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LAMS with a twist - RVF400, Duke 400M, CB400 or something else fun

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by yoshiwaan, Feb 14, 2011.

  1. tl;dr version:
    I can have a bike for a year, it must be a LAMs bike. I won't have a bike for a few years after that so it must be fun. I'm not a learner, I've legally ridden bigger bikes before in the UK. My options are so far Ducati Monster 400, Honda CB400, Honda RVF400 or Suzuki GSR400. I am open to suggestions, but no 250s, no restricted normal bikes (ie 600-660s), no GS500. Which one and why?
    If you are an owner, please at least go down to the questions section and try to answer a few questions for the bike you own, I will be extremely grateful (no, not in THAT way)!
    Would love to know somewhere to source a GSR400 as it's the only one I've not test riden.
    most importat question, what luggage options do I have for them all?


    Essay version:


    I'm new to the forum. I've been lurking for a while and now that it's come to the point where I am actually buying a bike I feel like I need the knowledge of this community to help me make a decision, so I signed up!
    I'm also going to put lots of detail into this to hopefully help anyone else out in my unique position.

    First, a little about why I want these bikes. I got my full license in the UK under the direct access scheme, which allows you to go straight to a full capacity bike through extended training on higher capacity bikes and tests on higher capacity bikes. Despite this I still ended up on a Ninja 250R as I liked it's dexterity in the corners, I'd bought it for my learner period and just didn't bother upgrading once I passed my test. Now I've come back to Aus and had my heart set on a Street Triple, but when I went to switch my license back to the Aus version as I'd had it for less than 3 years and I'm under 25 (I'm 24) they put me on P2 until November, so there goes that idea.

    I plan to move to Cananda in July 2012 for a couple of years,where I definitely won't get a bike due to the snow, so I'll basically have a bike for 1 year here to get my fix, so I want something fun and I'm willing to pay a reasonable ammount for it, I know my options are limited as I need a LAMs bike.

    I've done a fair bit of research and decide I don't want another 250 due to performance, nor do I want a restricted full capacity bike (such as Gladius LAMs or ER6 LAMs, something of that ilk) as I think they miss the whole feel of a bike, being able to rev it and make it sing. I find the GS500 dull.
    I would commute about half an hour to get to work each way, I won't bother riding if it's raiding. The commute is from Central Sydney to Brighton-Le-Sands, so it's against traffic the whole way (so I shouldn't be sitting on my bike at a crawl for long at all).

    What I've come down to, although I'm definitely open to suggestions, are these 4: Honda CB400 (a newer model), Honda RVF400, Ducati Monster 400 and Suzuki GSR400.

    I test rode the first three on Saturday, it definitely helped to confuse my decision even further, but here are my impressions.

    CB400: I had the VTEC version, I know some people aren't sold on VTEC but I think adds a nice extra characteristic to the engine. The power was adequate, it was comfortable and easy to control at slow speeds. My bike seemed to have a stuttering issue around where VTEC kicked in (5k RPM), but I assume this is not normal? It also felt 'wallowy' around corners, it would kind of shivver if you adjusted your line at all, it definitely did not inspire confidence in the handling, not a bike I would like to press on with around corners. If you are an owner please give your impressions on this as it may have just been my bike. I found it a little uninspiring over all. Mirrors were the size of my house and it didn't vibe at motorway speed. Cheapest of the 3 I test rode, including insurance.

    Monster 400: Completely different character to the CB400, less comfortable and slower (3-5k rpm feels like a 125...), horible turning circle. It felt okay at slow speeds. It looks amazing (red with the rear seat cowel, brushed twin pipes, engine on show like the girls at schoolies) but the real highlight of the show was the sound of the thing. It's the only bike I've ever ridden where I had more fun slowing down than speeding up, as a blipped downshift sounds like a Lion snarling in rage as it dives upon its prey. Felt a lot stiffer than the CB400 around corners, it inspired more confidence and was quite nimble at city speeds. No vibe at motorway speed. I worry that I would get annoyed at the lack of power in the bike quite quickly... I would love for any owners to comment again. Most expensive of the three I test rode, most expensive insurance.

    RVF400: I really like the retro looks of this bike, I actually prefer it without the Tyga fairings (I know, I'm crazy). It's the fastest of the three by a long, long way. It definitely takes more work to initiate turn in but once you're leant over it holds to your line like glue, I think it would take a fair bit of getting used to though to be quick. Handled okay at slow speeds, but definitely worse than the other two. Not much to say on comfort, it's a different class. I wouldn't call it uncomfortable but it's a sports bike. This is the one that really gets my juices going but my first though when I opened the throttle to about 70% was how easy it would be to lose my license on the thing. But then again it has the most potential to stay interesting and I could take it on an advanced rider course or track it... Around town I'm not sure about it, whether it would get uncomfortable or not. Once again, any owners please comment. In the middle in cost of the 3 I test rode, I can get cheaper insurance than the monster if I get a 1996 model for some reason.

    GSR400: These things are rarer than Hen's teeth. I'd love any and all information anyone has, or if they know someone is selling them (or a private seller in Sydney). According to the guy at the shop they've got the power of the RVF400, I think they look as good as the monster and they should have the practicality of the CB400. Unfortunately the only reliable way to get one is from Sumoto, and I live in Sydney so it would be a huge gamble. It also seems hard to get insurance for the thing, anyone know where to get it? The guy in the shop said swann, they usually seem expensive to me. Any owners please give me as much information as you can, is it worth holding out for this bike?

    I have a few questions for each bike:

    CB400: Are the VTEC/unstable steering issues I had on the test ride just that being a dodgy example or do they all do this? What are luggage options for this, it looks like you could get anything really, I'm sure there are Ventura racks for this. Has anyone stiffened up the suspension a little. Any recommended mods.

    Monster 400: How's the reliability, honestly? It it expensive to service? I know peopla are going to complain about ruining the lines, but can I get any luggage for this, or does anyone know of a rear rack that will fit it (something I can put a bag on to fit my boots and bike trousers in at least). I forgot to look how easy it was to take off the rear seat cowl, is that just a couple of bolts? How do you find the power, do you ever wish you had more. How is it in the twisties? If you have a pre 2004 model do you find you have to choke it for a long time for it to warm up? Is it reliable and stable in carby version? Has anyone fitted crash bungs/frame sliders to theirs (pics)? What's with the 5 speed gearbox, do you get decent economy?

    RVF400: Can you get a plusher seat, and if so where from? Can you get luggage for it, please let me know of any rear racks that fit if you have one fitted. If people commute, how is a half hour commute on your back/shoulders/neck/elbows? What about a ride to Melbourne? Are parts expensive (the fella in the shop didn't seem to think so but still) and do you have to wait for them? The bike seems reliable from all I've read, is that so? Has anyone fitted crash bungs to theirs? I've seen a few available, any recommendations?

    GSR400: Where can I try one?! Anyone know where to source one or someone that is selling one in Sydney?

    If you've read this far then congratulations! I appreciate any input you have.

  2. Hello yowshiwaan and welcome on board.
    Seems like you've done your homework and studies which is a very good thing. My below comments will mainly be about the CB400 as I have been riding on one for over a year and clocked up 30000kms.

    CB400: This bike only begun being sold in Australia since 2008 (before that in the late 80's) so unless you had a model made in the 80's it should have vtec on it. How heavy are you as on my bike vtec doesn't kick in till 7k RPM. As well as being the cheapest of the 3 it's also the newest but based on your post I'd say you rode an unofficial grey import version. Try a test ride on a local 08-11 version and you will see a mountain of difference. Good commuter, weekend rider and allround bike. This bike also comes with abs and non abs versions.

    Did I say it's reliable? Well it definitely is and is also very economical (never let me down).

    RVF400 is a nice bike but is an import and now they are also getting a little old in the tooth and you'd be hard to find an molested good condition one for a decent prce. Fyi a decent one sold on the boards here last week for 9K.

    Other bikes I wouldn't comment and I'm sure people who have ridden them can offer feedback.

    Yes the vtec/steering issues you had where the specimen you tested as it was an import (fairly sure). Yes there are Ventura racks available or you can design your own base plate to mount a top box which the previous owner did on mine.

    Here are some of my mods:
    Moriwaki One-Piece Black Shorty full system exhaust (Safety mod to be heard by traffic, stock exhaust is too quiet)
    Moriwaki Frame Sliders (engine guard knobs)
    GodSend custom radiator mesh (To protect the radiator from stones etc)
    OEM screen (Helps against wind at speeds of 100 and above)
    Scottoiler (Auto chain lubing/cleaning system)
    Leds (Better visibility at night)
    Rim Stickers (Better visibility at night)
    Top Box (Comes in handy when on riding tours or just carrying things in general)
    HID 4300K (Much better viewing vision at night)
    Metzeler M5 front (Putting a power pure on tomorrow)/Michelin Pilot Road 2 rear tyres

    Mods to come:
    41mm clip ons to lower riding position
    Ebay levers (look better)
    Pro grip gel grips

    Have stiffened the rear and front suspension on the adjusters provided.
  3. RVF are a great bike, but expensive. However, they are getting even more so rather than cheaper so you will definitely get your money back at resale.

    Have you thought about getting a restricted bike and unrestricting it? Quite easy to do on some of them. It will give you a 600 with decent power and lams on the rego label.
  4. Since you're considering an RVF I'm guessing 2nd hand bikes aren't out of the question. In which case even though you've already ruled out a GS500 there are other non-restricted 500+cc options such as:
    Kawasaki ER-5 - water cooled and slightly more powerful than the GS
    Kawasaki GPZ550 - a sportier version of the ER-5 (getting old, but less likely to have been thrashed anywhere near as much as an RVF)
    Yamaha SZR660 - big torquey single in an insanely quick, but tiny, frame

    There's also other grey-import 400s you may want to check out such as:
    Kawasaki ZZR400 - Basically just a more powerful Ninja 250R
    Yamaha XJR400 - Basically a Yamaha equivalent to the 4-cylinder CB400 (baby version of the XJR1300).
    Suzuki GSX400 - Much like the XJR, though this time it's a baby version of the GSX1400.
  5. ResmeN, yes it was an imported model from 2002. You certainly inspire a lot more confidence in the bike, I think it would be worth me taking a test ride on a much more modern, Australian version.

    Lilley, I would prefer to do things by the book, although quite a few people have told me to do that. Good resale value on the RVF400 is another good point though!

    jd, I'd have to lump the ER5 in with the GS500 in terms of my interest level, I've actually ridden that bike a fair bit before. After what ResmeN said about the CB400 I thnk I'd probably head for one of them rather than an imported CB400/XJR400/GSX400, the price difference isn't that much by the looks, at least where I've looked.
    I've certainly had my eye out for a ZZR400, but have not seen any available.
    The GPZ550 and the SZR660 are good recommendations though, thanks! I've never ridden a big single, what's that like? What is the power band like? It seems to rev a lot lower than other bikes, understandably.

    Appreciate all the comments.
  6. In all honesty, if you shop around for a while and pick one at a decentish price you will probably make a profit.
  7. Biggest downside is the vibration, though it is fun finding the resonant frequency of the front indicators :LOL:. Best way to picture it is to think of that brief surge of power you get on something like a 250 Ninja just before you have to change gear. Then imagine having that across pretty much the entire rev range. :)
    Of course even the SZR still has a sweet spot, but you don't need to be tap-dancing on the shift lever anywhere near as often. Couple this with light weight, a good frame and exceptional brakes and suspension and you have something that is certainly far from boring. Only reason they weren't more popular I suspect is simply because it's really only suited to short, skinny riders.
    An alternative would be either an SRX-6 or SRX-4, basically an earlier, and less extreme, generation of the SZR. Can be tricky to find one though, I've been looking for a decent SRX-6 on and off for about 3 years without much luck :( (only ones I've found have been in QLD or NSW).

    With the ZZR400 there's only one place that register those in this country and they're in Melbourne. So that's where you're most likely to find one.
  8. dude why dont you get a motard?
  9. Hi the honda is not a good bike for Ls to twitchy my wife had one. Not good over sized disc and way to heavy she droped it so many times The 250 vcr is a good op?
  10. +1 get a tard forget the street bikes they are slow and dear.
  11. NO DISRESPECT but chicks do drop bikes more than blokes and twitchy because its a fuel injected not carby ?

    Definately try an ozzy CB400 yours doesnt sound right. I did 18000 on mine in 6mts, it never missed a beat and it got a hiding =D>

    Im 110kg and the suspension was just cranked up, happily took me and all my gear to Moto GP on a 2000k round trip.

    Its also got a digital petrol gauge which most LAMS bikes dont have and uber storage, you can go for a weekend and carry everything under ya seat.=D>
  12. Although I'd agree with twitchy handling mid corner on the example I rode the other comments here are leading me to believe there was an issue with the one I rode. I'm not interested in another 250, as that was the capacity of my last bike. I would hardly call the CB400 heavy, it's 168kg dry. Maybe if you're used to a scooter or 125 I guess. I've yet to drop a bike so I'm not worried about that, I think I got all (most?) of my dropping/crashing out of the way on my pushbike as a kid :)

    I've never really thought about a motard, they're not something that have interested me. I guess there is no harm in looking though, what are some good recommendations? Something reasonably swift.
  13. Out of those in the OP, the RVF or CB400. The RVF is the quickest by a good margin, best handling and best braking. Motards are awesome, but they're not a sports bike, and will be left behind past 120-140km/h.
  14. spot on. Pretty much, if you don't think you will be pushing well over 100 often, and straddling a knife blade with your ass cheeks doesn't bother you, go a 400/600 motard (400 might be a better start)
  15. Look at the yammy xt660x and the aprilla sxv550!!!
  16. I have had mine for a little over 18 months now, I have only needed the carbie balanced once I got new loud pipes on it. couple of oil changes and a service, hasn't cost me that much really. no more than the honda spada we have as well.
    I believe you can get racks, but I am not sure you can in Oz.
    It is a great feeling bike, very fun in the Twisties.
    I have a 2003 and it does need a choke for a long while but while it is warming up the roads I use are normaly backed up so I just leave the choke on till I hit the faster flowing roads. can get a lot of lag in the response if it is too cold, and tends to flood at that point as well.
    I have some Oggy knobs on my unit. but that is it..
    I get around 320 - 360 depending on city or country riding, out of an 18L tank it is not too bad.
  17. so youre looking for a fast LAM bike and havent really thought about a motard. righto. haha.

    depends how much maintenance but a drz400sm is good for low maintenance, or if you want to do a bit of maintenance go a husaberg fs650 or if you want a race bike with lights go the aprilia sxv.

    when i say race bike, its not like buying an r1 and calling it a race bike. the sxv's make as much sense as a road legal bike as an F1 car.

    i'm not sure in NSW but the husqvarna sm610 may be LAMS, if it is get one of those. great mix between price, pace and reliability.
  18. Thanks for that mate, that's good information. One more question, do you ever find yourself wanting for more power?
  19. I thought so. As I ride a bigger dirt bike, and have done since I was a teenager. But I rode an R6 (MY06), but found the Duke to have plenty of get up and go from lights, it doesn't keep up with the 600's, but the twin has plenty of toque, so it accelerates very well. so getting from 0 to 60 or 100 happens quite fast, and you do use alot of the rev range to do that, bigger bikes I am not sure I would use that much of the rev range, and will not use the bikes power.

    I am looking at purchasing the R6 I rode or a 2nd hand Street triple R, but I am very reluctant to sell the duke, so the upgrade keeps getting put off. It is a very easy bike for me to ride, it just fitted. With the IE (fuel injection) models out there, of the Duke they would be a very good ride.

    The other thing I do love about the Duke is the stopping power, mine has twin brembo's and it stops so well. I have had to use that power a couple of times in the learning of road craft.

    I think you want to get on one and just ride it.. if you want you are welcome to come and have a play on my bike.
  20. If leaning towards the Duke, keep in mind the M600 and 600SS are learner legal too.