Well, the gig is finally up: The new 2013 Ninja 300, which debuted in Europe earlier this month, is a confirmed addition to Kawasaki’s stateside model lineup. We will not have to wait long to get our first ride aboard the Ninja 300, as I will be reporting back from this week’s press ride in Northern California.
Few may know, but I road-raced the original Ninja 250 back in 1987 and won a lion’s share of Kawasaki’s contingency payout. There was, however, one pesky Honda 500 Ascot rider who proved tough to beat at Willow Springs that season. If only I could take this latest Ninja’s new, fuel-injected 296cc parallel-Twin and travel back in time! Well, I’m looking forward to the intro and a seat-of-the-pants dyno impression of the engine’s performance increase and upgraded chassis. There’s even an anti-lock version, said to have “the world’s smallest and lightest motorcycle ABS brake system.”
Kawasaki claims its new engine is packed with nearly 50 percent upgraded parts from the Ninja 250, and that it not only offers improved performance but better fuel economy, to boot! I’ve attended many an intro over the years, and there’s little chance of any fuel mileage records being set at what often degenerates into a journalist Grand Prix. Particularly so when light and agile-handling bikes are involved.
I vow to slow down and enjoy the Golden State landscape and take note of such things as the level of engine vibration produced by the 300’s lighter 62mm pistons carried on shorter connecting rods traveling through 49mm of stroke instead of the 41.2mm of the Ninja 250R. We can leave the race fuel in the drum, too, as the 300’s compression ratio has been reduced from 11.6 to 10.6:1, meaning the bike is happy to have its 4.5-gallon tank filled with 87 octane fuel. Instead of the 250R’s 30mm carburetors, the new bike inhales through a pair of 32mm Keihin fuel-injection throttle bodies.
You can bet I will be tap-dancing its revised six-speed transmission, as well. It features a new roller-type shift drum for smoother shifting and stronger gears designed to deal with the torquier engine. There also is a new clutch with assist and slipper functions designed to handle the increased power while requiring significantly less lever effort to operate. (See the F.C.C. clutch in action here while you brush up on your Japanese.)
The new diamond-type steel-tube frame is said to be 150 percent more rigid than the 250, and together with a new 37mm fork and (preload-adjustable) Uni-Trak rear, handling is claimed to be much improved. The 10-spoke cast wheels are new, and the 4.0-inch rear is 0.5-inch wider than the 250’s and carries a 140-section tire instead of a 130. In fact, Kawasaki says the IRC tires were developed just for the 300. Both the ABS and non-ABS models use a single 290mm front disc and a 220mm rear; Kawasaki says the Nissin ABS adds just 4.5 pounds (making the new ABS bike 9 pounds heavier than the 250).
Mini-me ZX-10R-inspired bodywork cloaks the 300, while the floating windscreen is said to reduce turbulence and fatigue. The handlebars are a bit higher and springs rates a tad softer in the pursuit of enhanced comfort. The analog tach with multifunction LCD dash displays, two underseat helmet holders and hooks for bungeeing things deliver on convenience.
It all looks to be a lot of bang for the green at $4799 in Ebony or Pearl Stardust White, and $200 more for Lime Green/Ebony with SE graphics. The ABS bike comes in Green/Ebony only and retails for $5499.