There are a lot of ways to go about buying a motorbike; some are tried and true, some are a long, careful process, and others are just, well, not recommended. True to form, I went the unbeaten path and bought sight unseen, un-sat-upon, unlicensed and-ridden.
It all started 3 weeks into my 2-wheeled life, on a NetRider weekend trip from Melbourne to Eden, NSW. Rode with a dozen other bikes, one of which was the 2012 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 in beautiful Candy Lime Green. Not one for believing in love at first sight, I will state on my life that LUST at first sight is indeed a thing. A painful, exhaustive and anxiety inducing thing. It would be another 15 months minimum before I could legally ride the thing, so surely common sense kicked in and my obsession quickly dissipated. Right? Very wrong.
To add salt to the restricted license wound, I participated in the 2012 Black Dog Ride to Alice Springs. Right alongside – you guessed it – a 2012 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 in beautiful Candy Lime Green. When we arrived in the ‘Springs and parked up for the public display and sausage sizzle, you just KNOW what I made sure I parked my L-Plated GS 500 next to.
Fast-forward to a month before my restriction ends, and there I am, trawling bikesales.com.au for my Candy Lime Green beauty. Grey? No. White? No. 2011 CLG (’11 and ’13 got black headlights but green side fairings, did not want), no no no! 50,000 clicks?! or $14,500 when they’re $15,000 new. NO! Two weeks went by and I was giving up on finding the allusive Ninja I sought. Being well into 2013 (August), I knew that I wasn’t going to find 2012 model floor stock, so it simply had to be a used bike. I clicked the ‘X’ next to VIC ONLY in the search criteria and then, there. There it was. A used, 2012 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 in beautiful Candy Lime Green WITH the $799 option of the dual hard-case panniers, 19,000km, one owner, and the dealer that sold the bike always serviced the bike, with full logs and a price of $12,990. It’s like something you read on the internet from a guy writing an article for a motorbike site… A happy feel-good tale of one man finding the holy grail against all odds, just to spin a yarn… or something.
Alas, I made sure that the deal was quickly enacted. After a couple of discussions with the salesman from Canberra Motorcycle Centre (8 out of 10 stars), he sent me some photos of an immaculate specimen, absolutely blemish free. Deposit was paid minutes later, and I had him install Oggy Knobs to her just in case. Free delivery from Canberra to my West Melbourne door, too. Salesmen and their sweeteners, huh.
By this stage, I think everything is going swimmingly – and it actually was! Having loved the look of the bike for over a year, watching countless ride videos, reading dozens of articles on the bike, joining forums, I learnt everything I could about the bike. Then it arrived. Getting a call on the mobile while in the shower, I answered it to find it was the delivery man – who was standing in my driveway with my bike purring away. An hour early, but hey, no complaints.
There it was. It was mine. That angry-looking bastard in all its green-ness, with its single headlight shining at me on its side-stand angle as if it were giving me a wink and saying ‘ello. Absolutely smitten. Despite my efforts, she has never seemed as clean as that day I first met her.
Anyway, having the day off work, I wasn’t simply going to park it and shut the garage door. A little thing like not having the licence to legally ride it yet wasn’t going to stop me, either. I ATGATT’d up, climbed on and purred down the street towards the round-about and that’s where my heart sank. Unlike my GS 500 that was happy to be countersteered and hold the arc you set it on, the Ninja took the countersteer to initiate the corner, but once leaned in, it wanted to ‘fall into’ the corner, requiring COUNTER countersteering to ride through the curve. My girlfriend’s CB400 handles like this, and I hate it. I truly HATE it. I had just bought the second biggest purchase of my life and I hate it in the first 30 seconds of riding it. Not buying a bike by the book (ie, long test rides!) immediately crossed my mind and I was in a state of regret.
Some of the articles I had read mentioned something of this sort, so that night I hit up the internet and went searching for ways to fix her flaw. Not being able to find much on suspension settings that affect the way a bike feels during cornering, I fell pretty flat on my hopes of making the Ninja the upgrade over my LAMS that I hoped it would be. Don’t get me wrong though, EVERYTHING else about the bike blew me away. The riding position, the raw power, the flat torque curve, and the wind protection over the ol’ naked GS was everything I hoped riding a ‘real’ bike would be. Tripling the horses was nice, too. 2 weeks passed, in which time I would get home from work, roll up the garage door, swap bikes and then fang the ninja around the local estates. Turned out I was having too much of a good time though, in those 2 short weeks, I wasted the rubber front and back. It was never going to pass roadworthy now!
Argh, had to quickly decide on new rubber. Obviously, the evident wear on the Diablo Rosso II’s she came with was not good enough, and my loan still had some wiggle room after things like insurance and a new lid, so I splashed out and had Peter Stevens shoe her with Michelin Pilot Power 3′s. Not only that though, after all that I read on the forums, people had being saying that going a 55 profile instead of the 50 not only sets the speedo to dead accurate, but changes the riding characteristic too. I figured that I had nothing to lose in the handling department, so I went the larger rear tire.
Best. Decision. Ever. You can read all the posts you want of people saying ‘omg the 55 rear changes the bike completely!’ and dismiss them as just another placebo’d fanboy, but lo and behold – that 5mm profile difference TRANSFORMED the ninja to the extent that I was just astonished. It held the corner line I wanted. It didn’t deviate one millimeter! It became EXACTLY what I wanted in my upgrade from LAMS; A bigger, faster, load bearing, luggage carrying monster. Felt on top of the world and just wanted to hit the twisties immediately, but having been bitten by a greasy, new, not yet fully scrubbed in rear tire on the GS, I made sure to give it a good 500kms.
I don’t know if she’s the ‘right’ bike for me, hell, I’ve only ridden five bikes in my life, four of which were LAMS. What I DO know though, is that after many beers on a Friday night, I have woken up with photos on my phone taken in the garage of her, that Candy Lime lighting up brilliantly under the flash of the mobile.
There are a lot of ways to go about buying a motorbike, and sometimes it pays off to just go with your gut.