One size just doesn’t fit all when it comes to choosing a motorcycle. The more options the greater the chance of the fit. There’s been a narrowing of engine sizes over the past decade as manufacturers have streamlined their product ranges. Yet demand for more mid-size engines have been sought not only by new riders but by those with some experience. Kawasaki has been one manufacturer keen to cater to these demands and has taken up the lead once again. The Kawasaki Ninja 400R within Kawasaki’s sport styled categories brings yet more fit choice and ride fun for women motorcycle riders.
Kawasaki has a history of know-how in the 400cc category where back in 1988 they revealed the ZXR400. This was one of the first and most popular 400cc sports bikes. The model was discontinued in 2003 probably to fit along with consumer demands as the popular 600cc displacements moved in. At last, seven years later, the new Kawasaki Ninja 400R aims to fill in a user size gap and though placed into Kawasaki’s street/tour category it’s definitely fired up with sporty tendencies and is truly the bike that many Ninja lovers have waited for!
This new “middle-child” in Kawasaki’s array carries a 4-stroke, parallel twin, DOHC, 8 valve liquid-cooled engine. It delivers a clean 44 hp (32kW) @9,500 rpm (27.3 ft. lbs. (37 Nm) @7,500 rpm), compared to 71.1 hp (53 kW) @8,500 rpm of its bigger sister the 650R. If you compare, the Kawasaki Ninja 400R has indeed a terrific torque to weight ratio being it’s just 447.5 lbs (203 kg). There’s a stylish under slung exhaust, LED rear light and aggressive Ninja-styled bodywork – just to mention a few of the stand out design features. The forks are non-adjustable at 41 mm in front with a single shock and adjustable pre-load on the back. Tyres measure in at 120/70 front and 160/60 rear intended to supply the most appropriate wheel size for urban sport type users. The Kawasaki Ninja 400R really is just a sized down version of the 650R and is a model that’ll help ease beginners up the motorcycling stepladder toward bigger machines; the same way that 400cc sports bikes did in the early 90’s.
As soon as I sat on the Kawasaki Ninja 400R, my feet planted flat on the ground, it surprisingly shows that it’s lower than it seems! This is the result of a narrow but low seat height of 79cm (31 inches) and its slim chassis design. That single-shock rear suspension I mentioned joins the frame and swing arm, creating a line that flows efficiently from steering head to rear axle. Its signal indicators also function as hazard lights which I feel to be a real bonus especially for new and intermediate riders and in providing extra communications tools when in need. The dashboard I found lacked excitement but it provides all the functions you need – a fuel gauge, digital speedometer, clock, odometer, dual trip meters and a bar-style digital tachometer. The multi-functional instrumentation is MotoGP inspired. When riding at night, the red back-lighting for the LCD screen is quite unique, really effective and very cool looking!
For my ride impression of the Kawasaki Ninja 400R I invited some friends and spent over twelve hours on the bike accumulating over 800 kilometres in one shot. The route consisted of multi road terrain and is my favourite day trip – up to Algonquin Park through the Muskoka’s. Many would say that a journey spent on a 400cc motorcycle would be an unpleasant physical chore, but the comfy seat of the Kawasaki Ninja 400R and it’s “built like the 650R” frame-work was truly great for long distance! Kawasaki place rubber mounts for the upper-rear engine mounts, handlebar and rubber-coat the foot pegs reducing vibration transmission to the rider. And what really impressed me was a steady delivery of clean power at throttle turn, through each gear range.
One of my friends expressed while following me, how the bike seemed to drive quickly out of the corners. Well, admittedly that control is in my hands, but agreeably there’s good follow through response from the bike. There’s no doubt the 400R’s fuel injection settings result in smoother response especially noted beyond 4,000 rpm. It’s almost as though the bike has two personalities – one around 4000 rpm and another feisty sportster at rpm ranges above. Its fuel tank is the same size as the 650R holding 15.5 litres.
Kawasaki Ninja 400R Light, Revvy and Stretches Out Nicely Through Each Gear
The Kawasaki Ninja 400R could well be the missing link between 125’s and 600’s a gap currently filled only by assorted dirt bikes, cruisers and many scooter brands. The Kawasaki Ninja 400R is light, revvy and stretches out nicely through each gear range showing that there’s no getting bored on this bike! The handling is fabulous.There’s nothing that’s particularly new science on this Kawasaki. It’s a simple machine but show it some well surfaced curves and it’ll show you how good handling can really be!
The only real con I could find with the model might be in its pricing. The manufacturer suggested retail price is at $7,499. Some might think that for about $1200. more you can justify owning the 650R (MSRP $8,699.). Then again the 400R is pretty much the same bike but just fewer horses. And besides once owning a motorcycle above the 600cc range causes your insurance premium to nearly double.
The Kawasaki Ninja 400R is available in either a two-tone Lime Green/Flat Super Black or Metallic Spark Black/Flat Super Black. There are two accessory add-on options – a U-lock (or a similar device) that fits under the seat. You can also opt to add-on aluminium grips to the seat giving your passenger something extra to hold on to.
There’s a lot of fun to be had on the Kawasaki Ninja 400R ! It will perform short or long distances and is for either urban commute or highway riding. It’s not too big, not to small- the Ninja that’s just right!
View full specifications on Canadian Kawasaki’s website!
MOTORESS director, Vicki Gray is a basic and advanced motorcycle instructor – certified for over 25 years. She is a motorcycle licensing examiner and has instructed, examined and licensed riders for European and North American road racing schools.