Kawasaki Ninja 250R: $1500 Streetbike Surgery

Ninja Turtle No More!

By Ari Henning, Photography by Joe “Ninja” Neric

As with any budget bike, the Ninjette’s suspension lacks sophistication. Owners are eager to find cost-effective ways to improve their bikes’ suspenders, and for many that means swapping out the fork springs and shock for firmer Ninja 500/EX500 components. The shock on the second-generation Ninja 250 (2008 and later) is stiffer than on earlier models, but the fork still runs the same super-soft springs, and the resultant chassis imbalance can be problematic when charging through turns. We slid in Race Tech 0.80-kg/mm fork springs selected to suit our test rider’s 175-lb. weight, and replaced the fork oil with RT’s 15-weight Ultra Slick Fork Fluid to increase damping. The result is much better front-end feel and a big reduction in brake-induced fork dive. Speaking of brakes, with our bike’s increased power and firmer fork, the brakes became the weakest link. Swapping the stock rubber hoses for stainless-steel lines from Galfer was all it took to bring them up to par, and made front-brake actuation a two-finger affair.

Although the Ninja’s upright riding position is comfortable for low-speed commuting around town, it feels awkward when the pace picks up on a twisty road. Replacing the stock bolt-on handlebars with Woodcraft clip-ons dropped handlebar height a half-inch, making for a more aggressive riding position. An added benefit is, with the top-mounted stock bars out of the way, you can experiment with fork height. We raised the forks in the triple clamps and liked the way it quickened the steering.

Other annoyances were a lack of wind protection and legroom. Fitting a taller Double Bubble windscreen from Zero Gravity resulted in a sizeable pocket of still air. And changing out the chunky, rubber-clad stock footpegs for thinner Competition Werkes aluminum pegs gave us a quarter-inch more legroom while increasing cornering clearance by the same amount, compensating for the lowered front end.

With engine performance, handling and comfort elevated, it was time to do something about the Ninja’s appearance. The ’08 aesthetic update was a big improvement, but there was still work to be done. Universal flush-mount turnsignals from Bikemaster needed some modification to fit the fairing openings, but worked well to streamline the surface. Kawasaki’s accessory solo seat cowl was an obvious choice for “sportifying” the rear end. With the passenger seat removed there was no need for the passenger footpegs, but the right-side mounting bracket also holds the muffler. Aftermarket brackets are available, but we opted to make our own from a piece of flat bar stock. With Targa’s fender-eliminator kit installed in place of the stock 18-inch plastic appendage, the 250’s backside looks sleek and suitably sporty now.

Performance-tuned and spiffed-up, the Ninja 250R is now worthy of the family name. More power and better handling encourage experienced riders to show the big bikes who’s boss on serpentine roads, while improved fueling makes the bike even friendlier for beginners.

Some would argue that $1500 is too much money to spend on a $4000 motorcycle. They haven’t ridden our Ninja.

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