Testing other LAMS-approved bikes, like Suzuki’s SFV650U  and the 660cc version of Triumph’s Street Triple, has shown just how all-round capable these ‘restricted’ bikes can be. Although ultimate power is reigned in to the LAMS limit of 150kW per tonne, you’re still left with a modern, middleweight ‘bike able to churn out over 50 horsepower. (Back in the day, that was more than Triumph claimed for the 750 Bonneville.)

So how does Kawasaki’s ER6-n stack up in LAMS guise?

‘L’ for LAMS

‘L’ for LAMS

Living up to its launch

Kawasaki launched the ER6n to the world in 2006 as the product of a ‘Fun. Style. Easy’ concept. It actually lived up to its billing, even if the first ER6n could look a bit over-styled. A few details jarred on what was an otherwise superb middleweight bike.

Updates in 2009 then 2012 sharpened the look, with increased attention to detail and finish. There are some real quality features. The interesting double-tube swingarm gains proper block adjusters for chain tension. There are knurled five-way span adjusters for the clutch and brake levers. The way the handlebar mount is concealed behind the instrument binnacle, and little things like the use of cone-head Allen bolts on the triple clamps, are classy touches. With its colour-matched shock spring, this is a machine that presents well. Whatever it’s parked next to, you’d never suspect this is a ‘budget’ bike.

So with a tick for style, what about the ‘Fun’ and ‘Easy’ parts? Has the ER6n lost anything, particularly in the conversion to LAMS specification?

Clear instruments include fuel gauge and options for consumption, range and trip

Clear instruments include fuel gauge and options for consumption, range and trip

Instant attraction

Right from launch, people loved riding the ER6n. The ‘Easy’ promise has always been delivered on. It’s not especially light, at 204kg ready to roll, but it carries its mass low. In fact the whole bike is low and, with a slim waist at the front of the seat, it’s laughably easy to get your feet flat on the floor. This has endeared the Kawasaki to short riders, including many women, and it boosts anyone’s confidence in low-speed manoeuvres. Add in generous lock, a smooth clutch and good feel from the back brake, and the ER6n is brilliant weaving around tight spots. This, despite a move to more relaxed geometry in the 2012 update.

If you want a motorcycle to be fun, this friendly, confidence-inspiring nature is a great start. It’s in the engine department, however, that the Kawasaki’s game really moves on.

Generous pillion pad, plenty of bungee points, helmet hooks under seat

Generous pillion pad, plenty of bungee points, helmet hooks under seat

It loves to rev

The 180º parallel twin in the ER-6n is not what you might expect. Traditionally, old Brit twins with a 360º crank were associated with torque and vibration. The Japanese favoured 180º twins, which were smooth but dull. The ER6n manages to be something else. Even in full-fruit guise it’s not especially torquey, though it pulls cleanly from low revs. Then, at 5,000rpm something amazing happens. It begins to howl, revealing a rev-hungry character that’s completely addictive.

The good news is that the LAMs version, despite losing 14kW (19PS), retains the same urge to explore the red line. It’s also smooth as silk, reducing rider fatigue and keeping the mirrors blur-free. With 52 bhp (or PS) available, there’s no shortage of go. Confident getaways at the lights, accelerating up steep climbs in the ranges, open road overtaking–all are supremely easy, with the faultless gearbox happily playing its part.

Offset laydown shock adjustable for preload only

Offset laydown shock adjustable for preload only

Back road behaviour

The LAMS bike has no changes to the chassis, and that’s just fine. Okay, it’s budget. Okay, the only adjustment is rear preload. But it works. Surprisingly composed on tricky back roads, it also manages to be comfortable cruising around town. The half-degree extra rake and 8mm more trail introduced in 2012 do slow the steering a bit. It’s noticeably more stable, requiring extra initial input to turn, but the fractionally wider (2cm) bars at least give more leverage.

With the eager engine putting a grin on your face, piloting the ER6-n along a twisty road is enough for full-on LOL. It steers predictably, holds its line, soaks up the bumps and always feels controlled. Qualities that have made it a hit with experienced riders and that will be just as welcome among learners.

With good tyres as standard (see below), the main limitation on twisty roads becomes ground clearance. That low stance means low footpegs and it doesn't take much before toes start scuffing. This is slightly exacerbated by the low seat reducing the peg-to-seat measurement, encouraging a taller rider to place their instep on the peg instead of the ball of the foot. With more of your foot sticking out, toes touch down before the peg blobs.

Twin-pot Tokicos get the job done. Wave discs add class

Twin-pot Tokicos get the job done. Wave discs add class

Impressive details

Brakes were never a high point on the ER6n. They do the job but feel a bit wooden in everyday use. The good news is, the harder you use them the more feel you get, and there’s actually plenty of stopping power. ABS is standard, as it should be, with only gentle pulsing when it cuts in and no sense of ‘running on’. And wave discs look cool.

Standard rubber is Dunlop’s excellent Roadsmart, in 120/70 front and 160/60 rear sizes on 17 inch rims. The Roadsmarts warm up quickly, providing great grip and feedback wet or dry. Quality tyres on a budget bike: whatever next?

Other nice touches include a realistically-sized pillion seat with chunky grab handles, shrouds that protect the fork stanchions and add a look of substance, bungee points and even wire helmet hooks that lock under the seat.

Verdict

LAMS regulations mean there’s never been a better choice of machines for learners to ride. The ER6n is a prime example. It looks good and it is good: as fun, stylish and easy as the marketing bods promised. And, like we’ve found before, the conversion to LAMS specification hasn’t ruined the party. It’s worth saying again: with a machine like this you won't be in any rush to chop it in and get a ‘proper’ motorcycle when you pass your test. Because it is a proper motorcycle.

About the only argument against the ER-6n LAMS comes in the shape of Yamaha’s MT-07. Similarly specced, it also has a reputation as immense fun to ride and it undercuts the Kawasaki by $500 at RRP. Hardly a deal breaker, though. We’ll give our verdict on the MT soon.

Sharply styled ER6-n has real presence

Sharply styled ER6-n has real presence

Specifications

Model: Kawasaki ER6-n ABS LAMS (ER650FFFW)
Cost: $11,495 + on-road costs
Engine: 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC 8-valve parallel twin
Capacity:  649cc
Fuel System: EFI
Transmission: 6-speed, chain drive
Seat Height: 805mm
Kerb weight: 204kg
Fuel capacity: 16.0

Pros

Easy handling
Fun
Quality detailing
ABS

Cons

$500 more than MT-07

Demonstration machine courtesy of Kawasaki New Zealand