Kawasaki’s new middleweight naked is versatile enough for daily commutes, midnight sprints and highway runs.
“The air was full of all the night noises that, taken together, make one big silence,” wrote Rudyard Kipling in The Jungle Book. Except tonight, it didn’t. As I thundered down a long road in Mumbai on a balmy summer night, atop the new Kawasaki Z650, that big silence was mercilessly ripped apart.
The Z650 is Kawasaki’s newest middleweight naked that replaces the now-defunct ER6n. But is it just a naked Ninja 650? Simply put, yes. Save the fairing and instruments, the Z650 and Ninja 650 are one and the same. As such, the Z650 comes with a 649cc parallel-twin cradled in a tubular-steel trellis frame. Power and torque – 68hp and 65.7Nm respectively – are channelled to the rear wheel via a six-speed gearbox that comes with a slip-and-assist clutch. The trellis frame, newly developed for the Ninja 650 and Z650, is very light, tipping the scales at a claimed 15kg. Losing the Ninja’s fairing helps the Z drop another 5kg, leading to an overall kerb weight of 186kg – nearly 20kg less than the ER6n.
Suspension duties are handled by 41mm telescopic forks up front and a horizontal back-link monoshock at the rear. Stopping power comes from twin 300mm petal-type discs at the front and a single 220mm petal-type disc at the back. The only electronic aid on the bike is Bosch’s 9.1M ABS.
The Z650 is positively compact, with a wheelbase of 1,410mm and seat height of 790mm. The foot pegs are mid-positioned and handlebars flat and wide, leading to a riding position that’s both sporty and upright. The compactness of the bike renders it slightly cramped, even for my 5ft 8in frame, and it will take its toll on leg joints over a long ride. For short joyrides, however, it won’t be much of a bother. The instrument cluster is simple and easy to read, providing you with the speed, revs and gear at a quick glance.
Thumb the starter button and the engine grumbles to life, settling into a coarse note at idle. Move through the short first and second gears and you are already heading down the road at triple-digit speeds. Throttle response is good, and there is a chunky, meaty bout of power in the mid-range, kicking in somewhere around 4,000rpm, where the Z650 accelerates with a real punch. It pulls cleanly until the 10,000rpm redline, but power tapers slightly towards the top. The soundtrack isn’t too appealing at low revs but turns into a pleasant, muffled roar when you go hard on the gas. At part-throttle inputs, vibrations pop up in the handlebar, which smoothen out as you twist your wrist and build speed. Notable, though, is the engine heat management. Not once (in my week or so with the Z650) did I feel the engine heat up too much, be it in traffic or out on the highway. The radiator fan would rarely whir up, and was remarkably quiet when it did.