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Z400 First Impressions

Blog Date - 21 February 2024

Making the purchase of a chosen motorcycle is for some the end of the process. For others it is just the beginning, as adaptations are needed or simply just wanted to make it our own.

I had a combination of both need and want, the main necessity of course being to lower the bike. Options included buying a lowering kit and doing it ourselves or for the bike to be lowered professionally. I had said to myself that any further purchases would be professionally lowered so this was my first thought with the Kawasaki Z400. And yet as Ren pointed out - what if I went to all that expense and then decided I hated the bike? Good point well put. So this left the option of lowering the bike ourselves with a lowering kit, and if I then decided at some future point a professional lowering was required it could be done at a later date. 

Being a more popular bike there were more options on lowering kits for the Z400 than were ever available for the Z250. These included some fancy kits from America, like the T Rex with lowering ability flexible up to 2 inches that could come as a kit with kick stand. Cost for kit - 170 dollars. Soupys, again from America, lowering ability flexible up to 4 inches, can come as a kit with kick stand. Cost for kit - 331 dollars.

Add shipping costs to these options then both of these are expensive options, particularly if me and the Z400 just did not get along.

The Z250SL is lowered via a Lust Racing lowering kit. The "dog bones" links in the lowering kit replace the stock rear suspension links. The Z250SL had the dog bones fitted at the shop prior to purchase but we know it is a job you can do yourself so this was an option. 

We can see the lust dog bones under the Z250SL
The Lust Racing dog bones.

However the 30mm ride change that was afforded to me via the Lust kit has never been quite enough to completely flat foot on the Z250SL. The Z400 has the same stock seat height as the Z250SL but with it being a heavier bike I really wanted to achieve a flat foot with this bike. As such it was really great to see that for the Z400 Lust offered not one but two options for the Z400 lowering kit. A 25mm and a 40mm. Those extra 10mm could make all the difference. At £74.90 for the dog bones this was the cheapest option and so I purchased this without further ado.

The next morning after the arrival of the Z400 saw myself and Ren in the shed with plans of lowering the bike. With no centre stand on the Z400 it made taking the weight off the back wheel very difficult. We tried a variety of contraptions to lift the back end, for example straps attached to the bike and then hung over various garden objects like ladders and the frame of the swing chair. None of these contrivances worked with any degree of safety and the effort made both of us sweat. Hmmmm.

We then came up with another plan. We borrowed a Stan. Stan or Dan, he goes by both names, is my youngest daughter's boyfriend. He is a strong tall lad, just what we needed to hold up the bike's back end. Thus with Stan's assistance the dog bones were removed and then replaced with the new Lust dog bones.
 
However Lust seems to have omitted to think about supplying a longer bolt. The new dog bones are thicker in width than the originals thus the bolt only just about fits. It does not give Ren that warm comfy feeling of a job well done and secured. He declares it will do for today but a longer bolt will need to be purchased to make him happy long term. Ren is not a romantic guy. I don't get flowers but I do get someone who, for my safety, will go to all the trouble of redoing the suspension to give me a millimetre of extra security. Call me desperate but I am taking this as a romantic act.  

Diagram showing not enough thread coming through the nut
Insufficient thread poking out see.

So first job completed, well sort of, for now. Now the test ride. 

Ok I admit it I am suddenly quite nervous. The Z250SL took me quite a while to get used to (Z Day...Hello Kawasaki Z 250 SL). I have the usual fears of dropping the bike but I also have the fear of "what if I don't like it?" Well suck it up buttercup there is only one way to find out - get on it and ride.
 
The lowering kit has worked a treat. I can, with my Daytona boots on, flat foot. We will need to go over some speed bumps, believe me there is no chance of NOT going over a speed bump where I live, to check it comfortably has enough ground clearance. It does. 
 
The bikes extra weight of 20kg is very apparent when I push the bike out onto the drive. It is also apparent when I come to a stop. My balance is off. Muscle memory of 7 years on the Z250SL means I dip to one side more than I want to when I stop. The wider bars will also take some getting use to as well. When I go to turn the extra leverage also means I unbalance myself I bit here too. 

But other than these slight wobbles...well OMG! This is not going to be a slow burner to love. After the first 15 minutes of let's just breathe and settle down, I am completely blown away by the ease of riding on the Z400. I did like the Ninja 400 on my test ride all those years ago but this first ride has affirmed all that I glimpsed back then.

Gear changes have always been smooth on Kawasakis so there's no surprise that the gears are like smooth silk. The slipper assist clutch make these gear changes super light. The twin engine makes for a much smoother, less vibey ride.  The Akropovic exhaust gives a very satisfying hum and a little whistle at times when changing gears which reminds me of a mini jet engine. The sound just makes me smile.

The extra weight makes the Z400 feel more planted and this gives extra confidence when cornering. The stock Dunlop tyres have been given a bad rep by some but they didn't give me any cause for concern. The Z400 has a gear indicator but having learned to let the engine tell me when a gear change is required I never give it much notice. As expected the Z400 has no issue with motorway speeds, why would it when it's smaller sister the Z250SL can handle them just fine.

Talking about the Z250SL how do the two bikes compare? The Z250SL requires frequent gear changes to keep her happy and running smoothly. Envy (the Z250SL) will leave you in no doubt if you are not in the right gear at any given time. I never previously considered Envy aggressive but riding the bikes back to back I really can see their very different characters. Envy just wants to go, she is impatient, ready to go at any given moment, always pulling at the reins wanting the next gear up. I often try and find that hidden 7th gear with her. She always wants more. Envy is a little pocket rocket. 
 
The Z400 is so much more laid back. It is more forgiving, less aggressive in character and dare I say therefore easier to ride. The Z400 is happy to bimble at 20 mph in 3rd gear and equally happy to accelerate up to 50mpg without asking for a change. Although the Z400 is the newer of the two models, it is like the older wiser more relaxed sibling of the Z250SL. The Z250SL is excitable and in awe of all that happens around her. So once was I so we made the perfect match together to share the new world of adventures and touring together. 

The Z250SL with luggage on the back in the countryside with trees and hills
The beautiful little pocket rocket Z250SL

I have grown older, I feel more relaxed and no longer in any need to prove myself to others. For those reasons I just feel that me and the Z400 have come together at the right time. Now do not let me give you the impression that being less aggressive in nature means the Z400 is somehow less fun, it is simply more refined. I can't yet comment on the full fun factor of the Z400, as more miles will be needed to fully access this.  

I am really thrilled how even after an hour on the bike I felt so surprisingly at home on it. Not like super confident yet, that will take some miles. Whether this ease is down to the many more miles of riding experience I now have compared to those first few weeks with the Z250SL or the bike itself I am unsure. No doubt the extra years of experience have made the transition from one bike to the other so much easier and smoother. However, I think the bike itself is, as I said earlier, easier to ride and definitely smoother. 

Ren remarked I looked very comfortable whilst riding the bike. I could concur with that, on the move I felt very at home on the bike within a remarkably short time. The stopping and the tight cornering will need practice and work to adjust to the extra weight. But wow what an affirming first ride. I am already sure that this is no wrong decision, the bike just feels right for me. 

Upon returning home from the first ride I was all smiles until I spied something in the tyre. Yep - a great big screw. First ride, first puncture, great. Gutted but at least the screw plugged the tyre so pressure was maintained. This has put a stop to any further rides until I get that sorted. The screw is lodged bang in the middle of the rear tyre so should be fixable. 

The rear motorcycle tyre with a screw right through the treads causing a puncture
Well that was a let down 

I decide the Z400 is a she and will be named Etsuko. Etsuko is a Japanese girl's name meaning "joy child". I had already decided to remember the number plate of AK20 FYJ to stand for - "For Your Joy" so Etsuko was the perfect match for a Japanese bike that is my new child and will hopefully bring me much joy. 

The following weekend the back tyre was removed and taken for repair. A  localish garage quoted us just £15 for the repair so I was very happy with that. Whilst the tyre was being repaired we sat in the nearby cafe where the cost of a couple of a drinks and a croissant was almost the same the price of the tyre repair.

Croissant, tea pot, trndy cups and a modern cafe in Liverpool
Sometimes the price of things makes very little sense to me but sometimes we just have to sipp it up and enjoy.

 
On our return to collect the tyre the price was disputed as apparently we were given incorrect information it should have been £20 but as it was their error not ours then they would honour the price. Even at £20 this was a fair price for the job and I did momentarily consider if I should offer to just pay the extra £5. However they preferred payment in cash and I didn't have the extra £5 in cash so that was that £15 was exchanged for a perfect puncture repair. 

Ren acquired a longer bolt for the suspension. However this weekend we had no Stan to assist so once again we tried and failed to come up with a pulley system to lift the bike. After some research on the net we decided to try turning the foot pegs upside down and positioning jacks under the footpegs to lift the back end. This worked a treat. Bike lowering was now finally complete. The sidestand will also need to be adjusted as the bike is now too upright but that is for another day. 

Another couple jobs for the weekend were fitting some extra goodies I had purchased for the bike. I absolutely adore buying presents for the bikes, it's like Christmas when they arrive. These gifts to myself being a Givi tank ring so I could attach my tank bag easily to the bike at a price of £15.30 and a Evotech Radiator Guard at £58.50. Both of these were simple and easy to fit additions. The plan going forward is to turn to Etsuko into the perfect, well as perfect as I can get, touring machine. So more presents yet to purchase. Wahoo!

As such Henrik re your comment - "That frame holding the top-box is spoiling the look a bit. I would look for some solution to easy take it off, and only use it for longer trips." Can I just say... look away now as worse is to come.

I have always loathed the look of top boxes and hand guards etc, etc. I have learned, the hard cold way, that the addition of hand guards and a windshield onto Envy the Z250SL made for a much more comfortable ride. I have already learned to my shame and in sacrifice to the bike's good looks that a top box is bloody brilliant. Yes they are UGLY but  you can just pop your helmet etc in there when you go for walk. You just open them up to pop in that loaf of bread you remembered you need on the way back home from your ride. They are, I will say it again UGLY really UGLY but they are practical and sensible and well sod it, they just do a good job.
 
When you get to the stage in life where your own looks begin to fade and are not so important to you as they once were, then I guess that feeling transfers over to your bike. I want ease now when touring and I am willing to sacrifice looks for ease. That said I am not yet in the Ren camp of UGLY so I will endeavour to make such practical and sensible touring options as aesthetically pleasing as possible. But I am also too lazy to go to the trouble of removing the topbox and its rack to make the bike look its best whilst not touring.

So if any of you can take seeing the sleek, sporty Kawasaki Z400 being turned into a touring machine then keep tuned, there is more to come. 


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Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
No problems with your top'boxing here. They're tools at the end of the day, nice tools, but tools.
I'm glad it feels more stable, small bikes can be too damn wobbly.
But, I must take umbrage at Ed's lackadaisical attitude to life....I know....
Firstly, his bolt isn't long enough...
Secondly, no flowers...
Thirdly, it's Ed.
But, he has given you a few extra millimetres, what more could a girl ask for.
Remember to put your footpegs back.
Enjoy it.
Upt.
21/02/2024 16:05:52 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I purchased a bigger bolt online Upt', it's plenty long enough now, it was just more faff getting it in. Flowers wilt and die in time, but my annoying habits, disgusting ways and bad attitude will traumatise Sharon for a lifetime.
21/02/2024 20:15:53 UTC
nab301 said :-
Glad to hear the 400 is ticking all the boxes, is it really 7 years since you got the 250?.
I'm with you on centre stands , they should be compulsory ,
I'm guessing something like the Abba stand might be an option?
my CBR 500 has the same problem , although it has the frame mounting for the stand but the fairing gets in the way... For years I never used top boxes either but now am unable to be without them.
Nigel
22/02/2024 10:59:25 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Good to hear you're enjoying it Sharon. It's always been the case that smaller engines have to be more "peaky" to get similar performance to bigger engines hence the more relaxed feel to the latter. As they say in the good(?) ol' USA there's no substitute for cubes.....

As for centre stands, how are you supposed to adjust / lubricate the chain?

Oh, and the drawing shows left hand threads. Shurely shome mishtake? I assume Ren will have checked the tensile strength as if it were to let go the handling would be interesting....
22/02/2024 11:12:47 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Tensile strength was very much on my mind Ian. If I recall the OE bolt was a grade 8 so I matched that.

Apologies for my technically incorrect drawing. I was more concerned about getting the concept over but yes, the small details do matter.

Centre stands are important. Regrettably it's specifications that sell bikes in the fat wealthy west, not practicality. If bike X weighs 195kg and bike Y weighs 194kg and bike X has a centre stand... remove centre stand and match the competition! If we were a practical nation we'd all have handguards like mine fitted, but nooooo, nooooo we mock people with handguards like mine. Pffffft.
22/02/2024 13:00:41 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
I know it's early days, but it sounds like you are enjoying the new bike. I spent a lot of time last year looking for a replacement bike. My intention was to change my two bikes that I owned (a 125cc bike and a 1150cc bike) for one bike smaller than the 1150. I even narrowed it down to three or four bikes, but I could not bring myself to part with the R1150RT. All of these replacement bikes seemed inferior.
I even had to re-read your comments of a few years ago to see if I was a snob!!!

https://bikesandtravels.com/biker.aspx?ride=939

I came to the conclusion that bigger is better, so I must be a cc snob.

So be careful going for bigger and bigger bikes as you could end up a cc snob like myself.

If an extra 20kg feels more stable, imagine how stable an extra 120kg feels, and if 400cc feels more relaxed imagine what double the cc feels like!


https://bikesandtravels.com/biker.aspx?ride=939...
22/02/2024 18:04:11 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
This is why I'm mean and horrible to Sharon ROD. If I were nice and kind and loving and tender first of all she'd get used to it and if anything were to happen to me she'd miss me terribly and any other chap she dates wouldn't match up. I'm saving her from her future self. My generosity knows no bounds.

I've owned slightly larger and considerably more powerful bikes than my current CB500X. For myself, and we are all individuals, the 47bhp of my probably 200kg with all the add-ons 500 is plenty for me.

There is no perfect bike. When you're it pushing into and out of the shed ideally you want a pushbike. When you're nipping around town you want the light weight, small size and easily manoeuvrable 125cc class. 250-500 is plenty and easy to handle on the smaller country lanes and the bigger more open lanes. For motorways and long days in the saddle you need a big cube tourer like the RT, lazy, easy and relaxing. For blatting around a track 600 is sufficient, 1000 is nice (probably).

If I were heading to the south of France I'd want an RT1150, or a Pan Euro. When I'd arrived in Nice or Monaco I'd want a 125 scoot. When I'd gotten to The Alps I'd want a nimble 650.
23/02/2024 08:05:24 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
Ren, I agree with your analysis in general, and my comment was intended with tongue in cheek.
I try to convince myself that the HNTR is all I need, but then I try to overtake a van exiting a roundabout, only to find the vans acceleration matches the HNTR.
As you say we are all individuals, and I would find the big tourer preferable when I arrive in the south of France.

My wife had not been on the back of the RT for around three years, as she rides her own bike, but has started to come out as pillion recently. So this is another advantage of the bigger bike.
The only time I really prefer a smaller bike is manoeuvring in tight spaces, and at the petrol station. The HNTR gives 100 mpg when it is ridden as intended, but this drops to 80 mpg when used on A roads and duel carriage ways.
As I have said before, the large capacity bike is not about speed for myself, it's about the feel of the bike, and always having enough power on tap.
23/02/2024 09:44:18 UTC
Henrik said :-
Terrible, Terrible, Sharon,.. all I can do is preparing, and build up my mental strenght, waiting for these pictures to arrive :-)
25/02/2024 19:23:38 UTC
Henrik said :-
BTW. Glad to hear about the good match ,.. seems like a long time keeper ,.. wish you both a good season 2024
25/02/2024 19:29:53 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I think you'll have to share your thoughts on the HNTR ROD - I keep on looking at them in the shop but well, I dunno, it's just not Honda enough.
26/02/2024 18:16:17 UTC

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