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:
Anyhow, I wanted to share this. A nice, inexpensive project that produced a nice, fun beginner bike with a lot of appeal.