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Hi, I ride a 2005 Ninja 500R (I'm a NOOB) and the other day it smelled like it was running 'rich', I guess? I rode it about 30 miles and I noticed it started making what I can only describe as a cricket-like sound. It kinda sounded like when a brake is rubbing against a brake disk, in a way. It was running a bit hot, because I was riding in traffic, about 3/4 on the gauge but well below the red. Now that I think about it, it did feel like it was lagging a bit, not hesitating, it just felt like it was being held back. A couple hours later I went to start it, full choke, kill switch on, in neutral, probably didn't have clutch engaged (don't know if that matters) and as soon as I hit the ignition switch I heard a loud POP/backfire. :surprise: I released the ignition switch because it startled me, and when I tried to start it again it would crank but wouldn't start. When it cranks, it sounds like it goes a few times and then there is a 'knocking' sound and it cranks normally some more. (I hope that just sounds worse to me than it actually is.)

I've only been riding since I bought the bike a few months ago. It had 12k miles then and I put on another 1,000 or so (it's my only transportation). I'm really not a mechanic, but I changed the oil and oil filter a few weeks ago, and it seemed to be running about the same. It's usually about 90 degrees now and the bike has been running a little warmer than this winter (a little below half-way on the gauge). When I'm sitting in traffic it will go up to about 3/4 at which point the fan kicks on and it never goes higher. I've been using 87 octane fuel because it seems to run better than when I used higher. I had just gassed up before riding that 30 miles or so. I tried starting it again, about 20 hours later, and same thing (minus the initial POP/backfire sound).

All that said, I don't have a lot of tools but I don't want to go to a dealership/mechanic. What are the possible causes of this? That loud POP sound had something to do with it, I'm sure! It's maybe backfired once or twice before but never like that. Is it likely that it's the spark plugs or carbs? Could the POP have been an electrical arc to ground and if so, if it was the starter solenoid, would it still crank like it does? Given what I've described, what are the most likely worst and best case scenarios? Any advice is much appreciated!
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