The Yeager's 2008 Kawasaki Ninja 250R
Early morning on FM 36 just north of Merit, Texas.
In a time where fuel prices continue to rise and motorcycling in our home is now primarily recreation and non-commuting solo riding, it seemed irresponsible to purchase a larger, faster, thirstier motorcycle. Therefore, in spite of the claimed mechanical improvements, I was going to pay no attention to the 2008s as I was perfectly happy content with the faithful 2005. If the body sculpture was aesthetically pleasing I would wait until a black one was released as I have always wanted a black sport bike.
Nuts! The 2008 was gorgeous and they released a black, non metal-flake, paint scheme adorned with a chrome muffler the first year. I really didn’t expect that. When I got the 2005 Ninjette I was looking at using the motorcycle for commuting only and purchased the bike for the marvelous little liquid cooled engine, not its "Reagan Era" aesthetics.
The "classic" Ninja 250 body, while not ugly, was not particularly fetching. The Ninjette II, however, is one of the prettiest motorcycles I have seen; and, in the end, motorcycles are more emotional than practical after all. Interestingly the February 2008 issue of Automobile Magazine, Robert Cumberford, in an article entitled "Japanese at Last" discusses the emergence of a clear Japanese automotive design philosophy. The distinctive visual cues are smooth organic shapes, crisp flow lines, and particular attention to the manner the wheels interact with the body. A body design philosophy that meshes well with my own sense of aesthetics. If one considers the sport bikes offered from the Japanese big four beginning in the early nineteen nineties a similar design philosophy has been developing within the Japanese motorcycle manufacturing community as well. In fact, it would appear that this Japanese school of sport bike fairing design has become so accepted that even Italian sport bikes (Ducati 1098) have that look. Only Buell, KTM, and BMW have been actively forging their own path in sport bike body design.
Unfortunately the motorcycle purchaser can't choose from a consistent and varied palette as one can an automobile. Motorcycle companies rarely repeat colors year to year and often put more stickers, graphics, two-tone paint, etc. on a model as time marches on. When black appears again it will likely be metal flake or have painted mufflers or cheesy graphics or all three.
The 2008 black is how I would order it if I could-- plain black with a chrome exhaust system. If I want a plain black sport bike with a chrome exhaust then this is likely the only year for a while, maybe ever, if Kawasaki’s typical model history repeats itself. The original Ninjette in 1988 possessed a tasteful black paint with red pen-stripes (and a black painted tail pipe unfortunately). Another black 250 was not released until 1995 with contrasting purple and then in 2005 with a silver belly pan and cheesy lime green and silver stripes (ick -- there is a reason I got silver rather than black).
Black is practical because:
Customization (like bras, Rhino lining, and gravel guards) and accessory color matching is easy. Black is black is black.
Wal-Mart has matching black touch-up paint.
The monochromatic look with the chrome tail pipe will help keep “touch up” and maintenance low effort.
I like the way light plays off the fairing sculpture and the high contrast between the gloss finish and the reflective highlights with the black.
Engine and Mechanical
The Ninja 250R is the only liquid cooled 250 engine that can travel at Interstate speeds. However, the intrepid 248cc engine has not kept up with accepted motorcycle engine technology There have been several maintenance issues that would have been alleviated if valve train design in particular had kept in step with current engineering trends. The engine has now caught up technologically with the other sport bike engines in terms of design. If history repeats it self it will be 10 to 20 years before the 250R engine or body is redesigned again.
Mechanical changes that are of interest.
Increased low-range and mid-range power may work better with "tall" final drive ratio modifications.
Pistons have reinforced heads and a strengthened pin boss area for increased durability (hopefully).
Thicker piston rings should help with known high RPM oil consumption issues.
Valve timing and lower compression should work better with 87 octane.
Re-designed cylinder head with the top-end oiling issues of the 2007 and earlier models remedied.
New camshafts with shim and bucket valve actuation will be more reliable and lower maintenance.
Thinner, lighter valves will help increase high RPM performance and longevity.
The 2-into-1 exhaust system will make hauling passengers easier in some respects.
Cam chain tensioner appears to be a better design.
Air filter accessible from the side.
"Improved" radiator and the additional fins on the lower side of the crankcase might improve cooling here in the south.
New swing arm looks to have a better adjustment mechanism.
New 37mm telescopic front fork will be stronger.
Front rake is also reduced one degree, to 26 degrees for "quicker" steering.
Rear shock has adjustable preload to increase payload capacity.
17" wheels offer many more tire choices including radials.
Large-diameter, 290mm front disc is clamped by the two-piston caliper to increase stopping power..
Comparing the 1988-2007 Models to the 2008 Model
Why Not Wait for Fuel Injection?
The short answer is I am not convinced that first, the power and fuel mileage benefits would justify the extra expense and second, that Kawasaki will install a high quality O2 sensor fuel injection (FI) system that would truly complement the little .249 liter twin due to the entry level marketing status that Kawasaki has the 250R placed. Admitted my practical and theoretical experience is primarily with Lucas mechanical FI, early GM, early Harley, and comparing the 250R to the 650R FI and late Harley FI making my knowledge base limited at best.
Due to cost considerations it is almost certain that fuel injected Ninja 250Rs will get a non-O2 sensor fuel injection system similar to the US spec. Ninja 650R. Further, the increased complication of an O2 sensor fuel injection system will tend to make it heavier than a set of two carbs. With the most likely (non O2 sensor) fuel injection system weight may be a bit of a toss-up. Reports of Euro spec 250s with FI mention that the HP and torque is lower than the carbed 250R. I have spoken with owners of carbureted twins that have moved to FIed twins and some complain that their new mount lacks a smooth throttle response of the carbs fed model. Another anecdotal example of my concern is involves a 650R owner I ride with that has recently purchased a Buell and found the FI on the Buell provided equal or better MPG than his 650R (and more power/torque to boot). Additionally, being an old gear-head with a lot of multi-carb miles I am comfortable with the 250R's twin carburetors.
One has to careful when espousing generalizations about fuel injection systems because so much depends on who mapped and developed the FI system. Amen! I agree completely. Ultimately fuel injection is going to fully replace carburetors and rightly so. For the retirement bike in about 10 - 15 years (things should be thoroughly sorted out and FI the clear choice) I will have no reservations and likely no choice. In fact, by then many motorcycles may be hybrids or electrics by the end of the next 10 to 20 years.
Bigger is Not Always Better Even in Texas
I have been asked by several why purchase another 250 and not a 600cc, 1000cc, or some other bigger bike. What I find most enjoyable is exploring back roads, particularly a series of tight 20 MPHers, not running speed traps on Interstate highways. Light weight and flickability not horse power is key with my riding style. We are blessed in Fannin, Grayson, and northern Hunt counties to have a large variety of "twisty" back roads. One FM 697, has consistently been on of the top rated roads in the state by the Ride Texas Magazine's Reader's Poll in the Top 10 Roads in Texas for the last several years. Additionally, We are only about two hours from the Talimena Scenic Drive (a nationally known motorcycle road). The 2008 is setup for short sporting trips more than the 2005.
From an economic standpoint why get a large bore, can’t afford to feed it, too expensive to work on motorcycle? The Ninjette is a step in the right direction in my opinion. It is inexpensive to purchase and maintain, reliable, fun to ride, and frugal on fuel. For a variety of reasons the industry rush to have bigger, faster, and more expensive rides is wrong-headed. If we can develop little cars that get 50+ MPG, it shouldn't take too much to come up with a 100+ MPG motorcycle that is ridable and marketable. Kawasaki is getting closer to where at least a portion of the industry needs to venture more purposely. In a free market economy I am will to put my money where my belief is.
Commuting No Longer a Justification
Motorcycling has taken on a different emphasis since I originally purchased the 2005 Ninjette. Motorcycling has become more recreation and ministry than commuting. Some of this has been brought on by the move. Some has come from my expanding role in CMA. Music and motorcycling are two hobbies I truly enjoy that can be done for the Lord (it is hard to imagine model railroading for God). Joleen and I are making a concerted effort to put God and family foremost in our lives. Therefore, we are simplifying our lifestyle and narrowing non-family pastimes to those that provide opportunities to further our Christian witness. The redesign of the 2008 will attract more favorable attention than the older Ninjettes and may serve to provide further opportunities for ministry.
My motorcycle outings are changing in focus with commuting being fully out of the picture. Solo cross country riding is pretty much a thing of the past because I missed having the family along this last summer (New Mexico and Colorado Trip). Having two offspring that still have high school and college to complete mean that expendable income is tight. Therefore, family vacations are going to concentrate more on making memories together and overnight or longer outings are going to tend combine motorcycling with family travel. Our little black trailer can take one bike and perhaps two along for our family vacations so we can all go exploring together.
On a personal level, Joleen (my wife) has had a stroke, suffers from mild vertigo, claustrophobia (which kicks in when she tries on a full face helmet), and has expressed on multiple occasions that she has no interest in riding, pillion or otherwise. Motorcycling with Joleen riding pillion, if it ever occurs, will not likely come to fruition until after Victoria and Nathaniel graduate from college. Two little motorcycles make much more sense than one big $14,000+ tourer for the foreseeable future. It maybe that one or two little motorcycles may suit me just fine until I am using a walker to ambulate.
I have been looking into selling the 2005 but pretty much decided against that route. In order to continue connecting with Nathaniel with activities we both enjoy -- allowing him to share in CMA activities as he gets too big to ride pillion is important. He is a sentimental little rascal and will continue to have a soft spot for the Ninjette. "Giving" Nathaniel the 2005 motorcycle would give him something to look forward to as time and "hormones" cause him to "grow up". We can take "his" motorcycle sometimes and "my" motorcycle on other occasions. At the point he is too big to ride pillion then there would still be something to look forward to. When Nathaniel gets his license we can go motorcycle camping and take day trips together as well. There is no way we can get as clean and well cared for a motorcycle as our sliver Ninjette for the amount it would bring by selling it.
Unfortunately, the timing on this purchase is bad as my spouse and I are on course to pay off our house and medical debt over the next 10 years.
You can bid and work a pretty decent deal. Some pointers: 1) use competitive bidding, 2) consider buying out of state, 3) be willing to stand in the tax office line yourself, 4) push for discounts on things you will need besides the bike, 5) realize they need to make a profit.
Total including the high Texas taxes and fees -- under $4000. 10% off on parts and accessories for a year. Internet price matching on tires. Discounted 500 mile service. Fees are one way dealers make money. Many Texas dealers will charge a lot and some will be reasonable.
I have 6 dealers within 75 miles (one is in Oklahoma) and here is the break down:
The lowest bid I got was $3650 (from OK) and had to get it inspected, titled, tagged, etc. on my own once back in Texas. The bid I took was $3975 because the dealer is only 20 miles from me and they were going to take care of title, tags etc. plus all the extras and a service depart that has a good area wide reputation.
Small dealers like I have out here I feel sure pay more per bike. From what I can tell the dealer is making a fair 5% to 8% profit.
Over the years I have found that small country dealers are more likely to care about you as a customer than the big mega-store shop in large urban centers. The lack of population in Arizona for example, may make that situation that different from what I have experienced. I have seen plenty of sales men that would be just as at home in a polyester leisure suit selling repossessed used cars. I just will not do business with large urban dealers.
State taxes make a big difference. Here in Texas the state sales tax is 6.5% and registration is on top of that. I have heard of several other states where the tax rate is 3%, 4%, etc. but you have to register it where you live so there is no avoiding the high taxes. On the other hand, we don't have a state income tax so Texans still come out ahead.
The 2005 I financed because Kawasaki had a killer deal on interest and I was earning more at my bank than I was going to pay Kawasaki. So I kept my money in the bank.
It is common knowledge that more automobiles are sold per capita than motorcycles. Markup appears to be between 5% and 10% on the motorcycles. Therefore, even if a big motorcycle dealer sells as many units as the auto dealer down the street (according to an old Consumer Reports article markup on cars is about 8%) the profit is still far less per vehicle because motorcycles are 1/2 to 1/4 the price of a typical car. So dealers stay in business via fees, service plans et. al., and selling parts and accessories. Service is a profit as well but I suspect a greater percentage of motorcyclists do their own service when compared to automobile owners.
This time I told all dealers I was paying cash (apparently financing is a real pill for the dealer because the setup charges always seemed to drop by quite a bit after I mentioned that) Additionally, they have been more open with me. One large "Dallas" dealer mentioned that about $4100 OTD would be a fair price to pay. Another dealer said his cost was $32** on the '08 250R. Most dealers were unwilling to discount a "new" model but were very willing to discount dealer prep etc. The amount of dealer prep discount seemed very linked to the posted hourly service rates.
I interviewed the service managers and parts managers as part of the bidding process. I still feel that the dealer should do the 500 mile service so that was part of the negotiation package as well (one dealer offered 20% off first service). The Oklahoma dealership lost my business when the service manager said that not much important takes place on the first service stating "we look at it and change the oil". Another dealer strains the oil, pulls the screen, and wanted me to bring in my first two or three oil filters so they could check for shavings. Big difference.
The final "out the door" price is going to be directly effected by local hourly service rates, actual dealer shipping and storage costs, dealer cost of doing business, and state/local fees/taxes. We as consumers must be as informed about our local market as possible. A rock bottom price in one area of the country may be more than an inflated price in another. In the end I feel I was able to negotiate a fair price from a local dealer with long term employees that I feel I can trust. That is all any of us can strive for.
Ninjette II Specific Pages
Taking delivery of the 2008 Ninja 250R and first impressions
Signal Dynamics Modules Installation
Faux Black Ostrich "Bikini" Tank Bra and Upholstery Set
Rear Seat Cowling Removal and Refitting
Press Comments and Reviews
American Motorcycle Association 2008 Ninja 250 Review
Cycle World 2008 Ninja 250 Review
Cycle World Coverage of the 2008 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Press Introduction
Motorcycle.com 2008 Ninja 250 Review
Motorcycle Daily 2008 Ninja 250 Review
MotorcycleUSA.com 2008 Ninja 250 Review
Sport Rider Magazine 2008 Ninja 250 Review
Motorcyclist Magazine 2008 Ninja 250 Review
Rider Magazine 2008 Ninja 250 Review
Motorcyclist Magazine Best "Bang for the Buck" awarded to the 2008 Ninja 250R
Gary Jaehne -- '08 Ninja 250R - The First 50 miles: "Real World Impressions"
Gary Jaehne -- '08 Ninja 250R - Second Day: "Real World Impressions -- (Ridden in Anger)"
Gary Jaehne -- '08 Ninja 250R - Third Day: "Real World Impressions -- (Looking for 'Nits')"
Gary Jaehne -- '08 Ninja 250R - fourth Day: "Real World Impressions -- (Full "In Anger" Mood and a Miracle)"
Sport Rider Magazine 2008 Ninja 250 Racing Build-up and Comments
MotoUSA Goes Kawasaki Ninja 250 Racing
Return to The Yeager's Kawasaki Ninja 250 Site
The Yeager's Kawasaki Ninja 250 Site
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