How does the EX500 compare to the EX250?

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The Kawasaki Ninja 500 (EX500) was discontinued after the 2009 model year, but there should be used ones for sale for many years.

The 250 is a screamer that performs well and can easily get you into trouble. Common complaints about the 250 are excessive nose dive when getting on the front brake hard and skittishness of the rear during high speed cornering. Both are easily corrected with suspension adjustments. A bit more wind protection would be great, too. This can also be changed.

The 500 addresses the diving of the front end (to a degree), the rear's skittishness, and the wind protection. A plus for the 500 is the greater torque and power off the line. It pulls stronger and will get you into illegal speed territory quicker than the 250. With greater weight, it has slightly more stability in high speed and windy situations. Insurance is just about the same for both, with the 250 getting the nod for gas mileage.

Service requirements are almost identical for both as well. Being that they're both parallel twins, the technology is the virtually the same. The 250's brakes are better tuned than the 500's, and the shifter is smoother.

Downfalls of the 500:

  • About $2000 more new, and higher-priced used to reflect that.
  • A bit more vibration than the 250
  • Heavier weight to have to push around the garage
  • Lesser gas mileage - typically 10-15% worse for a given rider and conditions

From a comfort standpoint, the 500 is probably better suited for a larger rider. If this is an issue, go spend some time on both and see which one is more comfortable for you.

Opinion: I've owned the 250 and currently have a 500, among other bikes. The 500 definitely has more torque, plus it doesn't really give up all that much in terms of handling compared to the 250. The 500 has a low center of gravity, which makes it nearly as flickable as the 250 and certainly a much lighter-feeling bike than its claimed weight would indicate. EX500 dry weight is listed at 388 lbs, compared to 305 for the EX250F and 335 for the EX250J. It doesn't really vibrate all that much more than most bikes. Finally, it is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde: At low engine speeds it seems very docile, but once you get into the 6000+ rpm range it pulls strongly until around 11,000. Oh yeah: If you're in California, the 500 is about the best bike for lane splitting - super skinny and super agile at low speeds.

Bottom line, both bikes are great. You'll just have to figure out which one is for you.

While we wouldn't consider these as proper bikes for beginners, here are some other bikes that you may wish to look at in the bigger-but-not-sportbikes category, if you're looking to move to something with a little more displacement.

  • Suzuki GS500
  • Suzuki Gladius
  • Kawasaki Ninja 650
  • Kawasaki ER6-n
  • Suzuki SV650
  • Suzuki DL650 V-Strom (if you have long legs)
  • Kawasaki Versys (likewise)
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