2012 Kawasaki ER-6n | First Ride

Universal Appeal

By Roland Brown, Photography by Double Red

The suspicion that I’ve taken a wrong turn is confirmed when the road through a sleepy Portuguese town comes to a dead-end. But today, being lost isn’t so unfortunate. After all, the sun is shining and I’ve got loads of time to find my way back to the hotel. If diverting from the planned route means I get more time on the revamped ER-6n, so be it!

Kawasaki’s updated middleweight naked bike is an amicable machine on which to get lost. The 649cc, DOHC, eight-valve parallel-twin remains, although fuel-injection and exhaust changes give a slight power boost below 7000 rpm. The frame and swingarm are both new, and share a design based on side-by-side steel tubes. The subframe also was redesigned to allow extra seat padding without increasing height. The saddle itself is narrower and the top of the fuel tank is taller to accentuate the bike’s brutish appearance. Slightly less racy steering geometry and softer, longer-stroke suspension are intended to enhance the rider-friendliness that has always been a key attribute of this model.

The ER-6n’s distinctive, long-nosed look is updated with a reshaped bikini fairing that’s been pressed back against the shrouded fork tubes. The instrument console is one of the most obvious improvements, as the previous model’s hard-to-read dash has been replaced by a simple analog tach and digital panel.

Otherwise it’s much “as you were,” with an upright riding position that hasn’t been changed for the simple reason that it suits riders of all sizes pretty well. The only un- fortunate thing is some added weight—an undesirable addition for a bike of such modest performance.

But the ER-6n is still a very maneuverable machine, and felt effortlessly controllable as we headed out from our Algarve launch base. The wide bars and reasonably sporty geo-metry helped make negotiating roundabouts easy, and abundant steering lock made the bike adept at flicking through traffic as we rode through the nearby town of Loulé.

That flexible engine plays a part in the ER-6n’s friendly nature, too, always seeming to have enough grunt on tap to deliver a useful burst of acceleration. When we reached some twisty roads in the hills north of Faro, the bike was great fun to throw around. Kicking revs up toward redline unlocked some pep and the bike handled well enough to dispatch corners confidently. I expected the softer suspension to inhibit sporty riding, but the bike remained relatively planted. It did lurch a bit when pushed, but the chassis never threatened to get truly bent out of shape.

New brake pads are intended to increase brake feel, but the front setup is still lacking in power. That small complaint aside, I ended the day impressed by the ER-6n’s comfort and versatility.

Assuming the price hasn't gone up and buyers like the naked bike’s new look, the ER-6n’s run of success looks set to continue, at least in Europe. It remains a respectably quick, sweet-handling and enjoyable machine that should appeal to novices and experienced riders alike.

Tech Spec

Price na
Engine type l-c parallel-twin
Valve train DOHC, 16v
Displacement 649cc
Transmission 6-speed
Claimed horsepower 72.0 bhp @ 8500 rpm
Claimed torque 47.2 lb.-ft. @ 7000 rpm
Frame Tubular-steel semi-double cradle
Front suspension Kayaba 41mm fork
Rear suspension Kayaba shock with adjustable spring preload
Front brake Dual Tokico two-piston calipers, 300mm discs
Rear brake Tokico one-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Front tire 120/70Z-R17 Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart2
Rear tire 160/60ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart2
Seat height 29.7 in.
Wheelbase 55.3 in.
Fuel capacity 4.1 gal.
Claimed curb weight 450 lbs.
Contact www.kawasaki.com
Verdict 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The naked Ninja 650 made even more desirable.

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