Yep, these were once sport bikes.
Could I? Should I? After upgrading to an 800 it should have been easy, but I’ve been having serious separation anxiety. While thinking of ways to justify keeping my 2002 Kawasaki Ninja EX250, C.J., it occurred to me that she might make a good scrambler.
Originally, scramblers were street bikes that had been modified by their owners to handle off-road conditions. When the trend to race them took off, factories did the job of re-engineering the bikes, but they were still using the original on-road templates. So transforming a Ninja 250 is in keeping with what scramblers were before they were reintroduced as their own category of bike.
A little light digging turned up quite a few shops that have actually done a number of these transformations, including Katros Garage in Indonesia. They have transformed many of these little wonders into fine-looking specimens, an inspiration to look a little more closely at the feasibility of the conversion.
After much research it looks like the Ninja 250 parked in my garage would be a legitimate contender for this all-terrain transformation:
- The inline twin offers the kind of torque in the low end and power delivery up top that transfers well to off-road conditions.
- It’s on the lighter side – about 360lb wet, depending on the year.
- It’s air-cooled, just like in the old days.
- It gets great mileage, so might only need a sweet paint job and groovy gas cap to make it look the part.
Then it would need the following adjustments of body and soul:
- Jack it up. Scramblers need more than 150 mm of clearance so the suspension would need some serious attention, including some dual rear shocks.
- Higher mount exhaust is recommended but this is a pretty serious change that can mess up your engine (and your legs!) if it’s done wrong. So as long as you’ve added some ground height and that all-important bash plate, you can keep it simple.
- Strip it down. “C.J.” has a lot of plastic, which would have to go, as would any components that come in lighter or sturdier versions like mirrors, levers, pegs and front assemblies. After all, we plan to ride it hard, right?
- New rims and tires. Expensive but oh-so important. Spokes help disperse impact to keep your wheels safe and knobby tires—preferably of the square tread kind—will keep the bike going in the knarliest of conditions.
- That saddle’s gotta go. It’s hard to settle on seat preference. Less is usually more, since it’s doubtful you’d have a passenger along for the ride. After that, style is your choice.
- Last but not least, due diligence. Replace the seals, bearing and bushings and keep the fenders. It’s rough out there in the bush!
Good news is, though it’s probably more cost-efficient and wise to trade her in for a dual sport or dirt bike, my first ride could stay by my side as a sassy scrambler without too many complicated adjustments. Most importantly, whatever it is that you choose to do to whichever bike, have fun, and don’t compromise, otherwise, it’ll just be a more expensive garage lurker.