Life With Kawasaki's 2024 ZX-4RR, a.k.a. The Murder Hornet, Pt. 2 I'M SORRY BUT YOU CAN'T RIDE YOUR BRAND NEW BIKE
Anticipation And Patience Collide
Here is Part One.

Willy Mammoth
"Ya can't go out and play!" No sooner did the Murder Hornet arrive in the garage that--while we were in our riding gear and about to start the bike--that the phone rang with the news that Kawasaki had issued a "safety recall" on the bike and it could not be ridden, or even started. If we'd have been faster we'd have told Kawasaki that we'd issued a $500 recall on the ten grand we just laid down for the bike but we are slow in the morning now.

Anticipation, meet patience……

Driving back from Indiana took several hours—hours I was happy to invest in my new acquisition. I knew it would be late once I arrived home, so I planned to unload it safely into the garage and await the next day. The weather forecast looked to be cooperative, which meant a christening ride in the morning was in the cards. Sipping on black coffee, standing in the garage admiring the small, yet potent form of the ZX-4RR, I received a call from Westfield Powersports. It was Lori, who handled all the documentation for the ZX. It went something like this:

Lori: Good morning, Willy, how are you?

Me: “Doing great, I’m just about ready to go for my first ride”

Lori: “You can’t do that.”

Me: “Come again?”

Lori: I’m sorry to tell you this, but Kawasaki has put a stop sale on the 4RRs we still have, and safety recall on the ones we’ve sold that are in the affected VIN range, and yours is included. We were notified earlier this morning”

Me: “What happened, what’s wrong with it?”

Lori: “We don’t know, Kawasaki hasn’t told us yet, but as soon as we know, we’ll contact you.”

Me: “Okay”

I've owned over 10 brand new motorcycles in my life, probably more, but this was a new one for me.

Lori was very apologetic about the situation. She knew that plans would have to be put on hold. She got it. It’s one of those calls you receive that ruins the day, and I’m sure that it was not any fun for Lori to make that call.

A few days after, Kawasaki did issue a formal recall notice, stating:

Dear Kawasaki Motorcycle Owner: This notice is sent to you in accordance with the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Kawasaki Motors Corp, U.S.A.., has decided that a defect that relates to vehicle safety exists in certain 2023 Ninja ZX-4RR KRT Editionand 2024 Ninja ZX-4R and 4RR model motorcycles.

What is the reason for this notice? The spark plugs may have been damaged during the vehicle manufacturing process. It may result in unstable idle, hesitation, and engine stalling. Our records indicate that you have purchased one of these units.

What Kawasaki and your dealer will do: At no cost to you, Kawasaki has authorized your dealer to replace the spark plugs. The repair will take up to one hour but may take longer due to scheduling at the dealership and the time needed to obtain required parts.
Paul Forrest
What can you do while you sit around waiting for your brand new Kawasaki motorcycle to be lifted from recall hell so you can ride it? You can wonder what these ink spots are on the engine cases. Medley says they are "final inspection markings" put on at the factory. Clearly the spark plugs missed that "final inspection".
"At no cost to you"!!

Changing spark plugs? That’s it? Pfft! That’s child’s play, I’ll do it myself! Then I wondered, “what do they mean by damaged spark plugs? Too tight? Too loose? Broken insulator? Damaged electrode? In a former life I helped build Honda's Indy Car engines and I'd seen the damage a bad plug could do in an engine. There were numerous scenarios that could involve issues with the spark plug threads in the cylinder head. It seemed like a better idea to let Kawasaki handle it, let them discover any nightmares that may await the tech who works on it. That way, there are no vagaries about warranty coverage.

I got in touch with Westfield’s service department to setup an appointment, and they knew I was some distance away from them. The guy on the other end of the phone offered the obvious option of me going to my local dealer 10 minutes away, instead of them, four hours away. Yes, that was a logical move, but I had my reasons, and it seemed more fitting to me that they fix the bike they just sold to me. I didn't have a great experience with the dealer nearby and I wasn't going back there.

This isn’t the 4RR’s first time on the recall carousel. When it was first released in 2023, there was a stop sale / recall bulletin issued because of improper installation of the stator rotor, "which could cause the engine to stall”. Translation: The bolt holding the stator rotor was coming loose, and it would make very metallic, not nice noises. Nearly 1000 units in the U.S. were affected that time, over a year ago. This unexpected hiccup on the production line had the knock on effect of creating a significant backorder for the stator cover gasket. Some customers waited ‘an extended period of time’ while Kawasaki got caught up on the sudden demand for the aforementioned gasket.

The next issue involved a less serious matter that prompted a tech service bulletin, which described where and how to add drain holes to the main frame. Presumably this means that once 4RRs are in private hands that in washing the bike or one getting wet in the rain leads to a problem with the frame holding water. This is not a new problem in Kawasaki-land.

"The waaaaaiiiittt-ting is the hardest part," --T. Petty

So began the wait. Parts were ordered from Kawasaki USA.

Willy the Marine
Well, maybe if you didn't spend all your time in your bars, your temples and your massage parlors maybe you could build a motorcycle with un-shattereable spark plugs in it?? Also, you're right, the queens you use do not excite us.
In the immortal words of DFA: "I own more than one motorcycle." I was able to fend off the boredom and frustration of not being able to ride a brand new motorcycle I just laid down 10 large on by putting (more) miles on my 2008 Honda CBR1000RR (58,000 miles) and my 2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure (52,000 miles).

The parts arrived a few days later and then a service appointment was made for my garage queen.

About two weeks passed with the Kawasaki 2024 ZX-4RR sitting on its stand in my garage with me unable to ride it or start it or do anything with it but look at it. I'm sure Kawasaki USA understands how frustrating this is for an enthusiast and there's a "make good" certificate for a free jacket or something in the mail.

Yeah, right.

I arrived back at the dealer with my ZX, handed it over and then watched about an hour of MotoAmerica on their TV. Luckily, it wasn't the Baggers so I didn't have ask the sales manager for a barf bag. Shit got weird after COVID in America and there is no greater proof of this in the motorcycle industry than bagger racing. Anyway ...

The recall was a big inconvenience, but credit to Kawasaki for acting quickly to identify the problem and get it fixed. My 4-hours away dealer handled it in a wonderful manner; I can't even imagine how badly my local Kawasaki dealer, the one I'm currently shunning for the rest of my life, would have handled this situation.

Out rolled my 4RR, looking no different, but I was assured by the tech and service guy that all was now well with the bike & I could enjoy it as Kawasaki intended—after the break in procedure, that is….

The Kawasaki-mandated break in procedure on the 2024 ZX-4RR was like being at your bachelor party in a private strip club only you are strapped and hand-cuffed to a chair. No touching!

The engine break in procedure set forth by Kawasaki is, in my opinion, oppressive. There are many assertions in the engine community about how to properly break in an engine. I’m just describing how I’ve done it with this one, without saying—or even implying in the least—that it’s the right way. I didn’t exactly do it Kawasaki’s way, nor did I use the 'break it in how you’ll ride it' approach, either. YMMV, do it your way.
In sixth gear, your maximum allowed speed of 40 mph would not break many in-town speed limits. Going anywhere near a major thoroughfare, let alone a freeway / interstate would probably get you pulled over for impeding traffic flow, if you didn’t get rear-ended first. It's unsafe.
This engine redlines at an indicated**—16,000-rpm, and yet, the owner’s manual states that for the first 150 miles, engine rpm must not exceed 4000 rpm. 4000 rpm—that’s a paltry 25% of the rev range. In sixth gear, your maximum allowed speed of 40 mph would not break many in-town speed limits. Going anywhere near a major thoroughfare, let alone a freeway / interstate would probably get you pulled over for impeding traffic flow, if you didn’t get rear-ended first. It's unsafe. I typically exercise more mechanical sympathy than most—and sometimes less. This time, I was somewhere in the middle of those two descriptors. I got to about 75 miles and rationalized to myself that by now, it was okay to go to the ‘next level’.

The ‘next level’, for those who followed through rules, would be observing a 6000 rpm limit from mile 151 to mile 250. I reached mile 175 and bumped it up to 8000 rpm. I could now confidently mingle with daily traffic scenarios. Aside from the gag reflex behavior the engine exhibits around the 2500 rpm mark, the engine response at the 6000 rpm threshold hinted at the fun that was to come much further up the scale. But now that I was using 8000 rpm, I was noting a little “pushback” against my demands for more acceleration from the throttle-by-wire system. Mind you, I was using only about 50% throttle. Hmmm….

Willy the Marine
Using this stand, the motorcycle can be raised and lowered at will. When you can't ride it for a few weeks because Kawasaki screwed up this will be how you pass the time. Up, down, up, down ....

Once 250 miles have been logged, Kawasaki entrusts the owner to ride “moderately” all the way to the 600 mile finish line. Before I indulged in any ‘moderate riding’, I went ahead and changed the oil and oil filter with 233 miles on the odometer, making sure to capture an oil sample to send in for analysis so that oil conditions could be noted and tracked to detect untoward wear issues. Non-synthetic, Kawasaki-branded oil and factory oil filter were selected to continue the break in process. Reaching each new threshold of rpm limit meant I needed to go into the dash menu to change the point at which the gear position indicator and tachometer blink and change color to orange, telling you it’s time to shift.

Working on the little RR is a breeze, and the oil change was achieved by removing a few fasteners that allow the left lower to move a bit further out of the way to access the filter. Such a sparing approach to performing maintenance will not be the rule, however, as there are plans that will require comprehensive disassembly and a changing of significant parts.

Now that I am in the ‘ride moderately’ stage, I’ve been using upwards of 12,000 rpm and 75%(ish) throttle, it is plainly apparent that the ones and zeroes programmed into the ECU are there to do the bidding of those who do not personally enjoy two-wheeled vehicles, or possibly not even internal combustion engines. It’s disheartening, how locked down this engine is, for the U.S. and Canadian market. To my knowledge, the rest of the world that sees these on the showroom floor gets the full monty of engine performance. Since this is a track bike that will never again be used on a public road….. the ECU will be sent off to the wizards who make it their mission to ensure the ones and zeroes within—add—to the enjoyment, not take away.

Willy the Marine
This is what the oil looked like after 233 break in miles on the 400RR. We sent this oil off to an oil analysis place and will report back what was in it. To us, initially, it looks like refined Brontosaurus but we will wait for the official word.
Overall the little ZX is a grin machine. Ergonomics are sporting, but not punishing, even for my aging frame. The engine is very smooth, almost eerily so, with little vibration to speak of. Rolling the bike around in the garage, even just picking it up off the side stand, it feels surprisingly heavy. It doesn’t have the old school ZXR400’s aluminum perimeter frame, or even the ample presence of aluminum parts, engine not withstanding. Kawasaki claims a “curb weight”—which I understand to mean ‘full of fuel, ready to go’—of 415 lbs. I'll be weighing it soon.

Using the wayback machine to lookup the O.G. ZXR400’s gravity driven weight spec, you see a claimed number of 351 lbs. for the 1991 L model. There’s a catch, though. It’s a ‘dry weight’ claim which, back in the day strained the understanding of reality in the realm of weights and measures. So—in estimation—of the weight of all the necessary fluids to reach a ‘curb weight for the L model, I come to the hypothetical figure of 387 lbs. for a ‘curb weight. That’s a 28 lb. lighter ZX 400 than the one we’re getting today, thanks to the use of steel where aluminum once was. There’s some fat that could be trimmed, for sure, but at what cost and, would you notice/care after a certain point, like when your wallet cries uncle? Once underway, he 4RR is already quite good at feeling much lighter than it is, but there certainly is room for improvement.

As a final note for this installment about the Murder Hornet, if anyone of the 'Soup Army in the St. Louis area can recommend a reputable dyno operator to provide reliable, accurate service to enable us to track effects of engine/engine related parts we install, please send along that information to: Thanks in advance.

** the tachometer is a little bit optimistic, but it isn’t 2006 Yamaha R6 level optimistic….
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