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Thread: Cheap beginner bike build - a Ninja 250 cafe racer for my daughter

  1. #1

    Default Cheap beginner bike build - a Ninja 250 cafe racer for my daughter

    My daughter just turned 17, took the MSF course, and wanted to ride, so we looked around for a suitable beginner bike. She needed a low seat, and we both sought to avoid cruisers, due to the poor control options offered by their seating position. We settled on a "pregen" Ninja 250, the one made from 1989 to 2007. Since it was made for 20 years, there are plenty out there. Here's what we found:

    I know, cheesy 80s styling, but it was only $1,500 for this 2006 model with 11,000 miles. And it only weighed 300 lbs.

    It ran well, and needed only tires, brake pads and the usual adjustments. Fortunately, it's a very easy design to work on. New chain and sprockets in 30 minutes, valves in an hour, etc.

    But the coolest aspect was that, under the cheesy bodywork, it's very close to a '70s bike in design. Other than the monoshock, the layout is close to classic, and the engine is pretty attractive when uncovered, so we decided to see what could be done to reveal the bike's classic lines, while at the same time lightening and simplifying it for a new rider. Oh, and we had to do it on the cheap, since we'd spent about $300 on tires, chain, sprockets, plugs, etc., just making sure it was safe and reliable.

    First, we removed the fairings, headlight, and gauges, and replaced them with a classic 7" round H-4 headlight and aluminum turn signals (from Speedmotoco.com). We replaced the missing clocks with a Trail Tech Vapor speedo/tach/computer (which I'd used on my GS550 to good effect). Here's how it looked then:



    As I said, the design of this bike lends itself to this type of modification. For example, the stock indicator lights have the same rubber sockets as the Trail Tech dash, so it was a five-minute job to swap them over.

    We weren't done. I removed all the rear bodywork, and found that it weighed a ton, so we decided to pull that, also. Here's what we got:


    We added a little ebay taillight and a couple of more Speedmoto turn signals, detabbed the rear of the frame, and it ended up looking real good:


    The best thing is that we ended up removing nearly 30 lbs, so we've now got a small-displacement, low seat, inexpensive bike that weighs only about 270 lbs. What a blast!

    Now I have a built-in riding buddy, when I'm not stealing the little hornet myself.

    Here's a before-and-after photo:


    To me, this has a nice look, halfway between a cafe racer and a streetfighter. The engine and pipes have a classic look, and the tank gives it an agressive stance. We could have saved more weight with a 2-into-1 and clip-ons, but it's her first bike, so we wanted it to be tame in performance, noise and riding position.

    And, going back to ebay, we sold the bodywork, lights and gauges, and recouped the cost of the new items.

    Oh, and I recently saw that Blue Collar Bobbers is offering a cafe racer kit for this model, less than $1,600, and it looks like the seat is even lower than ours. They came up with some ideas I wish we'd thought of:

    Not bad.

    Anyhow, I wanted to share this. A nice, inexpensive project that produced a nice, fun beginner bike with a lot of appeal.
    Last edited by chicagobob; 10-21-2013 at 11:50 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    Timbercreek Canyon, Texas
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    Bob, that is just great!
    I really like what you two have done, and what a perfect learner bike. Thing is with these, she could ride it a long time and not "outgrow" that package.
    Personally I like it better than the Blue Collar kit. Think of the fun if she wants to do paint or a little more customizing.
    What a lucky young gal, to have an old man who makes all this possible, then goes riding with her to show her the finer points. What a lucky Dad, to have a teenager he can do this with!
    And in about 30 years..."Hey Pop, remember that time we were riding in the mountains and...?"
    Good on the both of ya'!
    Dangerous Dave


    "Life is a journey.
    Bring an open mind..."

    “If not now, when?”


    "Give a damn!"
    - C.M. Howe, Jr.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
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    Willow Park, TX
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    6,159

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    What a GREAT lookin' bike!

    And a great father-daughter project to boot!
    Certified JB Welder.
    Certified 3M Duct Tape installer.
    Certified Farmer's Co-Op bailing wire expert.
    Graduate of the "Rock on the side of the Trail as a Hammer" school of motorcycle repair.

  4. #4
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    Jan 2006
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    Eastbourne, Sussex coast.
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    Quote Originally Posted by panthercity View Post
    What a GREAT lookin' bike!

    And a great father-daughter project to boot!
    What he said.

    You've done a first class job on that bike, I love it!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
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    Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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    A really attractive result. Well done.

    Jay

    Sent from my Z10 using Tapatalk 2
    "Uva Uvam Vivendo Varia Fit." (Grapes are changed by the grapes around them.) Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove

  6. #6
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    Sep 2007
    Location
    Chicago Sub.
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    That is so very COOL!
    I take it you don't live in Chicago anymore?
    The older I get the faster I was.....Getting old ain't for pussies...
    45+ bikes and still chasing Dean....
    14 KX250F
    90 Fredette KDX 200
    89 Oldwing .: )

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Malabar Florida /Topton NC
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    4,221

    Thumbs up

    Excellent, CB. Next, she'll be wanting a big bore kit!! Plus a pipe, K&N and jet kit too, of course!

    RB

  8. #8

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    Thanks, everyone. Dave, hows the exhaust holding up on your ER-6n?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
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    Welcome, TX
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    Very nice! I'm with Dave, I like yours better than the store-bought kit.
    rt

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by chicagobob View Post
    Thanks, everyone. Dave, hows the exhaust holding up on your ER-6n?
    Bob, it's good and I would get it again.
    Although right now, the packing is pretty well burned/blown out and it needs a re-pack.
    It's Simon's fault! He held that poor baby WFO so many times and for so long, he just blew it all out.
    Truth is, it was a bit marginal when he got his hands on Little Ernie and his twisty, twitchy Limey wrist got the better of him...and did he have a ball!
    The finish, welds, seams, fasteners, etc. are all perfect. Top quality.
    I was so tied up with prostate surgery and then the crash last year, recuperation, etc. I still haven't fixed it. I can't start riding again yet and my arm & hand are still too weak to work with tools much, so Ernie is on the lift, waiting for me.
    I'll get it done pretty soon though, I'm planning some test rides in a month or so.
    We'll see how it goes.

    I can tell you this...the Vance & Hines pipe, plus the V&H ECU "tuner", plus the low restriction air filter really un-corked Ernie. It's a real balanced package and he runs cleaner & smoother all the time with better "driveability". Also pulls a bit stronger and ~7-8 more MPH WFO.
    Less over-run popping.
    I thought about all that while I was reading about your daughter's 250 Ninja Fighter!
    Highly recommended.

    EDIT: I should have said "jet kit" rather than ECU tuner. EFI has really grabbed me!
    Those 250s are so cool, makes you wonder how that all new 300 Ninja is. I'd like to ride one.
    As one of the Bostrom boys once said, "There is no limit to what you can learn from a small motorcycle."
    I've known that from the day I switched from a small one to a big one!
    Last edited by DarthRider; 04-03-2013 at 12:11 PM.
    Dangerous Dave


    "Life is a journey.
    Bring an open mind..."

    “If not now, when?”


    "Give a damn!"
    - C.M. Howe, Jr.

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