Updated: Jun 13
Start of the hyper riding journey…
The craze of owning and experiencing the driving dynamics of a sports bike was rooted in my mind from childhood as most of us enthusiasts have those dream bike posters on our walls. It all came true in 2017 when I graduated as a mechanical engineer and stepped into the real world of automotive engineering, with the purchase of the segment conquering Yamaha R15.Having previously owned the venerable HERO HF DELUXE, this was a huge jump indeed. I didn’t have the patience to wait for the launch of the V3 model back then and don’t exactly regret the decision as performance wise there wasn’t a night and day difference between the two variants and I particularly like the engineering quality of the panels of V2 over V3.
The Pirelli Angel City Tyres which made a hugh difference to the handling package of the R15.
The venerable Yamaha R15 V2
The R15 V2 was a precision sports bike with near perfect handling dynamics (Courtesy to the Pirelli Tyres I had upgraded to in the second half of the bike’s life with me), hard charging 150cc mill, decent braking and most importantly no frills or gimmicky features to talk of. Heck it didn’t have ABS too and so the braking was very predictable even in the last few millimeters of travel with no ABS intervention to talk of. The 35000 kms of travel over various terrains and innumerous experiences are absolutely unforgettable (worth mentioning was the blastic drive down the Munnar-Theni Road; the road being the best I have driven so far)
Fast forward to 2022 and I was getting increasingly impatient to upgrade from the single cylinder 150cc mill to a more displacement, smoothness in the top end and a definite lust for more top speed as I wanted to experience the adrenaline rush and the dynamics of the vehicle at speeds above 150kmph (my top speed on the R15 V2 being 145kmph in real world with the speedo showing me 154kmph courtesy to a healthy tail wind and downward slope). My criteria's made the buying decision ever so simple. I needed a brand new (that eliminates the option of second hand options) double cylinder sports bike not exceeding a budget of 5lakhs onroad, and that led to only one option currently on sale, the Kawasaki Ninja 300.
So the purchase was very straightforward; go to the nearest Kawasaki dealer and put down the booking amount and choose the color; which in my case was Candy Lime Green. Luckily I got a free upgrade to the 2022 color from Kawasaki which looks much brighter than the same color of the previous version.
First glance of the bike during delivery!
Apollo Alpha H1 Radials
PPF Coating on Tank
Since I was tight on my budget, the upgrades were already decided; a set of stickier rubber from Apollo (Alpha H1 Radials) and PPF coating on the tank (learnt from the R15V experience that the tank gets a crazy amount of scratches from the tank bag and your pants near thighs area!). The delivery date was set to 7th of May, and I was ready for my near perfect upgrade. Why a perfect upgrade, you ask me; the Ninja has the same ethos as the R15 V2 of having best in class mechanicals (if R15 was a Corner craver, the Ninja is a Speedster) and no frills or gimmicky stuff! So the Ninja journey started with blessings from parents and almighty Lord Hanuman.
Taking Lord Hanuman Blessings
Some noteworthy points are as follows:
Wicked of an engine which is absolutely docile at low speeds and totally changes its character after 7000 RPM! Blastic Performance in the top end as I wanted it to be. Till date it touched an indicated top speed of 185kmph with a pillion onboard!
Super stable handling in the corners due to the long wheelbase. (which is also it’s enemy as I found out later)
Excellent Quality and a special mention to the paint job!
That long wheelbase coupled with the low Ground Clearance value of 137mm (and not 140mm as marketed by Kawasaki) is the best recipe for scraping the exhaust over the regular nonstandard speedbumps we have here in India.
Just adequate brakes with not much feel on the levers (not acceptable for a bike that can go upwards of 180kmph!)
Some form over function stuffs are really frustrating - Radiator gets all the muck and dirt from the front wheel and having an aftermarket rear tyre hugger is a must without which your Pillion will definitely be fuming on you during rainy days!
Without the Tyre Hugger
With the Tyre Hugger
The Real Deal…
It didn’t take even a day for me to realize how real was the ground clearance issue of the bike as highlighted by the innumerous youtube videos I went through drooling over the looks of the bike before purchase. I live in an area of Bangalore where the road is in potholes and speed bumps are even better than the road itself! With one of my lightest pillion onboard, the bike easily scraped over one of the speedbumps leaving a huge scar over my heart! And it kept on repeating however slow I would ride (Bumping up the preload is not an easy task to start with because of the placement of the shock absorber adjuster) and riding crosswards over speedbumps is not always possible due to oncoming and traffic following you!
So I had to solve this issue technically. Before I had even purchased the bike, I had noticed that it had a similar rear suspension setup to that of the R15, which is a linked type monoshock wherein the shock absorbers aren’t mounted directly on the swingarm. Rather it is a 4 bar linkage mechanism including the shock absorber that make up the rear suspension.
Ninja 300 Rear Suspension
Yamaha R15 Rear Suspension
And from some past experience with some racing guys in Chennai I quickly recalled the fact that I can play with the ride height with the linkage length. Simply put, this suspension design is such that, as the eye to eye length of the linkage reduces, the ride height increases. The term Jack-up Kit used abroad for these reduced length linkages is most appropriate as the rear of the bike predominately gets lifted up compared to the front. For example when raising height from 137mm at the center of the wheelbase to 155mm (addition of 18mm), the height at the front edge of the fairing actually rises by only 7mm. But more on that later.
And so the hunt for the linkages started. I had to put questions on the Kawasaki Ninja 300 Global forum to get some relevant aftermarket suppliers of the linkages. I did get a contact of a German supplier called bikefarmMV and ordered the linkage from them costing me almost 4K including shipping to Sweden from where my friend was expected to bring it to India. To my surprise the purchase became a nightmare and I never received the product along with my money gone. The supplier never shared the tracking ID with me, which led to suspicion that he never actually sent the linkage to the shared address at all! Later my suspicions were confirmed by the google reviews of the supplier wherein people have had similar issues! This horrendous experience led me to come up with a solution of my own.
From some values to start with, as suggested by one of the forum users on the Global Kawasaki Ninja 300 Forum, who himself had installed a Rear Suspension Lift Linkage enabling a 10mm seat height increase, I started doing my own iterations using cheap steel and lasercut of the required eye to eye length linkages.
The innumerous iterations, thanks to some active support from local suppliers
The initial days of installation of the linkages were painstaking ones as I was still figuring out the proper way and required tools for installation of the linkages. In the initial days I was just using the car jack below the engine to lift up the front with a friend holding the bike steady from the rear, to install the progressively reduced length linkages. Using just the front jack was quite risky as the bike is lifted up on just one point and there were twice harry moments where the bike slipped off the jack (definitely not recommended to try all this out). Those mistakes immediately prompted me to buy a paddock stand which made the linkage changing affair quite easy.
The Flat Spot besides the oil drain plug is where the Car Jack rests.
The bike with the Rear Paddock Stand and the Car Jack at the front.
The whole process of installation of the linkages is available on the website in the form of the installation manual and video. The results of some of the iterations are as follows:
Eye to Eye Length
GC at Fairing Frontal edge
GC at lowest point
GC at Wheelbase Center
All above measurements are in mm and with the stock setting of the shockabsorber. The stock shockabsorber setting being the best compromise between comfort and handling balance.
Now that I found out the solution, it ignited a thought in my mind to help other fellow owners of the bike with this issue, by commercializing the solution with a affordable price tag to keep the product accessible to everyone, especially those who might have went broke after buying this bike, paying for it’s astronomical servicing cost and thirty drinking habits! This led to the founding of the SQUAD-E Team and the first product being the Explorer Series of Rear Suspension Linkages. The major task for the product was to get the appropriate values of eye to eye of the linkages to get the right amount of Ground Clearance for the given loading condition (Combination of Rider + Pillion + Luggage weights) and corresponding height of the rider. The height criteria was very important because a specific linkage resulting in increased GC would also lift the rear of the bike to the point that a person of lower height would not get his feet flat on the ground! (which is definitely not recommended). With the help of my friends (varying in measure of height and weight) I was able to achieve following product specifications:
Final GC value is the one at the wheelbase center as that is the point which is most vulnerable from the concept of break over angle.
The Final Linkage design and looks as installed on the bike
It took 3 months to get the right values and in the process my own bike exhaust also had to take multiple scratches and hits. But the price paid was well worth it as I was able to solve the issue completely from a technical point of view. Hope it helps all others who buy this product!