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.
Perhaps the craziest thing about the Nina ZX-4RR is that its small engine has four cylinders. All of its competitors use two cylinders in either a parallel or V-twin configuration at this small size, but Kawasaki has crammed four little 100cc cylinders into a high-revving engine meant to emulate the powerband of its bigger brothers with a chassis and features to match.
Not your father’s Ninja 400
So, what are the main differences between the Ninja ZX-4RR and the Ninja 400, and why does it cost so much more? Here are some of the pricey goodies the Ninja ZX-4RR gets that the Ninja 400 does not:
- High-revving four-cylinder engine
- Traction control
- Quick shifter
- Power modes (3)
- Inverted forks
- Adjustable shock (compression, rebound)
- Dual front disc brakes
- Full color TFT dashboard
Here are some of the other notable differences:
- More aggressive geometry and seating position (everything pitches you forward more, better for performance / racing but slightly less comfortable)
- Slightly higher seat (31.5″ vs. 30.9″)
- 48 pounds heavier
- Bigger tires
In other words, this isn’t just simply a Ninja 400 with a different engine, it’s nearly a completely different motorcycle altogether. One meant to look, sound, and feel like a true sportbike.
So, is the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-4RR a good beginner motorcycle or not?
Let’s get this part out of the way. The answer is… maybe. This is a relatively expensive performance-focused motorcycle which doesn’t usually bode well for beginners, but there are some factors that make it less scary than its larger counterparts.
Things making the Ninja ZX-4RR acceptable for beginners
- Acceptably low seat height of 31.5″
- The small 399cc four-cylinder engine will produce smooth easy power
- ABS brakes
Things making the Ninja ZX-4RR not acceptable for beginners
- More aggressive rake and forward-leaning riding position (less comfortable, harder to check blind spots, harder to maneuver at slow speeds)
- 48 pounds heavier than the Ninja 400
- $4000+ more expensive than the Ninja 400 with ABS
- More technology and complexity for a new rider to manage
I wouldn’t cringe if I saw a new rider starting on this bike. But it’s really expensive for a first motorcycle. As a counterpoint, the Ninja 400 costs thousands less, has a huge community for support, tons of aftermarket upgrades, and is an easier bike to ride.
Another thing to consider is that every rider eventually moves on to other bikes, so there’s no need to overspend on your first one. We always recommend starting on something smaller and reasonably priced while you learn, then selling it and moving on to your next bike when you feel ready. And the next one after that. I do cringe when I hear people say “you should buy a bike that you can grow into,” because every rider I know always wants to move on to something else regardless of how nice their first bike was. It’s one of the coolest things about riding motorcycles; it’s relatively inexpensive to buy and sell them as you try different styles and models.