Two-Wheel Tuesday – 19,000 RPM: All Day, Every Day

Thanks to their tiny pistons and rods, production 250cc four-cylinder street bikes could safely access engine speeds that would turn larger engines into jackhammers—and before too long, molten metal. At one time, all the Big Four Japanese motorcycle manufacturers built 250cc fours. But the cost of a high performance four doesn’t change too much based to displacement, so they were never imported into the big-bike-loving U.S., and due to that rather high cost-to-performance ratio these tiny, high-revving wonders are now extinct worldwide. But folks in places like Australia were able to sample this forbidden and super-exotic moto fruit. The custom hybrid featured in this video is a bit of an Internet star, having the higher performance, peakier Kawasaki ZX2R engine slotted into a standard ZR250 Balius chassis. The free-flowing exhaust provides a spine-tingling soundtrack to what is admittedly a fairly ordinary trip through city traffic on a 45 HP bike. But the rider’s cackling laugh demonstrates the endearing thing about these little four-cylinder bikes: even heading to the corner market, you could feel like a racing hero.
Rumors began percolating last month when a spokesman within Kawasaki said the company was “seriously considering” developing a new 250cc four to compete against the parallel twins Yamaha and Honda’s currently offer in that segment. It would be a risky move, but I for one would love to see one of these little screamers make a comeback.

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22 responses to “Two-Wheel Tuesday – 19,000 RPM: All Day, Every Day”

  1. peugeotdude505 Avatar

    That’s awesome, I want one.

  2. Batshitbox Avatar

    I had a Honda CB-1, or CB400F, for a while. It was blessed with a gear driven cam system that let its 1980s technology street engine rev up to 14,000 rpm. Nothing happened under 8K, I remember that much.
    Also, with a TBR full race system on it (you could roll a golf ball from the header all the way through) it made a hell of a racket. On a trip from Boston to Portland, Maine I came close a couple of times to jumping off the thing and beating it senseless with a fence rail. It was like riding around with a rabid weasel shrieking at your ankles all day.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      “It was like riding around with a rabid weasel shrieking at your ankles all day.”
      And the award for humorously evocative writing goes to…BATSHITBOX!

  3. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    Suzuki made a 250/4, (well yes they all did) and some of their versions were quite nice. But there which was usually a 400 version as well which was always better. I always liked the Katana re-release, they re-styled the engine castings to match the 750, 1000, & 1100cc originals

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      The 400 Katana in the anthracite gray is one of the most perfectly styled motorcycles ever.

    2. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      The 400 Katana in the anthracite gray is one of the most exquisitely styled motorcycles ever.

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        Hans Muth is a genius.
        But with those wheels and crankcases, surely, that one’s an original 759/1000/1100 ?

        1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

          Nope, that’s a 400. Look at the full-size photo and you can see the radiator in front of the engine:

          The airbox, side cover, and the frame plate where the swingarm pivots are also slightly different shapes from the big bike.

          1. Rover 1 Avatar
            Rover 1

            You’re right, I just looked at the wheels.
            Now I have to get one.

          2. Rover 1 Avatar
            Rover 1

            Mind blown indeed! So there are a few available then.
            In that vein see also
            for tradecar.view

          3. Rover 1 Avatar
            Rover 1

            These websites and looking for them are addictive aren’t they?
            This is not helping my discipline in sticking to my savings plan for a nice tidy ZZR 1100/ZX11.
            It’s winter in NZ now and a snow forecast in the hills above us, but in five months the time will be right for motorcycling again on our quiet roads.
            Remember though, retro can get a chance to repeat again. The next Katana reprise will look the same and have ABS and traction control invisibly added.

          4. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

            I forgot you were in New Zealand. Is it easy to import Japanese graymarket bikes there?

          5. Rover 1 Avatar
            Rover 1

            Sorry about the delay in reply, it was overnight.
            Yes. Ridiculously, inanely stupidly, easy. It has driven most used vehicle traders out of existence and contributed to a steeper depreciation rate on new and near new vehicles. Even twenty years ago when import restrictions were suddenly relaxed, in a neo-liberal spasm, JDM cars, trucks and bikes became very common, very quickly. When I worked as a motorcycle courier, most of the other guys bikes were JDM 250s and 400s. The exception to the bikes being better were bikes above 600cc because of JDM hp restrictions so they’re not really imported now. 65% of NZs vehicle fleet are used JDM imports. Two of my MB W124s are ex JDM new.

          6. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

            I really want to import a JDM Suzuki small bore four, but I would have
            no idea how to go about it and not lose my money in a bureaucratic
            snafu, or alternately get scammed by someone halfway around the world.
            Still, a GS250FW or GF250S would be awesome.

          7. Rover 1 Avatar
            Rover 1

            Forget the 250s if there is a 400 version available, as there invariably is. Sometimes there are 400 versions of 600s which should usually be avoided for much the same reason. (unless you have access to a 600cc motor to swap in, eg Kawasaki GPZ400 to GPZ600) The bigger capacities are in a better power to weight sweet spot and usually aren’t built down to a price quite as much. The 250 fours without balance shafts and all those revs are often/usually quite vibratory in a ‘loosen all the nuts and bolts’ way, and I think, might be too slow for modern traffic.
            The 400 version of that platform had a version that was quite common here, the Suzuki Impulse, and quite a few GSXR400RRs are here as well.(I swapped the front end off one of these onto my GSX750ESD to get a 17″ front wheel.)
            Later Impulse models adopted a more conventional ‘naked bike’ aesthetic as well as some nicely historicist retro versions like the GS1000ish GSX400ZT. ( with added Yoshimura available.)
            Some of the race rep 400s are quite exquisite, with materials and technology straight off their big brothers. I’m tempted strongly by the RC30ish Honda VFR400R. But Suzuki seem to have a more sensible attitude to parts sharing. between their 400 models. Still, as hobby bikes they wouldn’t do much mileage and the build quality is incredibly good.
            As for importing one yourself, contact someone who’s done it- even in Canada. There is some transparency in that it’s easy to see the original price in Japan and what mark-ups have been applied. The Japanese are scrupulously honest about vehicle condition and are really good people to deal with, specially if you can find an English-speaker. It’s fairly common now to Skype about and video what you’re looking at.

          8. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

            The original Suzuki 250 four motor was much smaller than the 400s, which were typically the same cranks as the 600s. I want that specific engine just because I’ve loved those bikes forever; they are super slow, but actually make mellow touring bikes.

          9. Rover 1 Avatar
            Rover 1

            You could try looking for one of these, the Suzuki GSX250F Across. Moving the fuel tank means you get a nice big storage space and/or secure helmet storage. They came with the X913 stickers in Australia as well, the model code for export.

            View post on


          10. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

            I really like it, but I wish you could see the engine!

          11. Rover 1 Avatar
            Rover 1

            Same as the CBR1000 and first CCBR600.

  4. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    The other thing you can do with tiny four cylinder engines is to put two of them together and make a tiny V8. Mr Drysdale in Australia made this 750 V8 and a bike to fit it in. Later he made a 1000cc V8. Both using Yamaha parts.

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