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2011 Kawasaki Ninja 400R Review


by Dustin A. Woods ,

Kawasaki attempted to reduce vibration felt by the rider through the addition of rubber to the upper-rear engine mounts, handlebars and foot pegs. Further refinements include a useful fuel gauge, two trip meters, a clock, and a bar-graph tachometer. Having the chance to use the 400R as both an urban commuter and weekend warrior, I found myself enjoying it the more I rode.

For those embarrassed about riding a smaller-displacement machine, the consistent Ninja styling is more substantial than its engine size would suggest, meaning that most people thought it was a bigger and more expensive bike than it is. At $6,999, it’s tough to find a better deal on the market today.

People often ask me what kind of sportbike they should get as an inaugural introduction into this glorious two-wheeled hobby of ours. Having the chance to ride some truly magnificent and exotic motorcycles of all genres and displacements, I have no shortage of opinions on those I enjoy or abhor, but am often stumped by this common inquiry.

Unlike ultra-light dirtbikes where anything over 80 cc can be a blast, I’ve never recommended a road bike under 250 cc because they just felt far too lethargic to me; gasping for air as I attempted to merge with traffic at highway speeds, I genuinely feel like I am inflicting irreparable damage as I wrung its powerband within an inch of its life. I also tend to shy away from recommending a 600-cc sportbike to anyone I have more than mediocre affection for.

At $6,999, it’s tough to find a better deal on the market today. (Photo: Dustin A. Woods/

Far more user-friendly and refined than days of yore, a middleweight can still be a lethal weapon in the hands of a beginner who doesn’t have the utmost respect for the machine. Ergo, this 400R slides seamlessly into a beginner bike sweet spot that I would have no qualms about recommending to anyone interested in taking up the sport. While it may be picking up on an older trend from days of yore, there is nothing retro or out of style about the Kawasaki Ninja 400R.

Agile, well balanced
Comfortable riding position
Affordable cost of entry and ownership

Small mirrors
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