First Ride Experience Kawasaki Ninja ZX-4RR

In the late 1980s and early 90s, I was obsessed with sports bikes for the first time; Japanese replicators in plastic clothes ruled the streets around my new home in Los Angeles. Suzuki GSX-Rs, Kawasaki ZX-7R, FZR and CBR drove through the streets in packs, barking with their Vance & Hines exhausts. But because it was in Los Angeles, among them were unicorns: 400 from the Japanese market, which were somehow imported through the grey market.

They were the rarest birds and, of course, all the more desirable. At that time, in the Land of the Rising Sun, the all Japan TT-F3 Championship sparked a technology war, which led to the fact that the four Japanese companies built incredibly smart 400 cm3 in-line motorcycles with four engines in order to homologate them for racing. Motorcycles such as the Honda CBR400R (and later the Honda vfr400r), the Suzuki GSX-R400, the Yamaha FZR400RR SP and, of course, the Kawasaki ZXR-400R brought the production motorcycle technology to an even higher level. But the US market was ignored, buyers wanted 750-litre motorcycles here, and importers did not think that the Americans would pay a premium for models with a small displacement.In short, I passed by. I never had the opportunity to throw a leg over one of these tiny canyon dancers and gave up buying a Yamaha FZR400 in favor of a inexpensive fzr600. When Kawasaki recently announced that it was not just about reviving the 400 cm3 in-line four-cylinder, but about bringing it to the United States, internal bells went off in my head. Shall. Roll. That. Bicycle! But why all this fuss?

The jewel at the heart of the Ninja ZX-4rr is undoubtedly the engine. The liquid-cooled DOHC in-line four-cylinder with 16 valves displaces 399 cc and has a bore and a stroke of 57.0 x 39.2 mm. this engine contains a lot of the technology that Kawasaki has learned while driving its ZX-6R and ZX-10R platforms. aluminum die casting cylinders have chromed composite bores for reduced friction and better durability. The holes, which are too square, allow the use of large 22.1 mm inlet and 19 mm outlet valves for good air circulation, while the short stroke of 39 mm allows performance at high revs with a redline of almost 16,000 rpm. Forged camshafts operate valves with triple-speed springs that can handle the high rpm that the engine can reach.

Lightweight cast aluminum pistons and carburized connecting rods, as well as a lightweight flywheel, contribute to a faster start-up. The compression ratio is set to 12.4:1. Like its big brother, the 10R, the 4RR benefits from a two-stage processing of the inlet openings made of fine sand casting for a straighter and more efficient air flow into the combustion chamber. Precisely machined combustion chambers and narrow valve angles ensure high efficiency. RAM induction blocks pressurized air in the air box, and then through double-long intake funnels (which help to flatten the torque curve), before getting into a 34 mm bank with an electronic throttle body.

As mechanically sophisticated as these 400s were from the late 80s to the early 90s, the electronic revolution we are currently in was still 30 years away. Nowadays, pilot aids are the norm and the new ZX-4rr has done its part to give the pilot a certain level of safety.While many new superbikes intervene electronically for almost everything, the 4RR keeps it simple with four built-in riding modes, including sport, road, Rain and Rider (manual settings). The first three of them have preset traction and power control settings. In sports, you get the setting KTRC 1 (out of three) and full power, on the road you get TC 2 and Full power, while rain gives TC 3 (max) and low power. In pilot mode, you can adjust the settings and select or disable any traction control setting and choose between Full or low power. The standard feature of the ZX-4rr is the Kawasaki quick-shift lever, which enables clutch-free gear changes.