When Kawasaki recently launched the Ninja 300R parallel twin in South Africa, most industry insiders accepted that this model would replace the long-running 250R, which had evolved from the 2008 GPX250 and was getting a little long in the tooth.
Not so - howling up behind its 300cc sibling comes an all-new 250 Ninja with a new crankshaft, redesigned, lightweight low-friction coated pistons with shorter skirts and new sleeveless, plated die-cast aluminium cylinders.
Many other engine components have also been redesigned, including the finned sump that is now 50% larger for better cooling. The new cylinder block is an open-deck design that improves heat dispersion and weighs 600g less than that of the outgoing model, while a new cam-chain with smaller side plates reduces friction and noise levels.
The cooling system has been revamped and the new stainless steel two-into-one exhaust system with longer, smoothly-curved headers improves low and midrange torque. The clutch has new friction plates using new material for smoother operation, and the gearbox shift-drum actuation has been changed from a piston-cam type to a low friction roller type for slicker gearshifts.
BIGGER, STICKIER REAR TYRE
The rigidity balance of the frame has been revised, with partial rubber engine mounts to reduce apparent vibration, and the swing-arm geometry has been reworked to make space for a bigger, stickier rear tyre - 140mm wide compared with the 130mm of the outgoing model - while the rear sub-frame has been made flatter to compensate for this and keep the seat height down to 785mm.
A 290mm front petal disc is clamped by a twin-piston calliper while a similar 220mm disc, also with a twin piston caliper, looks after the tail end.
An all-new instrument panel with white backlighting features a large analogue rev counter and multi-function LCD display that includes a speedometer, clock, fuel gauge, dual trip-meters, odometer and an economical riding indicator.
The Kawasaki Ninja 250R retails for R52 995; when we pointed out to the local Kawasaki dealer that that's only R7000 cheaper than the considerably more muscular 300, he explained that for riders under 25 years of age (which is most of them at this level) the jump in insurance premiums between an under-250cc machine and the next category is often the difference between being able to afford the bike or not.
Which is why Kawasaki has two such similar machines on its showroom floor.
Engine: 249cc liquid-cooled parallel twin.
Bore x stroke: 62 x 41.2mm.
Compression ratio: 11.3:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 23kW at 11 000rpm.
Induction: Electronic fuel-injection with two 28mm Keihin throttle bodies.
Ignition: Digital electronic.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: 37mm conventional cartridge forks.
Rear suspension: Uni-Trak linkage with gas-charged hydraulic shock absorber adjustable for preload.
Front brake: 290mm disc with dual-piston floating calliper.
Rear brake: 220mm disc with dual-piston floating calliper.
Front tyre: 110/70 - 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 140/70 - 17 tubeless.
Seat height: 785mm.
Dry weight: 172kg.
Fuel tank: 17 litres.
Price: R52 995.