramus' are still buying the R15 (the FZ16, is by FAR a much better VFM machine FTR...), the P220 came, saw, conquered, a Zma upgrade has always been on the cards, TVS Racing R&D is translating to superb road going machines (god bless them for trying), and its nearing Diwali. That time of the year when my fellow beloved countrymen indulge in frivolous, garish, almost sociopathic display of spending (and they call our country a developing economy...sheesh) to celebrate light over darkness. One such shining light, could well be the now iconic Kawasaki Ninja 250R.

I am a huge fan, air-conditioner, cooler, ice bath, of the Ninja moniker and most other Kawasaki bikes too. I have always felt them to be a maker for the Rider. Hondas are simply too nice, Yamaha's have very often flattered to deceive, and Suzukis lack that something (I dont know what, just something). Which is why I gave up an R1 and a very nice Gixxer600 for a ZX7R... a legend in itself (how many bikes do you know who could beat Ducati at a World Superbike Championship?). But can a 250R live up to the name made famous by much faster, bigger, fierce elder siblings? How about being the highest selling (in its class), most talked about, most VFM, and now best looking (arguably) 250 around? Impressive to say the least. The 250 category is one of radical importance for a manufacturer and buyer because a lot of License registrations for future Supersport riders begins at the 250cc cap, onto 400, and so forth. To rule that roost, takes some doing, and to rule it for so long like a shameless monopoly speaks of untamed pedigree (a paradox by itself). If bought for what it is, the Ninja 250R promises (and in most cases DOES) to deliver the goods.

The pricing (courtesy Bajaj willing to take the challenge of assembling it here once the bikes are in CKD and our economys FTA with the govt of Thailand), would stick around the 2L range, which is really not that much (if people are stupid enough to spend a lakh plus for an R15, rather than an Apache RTR 160Fi or the FZ16, then selling a 250R is childs play). I just hope Bajaj doesnt make a joke out of the whole deal by messing up the assembly/pre sales/after sales. I owned a P180 once, I know how much the quality at BAL can suck. Kudos for them for perennially trying though, takes heart.

This time last year I thought we were ready for this machine, but I was wrong, I am ready, and so are a lot of my performance oriented buddies, but is the general public? After the R15 launch, and seeing a few owners around, my heart sinks to be in the same group as someone wanting just a bike with a fairing and fat rear tyre. Sad but true. Maybe we need to wait a bit more, educate ourselves about bikes and WHY we BUY a PARTICULAR bike.

Some things never change, and for every performance oriented true to his heart biker out there, there will be a dickhead with a couple of lakhs to spare who wants a furniture to seat his weekend lay on. Pardon me if it sounds a bit rude, its after much study and experience that I generalise this way!

Forget the ranting though, we ought ta move onto more important matters for todays agenda. Performance Mods... Yup, what can you do to get the most out of your Ninja 250R (if and when it does launch!):

1. Yoshimura Slip-on: They have one which goes rather well with the 250R, can be imported from Singy, I wont be surprised if Bajaj does stock up the pro-biking outlets with similar performance upgrade parts too! Sounds nice, goes bit faster and looks yummy in true Yosh pedigree!

2. Kits: Yup, multi cylinder Sport bikes are very easy to modify thanks to their race-worthyness, and the easiest of them all (most bikes actually), are the trusted Jets, Filters, Exhausts, Chain Sprocket Kits, Braided Brake Line Kits. Much more GO for the show.

3. Lookers: from Huggers to Rear Seat Cowls to HID lamps to Stickering (as with most faired bikes) and graphics, one can do a lot with a 250R (that includes plonking a fatter rear wheel, which am sure a lot of dorks would do first thing, to make it look bigger than it it actually is)

4. Serious Mods: Not many know that a nicely done up 250 can keep up with many a Supersport machine... so if you are serious about your riding, if you can handle the power, and if you have some money, but not enough to buy a bigger machine than the 250, you could still go in for Custom forks/suspensions/frames/wheels forged for rigidity and lesser weight than stock, turbo-chargers, what not. I wouldnt recommend it though, save enough for a bigger bike I'd say.

Theres much more you can do, but we'll stop here for now.

The baby Ninja is not a very powerful machine (30 odd hp), but packs enough punch for a beginner to get his bearings right before moving on to a bigger capacity machine, Its light, compact, torquey, and handles reasonably well (the exact term a journo buddy who tested it used is - "Confidence Inspiring"), and thats around a race track. On a crowded city street, respect its power as well as its worth, crashes are painful, expensive affairs with bikes (especially Sporty ones).

I found the older Ninja 250 reasonably pleasant to look at, but it certainly wasnt a Supermodel! The newer one has clearly defined lines and curves to aid aesthetics as well as aerodynamics and overall stability. The package is pretty basic, but it delivers as much, and bit more than it promises. Besides, the twin between your legs will plant many a smile on your face before the looks start to date. The ergonomics, more importantly, seem just right. I would certainly test one of them and post a complete review once done, but most of the feedback I have got (from owners abroad, and a couple of really close/reliable journo buddies) has been positive. As long as one does not imagine oneself riding a litre, one will enjoy the 250 to the core.

I dont think we'll be getting US Spec machines so Red and Blue might be out, but theres always Kawasaki's lime-green and any Ninja looks best in BLACK. Lets not be greedy!