Kawasaki Ninja 250 Motorcycle Review

Recently, I’ve had several guys express an interest in learning to ride a motorcycle. They want to know how to get started. Unless they are adverse to sport bikes, I’ve had two suggestions: the Kawasaki Ninja 250 motorcycle, and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation training class. I bought a 2009 Ninja 250 to teach my daughter to ride. Several guys I know also got their first ride on this bike. It is light and agile, with enough power, but not too much to be overwhelming.

Interested in a good beginner motorcycle, read on for the rest of my review.

Ninja 250 Overview

The Kawasaki Ninja 250 stands out in several ways. It is a great looking motorcycle. Kawasaki have intentionally left the 250 designation off the bike. It looks like its older siblings, and even standing right next to it, you can’t tell it is a 250. Sitting at stoplights, I’ve had many people give me a “thumbs up” and say “Nice Bike.” I had the special edition in Kawasaki lime green, and I have to admit it looked very nice.

Looking good is great, but riding the little ninja is where the fun begins. It is very light and agile. It handles very well, and is small enough to give new riders a sense of confidence and security. Although it looks like a sport bike, the riding position is more neutral or upright, making it a comfortable and easy bike to ride. Compared to my two bigger motorcycles, it almost feels like a toy. But, crank open the throttle and this little bike will scream and take off. Not scary-like acceleration, but fun-like acceleration.

Another area the Ninja 250 shines is in value. At about $4,000, Kawasaki are definitely trying to entice first time buyers. There aren’t many other motorcycles out there at this price, providing this much bike.

The last major benefit is fuel economy. Kawasaki claim about 60 mpg, and that seems reasonably accurate. You easily get over 200 miles on the 4.8 gallon tank before feeling compelled to fill up.

Ninja 250 Features and Specifications

The Ninja 250 received a complete redesign for 2008, and remains largely the same through the 2010 model. It has a 250 cc motor that produces 27.2 hp. That is more than enough horsepower for a new rider, and even a reasonable amount for experienced riders given its light 374 lb weight. With a 13,000 rpm red line, the Ninja 250 likes it best running in the high revs. Get the revs up, and it has a lot of spirit.

The Ninja 250 uses carburetors rather than fuel injection. Although this helps to keep the cost down, it introduces probably the only weakness in this bike. It is very cold blooded, requiring the choke and several minutes to warm up before it is happy. It also doesn’t like not being ridden. Leave the bike sitting for more than 4 weeks and carburetors can get gummed up requiring some Sea Foam gas additive to get it running smoothly again.

The seat height, at 31 inches, is low enough so even short riders can plant both feet on the ground. This is especially comforting for beginner riders.

I won’t bore you with all the other specifications. See the Kawasaki Ninja 250 web site for more details.

Riding and Handling

The Ninja 250 is a lot of fun to ride around town, and particularly on twisty mountain roads. It is light and responsive, and handles very well. It is easy to lean into a turn, and holds a line once in a turn. Being small and light also makes it very maneuverable in parking lots or other tight spaces. Despite the small sport windshield, it offers reasonable protection from the wind, even at highway speeds.

Given the modest 250cc power, you will likely find yourself cracking the throttle full open quite regularly to keep up with traffic. On the positive side, the fact you crack the throttle wide open without getting into trouble is one of the fun features of this bike. Apart from riding beyond your skill level, there isn’t much you can do on this bike that will get you into trouble.

The Ninja 250 has a top speed of around 80 mph, so you can take it on the highway. However, if you do a lot of highway riding, you may find the Ninja 250 a little light on power. There isn’t a lot of extra ponies for passing. But, if you are using it for commuting, the 60 mpg more than makes up for its modest power.

Is the Ninja 250 right for You?

The Kawasaki Ninja 250 is a great beginner motorcycle. My daughter had a lot of fun learning on this bike. A few of her friends also got their first motorcycle experience riding this bike. Almost anyone can get on this bike and not feel intimidated.

Will you outgrow the Ninja 250? That depends on your expectations. Most people I know that owned a Ninja 250 eventually bought a bigger bike. Is that a bad thing? No. I’ve met several guys that tried to learn on a bigger motorcycle, and scared themselves to the point of not riding again.

If you are still not sure if the Ninja 250 is right for you, there are usually a lot of used Ninja 250s for sale. Just be careful, and thoroughly inspect what you are buying. Since they are beginner bikes, there are mainly three types of used Ninja 250s. The first are bikes that served their purpose in teaching the owner to ride, and now the owner is moving up to something larger. These are usually in good condition, and often only a year or two old. Another group are bikes where the owner crashed while learning to ride, and now wants to sell the bike. In this case, the crash was usually low speed resulting in minor cosmetic damage. The last group are bikes ridden by guys who went beyond their riding abilities. This usually involves crashing at relatively high speeds, often not making a corner on a twisty road. These bikes could have considerable damage. Just be aware of what you are buying. Take an experience motorcycle rider with you if possible.

If you are new to motorcycle riding, the best plan of attack is taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation riding course. They will teach you to ride before you buy a motorcycle. This way you can make sure you want to ride before laying out cash for a bike you may never learn to ride.

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Comments

  1. I read your review of the new Ninja 250 and enjoyed it..I an having 2006 ninja 250 and its really fun to ride on it. Its true Kawasaki Ninja 250 is the ultimate starter motorcycle for a new rider.Mileage is also superb which is most important this days….I think Ninja 250R is the best looking 250cc in 250cc sport bike segment segment.

    • If you like sport bikes, the Ninja 250 is a great starter motorcycle. It is light and easy to ride. It has enough power to be fun, but not enough power to get you into trouble. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get into trouble. If you look at used Ninja 250s, you will see many of them have damaged fairings. This is because the motorcycle was dropped. This could be because the rider was going too fast for a corner, or locked up the front brake and the bike went down. If this is your first motorcycle, I highly recommend taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation training class. They will teach you to ride, and hopefully prevent common beginner mistakes. The only negative I found with the Ninja 250 is it being carbureted, rather than fuel injected. It can be difficult to start when cold, and you need to leave the choke on for a long time before it warms up and runs well. You might also look at the new Honda 250 sport bike. It just came out this year, and it is fuel injected. I’ve seen good reviews of the Honda, as well.

  2. Brazuca24 says:

    I’ve been riding motorcycles for almost 40 years and so far owned over 20 of them. From 100cc to 1250cc from various OEMs. My current bike is a 2010 Ninja 250 which I bought new last November.

    Most of the professional press and owner’s reviews state pretty much the same thing; beginners bike, take the MSF training class, what to look for when buying one and finally upgrade to a larger displacement one soon after. The killer for me is that none 250 marking is posted on the bike. But the reviewers often forget to mentioned or even rave about the fact that the newer Ninja 250 is an unexceptionably well designed machine with features found on much more expensive motorcycles. The quality of the hardware, riding comfort and reliability is simply amazing for a bike that lists the MSP of 4K. Incredible. The Ninja 250 is a very well put together machine.

    I like riding it on the highway and frequently. I am 5’10” and my weight is 195lbs. The engine revs is quite “happy” at 75mph at 9K to 10K rpm and with a 13K rpm red line, you can pass other drivers with confidence and most of the time not having to downshift. Some owners even claim speeds 100 mph and above. Not me.I am happy riding a few miles above the speed limit when possible.

    The Ninja 250 style caught my attention after sitting in one at a Kawasaki dealership here in Phoenix. Once I had the opportunity to ride one, I realized the Ninja 250 was designed for me. Its comfortable handlebar and seat and controls ergonomics coupled with a incredible well designed faring, above average breaks, excellent high speed stability and above all, low handlebar vibration at any speed, the Ninja 250 replaced my desire to own higher displacement motorcycles. The fuel economy of 60 mpg plus is not like is being published unless you ride around town at 35mph. I frequently get at most 50 mpg on longer trips.

    Yes, I owned the big machines and enjoyed most of them, however the Ninja 250 provides a very good list of good design features for a small priced motorcycle. It goes without saying that the insurance cost is just as good.

    • Yes, I must admit that although I bought our Ninja 250 for my daughter, I enjoy riding it, too. For some reason the US motorcycle culture has denigrated small motorcycles. Size and horsepower seem to be the primary measure of a bike. I’ve ridden sport bikes with over 130 hp. Yes, they can be fun in the right circumstances, but they can also get you into trouble very quickly. I can “ride the crap” out of the Ninja 250, and never feel like I’m getting in over my head. Not that I’d do that of course :-). There is something invigorating about cranking the throttle wide open, even if you aren’t doing 190 mph.

      Bryan

  3. Hey, i read your review and I was wondering if I could have some advice, I’m a rookie to street bikes and plan on taking a MSF class before jumping on one. I have heard people quickly outgrow the ninja 250cc and was wondering if its right for me. I plan on doing a lot of in town riding and very little riding on the highway. I’ll mostly be commuting to school so the highest speed ill hit is around 50 mph at most. I’ve also heard people recommend a touring bike or naked bike since the “position” is too uncomfortable. My friend recommended a ducati monster over a ninja, from what i’ve seen they dont look like the same type of bike but if anyone has any feedback that could help me decide on what motorcycle to get id appreciate it.

    • I think the answer depends on what motivates you to ride, and how much abuse you will take for riding a small bike. As a side point, the 2013 model is a Ninja 300. It has a little more horsepower, fuel injection, and anti lock brakes. I think this makes the bike even more appealing than my 250.

      As for out growing the small Ninja. That depends on several things. How tall are you? I’m 5’10” tall and find the Ninja 250 a little cramped after riding for an hour or more. My daughter is 5’7″ and loves the bike. Perfect size. If you are shorter than 5’10” you should be good. I’ve ridden the Ninja 650, and it is probably a better size for me. If you are tall, the Ninja 650 may be a better fit.

      At about 60 mpg, the Ninja 250 is the cheapest mode of transportation short of a moped. I find the ninja 250 very fun to ride. I would equate it to the Mini Cooper car. Small, but a blast to ride around town. You might impress people with a 600 horse power Ferrari, but you can only use 10% of its capabilities around town. If you are not a guy who measures his manhood in horsepower something in the 250cc to 600cc should be a good fit. After you take the MSF class you should have a feel for the power of a 250cc bike. Not overwhelmingly fast, but you roll on the throttle relatively hard without getting into too much trouble. If you want a little adrenaline rush, you probably need something with at least 650cc.

      I don’t know what’s changed on the Ninja 300, but my 250 is a more upright riding position than most sport bikes. Riding position is closer to a naked bike such as the monster, than a supersport. I wouldn’t worry about it being uncomfortable unless you plan to do long highway rides.

      I wouldn’t recommend a touring bike unless you plan on ride a lot of 200 mile days. My BMW RT is wonderful for doing 10,000 miles across the country, but rather large for just scooting around town. I consider my BMW RT the mini-van equivalent in a motorcycle.

      So, what’s my opinion. If you are about 5’9″ or shorter, the Ninja 250 is a lot of fun. It’s a great bike for riding to school, or riding around town. If you are tall, A Ninja 650, or a naked bike in the 650cc range will probably be more comfortable. Take a look at something like the new Honda NC700X. October Cycle World magazine named it best standard bike for 2012. It looks like nice bike for riding around town, 64 mpg, and with some under seat storage space or a top case for school books.

      Let me know if that helps, or if you have any other questions.

      Bryan

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