Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Kawasaki EX500

Thu, February 4th, 2010

A much younger Tanshanomi checks out the EX500 at its 1987 introduction
scanned from my personal archives

1987-2009 Kawasaki EX500/Ninja 500R
A fine engine that makes decent power for a 500 twin and has just enough of that traditional vertical twin 'rum-pum-pump' to be entertaining. Just be careful not to judge it in comparison to a multi-cylinder 600 sport bike, or its high-12-second quarter mile time will seem weak.
Cheap components and frame are a bit wiggly at the limit compared to today's bikes, but decent enough to have been a popular club racer in the late '80s, and still okay up to 7/10th or so.
Quite nice, though we've seen them so often, for so long, it's tough to view the design with fresh eyes. Better before the unfortunate 1994 restyling, which tried a little too hard to look racy, and I prefer it without the needlessly gauche belly fairing.
For a price-point motorcycle, it will put up with unreasonable amounts of abuse. Unfortunately, as a price-point motorcycle, they were all bought by boy racers who thrashed them horribly. Find one originally bought my someone over 30 and you'll get a creampuff bike at a bargain price...but finding such an example is a tall order.
When I first saw the EX500, I thought it would be wonderful do-everything mid-sized machine for riders mature enough to be unfazed by newest superfast mega-machines. Despite its reputation as the bike every squidly kid laid down on the tarmac throughout the '90s, that's still a fair assessment of it. Older models have a less extreme riding position.
A bike that's been unfairly relegated to 'beginner bike' status.
In a perfect world, the EX500 would get much more respect. But it's not a perfect world, is it?