Me & My Bike: 2001 Kawasaki Ninja 250

Name: Gary Jaehne
Age: 55
Home: Scotts Valley, CA
Occupation: Medical Ultrasound Technician

"I bought this Ninja 250 for my wife, Jill, when she took her MSF class. She got her license and I got her the bike. She rode it for a while, then the rainy season came and she took some time off. It was just sitting around, so one weekend I decided to take it out and ride it. One thing led to another and pretty soon I was riding it exclusively-taking it up in the hills on the weekends and commuting to work. The miles just kept racking up and pretty soon I'd put on 100,000 miles.

"It's been very reliable. I do valve adjustments on a regular basis because it's got old-fashioned, screw-type adjusters. I've done it probably 15 times over the years and it's gotten so I can do all of them in 45 minutes from start to finish. I give it regular oil changes as well, and that's about it for maintenance. There was a point at 60,000 miles when it needed new tires, so I put on Dunlop GT501s. They last for about 3000 miles and stick pretty well. They're bias-ply, though, and taller than the original tires so you have to raise the front fender for clearance. I cut the fork springs to stiffen them up because the front end was going wobbly, but that's about all I've done.

"I roadraced for a long time, and in my street riding I'm trying to find some way to keep things sane, so the little bike works really well for that. I go out with a group and we'll find the small, old roads where the speeds are dictated by the roads themselves. I usually end up leading the group, and it works out surprisingly well. I've found groups of guys riding up in the hills locally and getting carried away. I'll ride with them and eventually they'll adapt their pace and the crash rate drops. I think the little bike has a lot to do with that. They see what the Ninja can do. They chill out on the straights and don't worry about passing and then being re-passed in the corners.

"On a group ride, people don't try to pass you if they know your corner speeds are going to be good and the straightaways will be slowed down. They respect that and stay behind me. We stick to The Pace concept, and it usually works for everyone."

2001 Kawasaki Ninja 250