Four Banger Blast: Why the New Kawasaki Ninja ZX-4RR Matters

Kawasaki ZX4RR matters
It’s been a while since any manufacturer offered a mass-produced tiny four-cylinder sport bike. This week Kawasaki finally launched the new highly-anticipated Kawasaki Ninja ZX-4RR, a 400cc four-cylinder sport bike.

Many of us started riding on little four-cylinder bikes. Many of us will remember, fondly, CB400Fs or 350Fs, or if you were lucky enough, maybe you got to ride a GPZ400R or Suzuki  GS500. They weren’t powerful, but they were fun.

One of my first bikes was a 1976 Honda CB550, with a four-into-one exhaust, that sounded like a banshee when I got on the pipe. That bike (I apologize for the old photo) was fun, nimble, and let me grow into a higher-revving motor. That is why the new ZX-4RR matters. Without learning how to tap that horsepower then, I wouldn’t feel comfortable on a racetrack or on a high-powered bike now.

The little Kawasaki Ninja ZX-4RR will likely inspire a legion of new motorcycle fans to go out and buy it, not because it’s cool (it is) or light (it is), but because they can learn how to handle a bike as the power builds. Four-cylinder bikes build power in a special way, and many times it’s not linear. They feel broken and slow down low, then you get a burst of speed as they come on the pipe.

The little oversquare 400cc in the new Ninja should do that, too. The Ninja has light cast aluminum pistons that allow for quick-climbing revs, which means you’ll have to pay attention to the 11,500 rpm redline. It’s backed up, in KRT Edition trim, with a new Showa SFF-BP upside down fork, and a fully adjustable rear shock, too.

The new Ninja, too, has a quick shifter with an assist and a slipper clutch. That means that a hard shift won’t lock up the rear wheel when you’re crossed up trying to enter a turn hard, which I wish my old Honda had. But it also has several power and riding modes to allow riders of different skills in different weather conditions to handle the power. Unfortunately, Kawasaki hasn’t released official horsepower numbers, but we do know it makes 26.5 lb.-ft (36 Nm) of torque.

Kawasaki | Instagram

Kawasaki Ninja ZX4-RR KRT Edition
In the U.S., the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-4RR KRT Edition will be a nearly $10,000 bike, which puts it into contention with 600cc four-cylinder bikes on price. But, as anyone who’s ever ridden a small four-banger can tell you, it should be lighter and whole lot more fun.

New Kawasaki ZX4-RR front view


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