It’s a (very bad) habit of mine to look through my local Craiglist to see what kind of interesting motorcycles are for sale. We’re now more than half-way through the traditional Ohio riding season of April to October, so people are starting to think about getting rid of bikes. This is particularly true for “starter bikes” or casual-use motorcycles.
The Ninja 250 is a perennial Craiglist bargain. It was more or less the same bike from 1988 to 2007, receiving a refresh in 2008 and another major rework in 2013. It will run a 15-second quarter-mile but most motorcycles, including Danger Girl’s 2015 Yamaha R3, will leave it in the dust. Still, they’re dirt cheap and they get 80mpg and you could do worse for a commuter bike.
I decided to see what was out there. My rules: had to be under $2000, couldn’t have any visible damage, and had to be in ready-to-ride condition or close to it. These were the contenders… but just to keep things interesting, I also threw in a Ninja 500 that almost met the same criteria.
This 2005 Ninja, shown above, is listed for $1500. The killer feature: Under 1,000 miles! A brand-new old bike for fifteen stacks. But how much of a tune-up does it need?
This one is definitely the right color: a 2001 model for just $800 with 14,000 miles. I paid that much for my son’s TTR-90. They say that all it needs is a new battery. That might really mean new battery, or it might also mean new alternator/generator. But IT’S GREEN.
I actually emailed this guy last night. A 2011 Ninja 250 for $1,136? With just one photo, and that photo looking suspiciously like a cropped version of someone else’s photo, this is definitely the caveat emptor entry into the segment.
This 1999 model has the old graphics and quite a bit of wear. At $1,800 it’s the worst deal of the bunch, unless you really want the old-style Ninja look.
The same money would get you this 2007 Ninja with kist over 1,000 miles. It’s the wrong color, that’s the problem. But if you don’t need the spiritual power of Kwacker Lime Green in your life, I’d have to argue for this one.
Those are the top Ninja 250 contenders. But wait, as they say… there’s more.
If the Ninja 250 is good, then the Ninja 500R is twice as good. This bike has been around since the Stone Age; it was on the showroom floor next to my ’86 Ninja 600R as the EX-500. In super-capable hands, it will just barely break into a 12.98-second quarter-mile thanks for fifty-nine rippin’ horsepower. (The Ninja 250 has 27; the R3, 37 at the rear wheels.) I think that if you showed up in Zanesville with twenty crisp one-hundred-dollar bills, you’d take this one home.
I’m pretty spoiled by my current commuter, which as you all (probably don’t) know is a 2014 Honda CB1100. We are about to roll over the 7,000-mile mark in just thirteen months of ownership. No reason to get, or ride, anything else. Still, you can’t underestimate the power of Lime Green to twist a man’s mind all up. Watch this space.