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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Kawasaki Ninja 650R Gets Redesigned for 2009

Among the new model announcements made by Kawasaki last weekend in Texas was a redesigned Ninja 650R. This bike has proven extremely popular with its lightweight, comfortable, upright ergonomics, and economy. Nevertheless, Kawasaki made some substantial changes for 2009 designed to improve rider comfort, enhance handling and modernize the look of the bike. Engine performance was not overlooked, either. Fuel injection is revised to improve throttle response and mid-range power, while cooling capacity was increased. The entirely new frame has a revised rigidity balance to enhance performance, as well as additional rubber mounts for the engine to decrease vibration. All-in-all, more than 40 “updates and refinements” can be found in the 2009 Ninja 650R. Here is the complete press release from Kawasaki on this new model, as well as some photos.

The Kawasaki Ninja® 650R already epitomized the ideal marriage of sportbike performance and relaxed comfort. For 2009 Kawasaki improved on this combination and gave this popular model several new upgrades, from improved suspension to updated Ninja supersport styling. The end result of over 40 updates and refinements, the new sportier Ninja 650R delivers serious performance fun and maximum transportation practicality.

The key to the Ninja 650R’s slender size is its compact liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC, 8-valve 649cc parallel twin engine, which permits the use of a narrow, lightweight frame. Revised fuel injection settings on this torquey engine boost its bottom-end torque, smooth low-mid rpm response and allow it to rev more quickly.

Routing the coolant to the cylinder and head through the engine cases reduces the number of external hoses. The engine also meets stringent Euro-III emission regulations thanks to its precise fuel-injection and a three-way catalyzer system with a new 300-cell catalyzer that’s smaller and lighter than the previous 200-cell unit.

The non-intimidating twin-cylinder appeals to new riders, and has an excellent mid-range that offers enough pizzazz to thrill more advanced riders. A modified shift lever position permits easier application of the Ninja 650R’s linear power delivery. The manageable power delivery and superb roll-on response enable the new Ninja 650R to make short work of the morning commute or perform as an entertaining track day companion – all while delivering good fuel economy.

This spunky sportbike received several changes to the frame, swingarm and suspension that result in reduced vibration and lighter handling, making the new Ninja 650R more nimble and comfortable than ever. Its signature trellis frame and offset laydown rear shock design remains, but the frame was completely revamped and now sports a higher quality paint finish.

The slim, compact trellis style chassis received more than cosmetic changes. Revisions to rigidity balance and suspension settings, and the addition of rubber upper-rear engine and handlebar mounts result in reduced vibration and lighter handling, enabling an improvement on the Ninja 650R’s comfort and handling.

Rider and passenger footpegs are now rubber coated to further reduce the amount of vibration transferred to the rider. The natural riding position and ergonomics are enhanced by a new slimmer and lower seat, which makes reaching the ground even easier than on the previous model.

Surrounding the Ninja 650R’s updated chassis is unquestionably sportier styling. From the wider windscreen and dual headers to the high-quality finish of the sleek minimalist fairings and covers leave little doubt about this Ninja’s supersport genetics.
Avoiding unnecessary design flourishes, the Ninja 650R’s new sharper lines flow throughout the bike, giving it an aggressive appearance. Even with a new, taller fuel tank, the new fairing with integrated turn signals and a sharp tail cowl ably highlight this motorcycle’s compact dimensions.

Beyond its exciting appearance, new MotoGP inspired multi-function instrumentation and revised controls, the Ninja 650R is rolling proof that a performance motorcycle can be practical and comfortable. The rider may notice the slimness of the chassis, low seat height and minimal effort controls first before realizing the true aim of Kawasaki’s design efforts – the rider.

The Ninja 650R’s friendly ergonomics provide a versatile cockpit that both novice and experienced riders will use to employ its assets to the fullest, from the daily commute to a weekend canyon run. In other words, this real world overachiever easily demonstrates its versatility and everyday usefulness.

Authentic Kawasaki Accessories are available through Kawasaki dealers.

2009 Kawasaki Ninja 650R

Features and Benefits

Quick-Revving, 649cc Parallel-Twin Engine

  • Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 8-valve fuel injected twin cylinder delivers smooth, responsive performance, especially in the low to medium rpm range
  • Excellent mid-range power, exceptional roll-on response and impressive passing performance make even commuter traffic enjoyable
  • Silky smooth engine vibes via a 180° crankshaft driven balancer shaft, which in turn drives the water pump
  • Oil jets on the connecting rod big ends spray oil on the undersides of the pistons to aid cooling
  • Lightweight plug-mounted ignition coils deliver a hot spark and save space
  • 40mm wider radiator offers increased cooling efficiency
  • Coolant routing travels directly to the engine cases, then follows internal passages to the cylinder and head to reduce external plumbing and simplify the entire cooling system
  • Fine-tuned shift lever position is easier to use

Digital Fuel Injection

  • Revised fuel injection settings boosts the engine’s bottom-end torque while letting it rev quicker
  • Sub-throttle valve equipped 38mm Keihin throttle bodies offer optimum performance and rideability
  • Located behind the main throttle valves, the sub-throttles are controlled by the DFI® system’s ECU for a precise throttle response, similar to a constant-velocity carburetor
  • Auto-fast idle system simplifies starting and helps ensure that the catalyzer reaches optimum temperature quickly
  • New, lightweight fuel pump mounted inside the fuel tank.

Compact Engine Design

  • Powerful twin-cylinder engine is the most compact in its category, which helps reduce the dimension of the entire motorcycle and allows use of a slim, minimalist frame
  • Triangular setup of the crankshaft and transmission shafts makes the engine short front-to-back
  • Transmission input shaft, output shaft and change drum are contained in a “cassette”-style package that allows a compact layout and eases transmission maintenance chores
  • Semi-dry sump design reduces engine height
  • Plated, linerless aluminum cylinders with a narrow cylinder pitch keep the engine light and slim

Cleaner Emissions

  • Efficient fuel injection and a three-way catalyzer inside the exhaust produce very low emissions, able to pass the stringent Euro-III emission regulations
  • New 300-cell catalyzer is more compact and lighter than previous 200-cell unit
  • Under-engine muffler placement improves mass centralization and the bike’s low center of gravity

Reduced Vibration

  • Rubber mounts replace the rigid upper-rear engine mounts to reduce the amount of vibration transferred to the rider through the seat
  • Handlebar is rubber-mounted to lessen vibration transmitted through the handle grips
  • Rider and passenger footpegs are rubber coated to further reduce vibration

Lighter Handling Trellis Frame

  • All-new frame which retains the key Ninja 650R elements – a slim, low, lightweight and compact design that is narrow at the knees and footpegs for rider comfort and control
  • Featuring reduced rigidity, the strong, high-tensile steel trellis frame not only looks lightweight, but it is – rivaling that of aluminum frames
  • Ideal frame stiffness balance achieved through extensive 3D analysis translates directly into superb handling
  • The frame, rear suspension and swingarm designs flow together with an integrated line running from the steering head to the rear hub
  • Short front-to-back dimensions of the engine allow for a long swingarm and a short wheelbase combination that contributes to the light and nimble handling
  • Cleaner frame joint finishes improve overall quality of the bike

More Rigid Swingarm

  • Swingarm stiffened to balance the reduction of the frame’s rigidity – due primarily to the rubber engine mounts
  • Swingarm now has a D-shaped cross-section
  • The new swingarm and revised stabilizer design further contribute to the Ninja 650R’s higher-quality appearance
  • Elegant one-piece rider/passenger footpeg stays complement the new swingarm and stabilizer
  • Revised chain adjuster design also contributes to the improved appearance


  • New front and rear suspension settings match the changes to the frame and swingarm for lighter, more rider-friendly handling
  • New shape of the 41mm fork lower ends around the axle shaft add to the bike’s performance and enhance its high-quality image

Confidence Inspiring Ergonomics

  • An ideal handlebar, seat and footpeg relationship results in a comfortable and natural riding position suiting a wide range of riders
  • Frame narrowed just aft of the fuel tank enabled a slimmer seat, making the reach to the ground even easier
  • The offset single-shock rear suspension layout with the battery located beside the shock instead of beneath it allows a lower seat height as well
  • Low seat height and slim overall design make it easy to plant both feet firmly on the ground when stopped


  • Dual 300mm front petal disc brakes with twin 27mm piston front brake calipers and a single 220mm rear petal disc deliver plenty of braking power
  • New front brake master cylinder houses a new ball-joint and revised pivot location to deliver smoother actuation of its new 14mm master cylinder piston

Sleek New Supersport Bodywork

  • New dual headlight design features multi-reflector bulb hoods and the twin position lights – like its Ninja supersport brethren
  • Rider comfort is improved via a lip at the top of the revised windscreen, which helps deflect air away from the rider, along with a duct in the center of the cowling that creates an “air curtain” to reduce wind buffeting at higher speeds
  • New, taller fuel tank – especially noticeable when viewed from the side -adds to the bike’s crouching appearance and allows fuel capacity to remain the same despite adding a fuel level sensor – for the new fuel gauge
  • A flush-surface fuel cap and its sharp-edged motif give the new tank a distinctive new look
  • Sharper, edged lines give the Ninja 650R a more aggressive, crouching supersport look, yet the bodywork still accentuates the frame
  • Distinctive Ninja supersport design elements of the front cowling and the fairings, such as the judicious combination of colored and black panels enhance its sportier image and compact appearance
  • New integrated front turn signals with clear lenses and orange bulbs
  • Completing the bike’s aggressive sport appearance is a sharper tail cowling featuring a thin new LED taillight, revised rear turn signals, new license plate bulb housing and a slimmer rear mud flap
  • An inner rear fender was added to help keep the underside of the sleek new tail cowl clean
  • The turn signals also function as flashing hazard lights
  • A new longer front fender keeps mud splashing to a minimum and its two-tone design matches the Ninja 650R’s light, compact theme
  • Storage options include four tie-down hooks for baggage or a spare helmet to be secured to the seat and a storage space under the seat with room for a U-lock or similar device


  • Mirror design is a similar supersport-style to that on the new Ninja ZX™-6R
  • Positioned 14mm further out from the centerline, they also offer an improved rear view


  • Attractive six-spoke supersport-style wheels augment the bike’s light look while reducing unsprung weight


  • New MotoGP-inspired multi-function instrumentation, which includes a new fuel gauge, digital speedometer, clock, odometer, dual trip meters and a bar-style digital tachometer
  • The new layout allows the clock and trip meter to be viewed simultaneously
  • Red backlighting for the LCD screen adds to the sporty image while the area around the instrument panel presents a clean, finished front cowl interior
  • Redesigned handlebar holder and new curved shapes on the brake master cylinder reservoir and clutch lever contribute further to the Ninja 650R’s improved appearance

For further details and specifications, visit Kawasaki’s web site here.

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