One of our major concerns was the cheap and choppy rear shock.
It has been replaced by a newer KYB unit with adjustable pre-load and rebound. It makes the ride a little more composed, although it does throw some emphasis on the rough KYB forks.
It still gets tripped up by a series of short, sharp bumps, but ride and handling are much improved.
Another improvement is in the instruments and electrics.
We found some problems with these in a previous version, but they are much better with a comprehensive amount of information, a handsome “Batman” shape and more reliable electrics and controls.
There is no change in the engine which we have found to be a flexible and forgiving unit, ideal for novice riders, albeit a little quirky.
All 650NKs imported into Australia are restricted via a throttle body stop from 52KW to 41.5KW to comply with LAMS regulations.
The engine revs quickly, has strong mid-range torque and pulls from 3000 to 6000 revs where it lights up again for another burst of acceleration before peaking above 10,000.
However, there is a fair bit of buzzing around 3000 revs and the top-end buzz makes the mirrors blur so you can’t see anything in them. The mirrors, that look like a Japanese cartoon character’s ears, also need to be frequently readjusted as they vibrate out of alignment.
The buzzy engine is flexible enough to allow for good progress in just about any gear at any revs which is fine for novice riders.
It is married to a six-speed gearbox that is light and positive with a medium-pull clutch so it is fine in traffic with plenty of changes.
You will find you slip quickly through the short gear ratios and can ride around in a gear or two higher than you would normally expect.
On several occasions I found I had flicked through to fifth and even sixth in urban areas, mainly to reduce the buzzing from the engine. When I needed a little bit of acceleration, I had to drop it down two or even three gears.
You will also have to work the gearbox vigorously on ascents where the engine tends to run out of a bit of puff.
There is also some low speed surging at constant throttle which can be a littler annoying around 40-50km/h urban areas.
Interestingly there is a red “mode” switch on the left handlebar which does nothing. It’s for foreign markets where you can change engine modes between sport and economy.
However, it is deactivated for our LAMS rules.
I found the Spanish J.Juan front brakes lack initial bite and have inconsistent feel. However, they perform well if you pull the lever all the way in.
I adjusted the brake lever to its outer most positions so I didn’t squeeze my fingers when using two-fingered braking. (The clutch lever is also adjustable which is unusual for such a bargain-priced bike.)
By comparison, the rear brake has very positive feel and plenty of power.
The only backward step seems to be the change from European Continental tyres to Chinese-made Adreno rubber. However, my early misgivings for the tyres were dismissed, especially after they were worn in.
They have good braking and lateral grip although they scuffed up quickly and may not last as long as the Contis.