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Kawasaki ER-6NL has plenty of torque and added safety
With the market saturated with Learner Approved (LAMS) machines, having a big engine is no longer enough to coax riders into motorbike dealerships. That said, Kawasaki might be on to something with the ER-6 line-up.
The ER-6 has been a mainstay of the Kawasaki mid-range line-up for a few years, with its mix of well-designed ergonomics and decent but not overwhelming power.
When it comes to learner approved motorcycles, two things make for a winning combination. The first is torque, without which riding a learner-approved bike quickly becomes a dull affair. Second is the need for technology to give the bike either more bang for your buck, or added safety. Happily the Kawasaki ER-6NL has plenty of both.
The 649cc parallel twin engine has had a couple of minor tweaks to bring it down into the LAMS category. The throttle stop has been altered to make full throttle a fraction of that found in the full-power bike helping keep power down. An ECU specific to the learner bike caps off the major changes and ensures that increasing power beyond the imposed limit is difficult.
Putting out a healthy 39kW at 8000rpm in LAMS guise (53kW @ 8500rpm unrestricted) there is nothing to scoff at when it comes to the performance on offer from the ER-6N LAMS.
Kawasaki still offers the full power version of the ER-6N and ER-6F to riders who want the extra grunt. Prices are $11,495 for the ER-6N ABS, regardless of whether or not it has been restricted for learner use, and $10,995 for the full power ER-6F, which comes without ABS.
The Kawasaki ER-6F has a fairing adding some protection from the elements
Hitting the road after picking up the ER-6N from Kawasaki’s Auckland HQ and making my way through congested traffic I got my first taste of the potential of the LAMS ER-6N .
After squeezing my way to the front of the on-ramp queue, thanks in no small part to the 770mm width of the bike, jumping on the throttle brought with it a healthy surge of power up to the legal limit.
While power tapers off the higher you explore into the rpm range, it is more than enough to keep you happy, and I reckon a lot more fun can be (legally) had exploring the limits on a LAMS bike on the open road opposed to risking your licence on a full-power machine.
With most riders likely to spend their time riding the ER-6 range in cities the ability to stop safely is of utmost importance.
When push came to shove, as tends to happen on the motorway, I found the combination of big dual 300mm petal brake discs with twin-piston calipers up front and 220mm disk and single-piston caliper at the rear confidence inspiring indeed.
A major selling point for Kawasaki is the addition of ABS on both LAMS ER-6 models, worth the extra outlay when considering a learner bike — and frankly a safety measure that should be on all LAMS bikes.
When it comes to rider comfort the ER-6 has one of, if not the best, riding positions in the game. The two piece seat, a variation on the original ER-6’s single piece unit, is comfortable while also providing plenty of support when you fully open up the throttle.
With the traditional sit up and beg riding position across the range, new riders won’t experience the aches and pains of more aggressively styled bikes.
The dash info is easy to read: dual 300mm petal brake discs with twin piston calipers up front; the two-piece seat is comfortable.
The dash unit is a nicely centred unit with an easy-to-read white face tachometer and digital speedo.
More importantly it’s the smaller things that really make the ER-6 stand out when riding.
The clutch and brake levers are adjustable for reach, meaning even riders with smaller hands will have no trouble swapping cogs or applying force on to the brakes.
Pillions haven’t been forgotten, with an equally comfortable riding position and well positioned grab handles on either side of the seat.
The thin plastic radiator guards, while stylish, do appear to have the potential to get snagged on something and rip off. While it is a minor thing to complain about it did catch me out while parking in the tight confines of a parking building, and could make the case for getting the ER-6F over the ER-6N if you’re worried about minor annoyances like that.
Whether you choose the added protection of the ER-6F LAMS with its full fairing or the naked versatility of the ER-6N LAMS, Kawasaki’s mid-sized LAMS range is worth consideration if you’re looking for a mid-sized learner-approved bike.
|ENGINE:||649cc parallel twin|
|PRICE:||$11,495 + on road costs|
|PROS:||ABS, fun motor, excellent ergonomics|
|CONS:||Design getting a little old, some plastics might not last, high-end price|