Kawasaki Ninja 500R

Ah, memories…

Not long ago, while heading back, a scene caught the eye that always prompts a halt: a biker facing some mechanical glitch.

Here are two unmistakable indicators of such a predicament:

  • A person, standing next to their motorcycle by the roadside, appearing alarmed, with their helmet positioned roughly 4 feet behind the motorcycle’s tail. Though unfamiliar, this gesture is a common distress signal among riders. If one stumble upon such a sight, it’s a kind gesture to check if the fellow rider requires assistance. The other unmistakable sign witnessed that day was a motorcyclist desperately pushing their vehicle in the innermost lane with their emergency lights blinking.
  • Such a situation is risky, especially if one wishes to avoid a collision with a towering Ford truck in this region. Fortunately, the roads were relatively empty that evening (perhaps due to a local sports event?), allowing the rider to safely move the motorcycle to a nearby parking space, where the encounter took place.

The motorcyclist, a young man in his early twenties, was on his newly purchased FIRST road bike, which turned out to be a 1990s Suzuki GS500.

He expressed his bewilderment about the bike’s sudden breakdown after an hour of smooth riding.

“Could it be that you’ve simply run out of fuel?” The question was posed, ensuring it didn’t sound patronizing.

“That’s unlikely. Hear this.” He tilted the bike side to side, and the sloshing sound of fuel was evident.

A knowing smile appeared, recognizing that he was about to experience a pivotal lesson in his biking journey: understanding the fuel reserve’s location on the Petcock.

“I’ve been in your shoes, thinking I wasn’t out of fuel. The fuel tank is designed to retain enough fuel to last another 20 km after depletion when the Petcock is in the “ON” position. All needed is to switch this knob to the “RESERVE” setting, which should start right up.”


“Petcock. Odd name, I agree,” the response pointed to the valve, which he promptly adjusted.

The twin-cylinder engine sprung to life with a throttle twist and ignition push. He offered a grateful smile and sped off, searching for a fuel station.

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1987: A Milestone Year in Motorcycling

1987 A Milestone Year in Motorcycling
1987 A Milestone Year in Motorcycling

He was 12 when the first EX500 emerged from the Kawasaki production line. Their 30-year fascination with motorcycles ignited that very year, perhaps explaining why 1987 remains a poignant memory for them.

It initially didn’t captivate their interest, primarily because their heart was set on the Honda Hurricane and Ninja 600. These bikes boasted full fairings, inline-four engines, staggering top speeds, and impressive quarter-mile times. This era marked the dawn of the intense passion for high-performance 600cc sportbikes that many cherish today.

However, as impressive as those motorcycles were, they quickly discerned that they weren’t suitable for novices. On the other hand, the EX500 consistently received glowing feedback from numerous publications they avidly read, especially in catering to beginners.


The specifications and attributes of the 500 clearly illustrate why it’s deemed an ideal choice for novices:

  • minimal weight
  • adequate power (without a challenging powerband to grapple with)
  • a low seating arrangement combined with a somewhat erect posture, complemented by a notably cozy seat.

Moreover, it’s endowed with a low-upkeep engine that’s straightforward to handle and only semi-coverings that won’t break the bank if replacements are needed.

Including a 6-speed gearbox is highly appreciated, explaining its comfort at elevated speeds while boasting commendable fuel efficiency.

Consistently, they’ve strived to offer consumers top-notch performance without burning a hole in their pockets. To put it differently, swift motorcycles don’t demand exorbitant prices. The 500, when acquired second-hand, presents a value proposition that’s hard to overlook, given its offerings. It truly represents a value-for-money option.

  • 498cc Parallel Twin Liquid Cooled DOHC mechanism
  • Dual Keihin CVK 34mm carburetor for fuel intake
  • 49 horsepower and 31 ft-lbs of thrust
  • Power to-mass ratio standing at 0.126
  • 6-speed gearbox
  • The fuel efficiency of 64 mpg
  • Seating elevation at 30 inches
  • Weighing in at 388 lbs.

Nearly Flawless

Using the term ‘perfect’ recklessly can be imprudent, especially when referencing something as specific as a beginner’s motorcycle.

Each individual possesses unique learning curves and mastery over a two-wheeled machine, necessitating a broad perspective on motorcycles. It’s essential to recognize that experiences might differ from one person to another.

The Ninja 500R, sometimes called EX500 or GPZ500, comes remarkably close. It checks most boxes and embodies the key features they advocate for novices. It’s worth noting its pioneering nature, particularly concerning the modern inclination towards sport-tuned parallel twin engines

The only minor hiccup is its carbureted nature, which contrasts with the fuel-injected systems in contemporary models. However, this should be fine for potential enthusiasts. While inverted front forks and ABS would be desirable additions, even models from as recent as 2018 only encompass some features, primarily to maintain affordability.

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2009: The Journey Concludes

2009 The Journey Concludes
2009 The Journey Concludes

The motorcycle ceased production post-2009. Intriguingly, shortly after its discontinuation, there was a surge in the popularity of single and twin-engined, lower-displacement motorcycles in the market, akin to the Yamaha R3, Honda CBR300, 500, and the KTM RC390.

Could all the EX500 required to persist be a more substantial upgrade than it underwent in 1994? During that period, the rear drum brake was replaced with a disc, adopted the Ninja 500R label, and witnessed some aesthetic enhancements.

Typical Customizations

Most individuals enjoy tweaking their motorcycles. Often, they opt for installing a high-flow air filter and some aftermarket exhaust, aiming for subtle power enhancements. Dive right in!

The 500 comes with a rather assertive tuning straight from the manufacturer, ensuring optimal power. However, many riders observe that it tends to run too lean at a minimal idle and overly rich throughout the rest of the rpm spectrum. The FOG modification addresses this and enhances the motorcycle’s performance.

This adjustment entails drilling an additional hole in the air box and fine-tuning the fuel mixture pilot screw. It’s not a particularly demanding alteration and won’t exert undue pressure on the motorcycle’s engine once done. After this change, one might get the carburetor synchronized at a professional establishment, as most lack the necessary tools.

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Feedback from Dissatisfied Owners

Feedback from Dissatisfied Owners
Feedback from Dissatisfied Owners

No motorcycle doesn’t come with its set of challenges, and the Ninja 500R isn’t exempt from this. The silver lining, however, is that most of these concerns are relatively trivial, such as the absence of a fuel filter. One can effortlessly fit one from other Ninja models in minutes without breaking the bank. Doing so will ensure the carburetors remain uncontaminated for an extended period.

Testimonials from Owners

Testimonials from Owners
Testimonials from Owners

They produced an insightful video review of the 1997 GPZ500, where viewers can observe the semi-sport riding stance distinctly. The presenters meticulously dissect the motorcycle, elaborating on the advantages and disadvantages of possessing one, coupled with some purchasing advice. This particular review is certainly worth one’s attention.

A content creator on YouTube crafted a comprehensive video on their 2009 Ninja, aiming to guide fellow novice riders in acquainting themselves with the latest Ninja 500R. Viewers are treated to an extensive tour of the motorcycle and a discussion on its strengths and weaknesses, offering genuine owner perspectives. They undertake their mechanical tasks and share experiences regarding that process and the journey of procuring replacement components.

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Final Thoughts on Kawasaki Ninja 500R

It might be the optimal selection for someone brimming with confidence as their inaugural motorcycle. The decision seems straightforward, with a financial constraint of merely a few thousand dollars.

They had previously mentioned that Kawasaki might have been better off revamping the model than halting its production in 2009. Their sentiments might have resonated, given the recent unveiling of the 2018 Ninja 400. It’s not only a steal but also brand new! The power metrics closely mirror those of the 500, but it incorporates the desired upgrades they had hoped for in the 500, such as fuel injection, superior brakes with ABS, and a more lightweight yet rigid Trellis frame. If one’s budget is more generous, they believe choosing the new 400 over the older 500 might be the wiser pick based on their observations thus far… but that’s a tale for another time.

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