My 2006 XL883 Sportster now has an airbox mod that sends the breather gases elsewhere. A friend gave me an old sportbike beak-like windshield for it and a local shop got it mounted. Now I've gone from a naked bike that had me holding on for dear life, to a "faired" bike (sort of) with pretty awful turbulence. So I'll put on a taller seat, maybe trim the shield, probably get new shocks, and then knowing me I'll probably sell it for a Harley Dyna of some kind. Sigh. I did perform an oil change (whoopee!?!?) and feel like I'm getting some feel for how this is put together and how to work on it. Looking at rats4ever's V-Strom taken apart for valve adjust makes me appreciate the simplicity of American bikes, though the V-Strom is certainly a very capable beast, and intuitive to ride. It's a bit like the difference between vacuum tube amplifiers and solid state amplifiers: both have their charms.
My 2005 Ninja was the first bike I bought new, and it gave me zero trouble while taking me on many very fun rides. I sold her this summer (2011) after six years thinking I'd try something new, specifically a CBR250R, but instead found myself drawn to a local 2006 883 Sportster that was for sale. This body is happier with bikes I can stretch out on and which offer more anti-gravity support. The Sporty's sitting in a shop right now awaiting a fix for too much crankcase oil vapor, but it was time to take a long ride--about 2600 miles total--to see some family in Omaha and some friends in Tennessee, so I did so 8/2-8/7.
As luck would have it, one such friend bought a CBR250R recently, so I got to ride it. Very nice bike, very refined, though not a Ninja. Then again that's a bit unfair since we were keeping it under 7k rpm's for break-in. Still, my days of owning little bikes are probably behind me.
That said, it's great that the Ninja is getting so many imitators coming to the fast 250cc class. By fast, I mean capable of highway travel, as in capable of hitting, say, 75mph on demand, if sometimes ponderously getting there. The CBR250R shows that Kawasaki proved the merits of this class with its Ninja offerings. Capability-wise it's still the best, though in its newest incarnation the CBR will beat it on most things except power. A pre-2008 Ninja will compete in all ways, and arguably win against the CBR, except perhaps in the styling and cold running department.
With my V-Strom, on my trip I was comfier, could pack more, could make serious power moves when desired, and still got usually 50 mpg (+/-) so I'm finally giving it the attention it deserves. With a Ninja in the garage the V-Strom mostly got ridden on long trips, as the Ninja had that grin factor going in spades. But my Sporty will probably take over that role of short, fun rides and light touring. It's a cliche, but there's really nothing like a 45-degree, air-cooled, push-rod V-twin to let you know you're on a motorcycle, in the "old skool" sense.
This is one of the best sites on the 'net: best organized, apolitical, possessing incredible knowledge base (really on lots of subjects), and just classic in so many ways, I think it will give lie to the idea Facebook will take over all internet discussions. Kudos to all the admins.
Ninja Mods (before I sold her):
15/41 front/rear sprockets: I recommend this mod for higher gearing to anyone who might do a lot of highway riding, unless you are in the mountains a lot. Even then, you'll want a seventh gear now and then, and you'll get that top ratio with 15/41. When sixth is too tall, drop to fifth, which is about where sixth was with the stock gearing. As a plus, if you cruise in the new sixth you keep revs down where you're unlikely to have the bike consume any oil even on very long rides.
Stiffer (0.80kg/mm) Sonic fork springs: Another great mod, helping the front end feel more planted, and greatly reducing fork dive during braking.
Galfer stainless steel brake lines: Not too difficult, and really helps brake feel.
120-width rear tires: For me it's Pirelli MT75 on back, though I had an earlier Avon I liked a lot, and will try their Viper Stryke next. I've grown to like the handling with the lower tire, and it did bring the gearing down a little from the very tall 15/41 sprockets I put on there.
Jeb's rack: Very useful on the few occasions I tied stuff to it.
Oxford First Time tail and saddle bags: The tail bag is more useful to me. The saddle bags are tricky to put on, and I haven't gotten around to getting paint protecting film for the bike's side covers, so the saddle bags sit in my garage.
Mike's Touring and Sport Touring shields: These are nice if you want a little less wind. The largest shields are great in winter.
Extra brake lights mod: You haven't done this yet? Shame.
Alaska Leather "Sheepskin Buttpad": I love it in summer especially, to help fight monkey butt. It makes the seat a little taller and makes you feel more vaguely planted, but I am used to it. I bought one for my V-Strom too, and it's useless on it. Be sure you get one with a tall pile if you have a choice.