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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

MD First Look: Kawasaki Ninja RR Mono


From the MD Department of “Huh!” (and hot on the heels of the super-sporty Yamaha YZF-R125) comes this small green surprise. It’s called, as far as Google Translate can tell me, the Ninja RR Mono or Ninja 250 SL, depending on market. It’s a lightweight bike that seems intended to replace small-displacement 125 or 150cc two-stroke sportbikes in Asian markets—and sadly, folks are saying it probably won’t come stateside.


The bodywork is dripping with up-to-the-minute Ninja family styling cues, including the beaky front fairing and two-tone gas tank, but strip the skin and the similarity ends. The frame is steel-trellis and the powerplant is a liquid-cooled 249cc Single with a 72mm bore and 61.2mm stroke (same as the KLX250, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same engine), the first for a Ninja, as far as I know, although there may have been such bikes overseas. The rest of the running gear is similar to the Ninja 300R, with 37mm fork and Uni-Trak-equipped rear suspension.

Here’s the interesting part: the motor is down about 4 horsepower from the 250cc Twin’s output (there’s still a 250cc version in Asian markets for tiered-licensing markets), but the claimed 333-pound wet weight is 46 pounds less than the Twin’s. That means it probably feels much more nimble—and almost as quick, especially at legal speeds. It’ll also doubtless be cheaper, thanks to the simpler motor.

So, will we see it here? The moto-pundit-wisdom says no, but I’m not so sure. Hear me out:


  • The 300 is cheap at $4,999, but a $3,999 Single would soak even more sales away from the other brands’ budget rides.
  • If it’s the KLX motor, it’s already homologated, mechanics are trained, and parts are in stock (there’s a nice aftermarket, too).
  • If you think having a 250 and a 300 in the showroom would be too crowded, consider Kawasaki already sells three 650cc street models as well as a 600cc supersport.
  • The moto-market is recovering, but lower-priced bikes seem to be doing better than the expensive stuff. If dealers start clamoring for this model…
  • Hey, weirder things have happened, especially in Kawasaki dealerships.

Many times over the years, MD and MD readers have opined the need for fun, lightweight single-cylinder streetbikes. With this, the CBR250R, the KTM RC390 and other models, “be careful about what you wish for” has never applied more. Stay tuned.

Gabe Ets-Hokin is the Editor of City Bike Magazine, and a frequent freelance contributor to



  1. Randy says:

    If it doesn’t make it here no big loss. Now a 350 or 400 that isn’t 400 pounds, that would be interesting.

    Of course, I’m waiting for the 392 pound FZ-07

  2. Don Fraser says:

    Eventually I am going to put a 250 2-stroke MX motor in my ninjette.

  3. Don Fraser says:

    I have ridden my ’08 ninjette 40K miles and the more I look at this, the more I like it.

  4. sam says:

    ninja…seriously? this thing is about as much a ninja as Chris Farley (rip).

  5. John says:

    Amazing looks, I mean you could have told me it was a GSXR or another Yamaha and I would have believed it.. Or am I getting to old to notice the differences?

    Cheers John

  6. Matric says:

    The Ninja 400 was sold over here (Canada). Poor sales convince Kawasaki Canada to offer it just 2 years. So, forget the arrival of the 400 and the single 250 for the USA. Anybody forgot the Yamaha SRX250 and here in Canada we got the Honda CBX250, Theses singles were not a success in sales.

    • Dave says:

      Wasn’t the Ninja 400 in the CN market a sleeved down Ninja 650?
      A Ninja 400 made from the 300 would be a completely different proposition, eh?

      • Matric says:

        Yes, it was. So it was a porky 400. It would be more convincing to take the Ninja 300 instead of the 650 as a base to make a 400.

  7. It has been widely documented on “other” websites that although power is indeed down 4HP from the 250cc twin the torque is actually UP by 1.3! LONG LIVE THUMPERS!

    All the best,
    Aaron Lephart

  8. dave says:

    Needs udx forks.
    Should be a 2 stroke

    • GuyLR says:

      In the markets this bike will be sold in it will have to come in at a lower price point than the 250/300 twin and allow the bigger bike to be the aspirational model of the two. So the twin gets the USD fork and the single gets the conventional one. It’s not likely to make much of a difference anyway on such a light bike and I’m sure it will handle just fine.

      Two strokes are dead and moldering in their graves now. No need to keep digging them up.

    • Kagato says:

      I’ll second the request for 2 stroke : – ) gone? Maybe, but NOT FORGOTTEN!!

      C’mon Big K make me proud! Where’s our Direct Injection 2 Strokers?

      • Harry R says:

        The technology to build a “clean” 2-stroker would come with a cost high enough to put a 250 in the ballpark of the 600’s. I would love to have one though.

        • dino says:

          Watercraft have had clean 2-strokes for years. You don’t need the more expensive Direct Injection (requires higher pressure fuel and special injectors). Just regular fuel injection upstream from the cylinder, but timed so that the fuel doesn’t enter until the exhaust port is closed. Done. A clean 2-stroke at less cost (no cams, valves, springs, everything!). Maybe emissions still aren’t clean enough, or they just don’t want to take the chance?? Seems simple enough. Wonder why have they phased them out in other parts of the globe?

        • Harry R says:

          To build a true “clean” 2-stroke that passes EPA street requirements you will absolutely need direct inject fired near TDC and no oil in the incoming air charge. This is possible but requires the use of ceramic coatings on both the piston and the cylinder wall, with the correct material piston to wall clearances can be in the fractions of a mil. Bottom end oiling would need to be forced through the crank to plain bearings made of temp stable durable material such as Manganese-Bronze alloy. I worked on trying to develop a clean 2-stroke in my college days back in the late eighties and the hang up then was the fuel injection system as I did not have the control operating system power or processor speed needed. By “clean” it must meet EPA minimum without an exhaust catalyst that adds weight and destroys scavenging and flow. I could go much further into the details but this post would become a book.

    • dave says:

      “DING” “DING” “DING”

  9. Bob says:

    I’ll add one more thing to the above list as to why this bike could possibly make it stateside. I seem to remember reading somewhere about the Ninja 300 becoming a 400 or possibly being marketed alongside the 300. If they offered the 400 twin and got rid of the 300, there would definitely be a place for a 250 mono. Let the club racing wars begin!

  10. Bob says:

    I rode a CBR250R last fall and thought it was rather enjoyable as a plaything and it surprisingly was comfortable with good ergos. I couldn’t commute on it as Houston traffic would eat me alive. But I could see this being club raced in our CMRA series. Typical Honda in the power department though, always weaker than it’s competition in stock form. I would have no doubt that Kawasaki would be the HP king as they pride themselves on that.

    Still, as a street bike in the USA, not much of a place for something so small. Sure the 2 cylinder Ninja 250 has been around forever as a street bike but the truth is it was always better in wide open spaces where traffic was nowhere near as aggressive as city and even urban driving is.

    • Dave says:

      On 80mph interstates I could see a small bike being a little strssful but in an urban environment a smaller, lighter bike is definitely better. It still out accelerates just about any car and is super easy to ride and handle. These are the same things that make mid-displacement scooter so useful in cities.

    • Don Fraser says:

      cbr 0-60 8.5 sec.
      ninjs 250 7.7 sec.
      just have to run ’em like you stole ’em and stay off the 4-lane, should anyway on a bike

      • todd says:

        um, CBR600 o-60 in 3.2 secs or less. look it up

        • billy says:

          CBR250 0-60 in 3.2? No way todd. Look it up.

        • Don Fraser says:

          meant to type cbr 250, and point was that a small bike will go 0-60 as quickly as most traffic, just stay off the 80 mph freeways, boring anyways

          • Bob says:

            Not quite. In Texas, everyone with a 1 ton pickup, full size SUV or minivan thinks they’re in a Nascar truck series race. Believe me, they out accelerate the Ninja 250 from stoplight to stop light, every day commuting. I raced one for a couple seasons and converted it back to street before selling it when it outlived it’s purpose.

  11. jasinner says:

    They should just make it a naked and sell it against the Honda Grom which has proven to be very popular over here. As an actual bike for freeways this bike would unquestionably suck but for around town, like the Grom, it would probably be awesome.

  12. Don Fraser says:

    We’ll see how this “recovery” goes here in the northeast when spring gets here.

  13. Gary says:

    Looks like the lightweight class will be real interesting this year. Hyosung is also importing their new GD250N which is a sport naked street which is only 308 lbs and I believe horsepower down only a couple from the Kawasaki 250 twin. Guess a full sport version is in the pipeline too.

  14. mickey says:

    Very nice looking small motorcycle. I think the Yam 250 is better looking though. Personally I have not opined for a small street single ( especially a 4 stroke) since I got my 160 twin in 1966. Maybe I need to test ride a modern small bore single, but I just can’t imagine being impressed by it.

    • Dave says:

      Re: ” I think the Yam 250 is better looking though.”

      This is a real production motorcycle. They Yamaha is a custom shop concept that appears to be a proposal for a spec class racer more than a street bike.

    • Guylr says:

      It does look good. I like the frame on it a lot. The Yamaha YZF-R25 250 by the way is actually a twin like the Ninja 250/300.

  15. ABQ says:

    Call it a ‘Hoot!’ on this side of the Pacific.