Our Long Term Ninja 400 has hit the 5000km mark, so here's our thoughts on this LAMS machine after getting more of an owners insight. Words: Kris Hodgson, Images David H.
We’ve had our Long Term Ninja 400 for quite a period now, with the bike getting used as the regular daily commuter, as well as seeing weekend runs as a scooter upgrade, with the little LAMS machine continuing to impress.
Of course as any owner knows, as you have a bike longer you start to pick out the little niggles of long term ownership and we have identified just a couple on our own Ninja 400.
Before we get onto those, it’s worth mentioning what we’ve done so far. There’s a Ventura system fitted and we’ve got the EVO-22 bag and rack combo, as well as a Coocase Wizard hard topbox. The Coocase is invaluable in wet weather, when carting the laptop or camera gear to the Bike Review office is needed. The EVO-22 is the sportier option and will hold a helmet and can be thrown over your shoulder thanks to a strap, so is a good all-round choice. I’ve got a Ventura rack on my own bike, too, so the interchangeability is great.
From Kawasaki we’ve got a genuine pillion seat cowl, in the metallic black colour option, alongside a Kawasaki Tank Back and pickup spools. Both are easy DIY mods for essentially anyone, with the seat cowl in particular helping accentuate the bike’s racing inspired origins. It’s also available in lime green to match the KRT edition colours for those wondering and would no doubt stand out more on this bike in that colour choice.
For bike protection we’ve also fitted Oggy Knobbs, which are a very smart investment on any learner machine and just a smart investment on anything else! There’s also a Promo Fender Eliminator installed, which is by the same people who do Oggy Knobbs and really cleans up the rear end. We’re still keeping an eye out for an aftermarket exhaust, so we’ll see how we go with this addition, as it’ll no doubt liven the baby Ninja up a bit.
With more kilometres on the bike and switching between bikes quite frequently it’s really easy to appreciate just how light and easy to handle the Ninja 400 is. It’s actually easy to forget until you jump on a 600cc or 1000cc machine and realise how much larger they feel, how much heavier and just how much more effort is required. For new riders without the ability to make that comparison it may be hard to believe but this is a light and responsive machine, even for a LAMS machine.
That low seat height and well balanced CoG make for easy and confidence inspiring handling and a very learner friendly overall package. The ride triangle between ‘bars, ‘pegs and seat is very compact on this bike, which again ensures easy control for new riders, especially smaller riders.
Suspension is good for a basic system, although over poor road conditions it’s easier to recognise where the limitations start to show themselves having spent more time on this bike. It’s still a well-rounded offering in this regard, with the relatively basic brakes also performing strongly on this light machine.
Gearbox, instruments and fuel mileage are also all still strong points, with the latter offering a pretty decent saving over running a 600cc sportsbike along the same routes. There’s nothing better than filling up with fuel after 250km and only needing to put 10L in.
Overall ergonomics are comfortable and offer a nice upright seating position, which you can convert into a racing crouch by committing more to your corners and getting aggressive, but overall it’s well suited to commuting and general duties, as well as the sportier stuff.
The one area that stands out as needing improvement, however, is the standard seat, which becomes painful very quickly when commuting. If you’re riding aggressively and throwing the bike around more it’s less of an issue, but doing the hour long daily commute it’s poor and feels like the centre of the seat is raised, instead of contoured in the opposite direction.
I’d say this just comes down to the foam in the seat being too dense, which was something I also found on the Versys-X 300, while the compact and upright seating position means you’re sitting right on your arse, where on a sportsbike you’re normally stretched out a bit more and gripping with your legs.
The other gripe is that while fueling is generally good, especially when riding aggressively, rolling off the throttle can offer quite a harsh transition onto engine braking as the clutch re-engages if you’re taking it easier, which is a characteristic the old Ninja 300 had, and which felt significantly better on the 400.
Smashing down through the gears and using the slipper clutch counteracts this, but is probably not the best recommendation for new riders. Knocking the bike up a gear or two is an option thanks to being relatively torquey and you can almost ignore first gear except on the steepest hill starts.
This also seems like a fairly common complaint among Ninja 400 owners, which many put down to the way the fueling it cut off on a closed throttle, which sounds about right, when combined with engine braking. What I have noticed is that the throttle doesn’t even need to be fully closed, if you’re at a steady throttle and roll off a little it’ll cut fueling and you get that sudden harsh transition to engine braking.
With all that said, the bike does have a nice torquey mid-range (for a 300-400cc LAMS machine) and a great top end. When you’re jumping off a supersport or superbike onto the 400, this acceleration can feel a little flat in comparison, but the bike is still pulling and is also intensely confidence inspiring. This will offer new riders a great opportunity to explore the limits, before moving on to something more powerful.
When you’re pulling 140km/h in fifth and there’s still plenty of rev range to go, not to mention another gear, you know that there’s thrills to be had through the twisties or even on a track excursion and the Ninja 400 would be a great bike for starting out on the track.
I’m also interested to see whether an aftermarket exhaust would give the bike a freer flowing exhaust and feel, although much of that is handled by the collector in the exhaust these days, so we’ll see.
From a bling perspective, it’d still be great to fit some adjustable levers, rearsets and maybe some carbon-fibre, but again we’ll also see how we go. Some adjustable rearsets in particular would be interesting to see how dropping the ‘pegs a little and maybe moving them rearwards might effect commuting comfort.
With the holiday’s continuing remember to be safe out there, especially as younger and less experienced riders. It’s always a time of year when there’s lots of people on the roads who either rarely drive, or rarely do big trips, drive tired, distracted and just generally put themselves and others at risk.
It’s also typically a good time of year to be riding with dry warm weather, so you’ve got to be extra careful.