Is the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-4RR a good beginner motorcycle?

Kawasaki Ninja ZX4-RR
The brand-new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-4RR

Kawasaki has done something amazing for the already bountiful small-displacement sportbike category. But is the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-4RR a good beginner motorcycle? And what makes this 399cc sportbike different than the other motorcycles in its range, like Kawasaki’s own Ninja 400 and the Yamaha R3? Besides the nearly $10,000 price tag, plenty, it turns out.

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Newcomb’s Ranch is for sale

Newcomb's Ranch
Newcomb’s Ranch, the venerable motorhead hangout on Angeles Crest Highway

Newcomb’s Ranch has been closed ever since the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, and it looks to stay that way until it changes hands. The ever-popular mountain road restaurant / bar / gathering place has a long history, and another chapter will be added as its current owners look to sell the iconic hangout to the right buyer.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve ridden the 26 miles up the famed, twisting Angeles Crest Highway to arrive at the forested treasure that is Newcomb’s Ranch. Its expansive parking lot is a natural magnet for motorcyclists and car enthusiasts to show off their rides. It’s not unusual for Jay Leno to show up occasionally in one of his McLarens or other rare supercars, all too eager to meet and greet his fellow motorheads. And it’s a wonderful place to grab a bite and relax while soaking in the pine forest air. It’s very strange to arrive there now; the parking lot is still accessible and used as a gathering spot, but the closed restaurant definitely takes the energy out of the place.

I’m grateful that Freddie Rundall was a good owner; he was always polite, engaging, patient, and eagerly shared road condition information with everyone there. It’s not the easiest restaurant to manage, and it definitely has its seasonal swings. I wish him well and hope he finds a great buyer for this classic roadside gathering place just a beautiful ride away from the heart of Los Angeles.

Honda CBR300R – Honda’s Updated Beginner Sportbike

2015 Honda CBR300R
The 2015 Honda CBR300R

In an effort to battle Kawasaki’s excellent Ninja 300, a battle that’s producing great things for beginner sportbike riders, Honda has increased the engine size from 250cc to 300cc in its starter CBR model. It retains its single cylinder configuration, producing a slightly different power delivery than the parallel twin of the Ninja. This is great news for new riders, as one of the knocks on the CBR250R was that it lacked a little power on the highway. The new motor has topped 100 MPH in early tests, making it easily imaginable for commuting duty while still retaining very beginner-friendly power. Add it to your checklist if you’re looking for a new starter sportbike.

2010 International Motorcycle Show

Ah, the International Motorcycle Show. New bikes, test rides, moto SWAG, the latest gear, vendors showing their wares and models in skimpy outfits taking pictures with greasy biker dudes they’d otherwise never talk to. The show stops in my area every year in December so I spent my usual Saturday there checking things out. If it stops in your town, it’s a terrific way to sit on the newest bikes without having a salesperson breathing down your neck. The test rides are my favorite part as test rides are hard to come by, though they canceled the test rides this year due to rain. You can also find good deals on moto gear and “interesting” custom bikes like the one below. If you’re into that stuff.

For the love of everything good, please make it stop.

New Honda CBR250R Sportbike!

I definitely didn’t see this one coming. Honda has just announced the brand new CBR250R, a surprisingly competent looking single-cylinder 250cc sportbike aimed at new riders. Super-sharp looks, fuel injection and available ABS make this an incredibly attractive starter bike. No word on pricing yet, but it looks like Kawasaki’s Ninja 250 has some serious competition here in the U.S.

Update 12/01/10:  It’s only $3999! Or you can get the ABS version for $4499.

Angeles Crest Highway Update

Newcomb's Ranch on Angeles Crest Highway

California’s budget problems will prevent the CHP from receiving a grant that was supposed to help them step up enforcement on and around famed Angeles Crest Highway. That’s not to say they won’t still be up there; they just won’t have the presence they were hoping for. For those of you who live close by but have never ridden it, I’ll be posting a riding guide for Angeles Crest Highway a little later this year.

Source: La Cañada Valley Sun,0,4426477.story

Honda 3R-C Concept Vehicle

Okay so 3-wheelers aren’t exactly motorcycles, but most offer a similar experience far removed from that of driving a car.  Models like Can-Am’s Spyder can make decent (albeit expensive) alternatives for some people that really want the open air sensation of riding a motorcycle but can’t quite come to terms with handling one.

This is Honda’s 3R-C concept vehicle, a battery-powered electric 3-wheeler designed for urban transport.  The canopy cover moves forward and becomes a windshield when it’s actually in use.  It was designed by Honda’s R&D facility in Milan, so it’s easy to imagine they have dense, car-unfriendly cities in mind with this concept.  I’d definitely use it to pick up some groceries… if there’s anywhere to stow them.

193 HP In Your Face

Let’s just get one thing straight, BMW’s S1000RR is most definitely not a beginner’s bike. This beast makes 193 HP (at the crankshaft) from just one liter of displacement – amazing. In any case BMW put up this really cool video of the valves in action. After a certain RPM it’s impossible to see what’s happening with the valves (slo-mo would’ve been nice), but still, it’s incredible to think this is also happening inside your bike’s engine. Maybe not this furiously, but you get the idea. In case you’re wondering, some MotoGP bikes use pneumatic valves (instead of springs) to deal with the even crazier RPMs involved at the world’s top level of motorcycle racing.

Angeles Crest Highway – After The Station Fire

Lower elevation burn area

It’s strange to realize there’s a beautiful forest right in our backyard here in Los Angeles, but it’s there.  Thanks to Angeles Crest Highway, anyone can enjoy the fresh mountain air and beautiful views in the heart of the Angeles National Forest.  It’s also a legendary road for motorcycle riders thanks to its snaking mountain curves and Newcomb’s Ranch, the mile-high biker-friendly restaurant/hang out in the midst of the pines.  A huge portion of our forest was tragically destroyed in last autumn’s devastating Station Fire, closing Angeles Crest Highway for months and turning vast wooded areas into empty dirt.  The road was reopened on November 30, 2009 but the forest is not the same.

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Beginner Motorcycle Rider Guide -