Kawasaki Z400: The Green Hornet

Article by Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers On the dark side of Japan, there’s a group that rule the streets and they go by the name of “The Z Gang”. This notorious group of street fighters live and breathe the Sugomi lifestyle, which translates to something wild, something fierce and ready to pounce on its […]

The post Kawasaki Z400: The Green Hornet appeared first on .

Article by Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

On the dark side of Japan, there’s a group that rule the streets and they go by the name of “The Z Gang”. This notorious group of street fighters live and breathe the Sugomi lifestyle, which translates to something wild, something fierce and ready to pounce on its prey. With rumours floating around about a new Z on the block, I decided to track down this new so called Z to find out if it has what it takes to wear the Z badge. Midnight was the hour and down town Fountains Circle was the location, in which I spotted the Z400.

With every step bringing me closer to the growling 399cm³ twin, perplexed thoughts started to line up with small details making it unambiguously clear. Starting from the infamous evil lights, to the sharp shoulders in front of the tank right till the strikingly sharp tail, leaving you this squat down kind of look. From a looks perspective it certainly has the “Sugomi” effect with every line showing off an aggressive persona and alongside it’s design the paint job is very stealthy. Kawasaki call this paint job “Storm”, with a metallic black tank and some candy green looking Z finishes on the side fairings, this really underlines it’s aggressive design features.

After spending a few days and a few hundred kay’s together, the Green Hornet and I have become somewhat familiar with one another. Although the bike is styled very aggressively, don’t let that put you off. As far as ergonomics go the Z400 is “Spot On” and is by far the most enjoyable and comfortable light weight naked bike that I have rode within it’s segment.

Grab the bars and swing your leg over and the first thing you will notice is the low seat height, which is there to accommodate a larger variety of riders as well as to give you more confidence. Another thing you will notice is that you are not mounted on top, but rather in the motorcycle, with the tank being higher and the bars within easy reach. A soft seat combined with a small fly-screen is close to luxury for us naked bike riders and that is what you get on the Z400. Kawasaki do have a taller screen available but honestly by sitting so low in the saddle, I don’t feel the need for one.

Put the key in and turn the ignition on, the green hornet has a Z650 inspired dash with all the information one needs to know. Ok, so it’s not a TFT display but to be honest the Z400 has a dash that just works and with less distractions, I was certainly a happy sailor only having to deal with two buttons. The switch gear is very basic and just like on the Ninja 400, unfortunately not backlit but again once you get familiar with the controls this becomes second nature just like pulling in a clutch.

Time to slide on my Arai and zip up, for the Z400 and I have some dark streets and alleyways to tear up. With Queen’s song “Tear it up” playing in the back of my mind like a back track to a getaway scene in a movie, I felt like a total badass on the Green Hornet. Nothing inspires a rider more at the darkest hour than a good set of lights. The Green Hornet’s evil eyes stare into the darkest of dark and bring forth the light. All this is done with ease as the dark is taunted by a smirk coming from the Z400 and a growl as I shift past 7500 RPM, just where the downdraft intake starts to purr.

The Z400 has the same 399cm³ motor that has proven to be a versatile and fun crackerjack of a motor in the Ninja 400. What many manufacturers do when making a naked version of a bike is change the gear ratios, making the naked option shorter geared for town use but this usually leads to a massive blackhole on the highway or on the open road. Kawasaki have not changed the gearing on the Z400 so you’ve got an easy and smooth bike to ride in town under 7000 rpm with peak power only kicking in at 10 000 rpm with an impressive 44.5hp and a good hit of 38Nm of torque. This all translates to a comfy 7000 rpm at 120km/h in 6th gear on the open road with still 5000rpm at hand before the red line is met.

With low revs being achieved, thanks to Kawasaki’s smart gear ratio, you are blessed with not only a class leading top speed but also a great fuel economy. A 14 litre tank is what you get, and with those 14 litres of fuel I managed to get just under 318 kilometres (22.7km/L) in which there was mostly urban and highway riding involved. I must add that this was achieved due to ZA Bikers weight protocol (My 70kg’s), just like in MotoGP were weight is critical when it comes to the handling of a motorcycle and in my case fuel economy on the smaller bikes.

As the Sun starts to rise the Green Hornet and I are greeted with sunny skies and dry-ish roads. Whilst approaching corners, gear after gear is found smoothly and without any hassle. Two knocks down with my left foot and the slipper clutch is released, with the help of both ABS equipped Nissin callipers, the front Showa forks are compressed and ready to lean in with the Dunlop Sportmax tyres warmed up. From entry to mid and beyond, the Z400 holds it’s line giving you supersports bike confidence and naked bike comfort all at once. Kawasaki say they have softened the suspension by 10% and man my thumbs are up because it hasn’t taken anything away from sporty riding; and for the streets it has actually improved it all round.

So I was asked the question by Simon and Dave, whether I would park the Z400 or the Ninja 400 in my garage. Watching all of Kawasaki Motors “Toughest Choice Ninja Or Z” videos the past year, I never thought it would be so difficult to answer the very question myself. After what felt like years of thinking and meditating on all the strong points of each bike, I nearly went into a mental state and just decided to flip a coin because honestly they are both awesome bikes. Unfortunately the coin landed in a pond so my answer is inconclusive but do yourselves a favour and visit a Kawasaki dealer and take both bikes for a doddle. You won’t be left unsatisfied – that I can guarantee.

Static photo credit: Bjorn Moreira

Action photo credit: Meredith Potgieter

The post Kawasaki Z400: The Green Hornet appeared first on .

The 2018 Ninja 400 SE – The Ninja Family is Getting Bigger

The smallest member of the Ninja family started it’s life as a 250cc, grew to 300, and now, with styling inspired by the championship-winning ZX-10R and the Ninja H2, enter the new Kawasaki Ninja 400 SE. The Ninja 400 is not a face lifted Ninja 300. It has received new brakes, suspension, chassis, rider geometry, […]

The post The 2018 Ninja 400 SE – The Ninja Family is Getting Bigger appeared first on .

The smallest member of the Ninja family started it’s life as a 250cc, grew to 300, and now, with styling inspired by the championship-winning ZX-10R and the Ninja H2, enter the new Kawasaki Ninja 400 SE.

Photo Credit: Bjorn Moreira

The Ninja 400 is not a face lifted Ninja 300. It has received new brakes, suspension, chassis, rider geometry, wheels and bodywork, making this a completely redesigned motorcycle for 2018. The main difference is the trellis frame inspired from the Ninja H2, which features a shorter wheelbase and steeper rake over the previous model. Kawasaki impressively has made the 400 Ninja 8kg lighter than the 300, tipping the scales at 168 kg.

Engine Characteristics

The Ninja 400 doesn’t just leave the traffic behind, it also punches way above it’s weight from robot to robot. The plucky little 399cm³ parallel twin engine pulls well enough at low revs, and produces a noticeable added kick from above 7 000 rpm and lays down 45hp at 10 000 rpm, with a Max Torque output of 38Nm.

The Engine loves being revved out like a sports bike, with a red line at 12 000 rpm It is a pleasure to ride on the highway in where it allows you to travel at a comfy 120 km/h at only 7 000 rpm. Top speed of a motorcycle is always a contest in every motorcycle category and this Ninja tops out on a level road at 192 km/h, which is decently fast for a 399cc motorcycle.

Photo Credit: Kawasaki EU

Engineers at Kawasaki maintain that a lot of the bike’s power gains are fulfilled by utilizing a new downdraft intake with a larger air-box. What impressed me almost as much as the bike’s new found power, was the deeper intake note, which gives the bike a mean growl at 6 000 rpm and upwards. What I found enjoyable and practical for everyday use was the assist & slipper clutch which gives you a lighter clutch lever pull, and when downshifting fast, there was no chatter or bouncing rear wheel.

Suspension

Photo Credit: Bjorn Moreira

The Ninja 400 is fitted with non-adjustable, traditional Showa front forks and a five-position adjustable preload ring on the rear KYB bottom-link Uni-Trak shock. Although the suspension is non-adjustable, (barring in mind the rear preload), it was no real loss to me, weighing in at 69kg’s, the set-up is spot-on for riders of similar weight. The forks have grown in size from 37mm to 41mm and provide a firm, precise ride that is enjoyable during sporty riding and comfortable around town.

Photo Credit: Kawasaki Eu

Overall the bike’s balance is remarkable thanks to the new trellis frame which uses the engine as a stressed member and has the swing-arm mounted directly to it.

Brakes

Photo Credit: Bjorn Moreira

The brakes are bigger as well, with the front rotor up 20mm to a full-sized 310mm. The new Ninja 400 now uses dual-piston Nissin calipers at the front and the rear, with Nissin’s newest ABS control unit available as an option. Over the past 2 weeks the Ninja and I got the chance to ride in all sorts of weather, and having the ABS option made my life so much less stressed on oily and rainy South African roads. The ABS cannot be disengaged, so if you are a track rider then you could save a few rand and go for the none ABS model. When it comes to brake feel, the initial bite is not instant and the brake lever is non adjustable, but after riding for a while it becomes predictable and second nature when getting on the anchors.

Lights

Photo Credit: Bjorn Moreira

The Ninja comes armed with Lean LED headlamps which gives the Ninja 400 a mean, sharp, aggressive look, so much so that I have nicknamed our test bike “The Gremlin”. The headlamps each featuring low and high beams that are highly visible and offer significantly increased brightness compared to the Ninja 300.

Tyres

The new five-spoke mag wheels look awesome! and wearing the Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300 radial tyres with a 110/70R17 at the front and a 150/60R17 at the rear – they are also functional too. Original tyres that come fitted on bikes are often a let down, but it was quite the opposite in this case. At times the bike leaned lower than what I expected, pushing me to the point of deciding to suit up and drag a knee.

Rider Cockpit

Photo Credit: Bjorn Moreira

The clip-on handlebars still feature the same amount of rise, but are pulled 15mm closer to the rider, while the foot pegs are moved 9mm backwards. The seat height remains the same at 785mm and provides an easy reach to the ground, even for short riders.

Photo Credit: Bjorn Moreira

The seat itself has thick cushioning and low-rebound urethane, all which contributes to a superb comfortable ride. At 170cm tall the cockpit fitted me like a glove, however with a size 8 shoe I did have issues with my heel hitting the exhausts heat shield whilst riding on the ball’s of my feet.

Photo Credit: Bjorn Moreira

Clocks are from the Ninja 650 and comprise an analogue tacho plus an LCD panel displaying speed, fuel, trip, km/l average, as well as a current and a very useful gear indicator. Overall fit and finish is excellent and on a par, if not better than current competitors in it’s class.

Photo Credit: Bjorn Moreira

Even though the Ninja 400 doesn’t have an adjustable screen it did it’s job just fine. If you are a taller rider, Kawasaki do make larger screens which are 20mm taller and 40mm wider. The mirrors stick out a fair bit, and more than on the Ninja 300, whilst lane splitting it can give you that hesitant feeling where you ask yourself am I going to fit? When it comes to function they work well with minimal vibration and they can be slightly adjusted, I say slightly because you can only move the mirrors and not the stems.

Photo Credit: Bjorn Moreira

Fuel Economy

After riding the Ninja 400 for five days and just under 1 000 km, I can report that I managed, on a good day, to get an average fuel consumption of 27 km/l. You can expect to get between 20 and 23 km/l when riding briskly or in typical rush hour traffic.

Photo Credit: Bjorn Moreira

A 14 litre tank is what you get, and with those 14 litres of fuel I managed 322 kilometres in which there was urban, sporty and highway riding involved.

Conclusion

When I just got into high school, 125cc bikes were known as beginner bikes and if you had a 250cc, you were the man. Kawasaki changed that with the Ninja 300 and now with the 400 Ninja. Kawasaki have managed to build a bike that is suitable for a beginner, yet exhilarating for pretty much anyone.

Photo Credit: Bjorn Moreira

What amazed me the most whilst riding the bike and gathering notes for this review, wasn’t how good this bike is for a beginner, but rather how good a motorcycle it is, period! Whether you’re a new rider who wants something that transmits a big-bike style, or you’re a skilful rider looking for a lightweight backroad carver or track-bike, that will cost very little to maintain – the Ninja 400 is certainly going to appeal to a wide variety of riders.

The post The 2018 Ninja 400 SE – The Ninja Family is Getting Bigger appeared first on .

Super Charged Dexterous

Back in 1971, when I was still very much in Bag-dad, Kawasaki set the world ablaze with the introduction of the fastest production motorcycle ever; the H2. A two-stroke (those smokey engines) with a 7 500 rpm redline, which was high for the time, and a 1:1 horsepower-to-weight ratio. It would send inexperienced riders wheelie-ing […]

The post Super Charged Dexterous appeared first on .

Back in 1971, when I was still very much in Bag-dad, Kawasaki set the world ablaze with the introduction of the fastest production motorcycle ever; the H2. A two-stroke (those smokey engines) with a 7 500 rpm redline, which was high for the time, and a 1:1 horsepower-to-weight ratio. It would send inexperienced riders wheelie-ing over backwards and beating their friends to every red light—but you’d also likely blow through that red light. The original H2 was nicknamed the Widowmaker for its ridiculous power and lackluster brakes and suspension. It was dangerously fast.

Forty-four years later and Kawasaki would once again stun the world, reintroducing the H2, but this time swopping the insanely powerful 2-stroke motor with that of a 1000cc supercharged powerplant.

The H2R was born – a 300hp track-only animal that would make even Chuck Norris soil himself. This, again, made the H2 the world’s fastest production motorcycle.

In 2016, Kawasaki made the supercharged Ninja H2 available to the masses. With 100 horsepower less, R300k cheaper and a license plate and mirrors, customers who were brave enough, and more importantly had the money, could experience the anger and pleasure from the supercharged litre beast.

I have been lucky enough to have tested both the H2R and H2 base models. The H2R brings a whole new meaning to the word scary, while the H2 was sublime in just about every aspect. The only problem was that it was restricted to a small customer base, not only because of its hefty price, but also its aggressive nature. Not many riders could, or wanted to handle that much power. It’s great for the odd out-ride and breakfast run sprint, but even that is a lot of work and leaves your body feeling a bit battered. However, it’s a riding experience like no other and one that every biking nut should be able to engage in. Kawasaki have now answered the cries from Customers and Dealers asking for a more refined and user-friendly version of its supercharged phenomenon. Basically, an H2 you can ride every day.

Ninja H2 SX

Kawasaki’s latest member of the Ninja H2 family is a supercharged, 200hp sportbike with a comfy passenger seat and space for panniers. The bike is a mix of crazy speed and comfort. As Kawasaki puts it: “The Ninja H2 SX is the “Supercharged Sportbike” offering the most desirable street qualities of Hyperbikes, Sportbikes and Sport Touring bikes”. It is, in short, wonderfully excessive.

It’s a sportbike with touring features, 200hp, tons of electronics and a supercharger; no other motorcycle on the market can be described this way… “It’s a cross between a hyperbike, sportbike and sport touring bike” say Kawasaki. “There’s no competition.”

There is no competition and that’s what makes it so special, apart from the supercharged motor of course. Kawasaki were very clever in using the one-of-a-kind engine in a sophisticated platform. They have in the past released some of the best sport touring bikes – the ZZR range and more recent Z1000SX. While the ZZR 1400 is still a valid option, especially here in SA where it’s loved, the Z1000SX never really took off. Journos and Customers alike loved the overall feel and comfort of the bike but were left wanting more from the engine and electronics.

The new Ninja H2 SX now replaces the Z1000SX as Kawasaki’s new sports touring option. While Kawasaki’s focus on the H2R and its de-tuned civilian counterpart H2 were very much on speed above all else, the H2 SX has been completely reworked and refined for comfort and everyday rider friendliness. That translates to ergonomics revised for a less aggressive riding position, an added rear seat to share in the fun and 58 litres of luggage-carrying capacity for extended trips. Don’t let the civilities fool you though. The supercharged 998cc inline-four engine still coughs up a titanic 200hp, supplemented with a whirl from the boost that constantly entices you for more throttle. Kawasaki sent the outraged powerhouse to anger management classes to help clam it down. The result is a much more sensible, efficient, everyday satisfying agent that is a pleasure to operate. Power a plenty no matter the rpm or gear, just twist-and-go. Acceleration is where you can really feel the advantage of the supercharger, but overall speed doesn’t feel any faster than a normally aspirated litre machine. Producing 137Nm of torque at only 9 500rpm helps deliver the power faster than anything else out there in the production superbike category. That’s 13 more than the new all-conquering Ducati Panigale V4, although I still think the 1100cc V4 Italian Stallion would achieve a faster top speed. One thing the V4 or any other superbike does not have is that supercharged whistle on deceleration, which is still very apparent and fulfilling on the H2 SX.

While attending anger management classes the H2 SX did gain a bit of weight, 18 kilos in total. Although, out on the road this actually helps improve the bikes overall stability. The chubby weight and 30mm longer wheelbase give it a much more balanced feel in all areas, without hampering the handling. It’s no racy superbike for sure, but the agility is surprisingly good considering its weight.

The standard setup is not ideal for attacking turns. The front end is soft causing the front to float a bit in the turns.
More weight is needed on the front, so I would suggest a couple of turns of pre-load to load up the front and make it more planted, which is easily done on the fully adjustable suspension.

The riding position is cozy. It’s the business class of sports tourers with its upright bars perfectly set, high screen that offers brilliant wind protection and a seat that doesn’t leave your rear end feeling like it spent a night in a Nigerian prison cell. Out on the open road is where the SX showed its true capabilities, showing off its allure like a show pony at a competition.

The SX handled the everyday commuting I did adequately. The clutch was easy to use and getting the chubby machine on and off the side stand was a lot easier than I thought. Seat height is well placed and even a standard-sized rider like myself never felt intimidated or uncomfortable. The heat from the engine was welcomed on the cold morning commutes, but not so much in the afternoon heat. Still, it’s way cooler than the Ninja H2 superbike. The SX’s engine temperature didn’t spiral once on the stop-start commute, this thanks to the massive nostrils at the front helping keep the hot-headed motor as cool as possible. They also added that aggressive styling that makes the H2 so enticing. The clutch was reasonably light and easy to use, while gear changes were better and smoother than the old school clutchless way. The gearbox was not the slickest and this brings me to my first of the two small complaints I had with the SX. Firstly, no quick-shifter standard on the SX model and secondly the same old plain-Jane analogue/digital TFT LCD dash. On a new 2018 model bike that cost R260 000 you would think a quick-shifter and colour display dash would be obvious inclusions as standard.

Sadly, they’re not. They do however come standard on the top of the range SX SE model, which costs R40k more, along with auto-blip for clutchless downshifts, launch control, heated grips, slightly bigger screen, braided hoses and very neat cornering lights built into each side of the fairing. This latter feature further illuminates the road when cornering at night.

I can’t for the life of me understand why Kawasaki would not just have a quick-shifter standard on the SX model. Not only would it add extra value to the bike, but also disguise the slightly stiff gear changes. Any modern-day motorcycle over 500cc should come standard with a quick-shifter, that’s how I see it. As for the dash, not sure what Kawasaki have against going the route all its competitors have gone. Nothing better than climbing on a new bike, turning the key on and seeing that massive colour TFT LCD digital screen light up with some funky graphics. This does not happen on the SX model, but is better on the up-specced SE model which comes with a better-looking colour dash.

Despite these two gripes the SX is still packed with loads of electronic wizardry. Everything from cruise control, to the very intelligent Kawasaki Cornering Management Function (KCMF) which oversees 3-mode traction control, wheelie control, engine brake control and Kawasaki’s Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (including pitching and corner braking control). There are three power modes delivering 50, 75 and 100 % of the engine capabilities as well as ABS.

Kawasaki claim 25% better fuel efficiency, saying it’s “on par” with the Versys 1000, which gets a claimed 15 kilometres per litre. That’s a big statement to make considering it’s a supercharged motor. Kawasaki claims more than 300 km fuel range from the 19-litre tank. Out on the open road the best I got was 15.4km per litre, riding patiently and sticking to the speed limit. That figure went up to 17km per litre when I wanted to explore more of the supercharged engines power. On the everyday magazine delivery commute, I averaged around 15.8km per litre, again riding more responsibly.

Braking was sharp and efficient with a great feel and never once faded during short or long rides. The ABS gets the job done nicely in the background without interfering too much.

The SX model is only available in what Kawasaki call “Metallic Carbon Gray/Metallic Matte Carbon Gray”, and while it sparkles exquisitely under sunlight, it doesn’t paint quite the same portrait parked in the shade. This is where it loses all its charisma and highlights the need for some extra colour. The SX SE models “Emerald Blazed Green/Metallic Diablo Black” colour scheme looks much more suited and highlights the bikes aggressive styling a bit more.

Conclusion

At the end of the day Kawasaki have made their supercharged engine more refined and open to the everyday rider. The new H2 SX is an accomplished blend of exhilarating power and performance, paired with comfort and efficiency. While it’s near perfect, you must anticipate the Ninja H2 SX within its realm of reality. It’s still a sports bike, just more upright and relaxed. The bike is a mix of crazy speed and comfort. As Kawasaki puts it: “The Ninja H2 SX is the “Supercharged Sportbike” offering the most desirable street qualities of Hyperbikes, Sportbikes and Sport Touring bikes”.
It is, in short, wonderfully excessive.

I really enjoyed my time on the SX and I must take my hat off to Kawasaki SA for making both models well priced in a market spiraling out of control. At R259 900 for the SX you get a lot of bike missing one or two little tricks and R299 900 for the complete package SE model, so I would lean more towards the SE model. Either way, you can now ride a supercharged bike that does not want to rip your arms off and have you visiting the chiropractor after every ride.

The post Super Charged Dexterous appeared first on .