Having presented buying tips on the Honda VFR400 (NC21, NC24) and VFR400R, CARtoday.com motorcycle correspondent Darren Ravens sheds some light on the second part of the grey-import quartet, the RVF400 (NC35) and CBR400RR (NC23, NC29).

Having presented buying tips on the Honda VFR400 (NC21, NC24) and VFR400R, CARtoday.com motorcycle correspondent Darren Ravens sheds some light on the second part of the grey-import quartet, the RVF400 (NC35) and CBR400RR (NC23, NC29).


Honda RVF400


The NC35 has the most “prestige value” of all the 400s, but it is debatable whether the improvements over the NC30 are enough to justify such a high price increase. It is essentially an evolution of the NC30, but it is more of a revision than a totally new model.


Carburetion is slightly different and the motor actually produces a few kilowatts less (40 kW as opposed to the 44 kW of the NC30) in standard trim, and this is mainly due to the agreement between the Japanese “Big Four” to put a ceiling on output for the 400cc class from the mid-90s.


It has 2mm smaller throttle bodies and the intake ports are narrowed to increase air speed to the combustion chamber. The engine is reportedly half a kilogram lighter, mainly by the use of hollow camshafts.


It also has T-section vacuum pistons (as oppose to conventional circular section pistons), which give less resistance to lifting because the bottom of the piston is smaller. That makes the engine very responsive, and it produces its power more smoothly than the NC30, despite the slight decrease in maximum power output.


Suspension comprises 41mm cartridge-type upside down forks that are lighter because they have thinner stanchions and lighter springs. Normally, inverted forks are heavier than conventional ones, but not in this case. Along with a 17-inch rear wheel this bike takes the NC30’s great handling and makes it that little bit more refined.


The rear single-sided swing-arm (Pro-arm in Honda-language) has improved a leverage ratio and uses needle-bearings to make the shock more responsive. The pro-arm uses a 17mm pivot shaft that is 3mm shorter, with the bearing reduced to balance rigidity with the forks and the main frame. The aluminium twin-spar frame holds the engine differently, with the spars extending down to the engine casings, connecting with four bolts, like the RC45.


The riding position has changed as well, with the handlebars 24mm nearer the rider and 10mm higher than the NC30.


In short, the NC35 does everything the NC30 does - just better. In our survey there was scarcely a bad word to be said about the NC35.


However, one or two owners complained about the decreased power output compared with the NC30, but there seem to sufficient aftermarket options available to keep the more power-hungry owners happy. The complaints about inaccessible spark plugs continue but it seems that is the price one pays for the joys of a V4 motor.


The NC35 is regarded by many as the best-looking 400 ever built. Looking at it, it’s easy to see where this opinion comes from and although I still like the look of the NC29, the NC35 just pips it in the Miss 400cc beauty pageant due to its close resemblance to the legendary RC45.


Riding it:


Riding the NC35 is simply a joy. There’s nothing to say about it that hasn’t already been said about the NC30 except maybe that it seems a little bit surer-footed and little bit more refined. It’s better than the NC30, but it definitely doesn’t blow the latter away. Handling is improved to a fair degree, as is power delivery, but one has to wonder if a sorted NC30 would not do just as well.


Brakes on the NC35 have been upgraded too and the new ventilated disks are paired with a set of Nissin callipers. In the NC35’s favour it is a newer machine and so will most likely be in a better condition although the individual bike’s history will be more of a determining factor.


Price guide:


1994 – 1998: R23 000 – R35 000


Spotter’s guide:


Upside-down forks, twin faired-in headlights, 17-inch rear wheel and RC45 looks.
Honda CBR400RR


The CBR400 range began with the AERO version of the NC23. Its jelly-mould shape was in line with Honda’s design-style in the mid-80s and