In 1978 Cycle Guide magazine editor Paul Dean was asked, what is the most boring motorcycle out there? Without one bit of hesitation “The Kawasaki KZ400.” This was for an article to be written by Rich Taylor on how to take an ‘Everybike’ and make it more. Well, there was no more an ‘Everybike’ than the little Kawasaki.
A quick bit of history here, Kawasaki made their reputation on building the fastest two stroke motorcycles you could buy, I should know, I had their fastest, the “Evil, Wicked, Mean and Nasty” H2 750. Then Kawasaki went into the four stroke business with the mighty Z1 900. The Z1 was a huge success so Kawasaki jumped headlong into building four stokes. One of the first was the KZ400 twin. Now, Kawasaki was smart, they had the Hi-Performance market, what they didn’t have was the commuter market, Honda owned that one with the CB350. The day to day rider needed an economical, reliable, easy to ride, easy to maintain good piece of basic transportation.
The KZ400 was marketed by Kawasaki as a good, fuel efficient means of transportation. They were right. As a matter of fact, during it’s run, the KZ 400 outsold the Honda 350/360/400! Why? Well, it’s smooth running engine accounted for a lot of that, it was reliable, could do 75 mph all day long with no strain, got up to nearly 70 mpg. It had a modest price and modest performance (a whopping 36 HP…) and could actually do ‘The Ton’ (100 mph..my stock CB350 tops out at maybe (?) 90). What more could you ask for in a commuter bike. The other thing that made the little Kawacker so good was that for learners it was a great value. Most could buy one, ride it for a few months, get the itch for something bigger and faster and then sell it for almost what they paid for it! In 2003 the British magazine Classic Motorcycle Mechanic rated the KZ400 in the ‘TOP 40″ motorcycles of the 1970’s!!!
Kawasaki built the KZ’s from 1974 to 1984 with only a few changes. The first couple years there were oil leaks, carburetion issues, little hiccups here and there. In 1977 the little KZ got the needed redesign and a few upgrades. One of the best upgrades was the KZ400A Deluxe model. For just a few dollars more you got a fairing to keep the wind off of you, you got a nifty set of saddlebags and a nice rear rack. Absolutely perfect for the commuter…who, the bike was designed for.
I found on ebay this morning a really, I mean really nice, KZ400 Deluxe that is really ready to ride. It has been gone through top to bottom and front to back, 11K miles on the clock is nothing for this little bike. Honestly, this is a great bike for a commuter in an urban area and truthfully, it is a PERFECT solo tourer.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. This a really neat bike.