Let’s talk about Ninjas. They are silent, dressed in black and …. No hold on, the other Ninjas, the Kawasaki Ninja. There are a lot of them and more on the way. The latest is the 2024 Kawasaki Ninja 500.
There are currently 12 Ninja models for sale in Canada if you count both the hybrid and the electric bike. But that is only Canada. You could find at least one more if you look to other markets. In the Ninjaverse you could choose a bike with 15 total horsepower or one with 326hp – that’s a factor of almost 22x. In Canada you can buy a Ninja for $68,299 or $7,099 – a factor of almost 10. You could purchase a Ninja with very basic, utilitarian specs or you could purchase a Ninja representing the best and most innovative of motorcycle engineering and technology. You get the idea, it is a very broad spectrum (unlike the styling which tends toward far more unified). The bikes are all called Ninja but should there be a string of numbers or letters attached to the name, ie ZX-4R, it indicated a more of a super sport character rather than sporty commuter.
For 2024 there is a new Ninja, the 500. For the 2023 model year there was a Ninja 400 and a Ninja ZX-4RR, one a basic parallel twin, the other a race-oriented inline four. The Ninja 500 is the same price as the Ninja 400 was last year but the engine is new. It appears that Kawasaki thought the name Ninja 450 didn’t fit the Ninja mould even though the bike displaces 451cc. It is the same engine found in the new for 2024 Eliminator 500, the Z500, and probably a few other upcoming offerings as the new mill becomes the standard 400-500cc offering from Kawasaki. It is said that the new 451 offers more low end and overall torque than the 399cc motor it replaces while providing similar hp numbers.
The Ninja 400 has grown (sort of) into the Ninja 500 but with that jump it has left a considerable hole behind. The Ninja 500 is now the smallest Ninja available in Canada. One only needs to remember when the Ninja 250 was the only smaller offering in the segment and was selling steadily. But then Honda noticed Kawasaki had one of the best selling models and segments all to themselves and introduced the CBR25o – which then lead to a slew of offerings in the 250 to 300cc class. The question now becomes whether the Kawasaki Ninja 500 satisfies the need for a Ninja starting point. Bigger can be better but smaller also serves a purpose.