When we look back on 2020, will we remember it as the year where 400cc Japanese inline-fours came shrieking back into motorcycling? While we can’t say for sure if that’s the case, those of us who love them can certainly hope so.
What sent us hurtling down that particular mental path? There’s speculation from Japanese magazine Young Machine that Honda could be contemplating an all-new CBR400RR. That publication even took the time to mock-up a render of what such a bike could look like, sticking a current CB400 engine inside a 650 frame and covering it with 250RR-inspired bodywork.
It’s not an unreasonable idea. Although they aren’t usually North America’s cup of coffee, 400s are well-loved in Asian markets. Also, the more you dig into motorcycle history, the more you realize that Japan’s Big Four love nothing more than constantly trying to one-up each other with models that directly compete against one another. It’s a cycle that will likely continue unto infinity, and since we’ve gotten so many amazing bikes out of it, why would we ever complain?
Two other things seem fairly reasonable if this is a road Honda is going down. Young Machine speculates the earliest we could expect to see it would probably be late in 2021—which makes sense, unless Honda is further along in development than anyone suspects.
Also, if a new CBR400RR is coming in 2021 or later, it will likely be Euro5-compliant. Honda released plenty of tasty 400cc sportbikes in the ‘80s and ‘90s in Japan. The rest of the world only started to truly appreciate them later, after enough bikes made it through importation hoops and enough riders started mouthing off about how awesome these tiny bikes were. Could laying 30+ years of groundwork finally mean the rest of the world is ready for something like this? Probably not, but I’d love to be wrong about this.