Monday, December 15, 2008

Ninja 250 Update

I finally got around to fixing up the damage I did to the 250 at the end of September. As you may recall, the left front turn signal punched through the fairing on its way to an untimely demise. I actually have some pictures to post of it and the restoration process.

Here it is after the fix. Hard to see the crack from the outside.

Next is the inside of the fairing where my friend Steve mended the plastic.

Here is what an OEM signal looks like.

This is what the turn signal looked like after the crash.

I put these flush-mount signals on as replacements. The pair of these (direct from Taiwan) cost less than one stock replacement would from Kawasaki.

Finally, I've gotten around to taking a picture of the bike with the repairs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Gift Season

Around this time every year I start seeing Internet list of gifts to give for any and all demographics. A quick Google search shows that other people have compiled lists for motorcyclist gifts before me. I'm going to give it my best shot anyway. ;)

One idea would be the Crampbuster. It's kind of like a poor man's cruise control and a great way to relax your hand on the long haul. I haven't used one, but I have talked with riders who will swear by them for touring with and keeping your wrist from cramping up on high-mileage touring.

Another useful thing to have on your motorcycle is a bungee net, like Bikemaster's stretch net. It comes in colors to match your bike, too. I have used this to carry things like an extra helmet or a two-gallon fuel tank.

The next item I have for touring is another Bikemaster product, a mini-foot pump. It's compact and light so it packs well for touring. You never know when your tire might lose air and need to be re-filled. Normally this happens when you are in the middle of nowhere and can't get to a gas station to use their air-pump. Mini pump to the rescue!

In the same vein, a tire repair kit would make a great gift.

For the rider who is often found out in the rain, try finger squeegees. I don't want to think about the times last summer when I got caught by that little bit of rain or, worse yet, the wet roads and the mist that gets kicked up by the traffic around you. Every time that happened I told myself I would order these as soon as I got home. Still hasn't happened. If your biker is like me, these are for you.

The last useful item I will add to the list is a chin skirt for the helmet. Some manufacturers have things like this already built in, but more often you get to add your own. I found this little item to be one of the best ways to help keep my face warmer on the colder commutes. It really cuts down on wind and debris getting into your helmet.

Finally, if none of these sound right, find out what brand of gear they wear. Most makers have a line of non-motorcycling apparel as a way of showing your brand loyalty.

Note: I have no affiliation with any of the sites linked above. This post should not be construed as an endorsement of any specific retailer or manufacturer.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ninja 250

As Matt said, we will both give a review of our respective sportbikes. Though we ride different machines, they are both good beginner rides. Mine is a 2005 Kawasaki Ninja 250, or EX250F19 (the EX designation for the non-race oriented sportbikes and the F19 for it being the 19th year of production.) The little Ninja is probably the most recommended beginner motorcycle in the sport classes. It gets these high praises by virtue of its low weight and low power. At around 350 pounds with roughly 25 horses it seems puny in comparison to its bigger brother the ZX-10, with four times the engine displacement, making 160 horses with a sub-400 pound weight.

The low power is part of the charm of the EX250 however. It has the power to comfortably cruise with highway traffic, and then some. At the same time, you have to learn proper shifting and transmission skill to keep it lively in traffic. It's not just a twist the wrist in any gear and go machine. The low weight is part of why it can get away with the small engine. The weight also is a plus when you accidentally horizontally park your bike.

Also, it has a less twitchy suspension than a full on race bike. While its handling is far more responsive than that of a cruiser like the Harley I had the opurtunity to ride a while back, it is not so responsive as to react to the minute inputs common to a rider still in the process of getting used to controlling a motorcycle. When a super-sport would swerve and turn, the little Ninja just gives a little lurch to remind you to keep your mind on the ride. This is not to say that it isn't a capable handler of the twists and turns or the times when a rider needs a quick response, but takes more awareness of what the rider is doing and, through that, is a wonderful way to learn how to ride and how to ride well.

Next up in the cross-hairs, the suspension and brakes. Both are less than stellar. The suspension is one of the things that long time owners often upgrade for heavier springs and more adjustability. The stock set-up has no adjustability and wonderfully soft front forks, lending the bike to extreme nose dives under heavy decelaration. This is not a totally bad thing though; it helps prevent the rear tire from coming up. However, the rear tire will still get light and lock up quickly without enough practice under extreme braking situations. (See my September 29th post.)

Last but not least, long term ownership: I know many people who consider the 250 to be a beginners bike that will go to the wayside as the rider's skill level progresses. I know more people who are highly experienced rider and looking for that used 250 to snap it up and use it as a commuter (65 miles to the gallon helps that midset) or to throw it around as a cheap track bike. I really enjoy being the owner of such a fine motorcycle and if I get told tomorrow that no one is allowed to buy or sell a motorcycle anymore than I will be pleased to be stuck with this one. In the picture below you can see that it even works well as a touring bike.