Building is about getting around the obstacles that are presented to youA few years ago, I signed up to support a local sports club that envisioned the idea of a Road Racing School for kids. The project started boldly, with a total of three pupils: Daria, Alex, and Vlad. Alex had 0 riding experience, Vlad only rode his 125cc on public roads, and Daria was the most experienced out of the three. She has been actively racing for several years now and had just made the step to a Kawasaki Ninja 400.
The bike received a series of upgrades, including a restrictor to make it eligible for the World Supersport 300 category. She was 17 years old when she won an International Championship riding that motorcycle, and Alex felt inspired to walk down the same path. After trying out a Yamaha R25, he also made the switch to the Ninja400. I sat down and talked to Florin Calin, the team manager, about what it takes to make a motorcycle like this competitive on the track.
The biggest room in the world is the room for improvementBut installing a new ECU and harness is just a small part of the job. You'll need to remove the bike's original fairings and get a set of fiberglass or carbon fiber ones instead. The ABS also has to go, along with any other sensors or elements that were intended for street use. A full-exhaust system will go a long way, especially if you can get a titanium one. Both Daria and Alex have Arrow systems on their bikes, but an Akrapovic would be ideal.
The standard bike pegs have no place on a race-spec motorcycle, and the same goes for the original handlebars. Upgrading these two elements will allow the rider to increase their lean angles, which can be crucial when going fast around the track. I was somewhat surprised to hear Florin's recommendation of installing a steering damper as well. It's well known that these parts can prevent death-wobbles when riding a more powerful bike, but they're also as efficient on a 300cc motorcycle.
What's behind you doesn't matterNo kind of liquid spills will be tolerated, so be sure to take all precautions necessary in that regard. Tank foam will go a long way in preventing unwanted fires in case of a crash, so even if it sounds like a minor improvement, you should still do it. Of course, upgrading the braking system is going to be crucial, as it will allow the rider to brake as late as possible going into a corner.
The kind of tires you'll choose for your Ninja 400 will depend on several factors, including your current skill level, the type of asphalt you're running on, and of course, your budget. While Pirellis seem to be the best choice, all in all, you should neglect the idea of using Dunlops if you're thinking about cutting down on costs. After you've assembled all the parts, it's time to pay a visit to the dyno.
Maintenance is also crucial if you care for your motorcycle, and you should perform an oil change every about 310 miles (500 km)! Motul's 15W50 is the only kind of oil ever used on these two Kawasakis, and that's due to its extremely high boiling point. One particular issue with the Ninja 400 seems to be its gearbox. After around 1,553 miles (2,500 km), you'll notice that you have to put in more work in shifting up or down.
This might just be the biggest disadvantage of the Ninja 400, at least when compared to the Yamaha R3. But all in all, it's a great first track-weapon, and it can lead the way to some strong results in the upper echelons. The following video shows how nimble the Ninja 400 can be, especially on a smaller track that doesn't require a whole lot of power.