Buell Blast vs Ninja 250

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The Ninja 250 is often listed in the ranks of the 'beginner bikes', although we know that it's not strictly for kids. Another bike marketed at new riders is the Buell Blast. Here's how some of our club members compare the two bikes. All of these people either own or have owned a Blast and an EX250 at one time.

Remember, these are opinions. Some people like Harley-Davidsons; others like Hayabusas. What you like is up to you.

One

The 250 is a far better motorcycle, although the Blast is a good beginner's bike.

  • Transmission: 250 is smoother; Blast is clunkEEEEEE.
  • Handling: They both handle about the same, but the 250 has much more lean angle before scraping.
  • Engine: 250 engine has been around since '87. Blast engine has been around since 2000 and is half a Harley engine. On the flip side, there are far more upgrades for Blast engines than 250s.
  • Vibration: The Blast wins this hands down (much more) but that is to be expected; it is a thumper.
  • Acceleration: The Blast wins this off the line, but once the 250 gets into its power range it will go faster.
  • RPM: The Blast redlines at about 6500 rpm, and the 250 redlines at 14,000. I would redline the Blast pulling out of my driveway and, worse than that, would redline it leaned into a turn rolling on the throttle. Not good.
  • Top End: Blast 95-99 mph and the 250 105-ish. (Don't do this at home.)
  • Overall build quality: Must go with the 250 on this one. The Blast has chintzy plastic and funky handlebars and LOOKS like a beginners bike. The 250 pretty much looks like a small rice rocket, to me at least.

Final thoughts: Nod goes to the 250. However... the Blast was designed specifically for beginning riders and excels in that role, MAYBE better than the 250. That could be argued well either way. I feel that the 250 can grow with a rider as their skill levels improve, where a Blast would not. Evidence of this is that there are numerous track ready 250s and a 250 racing series in California. Nothing like that for Blasts.

If ALL you want is a strictly beginning motorcycle, then either will serve you well. You'd be able to keep the 250 around longer than the Blast as your skills improve.

Two

I am uniquely suited to answer this question, as I have a Ninja 250 and my wife has a Buell Blast. I have ridden both in various conditions and speeds and took my MSF on the Blast. We got to the MSF class without having found her a bike and took the class on the Blasts. Day by day, my wife grew more fond of the little Blast. She could get her feet flat on the ground with the lower seat option. Her hands could operate the controls. She was not stretched to reach the handlebars. The seat was comfy. We liked the fact it had no plastic to break when it tipped over (other than mirrors and turn signals and the like). We liked its simplicity - single cylinder, air cooled, no chain to maintain/lube, valves self-adjusting.

Anyway, here's the rundown: The Blast is a FUN bike. It has the same HP as the Ninja 250, but about twice the torque, and at half the RPM that the Ninja makes peak torque. That makes it very nice to ride around city streets. It has plenty of get up and go all the way to freeway speeds, and its top speed is supposedly about 98 mph, according to the Buell forum members. It has a funky sound and a smooth, responsive throttle (as long as you don't lug it). It's part Harley... noisy, kinda slow for the displacement, but it's comfortable and fun to look at (I think).

Yeah, it shakes a lot at idle, but it smooths out nicely at speed. It handles GREAT, and I was never worried about leaning it over at any time, during the class or now. Very flickable, although 80 pounds heavier than the Ninja. Phenomenal brakes: strong, progressive and predictable. The plastic bits shake around a lot off idle, but nothing has fallen off yet.

The Ninja is more refined and more of a screamer. Where the Buell gets it done with low-end grunt, the Ninja gets it done with rpm-derived horsepower. The Ninja's front fork is more springy and makes good hard stops a little more difficult to learn, but nothing a few days in the saddle can't cure. The Ninja is noticeably lighter - easier to push around, etc. But they feel the same weight while riding and handle pretty much the same (well, in other words). Good stability at speed and great manners in the turns.

Blast

Pros:

  • TORQUE!
  • Handling
  • No plastic to break in tipovers
  • Simple, reliable (except for a few things which Buell seems to have sorted out in the latest models)
  • Easy to work on
  • Belt drive
  • Comfortable seat in two height options.
  • Hand controls are easier to operate
  • No choke to deal with (auto fuel enricher)
  • Funky styling
  • Easiest oil changes I've ever done. Pull a plug off a couple of hoses and swap the spin-on filter which hangs right there.
  • Brakes

Cons:

  • Weight (but only a problem while maneuvering around the garage)
  • Goes through rear tires fast because of the torque
  • Funky styling
  • Odd dry sump oil system - you can only check the oil when the engine is HOT.
  • Runs out of breath at higher rpm
  • Low redline
  • No tach
  • No wind protection (aftermarket is available)
  • Mean vibration at idle, but you get used to it
  • No center stand

Ninja

Pros:

  • Super lightweight - I can pick it up and push it around the garage if it's in the way.
  • Handling
  • High redline screamer engine
  • Tach, windshield, pop up bungee hooks, helmet lock, seat lock
  • Center stand
  • Positive neutral finder

Cons:

  • Springy front fork
  • Weaker brakes than the Buell
  • Not much low end torque, especially if your valves are poorly adjusted
  • Small friction zone on clutch compared to the Buell

A new Blast (before they were discontinued) cost about $1000 more than a new Ninja 250. Also, since the Blast has a bigger engine, insurance MAY cost more. Check before you buy.

"If you had to pick just one, which would you choose?"

The Ninja 250. It feels like a more complete bike, has more amenities, is just about as fast, and costs a fair bit less.

Three

I've owned a Ninja 250 for about two weeks. My wife has a Blast that we've had for about 2 years. I've probably ridden the Blast 10 times (neither is my primary motorcycle).

Advantage Blast

  • Less being blown around by crosswinds, probably due to less bodywork.
  • More comfortable seating position.
  • Plastic bodywork is color-impregnated, not painted, so scratches and damage are easily buffed/polished out.
  • Seems more torquey.
  • Belt drive equals just about zero maintenance; no worries about chain issues/lube, etc.
  • Spin-on oil filter is a cinch to change.
  • Automatic choke - one less thing to do.
  • Less bodywork to remove should you want to do your own work.
  • Less $$$ if you drop it, due to less expensive bodywork.
  • Better in-city cruiser.
  • Better stock suspension, not due to the Blast having a great suspension, but due to the Kawi having an abnormally crappy one. There is way more front end dive while braking on the Ninja, for instance, which is annoying.

Advantage Ninja

  • Way cooler looking in my opinion, if you care about that kind of thing
  • Better at highway speeds (65+)
  • Higher-revving engine - Blast has nicer torque from a stop but narrow powerband and runs out of breath at high revs
  • This message board - have yet to find a Blast group with nearly the support and info of the 250 Club
  • Has center stand - none on the Blast
  • Has Tach - none on the Blast
  • Better highway cruiser
  • Less vibration - Blast has fairly annoying vibey feel at idle
  • 6 speed gearbox
  • Better resale value/interest. I notice that used Ninja 250s don't last long and used Blasts rot on eBay, Craigslist, etc.

Again, One

The Blast was one of the numerous "short" bikes that I bought for my wife. I put about 1500-2000 miles on it riding it around the local area, but was somewhat disillusioned with it due to lack of lean angle and a low rpm limit. It is torquey enough that 1st gear is almost a waste. It was also the first bike that I scraped pegs all the way through a turn.

I would be bouncing off the rev limiter coming out of my driveway, which at the time was a REALLY short driveway. Leaning into any sort of extended turn (and rolling on the throttle) would result in hitting the rev limiter. On the positive side, the Blast is very much like the 250 in that you don't have to worry about spinning up the rear, which means you can lean into a turn and pretty much grab a hand full of throttle with no ill effects. As long as the entry speed isn't too high (or the rider wigs and stands it up) you have the turn made. GREAT traits for a beginner bike.

In conclusion

Of course, these are opinions from a Ninja 250 board. You will most certainly find different ones on a Buell board. One of our members recommends Bad Weather Bikers as the best Blast forum around. "Super good people, too."

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