Exclusive First Ride: Genuine G400C Motorcycle

I’m not going to bury the lead here: I really enjoyed riding the Genuine G400C. I think I’d enjoy owning one too. It’s not perfect, but despite its flaws, it’s a rather terrific little motorcycle that threads the needle between starter bike, modern classic, and company game changer for Genuine Scooter Company. Now let’s dive deeper.

Vintage looks, modern components

On first approach, the Genuine G400C looks like a vintage Honda from the 1970s. This impression is reasonable, given that at its heart, this bike is really just a Honda from the mid-2000s. With nearly same-size wheels front and back (18″ rear, 19″ front), chromed steel fenders, a classic teardrop tank, fork gators, and a dozen other details right out of the Japanese cafe racer handbook, the G400C looks like a time traveller. In fact, here you can see the bike nose-to-tail with an actual vintage Honda, my 1974 CB450 K7.

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The Genuine Motorcycle Company graphics and the modern, CRF-derived, 400cc single-cylinder engine are all that give the game away. If the G400C had its original embossed Honda engine covers from its days as the CB400SS, the untrained eye would have a tough time judging the bike’s age, especially at any distance more than ten feet.

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The bike’s modernity is revealed only on closer inspection, and entirely by the engine. The fuel-injected, 4-valve, 398cc thumper makes this bike a close cousin to the late ’80s GB-series Hondas (GB250, GB400, GB500), which used dirt-bike-derived singles on small street bike frames to evoke a cafe racer feel. Unfortunately for Honda, this was about 20 years too early. On the G400C, its most modern details are in some if its smallest components. The vacuum-powered fuel petcock is the first giveaway that this bike is vintage in look only. Then there’s the fuel-injection throttle body, which unlike on Triumph’s modern classic lineup, does not pretend to be a carburetor. Instead, this assembly looks more nondescript and “black box” mechanical, like it’s just part of the air box. A handful of other seemingly random vacuum lines and other add-ons give away the bike’s lack of actual age.

Twin exhaust headers make one wonder if this is a twin-cylinder or a single-cylinder engine. It’s a single, but with two exhaust valves Honda opted to run a header for each. Honda has done this with a lot of singles over the years, including the GB-series bikes and the beloved Ascot 500 model. On the Genuine G400C, these dual headers provided an opportunity for Genuine to change things slightly and inject some character into the bike’s engine. Genuine opted to make one exhaust pipe slightly longer than the other, creating a modest difference in back-pressure. The result is an engine that sounds and feels a lot more like a parallel twin than a traditional thumper. Given the engine’s dirt bike roots, I think this was a very good call on Genuine’s part, helping to reinforce the bike’s street focus. Yet Genuine has also tuned this engine with performance in mind. With their ECU map and exhaust, Genuine is claiming 29 hp at the rear wheel.

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A compact, lightweight package

The Genuine G400C further distanced itself from an actual Vintage Honda as soon as I threw a leg over its black vinyl seat. This bike feels light. At just over 350 lbs wet, the G400C is nearly 100 lbs lighter than my vintage Honda CB450 and almost 200 lbs lighter than my modern Triumph Bonneville. To put that in relative scooter terms, this is a motorcycle that weighs about the same as a Vespa GTS 300, but with 50% more horsepower. Weight savings come primarily from the small size and lack of complexity in the single-cylinder engine, as well as lightweight alloy rims.

The bike is so light, in fact, that I could stand over it, tip it upright, turn loose of the handlebars and then bounce it back and forth between my knees. Above all else, this lack of mass makes the bike feel really accessible. Never ridden a motorcycle before? No problem. You won’t have something heavy or cumbersome to deal with. The center of gravity is also relatively low, which helps even more.

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Putting the “standard” in standard motorcycle

The G400C’s controls are 100% typical. Your left hand controls the clutch, the high/low headlight control, the turn indicators and the horn. The G400C even features a trigger-style passing switch to momentarily flash the high beam — another subtle giveaway that this isn’t actually a vintage Honda. The right hand controls run the front brake, the kill switch, the starter and a dummy switch that we’re assuming would become hazard flashers in production. The ignition sits just below the gauges on the upper triple tree, and unlike my Triumph Bonneville, features an integrated column lock.

Turning the ignition switch to “on”, one need only pull in the clutch to start the bike. That is, if the kick stand is up. If the kick stand is down, the bike will turn over but the engine won’t start. In fact the bike won’t run at all if the kick stand is down, even with the transmission in neutral.

You see, in the USA, the Department of Transportation requires that a motorcycle not be able to pull away with the kick stand down. On most motorcycles, this is accomplished by putting a kill switch on the kick stand. However typically, this switch is relayed such that if the bike is in neutral, it will still run. Then if you try to put the running bike in gear with the kick stand down, it will shut off. The Genuine G400C has a kickstand kill switch, but it lacks the interrupt on the neutral indicator that would allow the bike to run so long as it’s not in gear. Our sources at Genuine are aware of this issue, and are working with their manufacturing partners to address it. At this time its unclear if said fix will make it into the first run of production.

This is easily the G400C’s biggest flaw, but I’d argue it’s not a fatal one. This would not stop me from purchasing a G400C, were I in the market for one. It would, however, definitely have me looking for a fix ASAP.

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The town ride

The G400C starts easily, thanks to its fuel-injection. Right from idle, the bike has a nice little growl to it. It’s not loud, but it’s got a lot more throat than you’d expect from such a small bike. With the kickstand already up, all I had to do to set off was tamp down into 1st gear with my left foot and let the clutch out with a small helping of throttle.

For those who are new to motorcycling and might consider the G400C, you’ll be happy to know that the clutch action is both light and forgiving. Thanks the the bike’s torquey single-cylinder engine, you don’t have to get the clutch/throttle combo perfect every time to avoid stalling the bike. Nor does the G400C make enough power that you have to worry too hard about the bike getting away from you. It’s as beginner-friendly a clutch and throttle package as I have ever ridden.

Right from go the G400C pulls with a satisfying, torquey persistence. The engine makes good power from about 3,500 RPM on up, peaking just shy of 8,000 RPM, which is still below the bike’s electronic rev limiter and 10,000 RPM indicated redline. Such a broad rev range means that you can really stomp on it when you want to. Genuine are saying the G400C shows 29 hp at the rear wheel on the dyno. On such a light bike, that means plenty of entertaining get-up-and-go. While certainly not fast in the grand scheme of things, the G400C will more than get out of its own way, even with my considerable mass aboard (which should be good news for any average-sized folks who were hoping to ride two-up).

On Chicago’s busy city streets, I found myself tearing away from stop lights with gusto, leaving city traffic bouncing distantly behind in the G400C’s round rearview mirrors. The more than adequate power, combined with the G400C’s light weight and respectable suspension, made blasting around the Loop’s surface streets a Saturday afternoon delight. Being squarely faster than surrounding traffic inspired a lot of confidence, especially since at no point did it feel like I was over-riding the bike’s brakes or suspension.

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Overall, the G400C’s throttle response is very linear. It’s relatively flat torque curve means that it’s not too picky about what gear it’s in. If I found myself a gear or two too high, the engine wouldn’t bog too hard, but would happily chug its way out of the little power hole I’d left for it. I didn’t shy away from shifting, however, because the transmission setup in the G400C is nothing short of spectacular, at least for a five-speed. I’d love an additional gear, but even with just five gears to choose from, the way the G400C shifts is nothing short of delightful. Each shift was butter smooth. Clutch-less upshifts were smooth, but there was something extra delicious about romping hard on the engine, quickly grabbing just the right amount of clutch to toe up into the next gear, only to then all-but-dump the clutch right behind that gear change. Every time it was perfectly smooth. Shifts were smoother than on my Triumph Bonneville, and smoother than my BMW G650GS, which is also a thumper. Simply shifting gears was never so satisfying.

On the way down through those five gears, the G400C was equally well-behaved. Thoughtful blips of the throttle were rewarded with nearly imperceptible down-shifts, but even without matching revs, the bike’s transmission was very smooth and forgiving while shifting down. Again, making this a really easy bike to learn on for first-timers. Everything about the power plant feels forgiving.

Opening up

Abandoning Chicago’s downtown surface streets, I tucked the G400C onto Lakeshore Drive. For the uninitiated, Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive (or LSD, as the locals often call it) is one of the few un-interrupted stretches of road in the area. It’s like a miniature freeway that runs through the city, up the coast of Lake Michigan. The posted speed limit is 40 mph, but the average speed of actual traffic can vary anywhere from a standstill to 80 mph depending on time of day. The G400C had no trouble accelerating up to big kid speeds as I dashed onto LSD. As I typically do on this road, I quickly made my way over to the far left lane so that I wouldn’t have any merging traffic to deal with. Traffic in the “fast lane” was (allegedly) doing the better part of 80 mph, and the G400C, even with all 6’3″ of me aboard, didn’t seem to mind at all.

There was more than enough power for me to (allegedly) reach and maintain an indicated 75 mph, although 65 seemed to be the bike’s more comfortable cruising spot. Genuine say the bike will do 90 mph, and I believe them. Put a light rider and a taller sprocket set on the G400C, and I bet you it’d do “the ton” for sure. Yet where I was, down at more reasonable highway speeds, the G400C was very well behaved. There was no noticeable speed wobble or bad road manners. In fact, the G400C’s suspension and lightweight alloy rims actually soaked up the frost heaves and other imperfections on LSD with more comfort than the stock suspension on my 2013 Triumph Bonneville. That bike always seems to drive those frost heaves right up my spine, but the G400C’s rear shocks didn’t do that, much to my surprise. While the bike could definitely benefit from upgraded rear shocks and tweaks to the pre-load and oil weight in the front forks, that’s true of nearly all stock motorcycles these days. Even Ducati’s popular Scrambler model comes with lousy suspension as standard, but I digress.

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On the G400C, the rear shocks feature a four-position preload adjustment and a spring rate chosen specifically by Genuine. You won’t do better in an entry-level shock, but you will see a noticeable improvement from a pair of premium aftermarket shocks. Again, this is typical, and at this price point I’m shocked that the rear suspension is as good as it is.

At speed, the G400C felt steady. The bike’s balance point is slightly rearward, which may even give the G400C some familiar feel for many scooter riders. It’s not twitchy though, thanks to the bike’s frame geometry and a set of internally-mounted handlebar weights. The G400C’s Kenda touring tires, which are an upgrade spec’d by Genuine, also help the bike behave itself at highway speeds. Fifth gear on the G400C is a bit tall, which actually makes it feel really tame on the highway. With plenty of rev range to work with, downshifting to pass was no problem. I could easily imagine someone taking this bike on a B-road cross country trip and really enjoying themselves.

For the handful of swift turns I pushed the G400C through, it behaved itself very well. It went where it was told and there was no argument or push from the front end. The bike is light enough that you can more or less steer it with your hips, but proper counter-steering and body position are rewarded with plenty of corner confidence. For those of you who haven’t ridden a motorcycle before, the overall stability you feel thanks to the motorcycle’s larger wheels is the most significant difference from riding a scooter, especially at higher speeds. Everything feels much more manageable. That said, there was nothing boring about riding the G400C at nearly 80 mph. Pushing small bikes hard is almost always a fun time.

Reining it back in

The Genuine G400C’s braking system features a 280mm semi-floating front rotor matched to a twin-piston caliper, and a drum brake in the rear. Even when slowing from highway speeds, I was able to effectively use the front brake with just two fingers. That’s a good sign. The modern front brake on this machine was more than adequate in slowing it down, although just like any other two-wheeler, both the front and rear brakes should be applied when stopping. While not sport bike powerful by any stretch, the braking power overall was very appropriate for a bike of this size and worlds better than the vintage brakes on my old Hondas. Front brake feel isn’t great, but it’s not as wooden as say, the front brake on the Genuine Stella.

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Fit, finish and ergonomics

Overall, the Genuine G400C sports a fit-and-finish that feels on par, ironically, with most restored vintage Hondas that I’ve encountered. Everything is solid, and there are very few plastic components on the bike. For example, both the front and rear fenders are chromed steel, which I can’t even claim on my Bonneville. The finishes feel solid and durable. Everything is either painted, chromed or powder-coated and should look nice for years to come. The grips and hand controls are generic, but not flimsy or any cheaper-feeling than what you’ll find on most any other standard motorcycles. The clutch and front brake levers feel good, even if they are boring. While many of the bike’s details lack character, none of them have that feel we’ve all encountered when something is obviously the cheapest available component. The product development team at Genuine deserve a lot of credit for upgrading so many of the bike’s details, making it far nicer than its cousin, the Mash Roadstar, and arguably better than when it was a Honda CB400SS.

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My gripes with the bike’s fit, finish and touch points are few. For example, the foot pegs are too high — creating a less-than-optimal ergonomic position for most riders. Our sources at Genuine tell us this has been a common critique of this pre-production bike, and they plan to work with their suppliers to re-work the brackets and make the bike more comfortable in production. That said, it’s not unrideable as-is, even for me at 6’3″ tall, but dropping the pegs just an inch will transform the comfort level for everyone. With a seat height of just 31″, stand-over height should be accessible for most. For those who still have to tippy-toe, at least this bike is nice and light.

Speaking of pegs, another gripe with this pre-production version of the G400C was the lack of spring-loading on the main foot pegs. More than once I bumped the pegs while picking up my feet, only to have the peg stick in its folded position. This made for a couple of awkward “where the hell is the peg?” moments. As a veteran rider, this wasn’t a big deal, but I could certainly see newer riders having some pucker-inducing moments if this isn’t remedied. We’re told this will also be addressed for the production bike as well.

Other production fixes will include the brackets currently holding the front turn signals, which are blocky and unattractive. The indicators shown aren’t the final components either. The seat deserves a better cover material and needs a slightly higher-density foam that doesn’t bottom out so easily. Both of these details are set to change for the better in actual production as well, we’re told.

Overall, the bike’s details are as good as I think any reasonable person could expect at such an affordable price point. Could they be better? In some places, sure. For the most part, however, I’d say the only way this bike gets significantly better, is if it gets more expensive. At just $4,599 MSRP, I’d almost argue that Genuine is giving this bike away a little bit. With all the care they’ve put into it, and how it stacks up against its small bike rivals like the Royal Enfield Bullet or the Yamaha SR400, I think it should be more comparably priced. I know I’m in the minority there, though, as everybody loves a bargain.

Put another way, there’s nothing about this bike that feels like Genuine has cut corners. If anything, it’s the opposite. Genuine could have gone with the exact same component mix as the Mash Roadstar, but they didn’t. They changed two dozen or so details on this bike to make it better and easier to live with. While many of the bike’s details feel a little boring, they don’t feel cheap, and for those worried about the bike’s origins or its quality, hopefully that can help put some of those fears to rest.

It must also be noted that the bike I had for review wasn’t the final version of the G400C. This was a pre-production prototype that Genuine has been using as a test vehicle. It’s not even the final color scheme, as I understand it. As noted above, many of the bike’s details aren’t the final items, and so must be taken with a grain of salt. I’m happy to report, however, that in terms of changes for final production, almost all my gripes about the G400C will be directly addressed.

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Let’s park this thing

I enjoyed riding this motorcycle immensely. I think I’d enjoy owning it too. I really don’t have much negative to say about it, and most of what I do have to complain about is supposedly going to get fixed. The G400C has most of the character of a vintage Honda, but in a modern package that will be so much easier to live with. It’ll cost just $4,599 brand new, and be backed by Genuine’s network of 200+ dealers, their two-year warranty, and two years of roadside assistance.

The biggest question, perhaps, is just who is this bike for? I’d say that predominantly, the G400C is ideal for people who are new to motorcycles and want something that feels vintage, but without all the added “character” that old bikes come with. Whether you’re coming to it with scooter riding experience, or this is going to be your very first powered two-wheeler, the G400C does something that almost nothing else on the market can claim. It’s affordable enough and easy enough to ride that it makes a great first motorcycle. Yet it’s capable enough and flexible enough that you won’t outgrow it after your first season riding it. This has always been the issue with 250cc motorcycles like the Honda Rebel or the Suzuki TU250. Sure, they’re approachable and easy to learn on, and they’re perfect around town, but when you want to stretch your legs a little more, 250cc just isn’t quite enough engine for bigger American roads. Now, that doesn’t make the G400C a good interstate freeway bike either, but it would have the ability to cruise B-roads and 55 mph highways all day long.

The second, and perhaps less obvious group of potential owners for the G400C would be folks who’ve always wanted to customize a bike. Despite many of its modern features, the G400C is still a very simple machine — simpler in many ways than the vintage Honda its pretending to be. For the guy or gal who wants to turn a few wrenches and make a motorcycle their own, one-of-a-kind vision of cafe racer nirvana, the G400C has a lot to offer. If Genuine follows through on their promised line of bolt-on accessories and performance parts for the G400C, aspiring builders will have a lot to work with. That, and the world of standard metric aftermarket parts available through the likes of Dime City Cycles makes for nearly endless possibilities. Given the crossover with so many actual vintage Hondas, plus the standard controls, bars and other details of the G400C — the stage is set for a budget builder to get their hands dirty, make the bike their own, but still have something reliable when they’re done.

For more specs and details on the origins of the Genuine G400C, check out our companion story to this article: In Detail: the Genuine G400C Motorcycle.

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Gallery: Genuine G400C

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