So, what does all this translate into, in the real world? For starters you get two very different motorcycles from the same genre.
The Kawasaki is the truer supersports bike here. It has all the necessary pre-requisites. It has a hard seat, a more committed seating triangle, and a more uncomfortable and stiffer suspension setup. And yes, it is lighter too. Besides, it has a sharper steering geometry.
Not surprisingly then, the Ninja feels crisper, more stable, and more talkative around corners. Tip-in into corners is quicker and more progressive. And courtesy its taller cornering clearance, it can carry higher cornering speeds too.
There’s good grip from the tyres as well. But, if we had to nitpick, we’d say the brakes could have had more bite. And, it should have come with ABS as standard; not to aid cornering, but to better justify its pricey tag.
The Benelli gets ABS as standard. And the bite offered by the brakes isn’t bad either. But, for all its Ninja matching power and torque outputs, and a bigger rear sprocket, it is still the slower of the two bikes. It might sound faster, yes, which is great for a while, but put them head-to-head in a drag, and the sharper dressed Ninja pulls away.
However, despite its friendlier seating – it has lower and more forward set footpegs, and a relatively taller handlebar compared to the Kawasaki – it isn’t too bad around corners. Yes, compared to the Ninja it feels longer and softer and bendier. And, it runs out of lean clearance a lot sooner as well. But, unless you love ‘knee-down’ cornering – which in hindsight you must, to even consider a supersport – you can live with it.
Come to think of it, living with the 302R on a daily basis is a lot easier than the Ninja 300. Barring parking, of course – the Benelli does weigh nearly 200kg. The 302R has a softer ride and seat, meaning it is more comfortable over our less than perfect city roads. The more upright seating makes it a better machine to tour and commute on.
And its better low-end grunt makes for a more relaxed motorcycle to ride when fetching a loaf of bread. It could do with a lighter clutch pull though, which the Ninja has. Also, if we had to pick a bike for better refinement levels, it would be the Ninja. What’s more, the gearshifts are crisper and more precise on the Kawasaki as well.
Having said all that, when it was time to ride back to base, a near 200km ride, after two days of riding and shooting in the heat and dust, I went for the Benelli keys. Call me old if you will, but I wanted comfort over handling prowess for the last leg home.