The name Kawasaki Ninja instantly evokes misbehaved thoughts of green supersport bikes with crazy amounts of power, riders hanging off their motorcycles on curvy roads, scraping their knee-sliders on the asphalt while doing triple the speed limit. That might be true for some of the bikes in the Ninja lineup, but certainly not all of them.
The Ninja name is used on several Kawasaki sportbike models. It all started with the 1984 GPZ900R, but would soon be used on everything from a single-cylinder 80cc bike to parallel twins, and the full-fledged 4-cylinder sportbikes and sport-tourers. Of course, spanning that many models and years, there have been some problems with various Ninja models over the years, some a bit more serious than others. Here are 20 of them.
Sportbikes tend to be rather expensive to insure, and the Ninjas are no exception. There are ways to get the insurance costs down, but if you're a young man living in a bad part of town, you might not be able to insure one at all. Since nobody keeps their sportbikes the way they left the factory, this will make things even more expensive.
19 Not For Beginners
Other than the parallel twin-engined Ninjas, such as the 250, 300, 400, and arguably the 650, these are not beginner bikes. Sure there are plenty of people who'll tell you they started on a 600 (or 636) and moved on to a 1000cc – it's definitely not the safest way to start your motorcycling career – and nothing will teach you how to ride like starting on a smaller capacity bike.
The bigger Ninjas are pretty uncompromising. When riding in traffic or low speeds, all the weight will be on the rider's wrists - we guess this is a good time to start doing pilates to increase core strength?! Even the smaller commuter Ninjas are uncomfortable, but for a different reason - the seats are not made for longer rides.
17 Ninja 250 - Beginner Woes
The Ninja 250 was the ultimate beginner motorcycle. The problem with a fully-faired motorcycle as your first bike is that it will crash at some point, and those plastics are expensive! In addition, the little Ninjette is so light, you might get blown around more on a windy day than your average 600cc.
16 Ninja 300 - ECU Problems
Early Ninja 300s suffered from an ECU, or engine control unit problem, that caused the engine to die when the clutch was pulled in. That's far from ideal when riding a bike.
Kawasaki issued a recall for the affected bikes, and the problem was solved for the 2014 model. However, people who've read early reviews still worried about this years down the line.
15 Ninja 300 - ABS Issues
The Ninja 300 also had a problem with a bracket or cable for the ABS system getting in the way of the front brake, and a bracket on the swingarm getting in the way of the rear brake. Both issues apparently cause the brake pad to not contact the rotors properly, which might reduce braking performance or even damage the rotors. There was another recall for this.
14 Ninja 300 - Bad Tires
The Ninja 300 is one of the best beginner bikes out there – it's even a perfect commuter bike. However, the standard IRC bias-ply tires lack feel and grip and should be left in the 1980s where they belong. We get that cost savings are needed when it comes to budget bikes, but tires are what connect you to the road, meaning they're some of the most important components.
13 Ninja 400 - Potential Gearbox Issues
The Ninja 400 is a beautiful bike, and even though it's a beginner bike, it looks like a proper racer. Sadly, according to the Ninja 400 Riders forum, there could be a potential problem with the gearbox.
Some have experienced trouble shifting gears, false neutrals between 5th and 6th gear, and problems getting it into gear at all. It could be that the gearbox needs to be worn in.
12 2019 ZX-6R - Uncompromising
The new ZX-6R isn't very different from the old model – apart from styling, detail touches, and gearing. Few machines let you fly through corners so easily, or rev with such unbridled ferocity. The bike is perfect on the right day when you're feeling it, but it's too cramped, revvy and uncompromising when you're not in the mood for shenanigans or just commuting to work.
11 1998-1999 Ninja ZX-6R
The Kawasaki ZX-6R's finish is good, but ride it through winter or keep it outside, and it quickly starts corroding around the shock if you don’t add a hugger. Electrics can suffer, too, so be generous with the WD40. The suspension and brakes are outdated by today's standards and are in desperate need of an upgrade.
10 2000-2002 ZX-6R - Not Good Value
This model ZX-6R wasn't good enough to compete with Yamaha’s stunning R6 on the track nor Honda’s new CBR600 on the road. The Kawasaki cost the same as its rivals, the CBR and R6, yet offered a less satisfying ride and much lower spec technology. It also suffered from corrosion problems and hasn't aged as well as its competitors.
9 2017 Ninja 650 - Underdamped
The Ninja 650 is unquestionably the best looking 650 twin in the class and appeals to both newer and more experienced riders. It is, however, a budget bike, so some corners have been cut. Most noticeable is the slightly basic, underdamped suspension with only the rear pre-load being adjustable. Those who are on the heavy side, or want to get the most from the 650 should consider upgrading the suspension, which isn't necessarily cheap.
8 Ninja ZX-7R - Build Quality And Riding Position
The Kawasaki ZX-7R was extremely popular – even if it wasn't the lightest, fastest, nor most powerful. People loved it because it looked great, at least when new.
The build quality is less impressive, however. Downpipes rust, wheel and brake caliper paint comes off, chassis bearings fail and suspension wears fast. Some riders find the ZX-7R comfortable – most don't. The riding position’s pretty old-school sportsbikey – head down, butt up, and a thin seat.
7 Ninja ZX-9R - Heavy And Questionable Build Quality
The Kawasaki ZX-9R began life as a sports machine, didn’t quite cut it and ended up as an excellent sports-tourer. ZX-9Rs from 1994 to 1997 were too heavy, and the suspension wasn't up to scratch. All years suffered from poor build quality. The paint on the wheels was too thin, making it easy to damage it. Corrosion and stone chips are a common sight, shocks wear out quickly and steering head bearings wear fast.
6 2004-2005 Ninja ZX-10R - A Handful On The Road
This generation ZX-10R was sold as the ultimate track bike. The 10R was one wild ride and a no-compromise track weapon in experienced hands. However, being so track focused made it an absolute psycho on the road – the bike was twitchy and definitely not for the inexperienced. Even Kawasaki thought it was a bit much and dialed it down for the subsequent models.
5 2006-2010 Ninja ZX-10R - Not As Good As The Competition
While the mentioning of the 2004 Kawasaki ZX-10R evokes thoughts of rip-roaring power and handling best suited to race circuits, that wasn't the case for the two generations that followed it. These versions were diluted to the point that they were regarded as decent on the road superbikes but not up to competition from the likes of the Honda Fireblade, the tech-laden Yamaha R1 or the almighty BMW S1000RR.
4 New Ninja ZX-10R - Too Track Focused
It seems Kawasaki is having problems finding the balance between a road bike and a track weapon. For the 2019 model, they've gone back to making a bike that's nothing short of insane on the road. The suspension is horribly harsh on uneven surfaces and the engine is docile and a bit gutless at low rpms, and overly wild when you explore the upper end of its rev range.
3 ZX-12R - Cost Of Ownership
The ZX-12R was designed to compete with hyperbikes such as the Hayabusa and Blackbird. The biggest issue is the cost of owning one of these beasts.
Its monocoque chassis makes access for servicing very tricky, increasing the servicing bill and causing many to skip the valve clearance check, which eventually leads to even more expensive bills. It eats rear tires and drinks fuel. Insurance probably won't be cheap either.
2 ZX-14 - Frame/Suspension Failure
The ZX-14 can swallow more miles than most bikes out there. There was a problem with the 2006-2007 bikes, however. Frame failure could result in the rear of the motorcycle collapsing, potentially ending in a crash that resulted in injury, or worse.
Kawasaki issued a recall where dealers checked the torque of the engine mount adjusting collars, ran inspections, and potentially replaced the frame if necessary.
1 Ninja H2
The H2 is one of the craziest bikes currently on the market. It's not faultless though, which is not what you want to hear when riding the world's fastest bike. There was a recall due to bad welding that could cause the centerstand to drop and touch the ground while riding. In the recall's words: "...loss of control increasing the risk of a crash resulting in injury or death." Ouch!
Sources: Revzilla, Ride Apart, Motorcyclist, MCN.