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MD First Ride: 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300, Part One (with video)

Some consumer goods make promises they can’t keep. Paper towels, in particular—I am never as happy cleaning up spilled fluids as the people in the TV ads. But after riding Kawasaki’s new Ninja 300 on Sonoma county, California’s best roads, I can say this particular consumer product delivers.

We’ll post a full story next week, but for now you can watch the video I made just after the ride. This new model is really a full departure from the 2012 Ninja, and it’s remarkable how improved it is. The 300 will no longer be considered a bike you buy to learn on until you’re ready for a “real” sportbike—it is a real sportbike, and a highly entertaining one at that.
To find out what makes it so good, watch the video below and check back next week.

35 Comments

  1. David Duarte says:

    This bike is lighter and makes more power than my 1980 Suzuki GS450E. With such light weight and direct fuel injection, the gas mileage should be excellent.

  2. David Duarte says:

    I’m seriously thinking of buying one within the next year. I’d like to see what kind of gas mileage it gets.

  3. Jim C says:

    I wonder what Gary Jaehne would have done with the 300! RIP Gary J

  4. andy1300 says:

    Yea, 39 horse was the same as as my old RD350 1974′, heck I would take that little bike
    on 1200 mile road trips, thats all I needed back in those days.

  5. goose says:

    I’m really pleased to see this bike and the strong response from the MD’ers. I hope it is a huge success and leads to the 400/ 500s a few have suggested. A sporting 300 isn’t really my thing but similar technology in a 500 package would be great, a modern Ninja 500. One for me and one for the wife would make fun trips.

    I’ve gotten to the point where the newest high HP missile bike just makes me yawn. A really good 500, ideally with a belt or enclosed chain, a 5 gallon (or bigger) tank, comfortable riding position (even for a big guy) might just pry my wallet open. Good real world milage, over 50 at a minimum, would also help. Hint, nearly all bikes have ridiculously high aero drag, a real fairing instead of a copy of a 1958 “dolphin” fairing would be a good place to start looking for milage. You can see some real fairings here: http://craigvetter.com/

    Goose

    • Hefner says:

      The windjammer? Really?

      I remember seeing those things around in the 80’s and thinking they looked dated back then… Putting something like that on a modern bike is a sure-fire way to make sure it fails. Wasn’t the point of the Vetter fairings wind protection anyway? That whole concept relies on deflecting air away from the rider, which in turn causes aerodynamic drag. Furthermore, fuel efficiency is likely not affected all that much by a fairing at the 20-50 MPH speeds that will be reached around town, where the extra weight of a fairing may actually hurt MPG.

      I agree that for higher speeds a fairing is a necessity for both rider comfort and fuel efficiency… But modern bikes with sport-bike fairings, like this one, are already doing a pretty good job of it.

      But if you want to see a “Real” fairing, go look at MotoGP, specifically Ducati. If there is speed to be had, those guys have found it in the wind tunnel… Not by using Cardboard Aided Design (I do think that was pretty funny though…)

      • goose says:

        Hefer,

        Can I assume you are kidding about the Windjammer? If not, try looking under the milage icon.

        The MotoGP fairing are exactly what we DO NOT need. They are the result of a very stupid rule made almost 50 years ago by the FIM. To put it bluntly, they suck in the wind tunnel. Any halfway decent car has a CD of well under 0.40, some under are near 0.30, I doubt the MotoGP bikes, even the Ducatis, are under 0.70. if we use 0.35 as a typical number that means, per square foot of frontal area, it takes very near to twice as much fuel and HP to push that Ducati you admire so much through the air.

        If you think the wind isn’t a factor at 20 to 50 MPH you should take a look at bicycles. They shape the frame tubes on bikes that will never see 50 MPH unless they are on a down hill. At 20, air drag has an effect. At 50 it is, by a large margin, the single largest thing holding your bike back.

        Finally, you should read more from Craig’s site. The old milage contest bikes were totally impractical. That is how they got over 470 MPG. The new contest requires the bikes be comfortable and have enough space to hold 4 standard grocery bags.

        Goose

  6. mugwump58 says:

    YES!!!!!!

  7. itchface says:

    Personally, I would’ve preferred that it be called a GPZ instead of a Ninja, that it be a smidgeon bigger at 305cc, and that it had a belt final drive. But, then again, I’m always ahead of my time.

    • Kagato says:

      Agreed! I possessed a CSR 308 for a few years–tough little bike–always admired the GPZ version. The belt was the coolest thing ever

  8. stinkywheels says:

    That’s a good move, getting away from the CBR, but they weren’t doing so bad in comparison.

  9. Tony says:

    Thanks for the video, Gabe. I’m also looking forward to the ride report.
    Tony

  10. Manny G. says:

    Nice, I want one.

  11. Don Fraser says:

    I rank my ’08 250 with 31k miles right behind my ’81 550 GPz, but ahead of ’86 SRx 600, ’72 H2 and ’79 KZ1000 A3 on my top 5 list of bikes I have owned. Can’t wait to ride a 300.

    • todd says:

      OOOh, SRX6, the bike that turned me into a motorcyclist all those years ago. Still very near the top of my list too.

      -todd

  12. TomS says:

    Gabe, thanks for the video preview. I’m looking forward to the full story next week. Looks like a fantastic bike.

  13. John says:

    Looks great, but I’d sure like to see other options with the same motor. Even a dual purpose bike or Adv bike. A GPZ300 or ZRX300.

  14. johnny ro says:

    This is a nice article and I look forward to actual riding impressions. Cycle World beat you to the punch though, Don Canet;s article is up over there right now. I will be back here tomorrow.

  15. Bill andrews says:

    I have one, a 2009 KLX250SF. They stopped selling it in the US. This sounds like a great platform for a supermoto/dual sport/standard.

  16. Southerner says:

    Just in case nobody noticed, the 400 – 500cc class disappeared. The last was the Suzuki GS500. Kawasaki’s liquid cooled 500 was more powerful but faded out even before that.

    Now competition in the 250 class is causing them to grow. Soon we will have 400s and 500s again.

    Go figure.

    • Bud says:

      “Now competition in the 250 class is causing them to grow. Soon we will have 400s and 500s again.”

      I sure hope you’re right, the 400 class was a great way to introduce new riders to motorcycling.

    • Dave says:

      The Kawasaki EX500 and Suzuki GS500E only recently stopped. The category has just been very quiet. We’ll see a comeback because 600’s have grown into expensive race replicas vacating the value driven spot they once occupied.

      • BillyBob says:

        The Ninja 400 is still sold in Canada, on the Ninja 650 platform… They never really went away, only away from the US market.

  17. bikerrandy says:

    Gabes ride description makes me remember my `74 RD350. It was a fun middleweight too.

  18. todd says:

    This looks like a great, fun sport bike. Now Kawasaki will need to come out with an entry level bike to compete with the CBR250R… I think they should build a cool nekid roadster using the KLX250S motor.

    -todd

  19. Jorge says:

    Great move by Kawasaki. With cell phones and texting and kids driving their parents old SUVs I didn’t ride as much and sold my motorcycle some years back. The cost of a new 600cc sportbike these days is extreme and knowing it will sit a lot of the time I can’t justify it.
    Something like this would be perfect, fun and low cost. Exactly the kind of bike the current economy could support. Now if Yamaha could follow with a 400cc sportbike with dual round lights in the front…

    • ApriliaRST says:

      Sad to hear you gave up riding because of others’ dangerous activities while riding. There are, however, some areas of the country where drivers are more obedient to laws… usually more rural areas. You might consider moving to one.

      Best wishes to you.

  20. kawatwo says:

    You could have at least have started it up :) Looks awesome.

  21. Provalogna says:

    May be the best new bike I’ve witnessed in my almost-58 years.

    Experienced street riders know it’s far more fun wringing a small well-performing bike’s neck than the effort of keeping a Superbike under control.

    On a different note (hint, hint Kawasaki), this 300 makes about the same peak power as the KLR650 motor. I wonder about fitting this motor into an appropriate dual sport chassis.

    • soi cowboy says:

      I rented a 250 ninja in Thailand. Nice little bike but the engine is very peaky.

      • Dave says:

        Thia engine wouldn’t be any good in a dual sport. It claims 39hp but it has a 13k/rpm red line. A DS needs off road friendly torque, which a 650cc single delivers far better than a 300cc twin.

  22. ziggy says:

    Well played Kawasaki. Now give us a credible dualsport in the 400 class.