Trends in the motorcycle industry, much like fashion, seem to come full circle every few decades. Flipping through a wedding album at a 44th wedding anniversary celebration for my aunt and uncle recently, I noticed many similarities to contemporary trends. Looking like a current issue of GQ, albeit in black and white, all of the men in attendance seemed to be wearing thick-rimmed glasses, euro-cut suits and skinny ties.
|The 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 400R has made a splash this year for reviving a segment that remained dormant since the discontinuation of the ZXR400 back in ‘93. (Photo: Dustin A. Woods/Moto123.com)
Blame it on the popularity of Mad Men if you wish, but what is old somehow manages to be new again. Much in the same manner, the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 400R
has made a splash this year for reviving a segment that remained dormant since the discontinuation of the ZXR400 back in ‘93.
There were days when a 750-cc motorcycle was thought to be excessive. People questioned the sanity and suicidal tendencies of those brave riders who would so flippantly disregard the laws of physics by mounting a hefty projectile suitable for breaking the sound barrier. At that time, most riders were satisfied to whip around with a paltry 350 or 400 cubic-centimetre powerplant between their legs.
Some time ago, the mantra of bigger is better took hold and the industry hasn’t been the same since. Honda made waves in 2007 by offering their venerable CBR125R
, and Kawasaki rounded out the bottom if their Ninja lineup with the 250R, but there wasn’t much to speak of between these beginner bikes and the high-strung 600s. Kawasaki has effectively closed this obvious gap that existed in the marketplace by offering the Ninja 400R, a 399-cc fuel-injected parallel twin that rounds out the venerable Ninja line-up of sportbikes with substance.
The powerband takes some getting used to, because it revs higher than I’ve become accustomed to, but that doesn’t mean the 400R isn’t up for some fun. To put things into perspective, the middle child four-hundred churns out 44 hp at 9,500 rpm compared to the 71 hp at 8,500 rpm of its bigger sibling, the 650R. Where it truly excels is in its agility.
The little Ninja’s handlebar and peg placement, narrow seat and acceptable curb weight of 203 kg allow it to fight above its weight class. Two-piston calipers do a good job of grabbing dual 300-mm petal discs up front while a single piston handles stopping duties in the rear, care of a 220-mm disc. The lack of ABS means that the rear end tended to get a little tail-happy under hard braking, but was predictable and easily managed.
|Two-piston calipers do a good job of grabbing dual 300-mm petal discs up front. (Photo: Dustin A. Woods/Moto123.com)