Kawasaki ZXR400 review

Ben Cope's picture
By Visordown on Tue, 1 Jan 1991 - 12:01

Details
Manufacturer:
Kawasaki
Category:
Classic Sportsbikes
Price:
£ 4999
Overall
3
Need Insurance?
but hit the magic 8,000rpm area and it all changes. From 8,000rpm up to the 14,000rpm redline the ZXR goes mental
The ZXR400 is a top handling little four-stroke screamer.
Cramped if you are over 6-foot.

Inverted forks, hoover pipes and fully adjustable suspension. The raciest race rep and visually and aurally identical to the screaming ZXR750

Click to read: 1988 Kawasaki ZXR400 owners reviews

How can you not fall in love with the ZXR400? It’s an iconic silhouette and a perfect scaled-down replica of a bike that shaped a generation. Where some of the 400s, like the NC30, had a hint of style over function, the ZXR400 was none of that. This was a genuine race replica 400 that can still be found leading club events all over the UK. Not bad for a bike that appeared in 1988.

Yes, rather than fade away to get lost in the mists of time, the ZXR400 simply refused to lie down and die. Believe it or not, the ZXR only went out of production in 2003 and ran most of its 16-year life virtually unaltered. Unlike the majority of the 400s, whose flames burned briefly and brightly in the 1990s then flickered and died at the turn of the century, the ZXR smouldered well into the 2000s. Why? The most obvious reason is it’s an absolute blast to ride. Sitting on the ZXR is like sitting on a miniaturised ZXR750. The rear end is low, view of the clocks dominated by two huge hoover pipes (which do absolutely nothing, just like the 750) and clip-ons angled downwards. It’s a racy riding position, but not too cramped or uncomfortable. Then you fire it into life.

 The bark from the race can was ear-splitting and if it wasn’t for the relative lack of forward motion I’d have sworn someone had stuck a 750cc engine in the frame. The engine doesn’t seem as gutless as the Suzuki, it  has a feeling it might build up to something exciting.

Open the throttle below 8,000rpm and the ZXR reluctantly accelerates feeling stifled and asthmatic, but hit the magic 8,000rpm area and it all changes. From 8,000rpm up to the 14,000rpm redline the ZXR goes mental and howls with proper Ninja aggression. It’s a hoot to keep on the boil as you charge into every corner keeping up vital momentum. You can charge into corners because, unlike the Suzuki, the chassis works.

With fully adjustable inverted forks and a rear shock with all the nobs on too, the ZXR is quite a weapon in the bends. As many club racers will testify, it doesn’t take much effort to get the suspension really working well and once you do, the ZXR will match most when it comes to track handling – quite an achievement. Even the brakes have some sense of retardation, unlike the horrific stoppers on the GSX-R.

Although the ZXR is right out of the no compromise race replica box, it’s hard not to enjoy. It not only looks superb, it delivers just what you expect a Kawasaki race replica to – namely a screaming engine with bags of power, a stiff chassis with decent suspesnion and a completely bonkers riding experience. All wrapped up in a bike that looks identical to the one that first brought a world superbike replica to the masses. Parts are cheap because the mini-ZXR was an official import to the UK and unlike the NC30 it’s a straightforward bike to work on should the need arise, but it has deservedly strong reputation for reliability.

Score Breakdown
Overall
3
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