Beginner Bike Spotlight:the Kawasaki Ninja 250 (EX250-F) (Gen. 3)

1988-2007 (Generation 3) Ninja 250

Now, as many of my regular readers will have noted, I’m an odd duck indeed. I love the underdog bikes, and I adore bikes that step outside of their established niche (more on that in a bit).

In this post, I shall shine the light on a bike that has seen more beginner riders through their learning phase than most would realize. the Ninja 250. I speak of the “Third Gen” Ninja specifically because of its nearly twenty years of production, thus its proliferation in the US Market. I may touch on the later generations, however in this post I am laboring towards a point, and as such, they need not detain us at this juncture.

The Specs (via :

The Case For The Ninja:

Picture courtesy of

With a massive following, the Ninja has been debated, argued, and mused over exhaustively regarding its many vices and virtues. Beloved by beginner riders, MSF courses, and unassuming long term riders, the Ninja sports an excellent record of reliability and ownership. Since this particular generation was in production for nearly twenty years, nearly every facet of the bike has had time to be fettled, massaged, and tweaked to comparitive perfection. If you want to do anything to the bike, there’s probably a post on a forum somewhere that has been made on the topic where many wrenchers have argued every aspect of the post until a concensus was reached. You want to make it faster? There’s posts for that. Want to make a mini-ADV bike out of it? There’s even a few on that too (more on this later).

Since it was produced so long, the aftermarket for this particular bike can be downright staggering. Nearly anything you might want to do with this bike has aftermarket parts designed to meet your needs. Any significant issues with the bike also have aftermarket parts to rectify them, from preformance to suspension and everything in between.

The performance, weight, and handling of the bike lends itself well to new riders, as it has enogh power to get out of its own way, but not so much that it becomes unmanageable to the nervous novice. It is neither too tall for most riders, nor is it so small that most riders feel cramped, rather, it is a marvelous balance of the two. Seasoned riders love this Ninja for its reliable and predictable performance; most riders will not find themselves riding outside their skill levels on this bike, which is good if you want something to get from A to B with as little drama as possible. It is comfortable in the city and out on the twisty backroads and byways. It is a civilized motorcycle with the ability to turn hooligan in an instant, without endangering your life in the process.

My Kind OF Wierd:
The Ninja Adventure

Image courtesy of

A small jewel in the ADV rider community, the Ninja makes a surprisingly good mini-ADV bike for beginners and regular riders. While it can’t really handle the hard-core stuff, it can take quite a bit of terrain in its stride if set up correctly.

Suggested mods:

  • Raised/stiffened suspension
  • Aftermarket windshield
  • Multi-surface tires
  • Possible gearing changes
  • Brake modifications
  • Full pannier and top-case rack mounts
  • Aftermarket seat
  • Upgrade lighting

Many riders who try this out opt for raised handle-bars as well, though not everyone does this. It may be scoffed at by the more “hardcore” elements of the ADV community, but for the average ADV rider, the idea seems like a fun diversion from the high-CC bike war that normally consumes the ADV rider community.

Final Thoughts:

The Ninja can be anything to anybody. It is a chamelion with the ability to do many things for many people, and for that, I love it.



Choosing The Bike IV: The End Is In Sight

Well ladies and gentlemen, the end is in sight. I have had contact with a fine gentleman who has heard my story and followed my quest, and he has offered me a chance to own one of my Top Five bikes: The Gen1 Cleveland Cyclewerks Misfit.

sale misfit
The Cleveland Cyclewerks Misfit (Gen1) being offered

The owner of the bike and I have spoken a few times in the past regarding this very bike and its sale to me, however at the time things were’nt right for me to even contemplate getting the bike, however now, with my proverbial ducks slowly coming into a row, I can now begin to plan for the future.

I questioned him at length regarding maintenance and upkeep in order to aviod my previous post’s argument: not buying someone else’s problem. He has assured me of the following:

  1. He has changed the fluids regularly.
  2. Regular maintenance has been preformed.
  3. When he parked it for storage, he drained the tank and ran it out of gas.
  4. He pulled the battery so it didn’t cause any other issues during storage.

Having spoken with him at length, I feel confident that I can say this bike will most likely not be another problem child.

More updates later!

Choosing The Bike III: Buying Odd But New

As my goal of getting another motorcycle (that runs) slowly comes into focus, I find myself torn between two categories: New or Used?

On one hand, you have advocates of buying used for your first bike. “Buy it used,” they say, “because then if you lay it down it won’t matter as much!” and “You’re going to out-grow it quickly, so why make a big investment?” Both points do have some merits, however both have their problems.

The “laying it down” argument is quite persuasive, as a beginner rider is almost guaranteed to drop the bike within the first two years at least once. It seems a logical choice to get something that may be a bit battered instead of something sleek, shiny, and new, plus you generally spend less money that way. It can be an ideal situation for a rider with a limited budget (like me) to get on the road with very little in the way of capital. The downside of this can be like the issue I had with the GS500 I bought; you can inherit someone else’s problem, which can cost you more than you bargained for.

The more absurd argument is the “you’ll outgrow it in six months” argument. Usually spouted by a “Squid” or “Billy” with a backwards cap and delusions of MotoGP grandeur. This kind of thinking is not only wrong, but very dangerous. Valentino Rossi himself couldn’t master a bike from scratch in that short of an amount of time, why would you think you could? This is actually a lazy form of peer-pressure, and can get you killed. As I’ve mentioned before: ride your own ride.

Now, you could hunt for a decent used bike, take a knowledgeable friend with you, drive a hard bargain, and come out fairly well in the deal, or you can ponder the new bike market. As I stated before, both options have merit.

New bikes nearly always come with a warranty, are sold by reputable shops, and usually have no major issues right off the lot. Yes, some bikes can have severe gremlins *cough, Yamaha, cough*, however most are perfectly fine right off the lot. You spend more money up front, but get peace of mind that you won’t have to dump a lot of money into the bike within the first year to fix any issues that crop up. Add to that, you can often roll in the cost of gear into the loan when you buy the bike from a dealer, as opposed to buying it all on the side with a used bike.

In this post I’ll be looking at a bike purchase that I would make if I was buying something new. While I’m not initially planning on financing a bike new, I am planning on squirreling away every penny until I can afford to either buy it outright, or have a large enough of a down-payment that any bank would happily finance me. All it will require of me is to work hard, be frugal, and keep the goal squarely in my sights. So, what are some of my options?


Yes, you guessed it: I’m weird and am not looking at the “Big Six” at this time. (LOL)

As a note: The gear would obviously not be able to be added to any financing in most of these bike’s cases, however at this point we’re just looking at price and specs.

The SYM Wolf Classic 150 has a quiet following that is slowly growing in the US market, as buyers are comparing them to the Honda Grom and it’s expensive price tag, and the Misfit has an almost fanatical fan-base that’s really beginning to show on the small-displacement motorcycle market. I’ve posted about these bikes before. The RX3 I’ve only mentioned in passing, so a closer look is really worth it.

So its definitely time to start some serious saving!


Choosing the Bike II: Other options

The New:


2016 RX3 Cyclone

Another option for consideration in the beginner bike hunt: the CSC RX3. A recent new-comer to the US Market, built by Zongshen Heavy Industries and imported by CSC, the RX3 is a bike that is taking small-displacement motorcycling by storm. With a plethora of accessories available from the dealer, this definitely is a bike that catches my interest. . .

ENGINE: 250cc
MSRP: $3,895.00 + Assembly and other fees

The Used:


Kawasaki Ninja 250

Regularly found in the used market for around $2,000 or less, the Ninja 250 is an excellent and solid choice.


Buell Blast

A compact, yet sturdy option for a new rider, regularly found for around $2,000 on the used market. While having a shaky history of reliability and support, the Blast offers unique cred with cheap prices.


Other Musings

While I continue hunting for solid employment, I continue to build my checklist for my future motorcycle ownership:

  1. Get a solid job. Work every hour you can. Save every penny.
  2. Any bike you want to own, be sure to do your research. Find a forum, a dealer, or another owner of that bike that you can trust so you can learn everything you can about the pros and cons of ownership.
  3. Take a friend with you to help you determine if you’re getting a good deal. Never go alone to look at any bike, both for your safety and to prevent impulse-buying.
  4. Strip out unnecessary clutter in your life. Sell what you can and save your earnings; every little bit helps.
  5. Create a relationship with local shops, a good professional relationship can save you both time and money later on when things go wrong with your bike.
  6. Buy good gear. Cheap gear may seem ok at the beginning, but when you inevitably go down, it won’t be there to keep you as safe as the slightly more expensive gear might.
  7. Any bike you buy needs to be gone over thoroughly, even if its new. Double-check every nut, bolt, and plug to ensure you’re riding the safest bike possible.
  8. Hospital bills are expensive, don’t skimp on insurance.
  9. R.Y.O.R. (Ride Your Own Ride) Don’t allow other people to tell you how you should be riding. Ride your bike in a manner that you think is safe. Its your life. As Todd Cox, from the Wheelnerds podcast, exclaimed emphatically: “Ride your own goddamned ride!”
  10. Practice riding.
  11. Practice even more. There’s no shame in remaining in parking lots and neighborhoods until you feel more confident. Drivers can be very careless, so the more experience you have with your bike, the less likely you are to become road-kill.
  12. The best defense on a bike is not a good offence. That kind of thinking can get you killed. While distancing yourself from other drivers is a laudable goal, reckless and aggressive riding can get you killed faster than driving like a granny. Excessive speed and hole-shotting cars are a great way to hasten the arrival of the Grim Reaper.

More to be added as I think of them. . .

Ride safe, everybody!

Choosing The Bike

Suzuki Update


Well folks, bad news first. After all the hard work I’ve done on the bike, I found it was for nothing. While not stolen, the title was never properly transferred by a previous owner, so I’m left with a bike that would take months to secure a title, if I ever get one.

So, I decided to make the problem go away. Since I’ve done all the hard work, I’ve supplied other GS500e owners with parts to ensure other GS500e motorcycles can remain on the road. I hope they can use the parts to greater effect than I did.

Choosing The Bike

Since I find myself in need of another bike, I have begun compiling a list of bikes that should work as a beginner learning bike. I prefer the classic “Standard” layout, where seat height and comfort go hand-in-hand. I may look into small-displacement sport-bikes, but for now, here’s what I have so far:


Cleveland Cyclewerks Misfit (Gen1)

The Misfit by Cleveland Cyclewerks is a “250cc” Motorcycle designed and assembled in America, running a Honda-derived 229cc 4-stroke engine with a 48.42″ wheelbase and a seat height of 31.1″. Brain-child of Scott Colisimo of Cleveland, Ohio, this bike is a look at what American small-manufacturers can produce if given the opportunity. While many question the quality of the bike, owing to its Asian production, the bike commands an almost cult-like following. The brand has been slowly growing in America, so we’ll see how strong its staying power is.

MSRP: $3,195


SYM Wolf Classic 150

A newcomer to the U.S. market, the SYM is a modern production variant of the venerable Honda CB125. SYM built the bike for Honda throughout its time selling the bike in the U.S., so they likely know what they’re doing. After Honda terminated the CB125 contract following the bike’s removal from the U.S. market, SYM continued to produce the bike for other worldwide markets, namely in Asia. Over time, they updated the bike’s safety features, and upgraded the engine to Honda’s “250” engine. The actual displacement hits very close to the generalized CC mark at 149.4 cc, and the bike is surprisingly well sized with a wheelbase of 49.21″, and a seat height of 30″. Boasting a 24 month limited warranty, the Wolf may just help to break through the dubiousness of the American consumer regarding Taiwanese motorcycles. The popularity of this bike seems to be slowly growing in the American market, so this is a very attractive option.

MSRP: $2,999


2015 Suzuki TU250x

A mainstay in the U.S. “Beginner Rider” market, the TU250x is a strong showing from one of the “Big Six”. Lauded for its reliability, beginner rider friendly handling, and strong dealer and aftermarket support, this bike is a strong candidate on the list of potential bikes for my first bike. Weighing in with an engine displacement of 249cc’s, a wheelbase of 54.1″, and a seat height of 30″, the TU250x is a strong contender in the beginner rider scene.

MSRP: $4,399


2015 Honda CMX250C Rebel

Another candidate offered by one of the “Big Six”, the Honda Rebel is a ubiquitous sight at MSF ranges and new rider meet-ups. Backed by over a half-century of history, Honda has dominated the small-displacement beginner rider for years with solid bikes and strong customer support. With a strong aftermarket supply, this bike has an option to really become something unique and special. Getting one of these used can be difficult, as owners rarely let them go, and if they do, they’re not cheap. Sitting pretty with an engine displacement of 234cc, a seat height of 26.6″, and a wheelbase of 57″, this bike proves year after year why it commands the respect it does.

MSRP: $4,190


More bikes to be added as needed. . .

Post surgery update!

After my surgery at the VA Hospital, I am going to be bringing the bike back home from the friend’s house.


Just before the surgery, my friend and I did a lot of work on it, including fixing the exhaust system, and testing every end of the wiring harness. The good news is that power is moving around the harness freely. The bad news is that there’s another very determined gremlin still lurking within the electrical system. Its simply refusing to listen to any of the controls. No lights, no horn, no blinkers (power to them, but the blinkers are unhooked), and no starting. The handlebar controls may have to be replaced entirely. Which I’m not happy about, in the slightest.

I’m looking at selling it and buying something else, but we’ll see.

More updates later. . .

An Open Letter to Cleveland Cyclewerks

tha misfit_001

(I’m posting this to my blog as well as on my personal Facebook page, to better share my feelings on this under-valued gem of a bike.)

To Cleveland Cyclewerks,

My name is Jonathan Cardin, and I am an unabashed lover of your company. An odd way to begin an open letter, I know, but hear me out before you set fire to this as “creepy stalker talk”. My story begins back in late December of 2013, when I was perusing online for a distributor for a brand of motorcycles I had heard of only fleetingly in online shoot-out articles regarding low-displacement “beginner bikes”: Cleveland Cyclewerks. More specifically, the “Tha Misfit” model motorcycle. I had dreams of sweeping down the back-roads between my house and my then-friend’s house, whom I carpooled with, in the pre-dawn hours with the roads all to myself, winding through the twisty roads each morning. The dream was both plausibly tangible, and seductively possible.

I scoured the internet looking for a dealer near me that might have carried it, my dreams of riding the winding roads dancing in my mind’s eye, and I was pleasantly surprised to find one nearby; St. Pete Scooters. Rejoicing in my supposed good-fortune, I hastily shot an email to the dealer, proclaiming my interest in the bike, and desiring to get a first-hand look at it. Several weeks passed, and after what I felt was an odd period of time to keep a potential customer waiting, the dealer contacted me back. “Oh good,” I thought to myself, “they must have seen my email at last! Maybe the Christmas holiday threw them off their game.” My hopes were then cruelly dashed. The email, very contrite and apologetic, informed me of a series of events that had delayed their response to my email until that point. Apparently, a rival dealer in the area had decided that they should be the only distributor of Cleveland Cyclewerks in my region of Florida, and took them to court to ensure their monopoly (or how the email seemed worded to me). The dealer, aggravated by the move, expressed sincere apologies that they were unable to help. When I asked if they had any still sitting around that I could look at, they apologized yet again, and said “no”, because apparently they had to surrender their remaining inventory (or something to the tune thereof), so they couldn’t even help me there. They also failed to mention the name of the other dealer, as I couldn’t find one anywhere online, though I couldn’t blame them for it.

Now, I can tell you I felt quite put-out, having my dream of possibly owning one of these beautiful bikes snatched away so abruptly. Happily, the former dealer did provide me with an unexpected bit of help: they mentioned my plight to Brett Moorer of PIT Motors, the regional distributor of the Cleveland Cyclewerks brand. Joy of joys, in January an email appeared in my inbox from Mr. Moorer expressing his sincere apologies for the wretched affair, and pointing me to the new dealer: Tropical Scooters. Filled with enthusiasm once again, I replied eagerly to his email, vowing to trek over to Tropical Scooters as soon as I was able. That’s when the first bit of financial misfortune struck; my vehicle began acting up, which I still owed quite a bit on, and I was compelled to move in with a then-friend to help lessen my lengthy commute to work. While that doesn’t seem like a bad thing, I feel compelled to point out my rent went up significantly, so any savings on gas or wear-and-tear on my vehicle were rendered moot by the increased living expense. So, regretfully, I had to put my dream on hold for a while. A long while. A year passed, as I tried to stabilize my financial situation and get back on-track. So, in early 2015, I dug up the email from Mr. Moorer, looked up the dealer in question, and set off to put eyes on the bike I was determined to own.

After a period of time looking for the shop, which turned out to be little more than a hole-in-the-wall compared to most motorcycle dealers I had visited, I found the dimly lit little shop and breezed into the doors, clamping my eyes on the Misfit; ingloriously crammed between a sea of cheap Chinese bikes and scooters. When I say crammed, I mean it. There was little or no space between each bike, and to extricate the bike, it had to be wheeled out at the list the kickstand created to clear the other bikes’ handlebars. I looked around for someone to help me, and found only one person running the entire shop, and he was busy completing the sale of a scooter to a woman and her teenaged son. The salesman, upon noticing me, momentarily left his charges, and went off to find his father, the owner of the shop, who he claimed would help me. Still buoyed by my enthusiasm, I stared happily at the Misfit, blathering on to a friend who had accompanied me about some of its finer points and expressing my excitement to finally be able to throw my leg over one. Nearly a half-hour later, the salesman, seeing me standing there looking considerably less enthusiastic about the wait time, left his sale again to fetch his father. The man appeared from the back, grumpily wiping his hands on a towel, and in a barely cordial manner, asked me what I wanted. Taken aback by the frosty reception, I replied hesitantly that I wanted to get a closer look at the Misfit he had in stock, and when his eyes located it in the row, groaned and rolled his eyes almost imperceptibly at having to dig the bike out. After a period of careful maneuvering, where I had to stabilize the bikes around it, lest they scratch the Misfit with their levers, we managed to extricate the bike and wheel it to the tiny center aisle of the dealer. I asked if I could sit on the bike, and the man begrudgingly allowed it. He then excused himself for a minute, and I happily swung a leg over the black beauty. It was as if the angels had begun to sing. The bike was light, moving effortlessly between my legs, its ergonomics almost perfect. On the center-stand I pulled my legs up to the pegs, grabbed the bars, and settled into the most comfortable position I had yet felt while sitting on bikes at dealerships. My friend, no doubt feeling the bleed-off of my enthusiasm, remarked cheerfully how good I looked on the bike, and how happy I seemed to look.

Beaming happily, I awaited the return of the Father, who after an indeterminate period of time soon after, returned to speak with me about the bike. His mood did not seem improved, but I was so happy about having achieved the first step in my dream of Misfit ownership, that I merely chalked it up to a bad day. Having had this dream for well over a year at this point, I was determined to be an informed buyer. I asked questions regarding his support of the product, customer reactions as he saw it, and a myriad of other questions to better hone my knowledge of the bike prior to purchase. The man seemed dispassionate about nearly all my questions, and quizzically remarked that his customers “seemed happy” that he saw, but didn’t seem to care either way. My enthusiasm was sinking fast, yet again. When I asked nicely to hear the bike run, the man asked me bluntly if I was buying it today. Taken slightly aback by the harsh tone, I replied that I was looking to get it financed soon if I liked how everything checked out. The man shook his head and told me that he wasn’t wheeling the bike out to do that just so I could hear it unless I had cash in hand. Startled by his terrible customer focus, I asked him what financing they offered on the spot, to which he replied “you’ll have to talk to [my son]”, and stalked away, leaving me flabbergasted and hurt. After waiting a bit longer for the salesman to finish with his sale, I politely inquired about financing available at their dealer, vainly hoping to salvage anything from the nearly hour-long drive. The response wasn’t terrible, but I certainly didn’t like the options presented to me. Despairing, I returned home, my dreams a smoking ruin of their former glory.

The next day I arrived at work and confided my story to a coworker who was also looking for a bike, and was hoping to hear of my experience at the dealer in question, so he could possibly look at getting a Misfit as well. Upon hearing my story, he was incised at the wretched service I had received, and suggested I contact Mr. Moorer for help. I will say that Mr. Moorer pulled out all the stops. He apologized profusely after hearing of my story, exclaiming that he’d had several happy customers through Tropical, and didn’t know why I had had such a bad time of it, and he never once suggested that the fault was my own. He not only suggested another dealer, this time near Orlando, but also mentioned an in-house financing that CCW offers. Pleasantly surprised, I went back to my friend and told him of the email. He was very happy to hear of such a positive outcome, but lamented the distance he would have to go to get a Misfit of his own, as limitations on transportation available to him were limited, so his dream ended there. I vowed to go and check out this other shop recommended to me: Ascension Cycle Works.

Now, the drive wasn’t really an issue to me, as I believed my car could handle it, but fate, obviously, had other plans for me. The car attempted to kill me three times in one day while driving home from work on US-19; shutting off completely at 60 miles an hour, and refusing to restart, no matter what I did, until it decided I could drive it again. I promptly told the financing company to come get the demon-possessed machine. This put my hopes of heading to Ascension out of reach for the time being, but hey, I had friends who could help me, right? Wrong. My then friend booted me out of the house we had rented with almost no time to seek both another place to live, and other employment, as there was no way I could get to my job with no meaningful transportation. On top of that, the Second Generation Misfit had recently been announced, so I feared that my window for owning one of the first generation of glossy-black beauties was slipping away. Compounding that with my inability to lock down any meaningful employment in the area I moved to, despite many of the companies claiming to hire veterans before other candidates, and I find my dreams may be put on hold until a stock Misfit eventually shows up on the used market. If ever, because, like I no doubt would, everyone who gets one of these beauties, almost never parts with it.

So here I am, several years after my initial dream began, trying to get a battered older Suzuki I picked up for a song running again, all the while wishing it was a shiny Misfit to call my very own. It says a lot about the enthusiasm CCW instills in its fan-base when people are willing to hold on for as long as I have so far to the dream of owning one of their magnificent bikes. I will own one. It may not be for yet another year or more, but I will eventually have the money to buy the bike of my dreams to ride down the road. Eventually, I may even get to make it to one of the CCW Homecoming events in Cleveland, Ohio on a Misfit of my very own. Until then, I’ll keep the dream alive in my heart, and imagine the sound of that engine roaring away beneath me as I bomb down a twisty back-road.

With all the sincerity I can muster,

Jonathan Cardin