First Hand Review: Riding the Kawasaki Ninja 125
For the uninitiated, the Ninja is a family of performance bike from the Japanese brand Kawasaki. The family lineage ranges from the massive 200hp H2 superbike to a cut-down but equally rowdy 125 we are reviewing today. Despite lacking 25cc of engine displacement, the bike punches above its weight class and competes directly with the likes of Honda CBR and Yamaha R15, at least in terms of pice.
A scaled down monster
Safat Ishtiaq, Kawasaki's local operations manager, lent us his own personal bike for the shoot. According to him, the Ninja we got is a cut-down version of the 250cc model and shares many components with its bigger brother. And indeed, the bike dose shares a strong resemblance to the Ninja 250 RR. Despite the drop in size and power, 125 retains the sharp and aggressive look expected from a Ninja.
The bike looks every bit as angry as the 250cc, while the faring neatly hides the smaller motor form prying eyes. Of course, the aggressive design means the bike isn't pillion friendly, and the passenger seat is about as comfortable as a cheap metal stool. As for the riding position, it not bad, and takes a few minutes to get used to if you have never ridden a sports bike before.
It doesn't take that much to go fast on a motorcycle. Coming to a stop without faceplanting into another object, however, takes some doing. The engineers working on the Ninja took this quite seriously, giving the bike dual channel abs with two pistons on both brake callipers. To put it into perspective, even our local Honda Civic doesn't come with dual pistons on its rear wheels. As for other fancy stuff, the bike has automatic headlight, a fully digital speedometer, and system warning lights. Oddly, It does miss out on some premium items such as LED lights, individual turn indicator, or even gear indicator. But all that are minor issues as you are not buying this bike for the bling, you're buying it for the ride.
"Gentle" doesn't mix well with the bike. Feather the throttle, the clutch will go "clank". Try to start with a slow roll, same thing. Twist the throttle like you have a business to settle, it will shift without a single complaint. Kawasaki may have chopped the displacement by half, but they didn't make it tame. The fuel-injected engine straight up dislikes when you take it slow, and the exhaust practically begs you to rack open the throttle. However, the mastery of the clutch is essential to get the most out of it. The engine has a redline of 10,000 RPM and unless you are using at least 8,500 of it in each gear, the bike will not release its full power. Do it properly, however, and you will run out of space to accelerate by the 5th gear. Or that was the case with me anyway, who knew there will be so much traffic on a Friday morning?
The Ninja is a bike with a dual identity crisis. Ride it like an everyday commuter and it will hand you over a mediocre and underpowered experience. Ride it aggressively, and the beast truly comes alive. As it is, I'm not qualified or skilled enough to exploit the Ninja 125's full potential. This should not be someone's first bike, for using it as such will only result in disappointment. That said, if you're a seasoned rider with a healthy wallet, this will be a fun beast to tame.
Engine: 125cc Fuel Injected 4-stroke Single Cylinder, DOHC 4 valve (15 Hp, 11.7 Nm of torque).
Brakes: Ventilated discs with dual-channel ABS. two pistons per calipers
Suspension: 37mm telescopic fork, Uni Trak, gas-charged shock with adjustable preload
Features: Automatic headlamp, fully digital instrument panel, engine warning light
Photos: Ahbar Milky
For details, contact Asian Motorbikes Limited