At the Kawasaki Ride Day I was lucky enough to take the Ninja 300 for a few laps of Queensland Raceway. I mean, if someone offers you the chance to test ride their bike around a race track for free, you jump on that shit and ride it like you stole it.
Straight up, the baby Ninja is a good looking bike. This hot little number featured black and graphite fairing with red highlights. The new design mimics the shape of its larger siblings the ZX6R and ZX10R. Overall I like it (and so did Mrs OnTheBackWheel for those female readers). The fit and finish looks great and you can tell the 300 has really been refined over the years.
Sitting on the bike I immediately got the feeling I could ride this bike for relatively long periods with ease. I’m not saying its a tourer, but its a damn sight more comfortable than my ZX10r and a few hours in the saddle wouldn’t feel like you’ve been penetrated by your cell mate Tyrone. The handlebars are certainly not as low as your pure sports bike and this definitely helps in making the bike much more comfortable. While they are in the clip-on style, they rise up above the triple tree so you are sitting reasonably upright and not putting weight on your wrists. All the levers and switches fall straight to hand and are easy to use. The seat height is relatively low making it good for beginners or people suffering ducks disease. I was able to sit with both feet flat on the ground quite comfortably and Mrs OnTheBackWheel who stands at a lofty 158cm was only able to get one foot on the ground. I had no complaints when it came to the seat, it was not hard or overly soft.
Turning the ignition on, I found I liked the dash. While it’s simple with an analogue tacho, the gauges are clear, everything is easy to read and it still manages to look modern. The speedometer and trip meter is all in digital. Plus, it has a fuel gauge! I love fuel gauges.
Right, enough shenanigans, to the track! Taking off, the first thing I noticed is the clutch grabs quite late. No biggy, just different to what I’m used to. The second thing I noticed is I don’t really like the sound. It sounds like a Briggs and Stratton! But while it sounds like a second hand lawn mower, the engine itself is smooth, easy to use and surprisingly spritely. Sure it’s not going to set your world on fire, but there was ample grunt on offer to have fun on the track and more than enough for the real world. If you are riding around town you should still be able to blow cars away at the lights. I was certainly not disappointed by the power it puts out for a 300. The bike gets up to 100km/h in a cinch and when I bumped it up to 120km/h, while the revs were getting high the bike still cruised along. The fuel injection was spot on too and the on/off throttle response grouse.
The handling was very stable. I was able to push past 150km/h and felt comfortable. I was also able to tuck behind the fairing without any dramas despite being 6ft. Apparently I looked comical though on such a small bike. Make sure you consider this if you are looking to pose at your favorite café on Sundays. Wind noise was not an issue.
The brakes were solid and I found them to have good power and feel. Sure they don’t compare to a good twin disk set up, but considering these things max out at roughly 180km/h they are fine.
A set of braided lines and fancy pads wouldn’t hurt though.
The big surprise for me is how capable the 300 handles corners. It is just so easy to ride and tips in nicely. It holds a line and you can still change direction comfortably. I can see why people are racing these in the Ninja 300 Cup, they would be a ball of fun, especially on tighter circuits. You should have no issues getting your knee down on one of these suckers.
Overall, I can see why the 300’s are such a big seller for Kawasaki and I enjoyed thrashing one around the track. It has the looks, proven reliability and they are good to ride. They would be perfect to learn on and comfortable and economical enough to make a good commuter. I think they would also suit someone more experienced who just wanted a solid bike. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate taking one to the track regularly either. Overall, the Ninja 300 really is hard to fault.
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