Farkles for the Ninjette

Farkle: Accessory. The word is generally accepted to mean a combination of “function” and “sparkle”, hence, farkle. Motorcycle enthusiasts may install accessories, called farkles to customize their machine.

Ninjette: Nickname for the Kawasaki Ninja 250R motorcycle. The 250R is the smallest “Ninja” motorcycle that Kawasaki manufactures.

(Source: urbandictionary.com)

If you read my previous posts (Finally, a Motorcycle Just for Me), you already know how I ended up with a 2010 Kawasaki Ninja 250R Special Edition. Most bikes that arrive in our garage, even brand new ones, start life by being taken apart and rebuilt several times before they are “ready”. But this bike is so nearly perfect out of the box (and Rich won’t ride it, which helps), that I was hoping this extra step would not be required.

It only took one 100-mile ride to remind me that no bike is perfect. I quickly identified areas that needed attention to make it safer, more rideable, and even more attractive. Then, against my better judgment, I decided to enter a 12-hour endurance rally in June. That decision exposed a whole new level of farkling necessities. The resulting laundry list turned into a joint project over the winter and a long list of modifications which I have documented in this article. I’m not including a cost tally because I choose to remain in denial.

Here is a photo I took last July, right after I bought it and before my first ride (other than getting it home). No modifications had yet been made when this photo was taken.

As delivered, right after I bought it - the "BEFORE" photo

Riding Comfort

Riding position

Problem: The sporty riding position on the Ninjette is designed for 18-year-old kids with bodies that bend like Gumby – extreme angle on the knees and hips and a lot of weight on the wrists. It’s an inherently tiring position, but the target audience isn’t likely to ride for more than about 50 miles at a time. I needed to do some work to make it more suitable for an old lady like me.

Solution 1: We addressed the wrist problem by adding Roaring Toyz Handlebar Risers. These are designed to kick up the bar height by 1-1/2″ without sacrificing the wrist angle.

Solution 2: We dealt with the knees and hips by dropping the foot pegs an inch with the Cycle Pirates Adjustable Footpeg Mounting Kit. This mod required a significant amount of work and is not for the faint-of-heart. Though the brackets themselves bolted on, (a) they don’t use the stock footpegs and (b) the brake and shift levers had to be adjusted to match the new position. Rich took the opportunity to replace the rubber-clad footpegs with some metal ones, which gained me an extra 1/4″. I always wear boots so I didn’t even notice the slight increase in vibration.

Seat Enhancement

Problem: As with most bikes, the stock seat leaves much to be desired. When I test-rode it at the dealership I thought I might get away with it. My first shakedown ride convinced me otherwise.

Solution 1: We have always had good luck with custom seats from Corbin – we have put them on at least 10 bikes in the past two decades. They are not the elite seat-makers for long-distance riding, but I didn’t want or need a $1000+ custom seat. Corbin had a front seat replacement in their catalog that didn’t require me to send in my stock seat. As it turned out, the off-the-rack Corbin seat didn’t work for me either – it was canted forward in a way that shoved me into the tank, exacerbating the riding position problem. When I contacted Corbin for advice (intending to return it) they offered to adjust it. We took the bike down to get it “modified” – instead I ended up with a brand-new fully-customized seat at no additional charge. Kudos!

Solution 2: I decided I would probably want a little more comfort for the 12-hour ride so I added an Alaska Sheepskin Buttpad. The Pillion I fits the rider’s seat on the Ninja perfectly.

Bonus: The customization on the seat added another inch or so between my hips and the footpegs, thus reducing the stress on my hips and knees even more. The Ninjette has a very low seat height out of the box (one of the reasons I love it) and I’m tall enough that I still have plenty of room to spare even with the increased height of the seat. I haven’t tested the sheepskin yet, but it’s so thick that I’m guessing I’ll get another 1/2″ out of it. Every fraction matters!

Supplemental Warmth

Problem: The rally is in Utah in June. It is just as likely to be 40 degrees in the mountains as it is to be 100 degrees in the valley. With very little protection from the fairing, I needed a way to keep warm.

Solution: Rich found a Widder electric vest in the garage that doesn’t fit him anymore. He installed a Powerlet plug on the side of the bike right below the seat.

Replacement windscreen

Problem: Though the stock fairing and windshield are surprisingly effective on the freeway (compared to the unfaired ER-6N), I did feel like I would want a little more coverage for longer rides. This became even more apparent after I modified the riding position.

Solution: Zero Gravity offers 3 different replacement shields for the Ninjette. I opted for the Sport-Touring model, which is the tallest option. I chose Dark Smoke because it looks so much better on the bike and the screen is still low enough that I rarely look through it anyway.

Handlebar Vibration and Throttle Control

Problem: The hard-rubber handlebar grips transmit quite a bit of vibration. This problem isn’t specific to the Ninjette, but because it cruises at 7000-8000 rpm it is more noticeable than most, especially on longer rides.

Solution: Grip Puppies are simple covers made of dense foam. In addition to reducing vibration, they also relax the hand by adding diameter. They don’t last forever but they don’t cost much either.

Problem: Nobody can hold a twist throttle on for 12 hours. At least I can’t. Especially after sustaining permanent damage to my right ulnar nerve following an elbow fracture in 1982.

Solution: I solved two problems at once by adding ThrottleMeister cruise control and bar-end weights. The Grip Puppies weren’t quite enough to resolve the handlebar vibrations and bar-end weights were the next logical step. The ThrottleMeister isn’t the cheapest throttle lock available, but it is widely-accepted as the best and simplest to use. We special-ordered it from our local friends at CA Sport Touring.

Safety and Visibility

Rear-end Lighting

Problem: Most bad motorcycle accidents involving other vehicles are caused by (a) cars turning left in front of them or (b) being rear-ended. Visibility from the rear is key to mitigating (b) – the more light the better, especially under braking. Motorcycle tail lights and turn signals, with their small reflectors and old-school incandescent bulbs, are woefully inadequate. Fortunately, LED technology has opened up the world of lighting in low-voltage applications.

Solution 1: LED Integrated Tail Light With Turn Signals. This solution also addressed a problem that was both aesthetic and practical – the stock turn signals (on their mandated stalks) are not only ugly, but they are in the way of adding saddle bags.

Solution 2: To get even more light (and replace the ugly dealer license plate frame), we installed a chrome frame with an integrated brake light from Custom Dynamics.

Solution 3: Finally, we added amber LEDs from AdMore Lighting to the side body panels to enhance the visibility of the turn signals.

Audible Warning System

Problem: If the cars can’t (or won’t) see you, they need to be able to hear you. The stock horn is just pathetic.

Solution: Rich mounted a 139dB Stebel Nautilus Compact Motorcycle Air Horn in front of the forks under the fairing. He had to trim out some notches in the plastic but he finished it so nicely it looks like it came that way.

Seeing What’s Around Me

Problem: The stock mirrors are designed for looks, not function. Again, this “reflects” (ha-ha) the assumption that sport riders care more about what’s in front of them than what’s behind. Unfortunately, I DO like to know what’s back there (or next to me) and all I could see was my own arms and shoulders.

Solution: The factory Ninja 650R mirrors have longer stalks and bolt right on to the existing brackets (Ron Ayers Motorsports had the best price). The front of the bike looks a little gawkier now but it’s worth it – they completely opened up my view to the side and behind me.

Aesthetics and Functionality

Rear-end Aesthetics

Problem: The rear fender/license plate holder (as required by California law) is butt-ugly. It had to go – I’ll risk the fix-it ticket.

Solution: Installing the Competition Werkes Fender Eliminator kit was a relatively simple fix. It did require some trimming of the plastic mounting plate but it is well-illustrated in the instructions. The kit includes a replacement for the license plate mount and light.

Storage

Problem: There is no storage on this tiny little thing.

Solution 1: Cycle Guys FastPack Tail Bag and a cheap magnetic tank bag. I found the tank bag at the annual Cycle Gear yard sale in Benicia – if you haven’t been there, get on their mailing list for next year.

Solution 2: After I entered the rally, I realized that I would need to carry a lot more stuff than my little seat pack and tank bag can hold. I stumbled on the Dowco Fastrax Sport Elite Series at the San Mateo bike show last winter. I’ve looked at a lot of luggage over the decades and I liked everything about these bags. They are small (which means they don’t overwhelm the Ninjette) but extremely well thought out. I bought the tank bag and saddle bags on the spot and ordered the tail pack soon after. I will still use the small cheaper bags for bopping around town.

Solution 3: The shape of the rear bodywork is not really compatible with saddlebags – if I cinched them tight over the top they stuck out sideways, and if I loosened them up they drooped into the exhaust. Rich overcame the problem by building a custom nylon plate that bolts on in place of the rear seat and supports the saddlebags in a more natural position. It also supplies a firm level mount for the tail pack.

Navigation

Problem: I’ll need to use a GPS for the rally and there’s no place to put it (or connect it).

Solution: Rich custom built a dash shelf under the windscreen, modified and mounted a Touratech StreetPilot bracket that he found in the shop, and hard-wired the power cable. My friend upgraded to a Nuvi for her RV and generously gave me her old StreetPilot 2610 for my birthday.

Protecting the bodywork

Problem: This bike has more bodywork than any other I’ve had, which means a simple tip-over is likely to be really expensive.

Solution: Shogun Frame Sliders and Swing-arm Sliders. I did considerable research before deciding on the Shoguns. Most frame sliders attach only by the top engine bolt, which means they can actually cause MORE damage in a crash because they transmit all of the force to the engine head. The Shoguns attach to both the top and bottom engine bolts so that that the energy is distributed and less likely to cause damage.

Electricity

Problem: If you have been keeping track, you’ll note that we have added several electrical accessories – GPS, electric vest, horn. The electrical system on this (and most) bikes isn’t built to handle this.

Solution: Added a Fuzeblock under the seat. This provided all of the additional fusing capacity we needed to protect the bike from our electrical enhancements.

View of the dash, showing the shelf, mirrors and handlebar mods

Side view, showing the pegs, sliders, power plug, and seat

As you might imagine, there was a lot of Googling involved with researching and narrowing down some of these choices, especially the bolder ones like bolting on a pair of 650 mirrors to a 250. The resources that I found most useful were forum discussions on several sites:

  1. I got a tremendous amount of Ninjette-specific information from Ninjette.org, Ninja250forum.com, and 250ninja.org. All three are great for mining information using Google.
  2. Many of the generic items we added (horn, grips, dash shelf, etc) had already been installed on Rich’s ST1300 as he went through the process of prepping it for his serious rallies. The most valuable resource for that discovery and research was the ST1300 Owners Club forum.

This project was a joint effort, but I need to especially thank Rich for doing most (actually all) of the hard work. My part was easy – research, decide, buy, open the box like a kid at Christmas, and enjoy the result after it magically appeared on the bike. As you might imagine, there was a lot of hard work and shop time behind the curtain. But Rich loves pimping rides and takes the most pride when nobody notices that anything has changed. To quote his late great friend Paul Unmacht, everything he does looks “factwy”. The Ninjette is no exception.

Here is the “AFTER” photo with all of the modifications in place. Hopefully, if you hadn’t read this article, you might not have even realized that any changes had been made (not counting the luggage). Mission accomplished.

The "AFTER" photo - all modifications complete

P.S. I also developed an additional list of “body” farkles that are required to survive 12 hours in the saddle, but since they aren’t specific to the bike I’ve covered them separately in Body Farkles: Damn, 12 Hours is a Long Time.

P.P.S. You may have noticed the vanity plate in the photos of the back of the bike. I love my vanity plates and I’m not ashamed to admit it. But never in a million years did I expect to secure such a perfect plate for this bike. SCORE!!!

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4 Responses to Farkles for the Ninjette

  1. Grace Skinner says:

    Hhhhmmm – more memories— Rich, Holly, motorcycles, Sierras—- Grace with Dodge camper van, retrieving Rich and Holly with broken bike…. BEST OF LUCK to you on your 12 hr ride on your “new and improved” Ninja

  2. Vici Whiser says:

    Where are the dog crate attachments?

  3. […] very serious GPS device to be effective at hunting bonus locations throughout Utah. For reference, here is a nice writeup on what one rider did to prepare for the 12 hour flavor. Instead, I bought a […]

  4. […] and I had done so much bike preparation for last year’s event (Farkles for the Ninjette) that there wasn’t much to change. On our last trip to the San Mateo bike show, we discovered […]

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