If you're a teenager dreaming about getting your first bike, chances are you have some pretty strong feelings about what you want it to be. No doubt, your parents have some strong opinions too—assuming they're okay with you getting a bike in the first place.

The last thing you want is something you’d be embarrassed to show up to school on. It’s gotta be cool. Unfortunately, ever since your dad showed up to your seventh grade open house wearing a beret, a loud Hawaiian shirt, and boat shoes, you’ve known your parents have little regard for what’s cool—or for your social standing.

2019 Kawasaki Z400
The 2019 Kawasaki Z400 has big-bike looks in a tiny package.Kevin Wing

Still, you are their beloved progeny. So you should listen to them, since—believe it or not—your parents were cool before they disposed of their prime years by teaching you how to wipe yourself and picking lice out of your hair.

Your parents want you to have a bike that's cheap to run, cheap to insure, and that will bring you home safely at the end of a ride. Particularly that last bit. Think of all the overpriced organic food they've fed you ("only the best for our little Jimmy") and all those violin lessons. You're an investment, kid. Think they did everything for your own gratification? Nope. You've gotta live a long time and make a lot of money so you can take care of them when they're old. Because by then Social Security will probably have long been used up to build a wall between the US and Canada or something.

2019 Kawasaki Z400
The Z400’s small dimensions and light weight are what most define the ride.Kevin Wing

Fortunately, the 2019 Kawasaki Z400 is so cool you’ll want it, and it’s the kind of bike your parents can get behind. Which—if they’re not vehemently opposed to this whole bike thing in the first place—automatically qualifies them as cool.

If you want to read more about the Z400, click here for my full review.

Here’s what you need to say:

“Mom and Dad, I know that you want me to be safe on the road, and that’s important to me too. The Z400 comes equipped with ABS, so if there’s ever an emergency, I’ll be able to stop safely. It will also prevent me from trying to do stoppies to impress your boss’ hot daughter, who I’ve had a bit of a thing for ever since she fell into that pond at the company picnic and casually shook her hair out in front of me, which always replays in my mind in slow motion whenever I think about, which isn’t that often, I swear.

2019 Kawasaki Z400
Although the suspension is 10 percent softer than the Ninja 400’s, it’s nicely sprung for road riding. Especially for beginners who won’t be pushing the envelope.Kevin Wing

“Because I inherited Grandpa’s short legs, a low seat height is important until I gain confidence. The Z400’s 30.9-inch saddle is perfect. And since it only weighs 364 pounds at the curb, it feels more like a bicycle, some would say.

“Professional reviewers have noted that ‘With a short 53.9-inch wheelbase and a steep 24.5-degree steering angle, the little Z doesn’t so much chew up corners as it does glide through them.’ That means it will accentuate the degree to which my body position and pressure on the bars and pegs affects handling. It’ll help me learn a sensitivity behind the bars that will make me a better rider down the road—on any bike.

2019 Kawasaki Z400
With the lightest clutch feel of any bike you’ll find, shifting is a breeze. The shift lever is equally light. You’ll be doing clutchless upshifts in no time.Kevin Wing

“You may have heard the engine’s power delivery has an edginess that belies the bike’s intended purpose, but it adds an element of excitement that a bike with around 44 hp needs. After all, I still want to feel the exhilaration of riding, but I know it’s important to not scare myself or get a speeding ticket whenever I open the throttle. Its ultralight and progressive clutch engagement is perfect for getting used to the mechanics of this riding thing.

Palomar Mountain in Southern California on a motorcycle
Riding around Palomar Mountain in Southern California.Kevin Wing

"I promise to take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic RidersCourse to get my license. I'll always wear All The Gear, All The Time. I'll never take selfies while I'm riding. I'll never ride with a passenger, especially your boss' daughter.

2019 Kawasaki Z400
Kawasaki’s Z styling has had some missteps over the years, but the Z400 tones down some of the aggressive lines for a bike that will likely appeal to a broader audience.Kevin Wing

“I promise to take care of you when you’re old and if you wear that heinous Hawaiian shirt again, I won’t pretend to not know you like I did last time.”

And if that doesn’t work, you’ll just have to wait till you’re an adult to get a motorcycle. Don’t rule out a Z400 then, either.

2019 Kawasaki Z400
As you’d expect on a bike in this price range, adjustability is limited. Levers aren’t adjustable; the suspension is only adjustable for preload in the rear.Kevin Wing

Kawasaki 7400 Specifications

PRICE $4,799
ENGINE 399cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC parallel twin
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER N/A
CLAIMED TORQUE 28 lb.-ft. @ 8,000 rpm
FRAME Steel trellis
FRONT SUSPENSION 41mm Showa nonadjustable conventional fork; 4.7-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION KYB shock adjustable for preload; 5.1-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Nissin 2-piston calipers, 310mm disc w/ ABS
REAR BRAKE Nissin 2-piston caliper, 220mm disc w/ ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 24.5°/3.6 in.
WHEELBASE 53.9 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 30.9 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 3.7 gal.
CURB WEIGHT 363.8 lb.
AVAILABLE Now
CONTACT kawasaki.com