It’s getting to be a bit silly what’s passing for a lightweight sportbike these days. In the beginning, it made sense: You had the Kawasaki Ninja 250. And, well, that was it. It only took twenty-odd years, but the other manufacturers eventually took notice that building small bikes to entice new or returning riders was probably a good thing for the industry, and hence, started building little bikes of their own. Honda came around with the CBR250R…just as the competition upped the ante again. Kawasaki pushed the bar with the Ninja 300, then Honda made a weak attempt to follow suit with the 286cc CBR300R. Yamaha then jumped in the game, shoving displacement rules out the window with its 321cc R3 – but not to be outdone, the brash Austrians (via India) at KTM one-upped all of them with the 373cc RC390.
Today, Kawasaki is throwing convention out the window yet again, shelving the Ninja 300 (at least in the U.S.) and giving us the all-new Ninja 400. So it’s only right we at Motorcycle.com put it up against some worthy contenders. If this idea sounds vaguely familiar to you, it’s because we last put the crop of little bikes (not to be confused with liter bikes – very different) together in 2015 in our Beginner-ish Sportbike Shootout. There we had the CBR300, Ninja 300, RC390, and R3 fighting it out, with the Kawasaki narrowly beating the Yamaha for the top spot.
This time around there’s a CBR and an RC390 to go against the Ninja 400; however, considering the beating the CBR300R took in 2015, we’re bringing in its bigger brother – the CBR500R – to take on Kawi’s 400. As for the KTM, the RC390 has received some updates since we last tested one three years ago. Bigger brakes, revised suspension, and some chassis tweaks have made it a sharper scalpel compared to 2015. KTM says nothing was changed with the engine, but we find this hard to believe. Our 2018 tester makes three more ponies to the wheel than our 2015 model, reaching that point 1,000 revs higher (granted, these were different dynos, but the difference in power and engine speed seems significant). This was reason enough to include it in this test. If you take racing into account, then the KTM vs. Kawasaki comparison becomes even stronger, as the two brands are fighting it out in the World Supersport 300 category, as well as the MotoAmerica Junior Cup series.
Read the full shootout at: http://www.motorcycle.com/shoot-outs/2018-lightweight-sportbikes-shootout
YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/Motorcycle
Facebook – http://facebook.com/MotorcycleCom
Twitter – http://twitter.com/MotorcycleCom
Web – http://www.Motorcycle.com
Established in 1994, Motorcycle.com is the premier online resource for motorcycle and scooter enthusiasts. With hundreds of high quality, detailed video reviews on bikes from Harley-Davidson, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and just about everybody else, it’s the best place to go to learn about the latest and greatest two-wheeled creations. There’s simply no better resource if you’re planning on buying or if you just want to check out some awesome machines.