WRR36: Riding the Kawasaki Ninja 636

There are few people in the world who wouldn’t recognize the name Kawasaki Ninja.  Whether or not they ride or however limited their knowledge of bikes may be, the Ninja name instantly invokes thoughts of speed and precision.  My hat’s off to you, Kawasaki marketing department.  What’s it like to actually ride a Kawasaki Ninja, you ask?  Well, that all depends on which one you are talking about…  The Ninja ZX-14?  It’ll rocket you into the stratosphere.  The Ninja 300?  A nimble little bike that’s a fantastically easy to ride.  And right in that sweet spot, the ultimate compromise between handling, weight and power, sits the Kawasaki Ninja 636.

Now, some riders think they’ll get bored of a 600’s (supposed) lack of power.  That maybe it would be a good beginner bike before they step up to a big boy bike.  Let me clue you in on a little secret:  it’s the skill of the rider that makes the bike fast, not the bike itself.  In fact, there are many tracks around the country where the lap record was set on a 600, not a 1000.  That right there should tell you something.  Of course, that is all said with the assumption that you have an interest in actually riding this bike as it was intended, railing around corners, getting on the binders hard into the corners, and then wicking up the throttle on corner exit.  If all you are interested in is life in a straight line – then sure, there are much faster bikes out there.  But don’t make the mistake of assuming someone on a 600 is less experienced than someone riding a big bike, or you run the risk of getting seriously embarrassed.

I have talked to many experienced riders who have gone through the progression of 250 -> 600 -> 1000 -> 600.  In the end, the 600 has plenty of power for anyone, and more importantly, has the handling to make you look really, really good.  The Kawasaki Ninja 636 is a true, purpose built sport bike – designed to go fast around a racetrack.  However, it has a good number of design elements that make it a fantastic street bike as well.  At the heart of it all is that fabulous engine.  Smooth revving and powerful, the Ninja 636 provides a good deal of thrust throughout the rev range, which makes for much more relaxed around town riding.  You don’t have to wring it’s neck to feel like you’re getting somewhere.  Of course, wind it out and you’ll be rewarded with the glorious howl of an inline 4 at over 14,000 rpm along with some serious go.

Of course a glorious engine would get you nowhere without a good chassis and suspension to back it up.  The Ninja 636 begs to be leaned into corners and delivers on every level.  The bike gives you a fantastic amount of feedback, with minimal harshness over bumps and imperfections in the pavement.  The brakes are smooth, predictable, and powerful, all of which combine into a bike that makes you feel a bit like a superhero.  The Ninja 636 makes it very easy to chose a line and stick with it, or adjust as necessary mid corner.  The availability of power throughout the rev-range means you can be a little more lazy than usual with the shifter, although you will do much better to keep the tach up in the happy zone.  With a slipper clutch and close ratio transmission, it’s honestly really good fun to click up and down through the gears anyway.

So whether you are looking for a true sportbike to carve up the back roads with, or a bike you can take to the track, or a bike that can grow with you and rewards good riding form in spades, the Ninja 636 is an absolutely brilliant machine.  I love that it is a bike that you can slowly master and hone your skills without worrying about 200bhp at the rear wheel.  This bike will reward the smooth rider.  Study, take classes, do a track day (or 10) and the new ZX-6R will show you a side of riding that you’ve perhaps never experienced before.  And if you’ve already been there, then you’ll be able to appreciate the 636 right away.  Thanks for coming along every week, and don’t forget to use the button below to subscribe to our channel!  Weekly Rides with Reuben are uploaded every Wednesday.

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