Sexing up the 2012 Ninja 650

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Guess who’s mostly-new for 2012? The oft-forgotten Ninja 650 is getting a new frame, new bodywork and practical features like an adjustable windscreen. This thing is pretty damn sexy now, especially for $7,499. Am I wrong?

Update: Now with video

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Power is 71bhp, torque is 47lb/ft and weight is 211kg/465lbs (wet).

This is everything that’s new on the 2012 Kawasaki Ninja 650:
- Redesigned twin-pipe perimeter frame offers proper rigidity, stable handling, a low seat height and improved aesthetics
- Twin-pipe swingarm assembly offers improved rigidity and maximum style
- Redesigned exhaust system features a new connector pipe, a higher-volume 3-chamber muffler assembly for improved mid-range while maintaining peak top-end power, and a higher quality finish
- Redesigned bodywork features better aerodynamics, improved engine-heat dissipation and sharper looks that identify with the flagship ZX™-14R
- Easier-pull clutch cable design for reduced fatigue and enhanced control
- Revised suspension settings and increased wheel travel front and rear offer improved ride comfort while offering excellent compliance in varying situations
Improved brake pads offer better braking performance and control
- New instrument cluster assembly features an analog tachometer and a digital readout module for at-a-glance information transfer to the rider
20mm wider handlebar offers improved rider comfort and control
- Redesigned 2-piece seat assembly features thicker and wider foam for improved comfort for rider and passenger
- Dunlop’s grippy yet durable Roadsmart II tires are standard
Increased fuel capacity and more compact battery

  • jpenney

    That’s a nice set of changes for this bike. It’s really a pretty good bike. Of the machines on this platform, I really like the ER-6n, but I have a suspicion that it will be dropped from the U.S. lineup.

    • Wes Siler

      Yeah, no ER-6n.

      • aristurtle

        That’s a shame, really; I always preferred the naked version.

        Of course, Kawi saddled it with a bizarre name and gave it little support and then acts all surprised when it doesn’t sell very well.


        Sad news. I’d love to see an er6n in this config.

        • Peter

          My fiance has an ER6n with race tech fork guts, Wilbers rear shock, Arrow system, filter, brake lines, dropped gearing etc etc etc

          It is a properly fun, light and responsive bike to ride. It cackles on over run, backs in, all sorts of stupid antics. The only thing that comes close in terms of stupid easy fun is a Street triple.

          Power is down, but it’s cheap and practical. Great little bike.

        • stempere

          The N version is pretty nice too :

          • robotribe

            Not bad at all!

  • tomwito

    That bike looks really good, probably has the best lines out of all their bikes.

    • robotribe

      Agreed. It’s the best looking (and most practical?) Kawasaki in the line-up. If this were around ten years ago when I was getting back into the saddle after a decade off, I would have been waiting at the dealership door an hour before they opened to scoop this up.

      The profile stance looks like a bull ready to charge and run someone over.


  • jp182

    I like it too. I wonder how the power compares to a the FZ6R. I liked that bike when I test rode it but I’m not a big fan of the handlebar position.

  • Frosty_spl

    WOW, that is the 2nd best looking Kawi next to the zx10-r.

  • tomwito

    “sharper looks that identify with the flagship ZX™-14R”
    This looks way better than the 14. Waaay better.

  • ike6116


    Also, this looks like a great bike. Love the instrument cluster (weird thing to pick out) and the stealth mode exhaust.

    Go team green.

    • Dani Peral

      Most bikes should start coming with ABS standard sooner or later…i think it will be mandatory in Europe in 2013 or so.

    • stempere

      Optionnal ABS like the previous version, but apparently it’s a new improved one.

  • Ben Incarnate

    Great update. Good work, Kawi.

  • Erok

    What exactly is “Maximum style?”

    • Sean Smith

      I think it comes from the 80′s. Like Max Headroom.

      • Erok

        Wow I am glad I have lived this long without seeing that. I’m guessing that is the reason why new coke failed?

  • Mark D

    Long live the parallel twin.

  • Zach

    Analog tach is a big step up from the washed out digital one they had before. Much better use of dash space overall as well. Wonder if it will be backward compatible…

  • Jon B.

    Any word on the W800? I’m guessing no…

    • Wes Siler

      They don’t believe there’s a market for it here.

      • Jon B.

        How very disappointing.

        • Taco

          Com’on. I just Googled: Kawasaki W800. That’s a good looking bike. Shame on you Kaw.

      • je

        Do you have the numbers on the triumph classic sales numbers? So far has the market supported triumphs decision to bring them stateside?

        • Mark D

          There’s probably more of a market for an actual British-retro motorcycle made by Triumph than by Kawasaki.

          Or, at least, the market for british-retro style bikes is so small that it doesn’t make sense to bring the W800 over to steal only a couple hundred sales from Triumph.

  • wwalkersd

    Looking back at some old specs, I see that it’s nearly 30 lbs heavier than an ’06 GSX-R 1000. Heavier than a KTM 990 SM. Heavier than an SV650S. Hea… well, you get the idea. Seems kinda portly. Real steel, baby.

    • smoke4ndmears

      Concur! Everything looked great until I saw that huge number! I think thats heavier than my 1125! Still would make a great all-rounder.

  • Brian

    Wonder if Kawasaki fixed quality issues with this new model. Been hearing people complain about how parts (fairings etc) show age quickly.

    • Sean Smith

      I’ve found that if the bike makes a noise like a plastic trash can being dragged down the street, accelerated fairing wear can be expected.

  • Denzel

    If HFL could swing a press bike, it would be great to hear your unvarnished opinion. Kawasaki has forever described the “sporty nature” of the 650, and I’ve always wondered how fun they really are…

    • Frosty_spl

      It’s the motorcycle equivalent of a Cobalt SS.

      • Denzel

        “Sporty nature” is verging on damning with faint praise… but “Cobalt SS”… ouch!

        Actually the SS analogy suggests performance is at least a goal… I’m afraid the 650 might be more like a 90s camaro with a v6…

  • fasterfaster

    This has always been a fantastic little bike. Great to see it updated and not ruined (ahem, Gladius). Sad to hear the er6n won’t be coming back – especially in the absence of the SV650, that was a really fantastic everyday bike.

    At least the Versys is sticking around and seemingly getting continued love from the R&D department.

  • Mike

    As long as it still makes a remarkably good dualsport after being crashed by a newbie & having appropriate suspension bits swapped out, I approve. See: Thinja

  • fodderbox

    I dig this; more if it comes in something other than green.

    • wwalkersd

      The gallery shows black and red, too.

  • Terry

    I think I’ll have to agree that it’s an improvement over the current model, which IMO looks great in candy green and just as great in candy orange.

    I wonder, will any of these frame design changes translate into an eventual refresh of the Versys?

    • stempere

      No word on an update of the 650 Versys but there’s a lot of chater around a 1000cc inline 4 Versys to be anounced at Milan.
      Maybe they’ll show both bikes at the show.

      • 80-wattHamster

        Yeah, but that’s more or less a separate model. I’d expect the Ninja updates to carry over to the 650 for ’13.

  • Kevin

    This bike is a great value. A front runner for my second bike.

  • 2ndderivative

    So weight has gone up? Yikes. All that increased rigidity had better add up to real improvement.