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Kawasaki Ninja 400 Test Ride Review

August 2018

By Sharon Parker

So MCO is having a open day. You can pop down, have a free brew and something to eat all while taking an array of Kawasaki bikes out for a test ride. Sounds fun so Ren and I agree to go and meet some friends there.
One of the Kawasakis available to test ride is the Kawasaki Ninja 400. Being lovers of the small cc bikes this is of interest to both Ren and I. Being a lover of Kawasaki it holds double interest to me. Therefore the plan is for Ren to test ride the Ninja 400 and tell me all about it. I don't have the height or the confidence to test ride one myself. I certainly don't have the cash to foot the bill if I dropped it. 

On arrival the test bikes are all lined up outside waiting for the fun to begin. It gives me at least an opportunity to sit on the Nina 400. At 785mm it is the same height as my Kawasaki Z250SL before I had it lowered so my tip toes touch the floor. 

Sharon's on the shiny demonstrator 400 with one foot dangling in the air
With one foot flat on the floor the other is left dangling.

The 400 Ninja is around 20kg heavier than the 250SL at 168kg. However it is well balanced and despite only being on my tiptoes I feel surprisingly comfortable on the bike. It is a good looking bike and I like it quite a lot. I'm reluctant to get off and pass it over to Ren for his test ride.

I wave Ren off and go inside to chat with the lovely Julie and have a brew while I wait.  

Sharon sat on the Ninja 400 ready to ride and smiling within her helmet
The Ninja is a good looking well balanced bike

The idea of dropping a test bike has always terrified me and precluded any thoughts of ever daring to consider test riding for me. I drink my tea in my normal way, I walk over to the store desk in my normal walk and then I do something not normal for me. In fact for me it was extraordinary. 

Somehow I found I was writing my name down for the next test ride. I did it on impulse - not allowing myself time to think. I overthink too easily, I worry too easily with what ifs. So by giving myself no time to think all these what ifs had no time to form and neither did the nerves have time to breed. 

Ren returns and as he climbs off the Ninja I climb on. He looks shocked when I say I'm off on it. No wonder he's surprised this isn't like me, this was not our plan.
Once on the bike the butterflies have time enough to stir as I wait for other riders to get on their chosen steeds. The lead rider emerges and we are off. Arghhhh. 

Sharon gets ready to ride out with the test ride group
Sharon leaves the car park and off on her mini adventure
Off and away 

Keep it upright Sharon and remember to breathe. Once out of the carpark and on the open road I felt at home on the bike practically straight away, unlike the day I rode my Kawasaki Z250SL for the first time (Z Day...Hello Kawasaki Z 250 SL). 

Of course if helps that in essence it feels remarkably similar to riding the 250. The gears are slick and smooth, the balance and handling sublime. It really is quite an eye opener to me how my confidence has actually come along over time. I actually feel no fear riding this bike. It doesn't control me I can control it. 

Despite feeling so at home and comfortable a gap begins to appear before myself and the riders in front of me. No not because I wasn't capable of keeping up but because, well, they were going over speed limits.
This is my first group test ride, was this the norm? What about those behind me what if I went over the limit and they all followed and I got us all in a spot of bother. Uncertain what was best I held the speed limits, regardless I was having tremendous fun on the bike.

The bikes behind me began to overtake. Clearly speed limits are not the done thing on test rides so I became the back marker. Good, I was happy to be at the back I mean I didn't want to hold anyone up. 

We eventually hit some more open roads and I spy some nice twists ahead. Hmmm tempting. OK then I'm pulled into the game, I up my pace.
The acceleration on the Ninja 400 is superb, it's immediate, ready and waiting to do what you ask. I curve a corner... nice, very very nice. This bike grips the corners in a secure hug, very confidence inspiring. On the bends and not paying my usual heed of speed signs I am soon on the tail of the rider in front of me. In fact he's in my way, he's slowing me down. Haa haa no way! Suddenly I'm sorry I'm at the back because these big boys on their big bikes are slowing down the little girl on the littlest bike out on the ride. 

Just like the Kawasaki Z250SL the Ninja 400 is made for corners. It's lightness and agility making it a match for the bigger bikes on this type of road. I try and slow down a bit to create a gap so I can play more on the next corner but I'm soon having to brake as I catch the rider in front once again. 

Damn this is fun, damn the fact others are in my way but hell yeah I suddenly realise something and that is...  I can ride. I am not claiming I am suddenly the big I am. I am not claiming the guy in front of me was slower than me. He might have had to slow because the rider in front of him was slower and so on and so forth. What I am saying here is it is a massive revelation to me that in a group ride situation I was more than capable of keeping up. I wasn't left behind I was actually easily within my comfort zone and could have if opportunity allowed gone faster. 

I was enjoying myself so much I was sorry to see we were now back at MCO and the test ride was over.
On the short time I spent on the bike I totally enjoyed myself. In my opinion Kawasaki has made yet another cracking motorbike. Being a lover of a naked bike and the more raised handlebars of the Z series the Ninja 400 is not my perfect bike. However that said it does looks very good, if I had a faired bike I think it would be this once especially the Kart colour way that was displayed on the test bike. If Kawasaki wanted to bestow this beauty on me I would say yes thanks you very much. At £5400 for the Kawasaki Ninja 400 cc KRT edition Kawasaki is on average with it's competition on price but on looks I think it's a clear winner.

If you've got a hobbit sized bike you'd like Sharon to review contact [email protected]

Reader's Comments

CrazyFrog said :-
It may not have been the case here Sharon, but in my experience it's quite possible that the guys at the front of the group were in fact sticking to the speed limits. On many occasions in a group ride, I have had to do 70 - 80mph to keep up with the group, only to find at the end that the leader has apologised for the pedestrian 50 or 60 they were doing to make sure everybody could keep up. There's a kind of 'knicker elastic' effect when riding towards the rear of a largish group of riders, and this is one of the reasons I don't like riding with more than three or four friends.
19/12/2018 13:16:16 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
As I have no friends (at least that's what youtube says) I don't have that problem.

In the days I used to do long distance trials, we used a variation of the "drop off" method where the first person would stop at a junction while everybody else streamed past then pick up after the last to arrive. Worked well and kept speeds down (mind you most of our bikes would struggle to reach 30 mph except Roger's 750 Triumph). It also depended on knowing how many were in the group - and being able to count.....

But I've never been a fan of big or even small groups. I think it was R L Stevenson who said "he travels the furthest who travels alone" or something like it. Of course his travels were with a donkey.

Season's greetings to one and all.
19/12/2018 15:32:01 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Nice write up Shazza, and I do like the look of the 400.
I do think it's great that manufacturers are cottoning on to the fact that some people want fun, light bikes. When I was 17, 18 ish I lusted after these things, Suzuki GT250's and RD400's were the stuff of legend; no one ever thought they were slow, small bikes. Well done for breaking your test ride group duck, good on ya.
Didn't Stevenson say, "he travels furthest whose brakes don't work".
And before anyone, yes you Ed, says it, I can just about remember my teens.
It went something like, Gilera 50 trials, Suzuki GT250, Yamaha RD400, Honda CB550f2.

19/12/2018 16:10:59 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
CrazyFrog - I call it the whiplash effect. With a whip a small and comparatively slow arm movement can be amplified so the end of the whip breaks the speed of sound - hence the crack. A lead rider can be taking things really steady but as the line of followers stretches out the backmarker can end up riding like Rossi.

However on my test ride before Sharon's I can assure you the leaders were merely "aware" of the limits not sticking to them.

Ian - group riding can be a nightmare. The drop off system is fine until you find you're the one being dropped off... at a set of traffic lights with railings, large trucks and nowhere safe at all to await the rest of the riders. At times it can be lethal for the person dropped off depending on the junction.

Then of course you know there's say 8 riders. You've accounted for 7 but number 8 is nowhere to be seen - even after 10 minutes. Do you a) wait forever b) ride back to see if they have broken down or crashed c) say "sod it" and catch up with the rest?

Any group of riders has an almost infinite range of ability - and desires. A wants to cruise and is scared of sharp bends. B goes everywhere at max revs and refuses to wait for ANYONE or ANYTHING. C doesn't like motorways but D just wants to blooming well get there and get drunk. E's bike is always breaking down despite them bragging about their mechanical ability. F couldn't find their own elbows even if they'd put directions on the tank. G - well G doesn't really like motorcycles but likes to hang around with bikers.

Upt'North - had the internal combustion engine been invented when you were in your teens?
19/12/2018 18:47:40 UTC

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