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“Bonzai the Micro Ninja”

2017 Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABS in Candy Plasma Blue

A poor cell phone photo of my new to me but used 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 300 ABS at the dealership.

I got the idea for getting a commuter bike while vacationing in Sarasota, FL over Christmas. I saw a cool little newer Honda Grom, and the synapses started firing. A little commuter bike might be just the thing to keep the mileage down on my Miata. A little research showed the Grom was modern enough that it not only had electronic fuel injection (no more tickling the choke to get the bike started!), but was available with Antilock Braking System (ABS). I’d nearly gone down a couple of times due to the front wheel locking up braking on wet pavement, so that was a welcome feature.

A good friend of mine suggested I also look at the Kawasaki Z125. It was  a very similar bike, but a bit less expensive. I wasn’t that impressed, but having ridden Hondas since 1974 (1972 Honda 350-Four, 1975 Honda 400-Four Supersport, 1980 Honda Goldwing Interstate, and 1999 Honda VT1100C3 Shadow Aero), I was open to try another brand’s offering. The dealer I visited (which shall remain nameless) wasn’t very eager to help. They had a brand new 2015 Honda CBR300R on the showroom floor on sale for a terrific price – $3099 – and a new bike warranty. However, tax, title, dealer prep, freight, and everything else they could throw at it raised the price by 50% – some deal! And out of my budget. 50% markup on a bike? Yeah, time to forget that dealer. However, the seed’s been planted that a 250-300 could be had for about the same price as a Grom, and the extra displacement would erase my fears that a 125cc bike might not be able to keep up with traffic on my commute. A 125 probably could, but there was a lot less doubt a 250+cc bike would have problems. I had no problems riding my father’s early 70s Honda CB175 from Berkeley to Cazadero Music Camp, going up what’s now I-580 (then State Route 17), across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, up US-101 to Santa Rosa, then across to Guerneville (back when it was pronounced Gurn-EE- vill), the Russian River valley, and finally Caz’. Yes, a 175, even an old anemic 175, is plenty, really.

A used bike avoids dealer prep and freight fees, so I scoured Cycletrader and my local Craigslist. It’s there where I found “Bonzai the Micro Ninja” for sale at a nearby Kawasaki dealer. She’s a 2017 model (current year – the 2018s will be released in the US in March as a 400cc model), but with 2,000 miles on her. She also has ABS. The only thing separating this bike from the higher tier KRT (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Winter Test Edition Ninja 300s is the graphics, which is fine by me. I believe 2017 is  the only model year the Candy Pearl Blue color was made, so in my mind, this is at least equally distinctive as those special editions. But as I frequently point out, when you buy used, you generally have to compromise with what’s available, rather than what can be ordered. I may have chosen white had I ordered a new bike, but no, I like this blue. Photos don’t do it justice. I got a great bike at a great price.

The bike will strictly be used for commuting. The weekends are made for the Miata, where I can share the joys of Florida’s back roads with my wife, Anna. Although Anna likes to ride pillion, swinging a leg over a bike is no longer an option (and Bonzai’s pillion isn’t nearly as comfortable as the Aero or Goldwing). Top down in the Miata is almost as good – better if you count not having to “dress for the fall” in Florida’s heat (sweating is more fun than bleeding), and wearing a heavy helmet on your head all day.

I’ll try to provide updates.

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