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Model Comparison

Left: The Ninjas front bikini fairing hasnt changed in many years, and looks dated, but it is reasonably effective, giving the rider protection to about mid-chest. Indeed, the GT flavor of the little windshield matches the bikes character well. Right: The Ninjas seat is quite narrow at the front, making it an easier reach to the ground for shorter riders. Further back, it is well shaped for both rider and passenger comfort. Note that the seat/tank junction is very narrow also, for a relatively racy profile, but the pegs are a bit too far forward for our tastes. Left: The Ninjas instruments are large and easy to read at a glance, but with an odometer on both the speedo and tach, making you wonder where they came from. Both levers are reach adjustablevery nice, but the mirrors are not very wide and dont offer as good a rear view as the GS 500s.

2004 Kawasaki Ninja 500


SPECIFICATIONS AND PERFORMANCE DATA
ENGINE Type: ..............4-stroke, liquid-cooled, parallel twin Valvetrain: ....DOHC, shim over bucket ..........................4 valves per cylinder Size: ..........................................498cc Bore/stroke:..........74.0mm x 58.0mm Comp. ratio: ............................10.8:1 Carburetion: ............Keihin CVK34 x 2 Exhaust:........................................22 DRIVE TRAIN Transmission: ......................6-speed Final drive: ................................chain RPM @ 65 mph/redline ..5100/11500 DIMENSIONS Wheelbase: ................................56.5" Rake/trail................................27/3.6" Ground clearance: ......................4.75" Seat height :................................30.5" GVWR: ..................................829 lbs. Wet weight: ..........................438 lbs. Carrying capacity: ..................391 lbs. SUSPENSION Front:................37mm telescopic fork oil damped 5.1 travel Rear: ..UNI-TRAK system monoshock preload adjustable 3.9 travel BRAKES PERFORMANCE Measured top speed ......109.7 mph 01/4 mile ..................13.09 sec. @ 97.5 mph 060 mph ....................4.49 sec. 0100 mph ....................n/a sec. 600 mph ........................130.3' Power to Weight Ratio ..........1:8.8 Speed @ 65 mph indicated ....59.8 M/C RATING SYSTEM
EXCELLENT VERY GOOD GOOD FAIR POOR

Below: The Ninjas 500cc twin was originally half the potent Ninja 1000 motor. It is still a marvelous engine, very smooth, and very powerful with 4-valves per cylinder worked by dual overhead cams. Its nicely finished, too, with glossy black paint and polished fins.

ERGONOMICS TEMPLATE

A B
28.0"

63.4"

A: front of bike to rear most seating position. B: front of bike to center of handgrip. C: front of bike to center of footpeg.

Right: The Ninjas suspension is surprisingly good for what must certainly be cost-conscious equipment, but then the whole bike would be built more cheaply if it had been designed todaya long production run can have real advantages. However, the front brake has quite a wooden feel and does not use a semi-floating rotor design like the Suzuki. Still, maximum stopping distances appeared to be tire limited, and the tires are simple bias ply rubber (the GSs radial Bridgestone should retrofit without problems). The Ninjas front axle is also much larger for a better handling feel.

38.0"

50.5"

D: ground to center of handgrip. E: ground to center of footpeg. F: ground to lowest point of seat.

Middleweight Sport Engine Transmission Suspension Brakes Handling Styling Riding Impression Instruments/Controls Attention to Detail Value OVERALL RATING

D
MISCELLANEOUS Instruments: ..................Speedo, tach odometer, tripmeter temp. gauge Indicators: .......... Turn signal, neutral high beam, oil pressure MSRP: ....................................$4799 Routine service interval:........6000 mi. Valve adj. interval:..............12,000 mi. Warranty:......12 mo., unlimited miles. Colors: ................Galaxy Silver/Ebony

13.0"

E F

30.5"

DYNAMOMETER DATA Low end Mid-range Top end


The Ninjas engine is smooth, quick-revving and responsive. Top end is surprisingly strong, with the bike capable of accelerating to pass from 70 mph without downshifting. Pretty impressive for an aging, 500cc powerplant.
SAE CORRECTED REAR-WHEEL HORSEPOWER SAE CORRECTED REAR-WHEEL TORQUE, LB. FT.
70 70

60

60

49.9 hp
50

50

TESTERS LOG
I have to admit, this mini-Ninja surprised the heck out of me. With a decade-old engine, bias-ply tires and styling that takes me back about 15 years, I really didnt expect much in the way of performance. And I couldnt have been more wrong. First and foremost, Ive got to give Kawasaki kudos for that beautiful motor. Its smooth, quiet, starts easily, warms up rapidly, revs quickly and puts out a lot of punch for its size. I found it hard to believe that even when cruising the interstate at 70 mph, when I needed a shot of power to pass a truck, I didnt even have to downshift. Pretty impressive. And despite the bias-ply tires, the handling is fairly sharp sharp enough to have a good time wailing through some twisty canyon roads like I was aboard one of the newer 600 sportbikes. Dave says since the wheels are identically-sized to the Suzuki, he sees no reason you couldnt switch the Kawasaki over to the GS radials, too, which would probably make it even better. Entry-level? Sure, but I wouldnt mind owning one of these just Fred Rau for commuting and playing around now and then. Knowing that the 500 Ninja has long been a favorite of club racers, Id always imagined that the reason was its low initial price and the large numbers available on the used market. But now I understandthis is a surprisingly competent motorcycle. The engine gives the lightweight bike plenty of performance and runs very smoothly, especially for a twin. Also, its chassis and suspension are much better than I would have guessed, with excellent stability and pavement-hugging low-velocity damping control that you usually dont get on simple damper rod forks or a shock without multi-adjustable damping. I felt very secure charging our favorite canyon roads. Also, the skinny gastank allows a rider to tuck in tight and feel like a part of the bike, and it steers easily despite its relatively narrow handlebars. The Ninjas detailing is also much better than the Suzukis, and overall, it looks more expensive despite costing less. Yes, the styling is dated, but after you get to know it, you can comment that a lot of great bikes have endured a long time without significant visual changesjust like this one. Dave Searle

Front: ............single 300mm disc with two-piston, single-action caliper Rear: ............single 260mm disc with single-piston caliper TIRES & WHEELS Front:..............120/70-17 Bridgestone ..............Exedra on 3.00" x 17" wheel Rear: ..............130/70-17 Bridgestone Exedra on 3.50" x 17" wheel ELECTRICS Battery: ..............................12V, 14AH Ignition: ......TCBI with digital advance Headlight: ..............................60/55W FUEL Tank capacity: ........................4.8 gal. High/low/avg. mpg: ..............69/58/64

40

40

30.9 lb. ft.


30

30

20

20

10

10

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

RPM, THOUSANDS

TEST NOTES PICKS 498cc engine is smooth and stronger than youd think Handling and suspension are surprisingly good A lot of bike for the money PANS Would be even better if fitted with radial tires Both brakes have a feel wooden Dated styling

STANDARD MAINTENANCE Item Time Parts Labor Oil & Filter ................0.5 ..........$13 + $12 ....$30.00 Air Filter....................0.1 ..........$34 ................$6.00 Valve Adjust..............2.0 ..........$48 ............$120.00 Battery Access ..........0.3 ............MF ..............$18.00 Final Drive ................0.5 ................................$30.00 R/R Rear Whl. ..........0.7 ................................$42.00 Change Plugs............1.0 ............$6 ..............$60.00 Carb adj. ..................1.5 ................................$90.00 Totals 6.60 $113.00 $396.00
Note: MCN Labor rate changed to $60/hr. from $54/hr. in May 2002 G

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JULY 2004

MOTORCYCLE CONSUMER NEWS

MOTORCYCLE CONSUMER NEWS

JULY 2004

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