Kawasaki’s parallel twin middleweight had been around for a while and, to be honest, needed a bit of an update. The previous model had been criticised for rather self-consciously trying to be all bikes to all people, something that led to a rather bland, yet undeniably successful offering.
Perhaps this is why Kawasaki has thrown what seems like the whole styling department at the bike. Almost all of it is new apart from the engine. We have cool, sweeping, slimline bodywork, a sculpted tank and an aggressive ‘angry wasp’ front end. Colours are funky too and the finish is very good. There’s a wide range of accessories including brilliant colour matched luggage. Its special enough to
stand out in the car park and grab the attention of passers-by, inspiring pride of ownership.
The parallel twin’s output remains roughly the same at around 70bhp – acceptable but not something that is going to get you into trouble fast. Kawasaki has also tweaked delivery to give more low end grunt. In practice the bike revs freely and there is a pleasing surge of power higher up in the range that adds sparkle. It’s actually a real delight. Easy and care-free to ride.
One thing we like is the diminutive size – a bike ideally suited for smaller riders – which is great; we need such machines to bring in lady riders and anyone wanting their first ‘proper’ bike. And a first decent bike the ER6N certainly is; it has looks, performance and a friendly character that builds confidence. Handling is better than average for budget suspension and is only likely to get a bit shaky if you push it really hard. The engine has surprising flexibility and pulls well even from low revs. It’s a willing and happy little bike. You could bond with it.
Comfort has been improved thanks to a plusher seat, and range is pretty cool at 190 miles or so. A range to empty indicator is handy and works well. In fact, the entire dash is functional as well as funky and a great improvement over the old one.
Brakes are OK, but not impressive, and there is no ABS as standard, which we think is not good. On the other hand, the bike is a real bargain at just £5,799. Haggling should reduce this further or at least get a helmet, gloves and boots thrown in. Or ask for the ABS.
There’s no substitute though for an actual owners review, and we’re lucky to have Tracy, who bought her bike just a few weeks ago, here to tell us in her own words, what she thinks.
I bought my ER6N about a month ago as a ‘returning to the saddle biker’. I’d been off the road for three years following an argument with a car and was a little nervous about my choice of bike. The ER6N is touted as a novice’s choice with enough ‘fun factor’ to keep an experienced rider amused. Hmmm, I like to think of myself as an experienced rider (Ducati Monster 900, Cagiva V Raptor 1000, plus various on/off road toys (can you tell I’m a naked v/parallel twin fan?), but the accident made me take a step back and consider what it was that I really needed from a bike…
The Kawasaki gives it all – Great town handling, good fuel economy, responsive, light and agile. Just enough to be exciting but also to help re-build confidence. I think it looks fabulous too.
Having bought the bike without a test ride, I headed off into the sunset… a small fraction of me expecting to return within minutes declaring “noooo, it’s just too scary!”. But I surprised myself; my reaction was “woohoo, look out you stupid car drivers, I’m back!!!”
So how does the bike ride..? Well, it’s as light as a feather and incredibly well balanced. So much so that I do feel that I could sit on it at a standstill for quite some time, with both feet up, and not topple over. I think this must be due to the compact engine and exhaust layout. The layout allows the engine to be short front-to-back; and this leads to a very compact machine overall. Weight is all centralised and the bikes general centre of gravity is low; take it from me, this all adds up to superb low speed manoeuvres around town…
The engine pulls all the way through the rev range with ease. Although it did confuse me for a while as it revs higher than my sadly deceased Ducati; I kept trying to find an extra gear.
I’ve not tried a quick getaway/off the line start just yet, but reviews claim it has plenty of ‘grunt’ for that purpose. It has lots to offer on dual carriageways; again, I’ve not tried motorways, but why would I? It’s a naked bike and therefore will not be comfortable on long motorway hauls. If I wanted long haul comfort, I’d buy a tourer.
It does have a wide spread of torque and friendly power delivery, which equates to a very forgiving bike – Gear selection, what does it matter, it’ll still pull away when you need it to!!! Yup seriously, no major buckaroo effect if you drop it down the gears too far (within reason) The handling is easy and light, it doesn’t take more than a tilt of the hips, and it flicks (easily done on the old Ducati). The ER6N’s ground clearance is generous. Its lithe in the bends.
Living with It
Some people have complained about the suspension, and it is a budget set up. But actually it gives good feedback and I like that. The seat height is low and narrow, so I’ll never be tiptoeing to find the floor.
OK, so what don’t I like about it… The brakes – nowhere near as responsive as my old bike, on which a light squeeze would stop you on a sixpence! The ER6N has already had to perform two emergency stops and she stopped well with no tyre locking or skidding. I just have to squeeze a little bit harder to get the reaction I expect. (Interestingly, the tourer in front of me did lock up his back wheel…).
The noise – there isn’t any to speak of… far too quiet for my tastes. Oh how I miss that distinctive Ducati rumble… I know I won’t be able to replicate that lovely sound but, hmm, it’s definitely time to start researching after market exhaust cans.
So to round up my review: overall this is a great handling, light, and very forgiving bike. Plenty of pep, an urban delight… and gosh darn it, doesn’t she just look the part as well – sexy, mean machine, and if I had my way she’d be parked in the lounge so I could enjoy her angular curves in all the right places. As an experienced but returning rider, the Kawasaki gives me what I need. Above all its fun and makes me feel special. I’m loving it!
Engine: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke Parallel Twin, 649 cc
Power: 72.1 PS / 64 Nm
Weight: 204 kg
Acceleration: N/A (Quicker than a sports car!)
Top Speed: 115mph
Fuel capacity: 16 litres
Fuel consumption: 50 mpg (ish – more if you’re frugal, less if you thrash it)
Service intervals: 6000
Cost Now: £5,799
Seat height: 805 mm
BBM Overall Rating: *** (*)