2006 Kawasaki Ninja 650r Review: 40,000 Miles Later

You’re kidding me…40,000 miles? It seemed like I hit 10,000 only yesterday. If you told me when I bought my 650r three years ago that I would ride 15,000 miles a year, I would have called you crazy. But here I am, and maybe I’m the crazy one.


If you don’t feel like reading, I’ve summarized some of my thoughts into a video:

watch in HD

Over the years, throughout the videos and write ups I’ve discussed a lot of topics, but it occurred to me that I missed a fundamental subject…my Ninja 650r! At first I kept putting it off thinking that I hadn’t put enough miles on to get a proper appreciation of the machine. At this point I don’t know how much more I can appreciate my 650r. In fact, let’s crunch some numbers to get an idea of the sheer time spent with my 650r:

Total Miles = 40,000
Average MPG = 50
Average Speed = 50MPH

Actual Time Riding = Total Miles / Average Speed
Actual Time Riding = 800 Hours = 33 Days

My ass has been in the saddle for a total of 33 days…what?!?

Number of Gas Stops = Total Miles / Average MPG / Average Amount of Gas Used Per Tank
Number of Gas Stops = 40,000 / 50 / 3.1 = 258I bought my brand new Kawasaki Ninja 650r in March of 2006. It was my first motorcycle. After three years and 40,000 miles I’m still loving my 650r. There are a lot of motorcycle reviews out there, but most of them take the bikes out for an afternoon, weekend or at most, a week before writing about them. Hardly seems enough time to get to really know a motorcycle. I have spent a month on my motorcycle in the past three years…literally. Over 800 hours of time in the saddle. So I would like to take some time to talk about the 2006 Kawasaki’s Ninja 650r.

Know the Rider, Then Know the Ride.

I can never trust any word about a motorcycle until I have some idea about the motorcyclist. So I feel like I should say something about myself first. Riding style, experience, knowledge and enthusiasm play the biggest parts in my estimation of a fellow rider. My riding style varies depending on where and when I’m riding. I commute daily and tour often. Fast sweepers are fun at times, but I like the switchbacks and tight corners best. The Ninja 650r is the first motorcycle I’ve owned ( was a bit of a squid when I started). I’ve been riding for 3 years and over 40,000 miles. I practice motorcycle handling techniques often and read as much as I can about the subject. As for enthusiasm, several friends have expressed concern over my “hobby” which has consumed my life. So yea, I like motorcycles. :)

Enough about me, let’s talk about the 650r!

Torquey and Nimble.

I really feel like I have been spoiled with how nimble the 650r is. I ride other bikes and I never realized how slow and cumbersome they can really be. The 650r just falls into the corners. It will leap into them if you want to. The amount of input needed on the bars is so slight that you think the bike just knows where you want to go. If for some reason I won a free Hayabusa or a ZX-10 the first thing I would do is sell it and buy a bike half the size. Smaller bikes are more fun. The 650r gives you enough power not be bored and not too much to get yourself into too much trouble very easily.

The engine has a lot of torque between 20mph and 60mph. It’s power band is much lower than other bikes. I would rather have power in the lower ranges. For commuting and inner city riding you shouldn’t be going over 60 very often unless you are a reckless rider. I’m going to try and keep talk about riding styles to a minimum, but it does play a factor when considering the characteristics of a motorcycle. It took me a while to get comfortable lifting the front wheel off the ground (on non-public roads of course), but once I did I found out how much power the 650r can really pump out. No need to pop the clutch, you can power wheelie from low speeds (around 20mph) very easily.


Sport Touring Capabilities

Honestly, when I bought the 650r, I didn’t know what the term “sport touring” even meant. All that mattered to me was that I was comfortable when sitting on the bike and with the relaxed and non-aggressive seating stance it fits like a glove. I can lean completely forward and tuck in behind the windscreen, or sit completely upright and still have a hand on the bars. I lowered my bars and I can still reach.

Hauling luggage is an easy task if you’ve got the right gear. I have been using soft luggage all these years. I use a Rev Pack Tour Pack for bulky stuff and long trips. Otherwise I stick to using the lighter and smaller Cortech Sport Tail bag or Saddle Bags. I had no problem finding storage solutions even for a two week trip.

Mechanical Problems

I’ve had two major problems with my 650r. My head gasket blew and I was leaking oil. Also the oil pump had a leak as well. Luckily I caught these things early since I inspect my bike often. My mechanic said I couldn’t have done any preventative maintenance to avoid this. It just happens sometimes. The oil leak problem occurred at 32,000 miles, about 2 years into the bike’s life. The second major problem I had was the stator going bad at 39,000 miles. When I heard this I thought, what the heck is a stator? The stator is a collection of copper wires in which the magnets spin inside of and in effect produce electricity.

So those are the only two major problems I have had. Something had to go wrong eventually, and I’m happy I went as long as I did. I’ve gotten sick of trips to the shop and now I’ve got myself a service manual and am getting my hands dirty by doing the work myself.

Maintenance Log

You have heard me tout the merits of keeping a proper maintenance log in the past. So I might as well show you mine so you can get an idea of all that goes into keeping the Ninja 650r running. It may look like a lot all in one list, but it’s really basic stuff for the most part.


  • Throttlemiester throttle lock
  • Lower handlebars: Wanted a more aggressive stance. At this point I might like the stock bars better because they are geared towards touring.
  • IPod Mount: Gotta have my music
  • Electrical Outlet: Essential to keep all my gadgets going while in the middle of nowhere.
  • Gerbing Heated Liner Wiring Harness
  • Tank protector
  • Frame sliders: Saved my fairings from getting all scuffed up 3 times. They’ve paid for themselves.
  • Fender eliminator: Just cosmetic thing.
  • Garmin GPS Map 60CSx handlebar mount (Ram-mount)
  • Custom camera mount installed on swingarm spool

In Conclusion…

Motorcycling has changed my life forever. Perhaps there’s another bike out there that could have filled the 650r’s tires…who knows. What I do know is how much this motorcycle means to me. I’ve grown attached to this collection of steel, plastic and rubber. I know when she’s running a little off, and she tells me when I’m a little off myself. It’s strange to consider, but unmistakable for me to acknowledge.

Here’s to my first 40,000, and hoping for another 40,000.

  • lpotter86

    Congrats on the 40k milestone.

  • http://www.cubezombie.org Jake

    What a great write up! I just turned 3000 on my Suzuki C109RT. Looking forward to my 40k post :-)

  • ManOfMeans

    Congratulations on hitting 40,000 miles, Atlas! That was no easy task, but you sure made it look easy (and fun!) You always have the most well thought out and descriptive write ups – many kudos to you. I thoroughly enjoy reading about your thoughts and adventures.
    Here’s to many, many more!

  • Kyle

    Hey just watched your You tube video and loved it. I have a 650 also and in my second season of riding.I put a Arrow exhaust on it and it sure changed the sound way more deeper :) good for me not the neighbors LOL I did agree with you on the twisty s are way better then the strait runs.Haven`t done a long trip on it yet I hope soon thou :)

  • rdasilva

    Saw your video and then came over to read about your 40,000 miles. Congrats. I just got a 09 650R and really love the bike. I’ve only been riding for a few months and appreciate the straight advice and important points you make about riding.

  • ewharper74

    How long did it take you on the mountains trip? I’m very interested in riding from central Florida (where I live) to central Indiana (where my family lives). Did you have to take frequent breaks, numbness, etc.? Thanks!

  • Dave

    Thanks for the all the great info. on your site. I just got back from attending the Cycle World trade show in Dallas on 11/13 — 11/15 09 . I tried out a 2010 650 R with 368 miles, and couldn’t agree with you more in the desription of the bike. Totally awsome in the handling dept. I had a kawasaki many yrs. back, and really liked the bike 77 1000 just like the police have. But this bike was super in every way. I would love to own one. You picked a good one for your 1st. Well thanks again for all the good stuff you share on the bike . Dave

  • rulver

    You mention that the 650r was your first bike, what sort of experience did you have prior to it? Being a newbie myself, the 650r/er-6n has really caught my attention as it just feels ‘right’.

  • http://www.atlasrider.com Atlas

    @rulver I had very little experience on motorcycles before I got the Ninja 650r. Occasional rides on my Dad’s Virago 750.

  • Jasonrj

    This was written in 2009. I’m curious how much further you took your Ninja, or if it is still going? Any other major problems later on? How much did it cost to fix the major maintenance problems such as the gasket?

  • George

    Hey man, great review. You just sold me on a 650r.Thanks for your help…keep riding.

  • Dan

    thanks so much for the info, I’ve been looking at this same bike for a while. you sold me too, haha! great to hear you’ve gotten so many miles out of it

  • moncler

    Enjoy the blog, Ill be back once again soon.Come pay a visit to my posting woodworking machinery.continue using the the nice function on the news. moncler coats review. I’ve authored a much more detailed discussion about this matter which I hope can possibly serve as another philosophical framework.

  • Glen

    Great info on the bike & your way of using it.Your videos help tell your story to let people know the kind of bikes Kawasaki sells & make,and just maybe they will help you on your next bike. That maybe a few years from now.lol But it speaks to the quality of the Kawasaki line of motorcycles. Info like yours does not come to often on youtube or anywhere for that matter. Let me just say thanks & keep the videos coming. It’s a big help to people like me. I have a 04 EN500 LTD twin, So i am use to the type of sounds, and power you speak of just less of it. I am looking for a larger midsize bike, So your info is most helpful. Best, Glen

  • Vinay

    Hey dude, congrats on your 40000 miles.
    Am at 10000 on mine, thinking about changing the bars, can you tell me what make are yours & where did you get it from ? Also does it clear the stock bodywork.


  • http://www.atlasrider.com AtlasRider

    @Vinay Thanks. I’m up to 55,000 miles now. I don’t recall where I got them. It was five years ago. They do clear the stock bodywork.

  • Kbiski

    Nice to see the 650r hold up so long! Gives me pride & hope that my 650r holds up that long 7 longer!

  • AtlasRider

    Take care of regular maintenance and she’ll run fine!

  • Josh

    Nice post, I’ve had an 06 650R for 5 1/2 years now.  Put 22k on it.

  • John

    Thanks for the great video.  I’m am just getting back into riding and was contemplating the 650r.  Your video and story has confirmed my purchase plans.  I used to ride a Concours but I was always on my toes at the stops.  At 68 years of age I really enjoyed the feel of the 650 r when I sat on one at the dealers.  However, I was questioning whether the lack of horse power would let me enjoy this bike. Your video has laid to rest my doubts. 

  • AtlasRider

    Glad I could be of help John! Enjoy the ride!

  • http://www.facebook.com/hasani.watson Hasani Watson

    Awesome video narritive. I only have a little over 9k on my ’11 650r and still love it. I have other friends with faster bike but really, unless you’re going to the track you really are not going to be riding over 65 mph anyways. No need for a bigger bike. I plan on using it for my ticket to see all of the US. Thanks for the inspiration!!!

  • Dean

    It is more than 3 years later, I was wondering if you could give us an update? I’m looking at buying a 650r now, and I’d like to know how they end up long term. Thanks

  • Samuel Dotson

    I’m still riding my 2006 650r and shes got almost 55,000 miles on her and still going strong

  • Matt Mason

    Thank you so much for posting this!
    I first saw this article about 2 years ago. I bought a 650r about a year and a half ago and this article was what really sold me on it. I love the bike and have no regrets purchasing it. Thank you!

  • AtlasRider

    it’s year 6, and I’ve got about 65,000 miles on it. Everything is still good. No major breakdowns. I do the typical maintenance and she runs great!

  • chris

    great post just bought my 06 3500miles and im loving it(first time rider)

More in Reviews (7 of 17 articles)