Differences Between the Kawasaki Ninja EX650 & the 650R


The EX650R, better known as the Ninja 650R, was introduced in 2006 as the successor to Kawasaki's Ninja 500R. The 650R featured a more upright seating position and a decidedly less aggressive stance than Kawasaki's ZX-type Ninja supersport motorcycles. In 2012, Kawasaki redesigned the motorcycle and re-badged it as the Ninja EX650. While the 650R and the 650 are very similar, you can see and feel the differences.

Design Principles

  • The Ninja 650R and 650 were both designed to fill a more practical role than the race-focused ZX-type Ninja models in Kawasaki's lineup. While the ZX-6R was designed for all-out performance over comfort and economy, the idea behind the Ninja 650R was to provide a user-friendly and practical machine offering performance suitable for real-world scenarios, like daily commuting. With these concerns in mind, the Ninja 650R was given an upright seating position and a tubular, single-piece handlebar that placed the rider in a comfortable position. A fuel-injected 649 cc parallel-twin cylinder engine supplied usable torque over outright horsepower. The 2012 Ninja 650, even with a more aggressive redesign, adhered firmly to these same principles.

Chassis and Suspension

  • Kawasaki built the Ninja 650R around a steel perimeter frame, which wrapped a single steel tube rail around both sides of the engine. A tubular steel swing arm was attached to the frame and suspended by an unusually placed shock absorber mounted at an angle on the right side of the bike. The 2012 Ninja 650 employed a dual steel tube perimeter frame and swing arm to increase strength and rigidity. The swing arm was lengthened slightly to increase stability at speed, changing the overall length of the motorcycle from 82.7 inches to 83.1 inches. Both models used a 41 mm hydraulic front fork; however, suspension travel increased from 4.7 inches to 4.9 inches with the 2012 Ninja 650. Additionally, fuel capacity increased from 4.1 gallons to 4.2 gallons.

Engine Differences

  • Kawasaki equipped the 650R with a 649 cc parallel-twin engine that offered greater torque to give the 650R enough power to successfully navigate city streets and freeways. Both models used a digital fuel-injection system fed by a pair of 38 mm Keihin-built throttle bodies. Oddly enough, the 2012 Ninja 650 engine relies on a lower 10.8-to-1 compression ratio compared to the 11.3-to-1 ratio for the 2011 Ninja 650R. The use of different pistons produced the change, which in combination with changes to the air box and exhaust system provides better torque and fuel economy. Beyond this, the engines of both models remain completely unchanged.

Styling Changes

  • The 2006 to 2008 Ninja 650R was clothed in a full set of aerodynamic fairings that covered the front, sides and rear of the motorcycle. A single-lens headlight was embedded within the front fairing. A single-piece seat provided ample room for the rider and a passenger. The first re-styling of the 2009 to 2011 Ninja 650R replaced the single-lens headlight with twin lenses reminiscent of the headlights used by Kawasaki's ZX-type Ninja supersport motorcycles. The lines of the fairings were re-shaped; they are more angular than those of the previous model. This emphasis on a more aggressive appearance continued into the 2012 Ninja 650, which mimics the styling of Kawasaki's 2011 Ninja 1000. Additionally, the 650's windscreen, which was fixed in one position on previous models, could be adjusted to one of three height levels to accommodate taller riders.


  • The Ninja 650R was categorized as an entry-level motorcycle that could provide more than enough power without imposing the financial investment required to own and ride a true supersport-class motorcycle. In 2006, the Ninja 650R had an MSRP of $6,299, while its supersport counterpart, the 2006 ZX-6R, had an MSRP of $8,699. The price increased to $7,099 for the 2011 Ninja 650R; the 2012 Ninja 650 has an MSRP of $7,499.

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