Kawasaki EX500/Ninja 500R - Best Used Bikes

Best Under 500cc Streetbike, 1987, ’88, ’89, ’90 CW Ten Best Awards.

Kawasaki EX500/Ninja 500R - Best Used Bikes
Kawasaki EX500/Ninja 500R - Best Used Bikes

Years sold: 1987-'94 (EX500); 1995-'97 (Ninja 500); 1998-'09 (Ninja 500R)

MSRP new: $2899 (1987) to $5499 (2009)

Blue Book retail value: $900 (1987) to $3585 (2009)

Basic specs: A 498cc, dohc, four-stroke parallel-Twin with four valves per cylinder. In our test of the EX500 in September of 1987, the engine made 59 hp at 9800 rpm and 34 ft.-lb. of torque at 8500. That allowed the 400-pound (dry) EX to turn a 12.99-second, 101.98-mph quarter-mile time.

Why it won: The EX500 was unusually capable and versatile, especially for its size and price. It was an easy, unintimidating entry point for beginners; a very competent backroad bomber for sportbike riders; a surprisingly good roadrace mount for anyone trying to compete on a budget; and a terrific commuter and day-tripper for just about anyone. Those credentials earned the EX500 Ten Best honors for four consecutive years.

After a minor redesign in 1994 (17-inch wheels replacing the original 16s; switch from drum to disc rear brake; assorted styling changes), the EX was renamed Ninja 500 in 1995 and then Ninja 500R in 1998, but the bike subsequently remained the same until its last year of production in 2009.

From the 1987 Ten Best Story: "The EX is a Twin that can dish out as much excitement per cc as any multi on the market. And it has performance comparable to that of any 500cc streetbike ever made."

Useful resources: As when considering practically any other motorcycle, the Internet is the most prolific source of information for the EX500 and its direct descendants. One EX-specific forum (www.ex-500.com) is a good place to start, and a couple of general Kawasaki forums (www.kawiforums.com/ninja-500r and www.kawasakimotorcycle.org/forum) have segments devoted to that model_._ Toss in scores of sites selling parts, accessories and entire EX/Ninja 500 motorcycles, along with listings for racing organizations that still maintain classes for this Kawasaki, and you've got plenty of reading to get you up to speed regarding this outstanding midsize motorcycle.