an ex500 is very tempting for the price. with 2 vance & hines slipons, k&n filter and stage one jet kit, this bike will wail and still come in at just a smidge under $6,000, about 500 less than a suzuki sv 650s. of course, for $6,299 you could have a new 650 ninja, so the choice is yours. ymmv
I purchased a 2004 Ninja 500 last weekend. I've been riding for 20 years and have a 2003 Kawasaki Concours as my other bike.
I was looking for a bike that my fiance could handle, but that would allow lots of room for her skills to grow, and be fun for me as well. She had taken a Basic Rider Course using the course supplied Buel Blast, so she already had 12 hours on a bike in the 400Lb weight range.
I rode it home, 50 miles, in rain. I was very impressed with the stability, comfort, and ease of operation. My fiance followed me home and, seeing me ride 50 miles in the rain, hopped on it and took her first ride on it in the rain as well. She came back grinning ear to ear.
She has since been riding in the neighborhood, improving her skills, and has said she loves the bike many times.
I've ridden it quite a bit since I got it and continue to be impressed. I skipped this size bike, going straight from a Suzuki GN250 to a Yamaha Maxim 650, the to a '86 Yamaha Fazer. I am very pleased to be back on a smaller bike. It has brought me a renewed sense of "the joy of riding." The Concours is a great bike, as have been the other bikes I've owned, but the 400 Lb Ninja 500 is simply a joy at all times, from walking pace to interstate speeds. It is fun to hop on it and just tool around the neighborhood or town, where the Concours is best higher speeds, though it tolerates tooling around as well, requiring a gentler touch and more deliberation.
Now that I have a 400Lb bike, I can't imagine not having one. Might look at the Ninja 650 when it's been out a couple of years more, but for now, I'm very happy with the 500.
I plan on converting the handlebars to tubular style for a more upright riding position, and am fitting it with frame sliders for when it gets dropped. I am also going to fit it with a Scottoiler to take care of the chain. I also plan on fitting the windshield with a Laminar Lip to make it more comfortable on the highway, though it is not bad at all right now.
The stock G550 rear tire is down to the wear bars at 6500 miles, and I'll be putting another one on next week. Once that one is worn out, I'll be switching to Pilot Activs, unless a better Sport/Touring tire is out then. The stock tires are pretty good, but I'd like a little more life out of them. From what everyone tells me, the Pilot Activs will give more life while not sacrificing grip.
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