Rise & Ride: Kawasaki Ninja 400 SE Long Term Test

Article by Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers When you hear the name ‘Ninja’, two words come to mind: green and fast. 37 years down the line, Kawasaki’s favourite assassin has grown into a family name—one that describes a rather sporty range of motorcycles. The Ninja’s performance is legendary—but in recent years, Kawasaki has carried the […]

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Article by Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

When you hear the name ‘Ninja’, two words come to mind: green and fast. 37 years down the line, Kawasaki’s favourite assassin has grown into a family name—one that describes a rather sporty range of motorcycles. The Ninja’s performance is legendary—but in recent years, Kawasaki has carried the Ninja crest onto a select few starter bikes.

Kawasaki’s Ninja 250R was one of those bikes—an entry-level sportsbike that got many newbies onto two wheels. Over the years this legendary beginner bike slowly grew in capacity, developing into the race-bred WorldSSP300 championship-winning Ninja 400—unstoppable for the last four years.

This begs the question: is the Ninja 400 still a viable option for beginners, and is it enough bike for advanced riders?

Right now, the modern sportsbike class is having a bit of an identity crisis. 600 cc inline-fours are dying a slow death, leaving a massive gap between the starter bikes and the fire-breathing superbikes. Many brands are thinking completely outside the box right now, and have started bringing back 600 cc-plus twins. But honestly, I think the Ninja 400 might just slide into this new class of sportsbike too.

My test bike was the lovely 2021 ‘SE’ model, which comes standard with ABS brakes, and a Johnny Rea WSBK-Esque livery blending green, black and white, with subtle red and green pinstriping. When it comes to looks the Ninja gets a ten out of ten from me—mirroring the H2 and ZX-10 with its pointy fairings, LED lights, sharp tail and trellis frame. Most people can’t even tell that it’s just a 400 cc bike.

The Ninja’s 399 cc parallel-twin is a grunty motor that loves to be revved, with 44.5 hp on tap at 10,000 rpm, and 38 Nm of torque at 8,000 rpm. In town, you can shift under 6,000 rpm with its light slipper clutch and still hustle plenty quick enough, while riding economically off the Ninja’s torquey bottom end. If you ride like this, you’ll be able to get between 29 to 31 km/L—and with a 14-litre tank, that’s just over 400 km in the urban sprawl.

The Ninja has an intoxicating twin-cam growl from 7,500 rpm, and will climb all the way to 12,000 rpm, by which point you’ll be doing over 190 km/h. Its high top-end means you can also cruise comfortably at 120 km/h while only sitting at 7,000 rpm—a whole 5,000 rpm from the buzzer. The Ninja’s gearing also lends itself to ease of use at lower speeds, allowing the rider to open the throttle to a smooth and linear feed of power. You’ll average an easy 23 km/L on your daily sporty commute, which still leaves you with a reasonable range of around 320 km.

I’ve ridden the Ninja 400 in almost every kind of scenario, except on a long road trip—so that itch needed to get scratched. To test the Ninja’s long legs, I decided to hit the open road to Mpumalanga (Sabie specifically) with my buddy Dave on his Honda VFR 800. An 800-odd km single day trip on a 400 cc motorcycle sounds like hell, but the Ninja’s high clip-ons, semi-bubble screen, fully-faired sports fairing, well-positioned foot pegs and tall gearing made it all doable. The seat could have been softer though.

Dave and I were both surprised at how well the Ninja took to touring, and how easily it kept up with the bigger motorcycle. I think it’s a big plus that the Ninja can munch big kays—this opens up a whole new world and style of riding that a beginner wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to.

On the road, the Ninja’s suspension doesn’t disappoint. The 41 mm front forks have no adjustment, but are really dialled-in for our slick and dodgy roads. With my 75 kilos on board, the rear preload-adjustable shock worked well, although I wouldn’t mind it a tad bit stiffer. The Nissin brake callipers stop the Ninja effortlessly, and I felt like I had good modulation during braking. My only complaint is not having adjustable brake and clutch levers.

If you wanted to do a track day on the Ninja 400, you’d get a lot out of it in its stock trim. The front forks, although soft, work just fine, and provide good feel through the bends. The rear shock and ground clearance of the pegs will get in the way of setting some really quick laps—but that’s an easy and cheap upgrade to make the Ninja a short circuit weapon.

With a seat height of 785 mm the Ninja will accommodate both tall and short riders, with reasonable seat and bar reach too. Besides the motor, my favourite thing about the Ninja is its slipper clutch—making quick down-shifts stable, and pulling in the clutch an almost effortless task.

Tech-wise the Ninja is pretty old school. The display is race-like, with a cool-looking analogue rev counter, and a smaller digital display focusing on all the important riding info; trip, averages, time, gear indicator, range, fuel level and odo. Not having a TFT display with all its gadgetry isn’t a negative on this bike, as I feel the Ninja is a true rider’s bike—built to chase RPMs and apexes. (And besides, it would surely push the price up into big bike territory.)

I spent 3000 km on the Ninja on this test, and have racked up a total of almost 8000 km on it over the last few years. And I can still get on the Ninja and have a blast every time. It’s really made me realise how much I hate the whole ‘growing out of a motorcycle’ mentality—something I’ve honestly never experienced myself on the Ninja. I know more than a handful of riders who are super quick—riders who can ride a Ninja 400 faster than poseurs on bigger, more powerful machines.

In summary, the Ninja 400 is still one of the best entry points into the sportsbike world. And even if sport isn’t your thing, you’ve got an economic, lightweight, long-legged, good looking, comfortable and cheap-to-run motorcycle. The SE will set you back R104,995, and the non-ABS Ninja 400 will set you back R99,995 (it comes in black or grey).

Yes, it costs 100k or more. But we’re living in a time where everything has gone up in price… and the Ninja is still competitively priced within its class.

 

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Kawasaki has come, seen and conquered Cross Country

Kawasaki has won, just three races since its return to the MSA South African National Cross Country Motorcycle Championship. Franchise Co CIT rider Michael Pentecost swapped over to a Kawasaki KX450X alongside the regular Pepson Plastics Kawasaki Motul team and went on to dominate his first race aboard his green machine at Matatiele over the […]

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Kawasaki has won, just three races since its return to the MSA South African National Cross Country Motorcycle Championship. Franchise Co CIT rider Michael Pentecost swapped over to a Kawasaki KX450X alongside the regular Pepson Plastics Kawasaki Motul team and went on to dominate his first race aboard his green machine at Matatiele over the weekend.

It was a good day at the races for the Pepson Plastics Kawasaki Motul crew too. D’Artagnan Lobjoit rode home third in open class OR1 and sixth overall, while Kyle Mckenzie and Taki Bogiages came in fourth and fifth in 250cc four stroke OR3 on their Pepson Plastics Motul Kawasaki KX250Xs. Another Franchise Co CIT rider Deon du Toit ended second in over-30s Seniors on his KX250X.

“What an incredible first race on my new Kawasaki KX450X,” Mike Pentecost explained. “We won — what more can I say! “I was third in the time trial and then had a great first lap dicing with Brad Cox and I managed to move into the lead. “My second lap was the fastest of the day and then settled into a rhythm for the win. “What a feeling! “My bike was faultless, my team fantastic and this was one of the best organised and marked races I have ever done — world class for sure!”

D’Artagnan Lobjoit was ecstatic with his run to third in OR1. “My Pepson Plastics Kawasaki Motul KX450X ran like a train throughout and I’m delighted with another OR1 podium,” Dart admitted. “My pace was consistent and quick and I loved the changing conditions from rocky sandstone through sandy sections to the gum plantations. All areas where my bike felt brilliant. “We move back up to Gauteng and Delmas next — I love the quick stuff and I can’t wait for more of that!”

Kyle Mackenzie was also over the moon about his performance. “I had a really good day in the Matatiele mountains,” Kyle pointed out. My Pepson Plastics Kawasaki Motul KX250X really felt amazing through all the different terrains on the track. “I started quite far back and managed to get up to fourth in the OR3 class. “The track was really fun and I can’t wait for the next race on home turf in Delmas. “Bring it on.”

Taki Bogiages was happy to jump up the OR3 championship table despite some challenges along the way. “It was awesome to be out racing as always,” Taki confirmed. “The diverse track really tested us in so many ways and my Pepson Plastics Kawasaki Motul KX250X was awesome today. “Unfortunately I hit a stump and damaged my chain, but still gave it my best shot to come home fifth in OR3. “It’s closer than ever in the championship, so bring on those next two races!”

Pepson Plastics Kawasaki Motul Racing team boss Iain Pepper was delighted with the Matatiele result. “Kawasaki has only been back in South African Cross Country for three races and we have already won. “Congratulations to Franchise Co CIT Kawasaki rider Michael Pentecost for a sensational debut win on his green machine and to our Pepson Plastics Kawasaki Motul Racing regulars, Dart, Kyle and Taki for an incredible effort. “This is the first of many more Kawasaki wins!”

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Rea Takes Two More Podiums In Spain

Jonathan Rea (KRT) secured two more strong podium finishes in hot riding conditions at an all-new WorldSBK venue to leave Navarra with the joint lead of the 2021 championship. At the halfway point of the season Alex Lowes finished his two races on Sunday in fifth and sixth position respectively to retain his fourth place […]

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Jonathan Rea (KRT) secured two more strong podium finishes in hot riding conditions at an all-new WorldSBK venue to leave Navarra with the joint lead of the 2021 championship. At the halfway point of the season Alex Lowes finished his two races on Sunday in fifth and sixth position respectively to retain his fourth place championship ranking.

The first ever WorldSBK round at the Circuito de Navarra was a tough challenge for six-times champion Jonathan Rea but he left with a full house of podium places, after placing second and third today.

In the first points scoring opportunity on Sunday, the ten lap Tissot Superpole Race, Rea was a battling and close second, just over one second behind the race winner.

As the temperatures increased for the planned 23-lap Race Two Rea would end up third, fighting grip issues in the later laps after riding in second place for most of what was a 22-lap race, in reality.

The start of Race Two was delayed as two riders in the starting line up had separate issues and the other riders had to sit on the grid for some time before the ‘Start Delayed’ board was shown. One lap was removed from the race distance as a consequence of the late start.

Lowes rode strongly in the Superpole ‘Sprint’ race on Sunday morning and placed fifth. He had more issues as the track temperatures rose in the afternoon but after qualifying seventh on Saturday he ended his Navarra race weekend with fifth place on Saturday and then another fifth and finally a sixth place on Sunday.

As the championship fight heats up and the mid-point of the season has been crossed over this weekend Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu are tied on 311 points, as joint leaders of the championship. Scott Redding, Race One and Superpole race winner at Navarra, is third overall with 273 points. Lowes has 169 points, in fourth position.

The championship visits a well known venue in France for Round Eight, when Magny Cours hosts the next event between 3-5 September.

Jonathan Rea, stated: “I had a little bit more margin today. I felt after the Superpole race that I could really fight for it in Race Two. Toprak made a huge step, he was very fast and the rhythm was faster than yesterday. For ten laps I was fighting, fighting, fighting, and I was just waiting for his speed to drop off – but it never really did. I was losing front feeling, having a lot of front slides and it was time for me then to consolidate. I had a big moment in the last corner, when I hit an object on the track, which was just off line. That made the front bobble and I caught the slide, and then I had another slide in T13. It was one of those – a tough weekend. It wasn’t perfect for everybody, people were slipping and sliding around, but it penalised us a little bit more. That said, it was solid. I wasn’t confident coming here so to come away with what we did, and not losing too many points in the championship. It could have been much worse for us.”

Alex Lowes, stated: “The Superpole Race was good for us. We made a few changes on the bike after yesterday and I was stronger. I was able to get closer to the guys in front. The pace felt quite good to the end, nice and consistent. We decided to keep the bike the same for the last race when the temperature went up. I got a good start again but on lap one at T9 everybody was trying to get into position. There are not too many places to pass around here and when Tom Sykes hit me I had to release the brake or else I was going to hit Andrea Locatelli. That was a shame because it put me right back. I struggled to come back through. I was faster than Michael van der Mark but it took me five or six laps to pass him and by the time I had got on the back of him my tyre was moving a lot. It was a frustrating race because I could not fight like I wanted to.”

Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) had some startline dramas in Race Two and eventually had to take two long lap penalties as a result, but he finished his comeback weekend from injury 15th in the Superpole race and 14th in Race Two.

Loris Cresson (TPR Outdo Kawasaki) was 20th and 17th today; Jayson Uribe (TPR Outdo Kawasaki) was 21st in the sprint and then 16th in the longer race.

2021 KRT Rider WorldSBK Statistics

Jonathan Rea: World Champion 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020
2021: Races 21, Wins 8, Podiums 19, Superpoles 7
Career Race Wins: 107 (92 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 204 (162 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 34 (30 for Kawasaki)

Alex Lowes:
2021: Races: 21, Wins 0, Podiums 4, Superpoles 0
Career Race Wins: 2 (1 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 28 (8 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 1 (0 for Kawasaki)

8 x Riders’ Championships (Scott Russell 1993, Tom Sykes 2013, Rea 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020), 1 x EVO Riders’ Championship (David Salom 2014)
6 x Manufacturers’ Championships (Ninja ZX-10R 2015 & 2016, Ninja ZX-10RR 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020)
5 x Teams’ Championships (KRT/Provec Racing 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019)

Kawasaki FIM Superbike World Championship Statistics
Total Kawasaki Race Wins: 166 – second overall
Total Kawasaki Podiums: 477 – second overall
Total Kawasaki Poles: 99 – second overall

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