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Model Comparison

Model Comparison Left: The Ninja’s front bikini fairing hasn’t changed in many years, and looks dated,

Left: The Ninja’s front bikini fairing hasn’t changed in many years, and looks dated, but it is reasonably effective, giving the rider pro- tection to about mid-chest. Indeed, the “GT” flavor of the little windshield matches the bike’s character well.

Right: The Ninja’s 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.

but the pegs are a bit too far forward for our tastes. Below: The Ninja’s 500cc
Below: The Ninja’s 500cc twin was originally half the potent Ninja 1000 motor. It is
Below: The Ninja’s 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. It’s nicely finished, too,
with glossy black paint and polished fins.
Left: The Ninja’s 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
adjustable—very nice, but the mirrors
are not very wide and don’t offer as
good a rear view as the GS 500’s.
Right: The Ninja’s 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
today—a 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
GS’s radial Bridgestone should retrofit without
problems). The Ninja’s front axle is also much
larger for a better handling feel.

TESTERS’ LOG

T ESTERS ’ L OG I have to admit, this mini-Ninja surprised the heck out of
T ESTERS ’ L OG I have to admit, this mini-Ninja surprised the heck out of

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 didn’t expect much in the way of per- formance. And I couldn’t have been more wrong. First and foremost, I’ve got to give Kawasaki kudos for that beautiful motor. It’s 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 didn’t 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 couldn’t switch the Kawasaki over to the GS’ radials, too, which would probably make it even better. Entry-level? Sure, but I wouldn’t mind owning one of these just for commuting and playing around now and then. —Fred Rau

Knowing that the 500 Ninja has long been a favorite of club rac- ers, I’d always imagined that the reason was its low initial price and the large numbers available on the used market. But now I understand—this 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 don’t 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 Ninja’s detailing is also much better than the Suzuki’s, 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 with- out significant visual changes—just like this one. —Dave Searle

14 JULY 2004 MOTORCYCLE CONSUMER NEWS

SAE CORRECTED REAR-WHEEL TORQUE, LB. FT. SAE CORRECTED REAR-WHEEL HORSEPOWER 2004 Kawasaki Ninja 500 SPECIFICATIONS
SAE CORRECTED REAR-WHEEL TORQUE, LB. FT.
SAE CORRECTED REAR-WHEEL HORSEPOWER
2004 Kawasaki Ninja 500
SPECIFICATIONS AND PERFORMANCE DATA
ENGINE
PERFORMANCE
Type:
4-stroke,
liquid-cooled,
parallel twin
shim over bucket
Measured top speed
0–1/4 mile
109.7
mph
13.09
sec.
Valvetrain:
DOHC,
@ 97.5 mph
4
valves per cylinder
0–60 mph
4.49
sec.
Size:
498cc
0–100 mph
n/a
sec.
Bore/stroke:
74.0mm
x 58.0mm
60–0 mph
130.3'
Comp. ratio:
10.8:1
Power
to
Weight Ratio
1:8.8
Carburetion:
Keihin
CVK34 x 2
Speed @ 65 mph indicated
59.8
Exhaust:
2–2
M/C RATING SYSTEM
DRIVE TRAIN
EXCELLENT
Transmission:
6-speed
VERY GOOD
GOOD
Final drive:
chain
FAIR
RPM @ 65 mph/redline
5100/11500
POOR
ERGONOMICS TEMPLATE
–—–Middleweight Sport–—–
DIMENSIONS
63.4"
Wheelbase:
A: front of bike
to rear most
seating position.
A
56.5"
Rake/trail 27°/3.6"
B
28.0"
Ground clearance:
4.75"
B: front of bike to
center of handgrip.
Seat height : 30.5"
GVWR:
829
lbs.
C: front of bike to
center of footpeg.
Wet weight:
438
lbs.
Carrying capacity:
391
lbs.
C
50.5"
D: ground to center
of handgrip.
E:
SUSPENSION
ground to center
of footpeg.
Engine
Transmission
Suspension
Brakes
Handling
Styling
Riding Impression
Instruments/Controls
Attention to Detail
Value
Front:
37mm
telescopic fork
F:
ground to lowest
D
E
F
point of seat.
oil damped
OVERALL RATING
5.1” travel
Rear:
UNI-TRAK
system monoshock
MISCELLANEOUS
DYNAMOMETER DATA
preload adjustable
Instruments:
Speedo,
tach
Low end
70
70
3.9” travel
BRAKES
odometer, tripmeter
temp. gauge
Turn signal, neutral
Mid-range
60
60
49.9 hp
Top end
50
50
Indicators:
Front:
single
300mm disc with
high beam, oil pressure
two-piston, single-action caliper
MSRP:
$4799
Rear:
single
260mm disc with
Routine service interval:
6000
mi.
single-piston caliper
Valve adj. interval:
12,000
mi.
Warranty:
12
mo., unlimited miles.
TIRES & WHEELS
Colors:
Galaxy
Silver/Ebony
Front:
120/70-17
Bridgestone
The Ninja’s engine is
smooth, quick-revving
and responsive. Top end
is surprisingly strong,
with the bike capable of
accelerating to pass from
70 mph without down-
shifting. Pretty impres-
sive for an aging, 500cc
powerplant.
40
40
30.9 lb. ft.
30
30
20
20
10
10
0
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
Exedra
on 3.00" x 17" wheel
RPM, THOUSANDS
Rear:
130/70-17
Bridgestone
Exedra on 3.50" x 17" wheel
TEST NOTES
STANDARD MAINTENANCE
ELECTRICS
Battery:
12V,
14AH
Ignition:
TCBI
with digital advance
PICKS
498cc engine is smooth and stronger than you’d think
Handling and suspension are surprisingly good
A lot of bike for the money
Time
Parts
Labor
0.5
$13
+ $12
$30.00
0.1
$34
$6.00
2.0
$48
$120.00
Headlight:
60/55W
0.3
MF
$18.00
PANS
Would be even better if fitted with radial tires
0.5
$30.00
FUEL
0.7
$42.00
Tank capacity:
4.8
gal.
1.0
$6
$60.00
Both brakes have a feel wooden
High/low/avg. mpg:
69/58/64
Item
Oil & Filter
Air Filter
Valve Adjust
Battery Access
Final Drive
R/R Rear
Change Plugs
Carb
Totals
1.5
$90.00
Dated styling
6.60
$113.00
$396.00
Note: MCN Labor rate changed to $60/hr. from $54/hr. in May 2002
38.0"
13.0"
30.5"

MOTORCYCLE CONSUMER NEWS JULY 2004

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