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words - Martin Child
Kawasaki relights the world’s fastest bike fuse and we punch it down a drag strip like a speeding bullet. But it’s not all about brawn – there's poise and control, too

Just when the governments and legislation makers thought they had the industry shepherded into a controllable pen, Kawasaki goes and launches the 2012 ZX-14R under the banners of “World’s fastest accelerating” and “Most Powerful”. Oh dear, this is gonna get messy. I’ve visions of the enraged Green’s leader, Bob Brown, crashing his Prius on the way to parliament in a hurry to pass a bill to outlaw us all and our restriction-busting, Earth-killing, life-affirming rockets. I’m also thinking it’ll not be the worst vision I’ll have today… 

But if you think the only thing ‘green’ about Kawasaki’s latest megaship is one of the two standard colour schemes, think again. Because of improved engine technology, this bike produces more power and torque that the previous model -- but uses less fuel doing so. See, motorcyclists do love the planet!

And the best (read quickest) way to see the entirety of that beautiful globe would be from behind the bars of the ZX-14R. I reckon you could circumnavigate it in about a week on full throttle…

But the ‘globe’ we’re using for the launch of the bike is considerably smaller. And straighter. Western Sydney International Dragway becomes the literal Launch venue and we’ve carte blanche to twist the wrist and head for the sky.

With the constant nanny-state “Speed Kills” rhetoric relayed on every road and television, I’m happy to report that it does indeed not. On the contrary, going fast on a bike makes you feel more alive than ever. Oh yes.

It’s easy to get blinded by the ‘fast ‘un’ tag, but we’ve had bikes that can triple the legal limit for a decade or more. So being fast isn’t the be-all and end-all. 

And it’s clear as the last amber light goes out and the clutch and 4000rpm become partners in the sort of launch normally associated with Cape Canaveral, the torque of the 14R will be the talk of the day. No hesitation, no fluffing just bags of propulsion from low to whoa. In a little over 10 seconds, 260kg plus of Japanese finery and 93kg of British beef (and fish and chips) have broken the timing beam a quarter of a mile away.

First run on a stock-standard $20K machine. That’s impressive. By the end of the day, the bike’s headed into the high nine second bracket.

But what’s more impressive is the manner in which man and machine have travelled. With the massive 1441cc engine producing a claimed 197.1hp (147kW) of power and 162.5Nm of torque, getting all that action to the rear wheel is the real test of the 14R’s character.

After a day of fanging the bike down the dragstrip, it’s clear that the bike’s been designed to be rider-friendly under constant pressure. Aside from a well-earnt rest at lunch, the big ZX was constantly seeing burnouts and redlines all day. No fried or grabby clutch, no notchy gear changes and nothing but a smooth idle once back on the line. In the limited confines on the test location (not many corners on a dragstrip!), the bike could not be faulted.

BIG AND BOLD

There’s a host of changes for the 2012 bike (a direct descendent of the 2005 original), including a non-switchable ABS, a three-way traction control, and a two-way power mode. This mode is labelled ‘F’ and ‘L’ presumably because ‘Fast’ and ‘F$$k me dead fast’ wouldn’t fit the digital display. There’s no electrickery with the suspension, just good old fashioned turn and try adjusters.

Away from the headline power/speed screamers, the ZX-14R is a seriously impressive bike. It’s physically big (something that the all black paintwork does its best to hide) but personally I’d plum for the metallic green (with orange sprinkles) that gives the big bike the appropriate look.

The bar levers are multi-way adjustable, the speedo’s got printed numbers and a needle (when the world’s largest LED display would help save your licence), and there’s not enough room under the single piece seat for even the limpest homemade sandwich. There is, however, acres of room for both rider and passenger and a 22-litre tank that will see nearly 400km once you work out that the throttle goes both ways.

To highlight just how smooth, torquey and planted the 2012 ZX-14R is, Kawasaki has its flagship superbike, the ZX-10R, on hand for a quarter comparo. It’s only when the needle’s flashing past the 250km/h marker that you can appreciate just what a sorted bike the 14R is. Where the 10R lets you feel the road, wind and demands the revs be kept high, the bigger bike powers through and insulates you from what you don’t need to know about. And that fills the design brief of a hypertourer down to a tee.

So the 2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R is a helluva bike for $20K. Forget the top speed and power claims (unless you’re boasting down the pub) and revel in the poise and control the bike offers. We’ll shortly grab a bike and live with it for a couple of weeks and see what the big girl’s like to live with in the real world.

SPECIFICATIONS: 2012 KAWASAKI ZX-14R

ENGINE
Type: 1441cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, in-line four, DOHC, 16 valves 
Bore x stroke: 84mm x 65mm
Compression ratio: 12.3:1
Fuel system: Mikuni electronic fuel injection, 4 x 44mm throttle bodies

PERFORMANCE
Maximum power: 197.1hp (147.2kW) at 10,000rpm
Maximum torque: 162.5Nm at 7500rpm

TRANSMISSION
Type: Six-speed
Final drive: Chain

CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame type: Monocoque, aluminium
Front suspension: 43mm inverted fork, 18-way compression, 15-way rebound, fully adjustable spring preload
Rear suspension: Bottom-link Uni-Trak, stepless compression damping, stepless rebound damping, fully adjustable spring preload
Front brakes: Dual semi-floating 310mm petal discs with radial-mount, four-piston, four-pad calipers
Rear brake: Single 250mm petal disc with twin-piston caliper
Tyres: Front 120/70, rear 190/50

DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Rake: Not given
Trail: Not given
Claimed kerb weight: 268kg
Seat height: 800mm
Wheelbase: 1480mm
Fuel capacity: 22 litres

OTHER STUFF
Price: $19,999
Colours: Golden Blazed Green or Metallic Spark Black
Test bike supplied by: Kawasaki Motors Australia, www.kawasaki.com.au
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited kilometres

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Published : Thursday, 19 January 2012
Disclaimer:
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