Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Kawasaki Ninja 300EX

Good Things Come In Small Packages

At the beginning of last year I rode the Ninja 250 and, once I had learned that you need to rev the nuts off the engine at every opportunity to get anywhere, I loved it.

Now, Kawasaki has introduced the 300cc version of the bike and, while it is not such a huge leap forward, the capacity increase has made it even more fun. You still have to work the engine hard to get any performance out of it but what is noticeable now is a useful increase in roll-on power when sitting on the highway, for example.

The figures speak for themselves; 18% more power and 24% more torque from a 20% increase in capacity, 39bhp (29kW) at 11,000rpm and 27Nm of torque at 10,000rpm. But the 300cc engine is far from a bored out version of the 2012 250cc motor.

Bore size has stayed the same but the stroke has been increased to give a capacity of 296cc. New crankcases house a new, stronger crankshaft, lighter pistons and increases the oil capacity by 700ml. The cylinder block is sleeveless with plated bores to keep weight down and the water pump is new.

One very special feature on the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 is the racetrack-derived slipper-clutch that is smoother operating while eliminating the back-torque that potentially causes rear wheel hop under hard deceleration in racetrack or aggressive street riding conditions. Because the engine delivers so much extra power and torque the six-speed gearbox has been beefed up and the ratios widened to improve acceleration, top speed and fuel economy.
So, Kawasaki have taken care of the engineering side. What hasn’t changed, thankfully, is the styling which apes so effectively the larger Ninja models. In fact, from a distance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was one of the larger models and this is the bike’s real trump card. Up close, the quality is clear to see and Kawasaki have been careful to hide as many of the fairing fixings as possible.

I love the look of the bike and so, I presume, will the target market for the bike. It really is a scaled down sports bike in every respect and really looks the part. It isn’t overly small, although, as a six-footer, I did feel slightly conspicuously large on it. But it is easy to fold yourself onto it and is comfortable enough when you do.

On the road it is a hoot, just like its smaller-engined predecessor. Keep the engine on the boil and the performance is there but it never feels completely mad and this is the best bit. You scream everywhere at maximum velocity yet you are never really going that fast. Having said that, it will sit on the highway at 140km/h+ all day if you want it to do that. But really, this is a bike to throw around some country roads, having fun.
It teaches you so much about keeping corner speed high; let the speed drop too much and you find yourself exiting a corner slower than a snail. So you have to learn how to tip it into the corner carrying as much speed as possible and keep it in the right gear to get good drive out.

The brakes have an easy time of it, with so little weight to haul to a stop; a single 290mm front disc is more than enough for the job and has great bite and feel. There’s not much adjustment for the suspension but it is so well set-up out of the box that you don’t need it.

The Ninja 300EX may only have 50cc’s more than its predecessor but is so much better in every department than the 250. In its new guise it remains one of my favourite bikes from the year’s riding.

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