400cc, 17,000 Redline Sportbike Madness

Ueno district in Japan, once a motorcycle nirvana, now is known mostly for its parks …


The 400cc sportbike category was extremely popular in Japan in the late 1980s. J. Model

These bikes were said to be the best handling production motorcycles Japan ever produced … trick 400cc with lunar-redlines and capable brakes.
Based on strict licensing laws in Japan in the 1980s, the 400cc was the maximum displacement many riders were allowed to ride. As a result, the Japanese Big Four put a lot of emphasis on 400cc sportbikes and many who rode them say they were among the best handling motorcycles ever built.
Pictured (from a circa 1989 image) was one of the shops in Tokyo’s famous Ueno district. At its height, the small Ueno district was said to host over 100 motorcycle dealerships and accessory shops.  They are now mostly gone as the average age for a motorcyclist in Japan in 2017 is around 54 years old.

These are the four top 400cc sportbike sellers in the late 1980s, Kawasaki’s GPX400, Yamaha’s FZR400, Suzuki’s GSX-R400 and Honda’s CBR400R.
Only the Yamaha became widely available in the States and it became one of the most popular road racing machines of its era. Black market versions of the other machines became hot commodities here in the US.

A lot of enthusiast wish they could hop in a time machine and scoop up these bargains of 28 years ago. The most expensive of the four, the Suzuki, was at the time only about $4900 US.


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