Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14: the most powerful and the fastest production motorcycle in history
By Mike Hanlon
September 22, 2005
September 23, 2005 For several years now, the 178bhp Kawasaki ZX12 has had the most horsepower of any production motorcycle, though it has played second fiddle to the 175 bhp Suzuki GSX1300 Hayabusa (named after the Japanese Peregrine falcon, one of the few animals on the planet which can travel at 300km per hour which it does during a dive) because the Hayabusa has a higher top speed – the Suzuki’s aerodynamics enable it to more than make up for the slight horsepower deficit and it has now held the title of the world’s fastest production motorcycle for six years since it launched. The Hayabusa’s top speed as measured by the Guiness Book of Records is 317 km/h. But Kawasaki’s just announced ZX14 company flagship boasts 1400cc, much slipperier aerodynamics and the most horsepower and highest top speed of any production motorcycle EVER! The publicity conscious Kawasaki is keeping mum on the exact figures but the rumours emanating from Japan indicate we are just about to see the world’s first 200bhp production motorcycle. Full details inside.
A manufacturer is defined by the motorcycles it makes, and the defining characteristic of Kawasaki motorcycles has always been power - lots of power. It became the horsepower king waaay back when it released the H1 500cc three cylinder two-stroke triple in the late sixties, and built on that reputation with the 750cc H2 three cylinder two-stroke triple and finally the Z1 900cc four cylinder machine and the family of big four cylinder four-strokes that bike spawned – the Z1000, Z1-R, GPZ900R and all the way through to the modern hyper-bikes like the ZZ-R1100 and Ninja ZX-12R, Kawasaki’s flagship machines have set performance standards.
There’s absolutely no doubt that Kawasaki has been getting ready to take on the Hayabusa for several years – the ZX12 was expected to be a Hayabusa-beater and despite its ram air induction system inflating real horsepower from 178 at low speed to 190 at high speed (the forced air induction acts has the same effect as a supercharger), its aerodynamics let it down. But the ZX14 has obviously spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel as Kawasaki prides itself on the performance factor and it wanted to be the fastest of the bunch again. And there is absolutely no doubt that despite the big K’s coyness, the new Ninja ZX-14will be the most powerful and the fastest ever and continue the tradition by delivering as-yet-unheard-of levels of performance and excitement. Its aerodynamics reminds users that Kawasaki is indeed an aircraft manufacturer.
Kawasaki engineers and designers have created a motorcycle that turns its Ram Air and fuel-injected engine into the core of a powerful, torque-producing, aerodynamic stunner that will draw attention from onlookers whether on the road, or parked on the roadside. The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14 is a 1352cc motorcycle, that is its most powerful ever, and succeeds in setting the performance standards for others to follow.
This all new in-line four has evolved from the Ninja ZX-12R and features a bore and stroke of 84 x 61mm packed into a purposefully designed compact outline that minimizes engine width, leaving it at virtually the same width as the 12R.
A twist of the throttle delivers a seamless spread of torque that is so linear, the "power band," per se, ceases to exist. Riders will pay particular attention to the impressive response that kicks in once the motor exceeds 6,000 rpm. Those that have ridden this newest Kawasaki flagship marvel at the torque response that makes pulling away from a total stop in almost any gear a possibility.
The engine uses a secondary balancer to tame unwanted vibrations, and a direct-actuation shift lever is lighter than conventional linkage-type set-ups, offering a more direct feel for the rider.
The ZX-14's chassis design is every bit the equal of its power plant. It is an advanced version of Kawasaki's unique aluminum monocoque frame, lightweight and very strong. This sophisticated approach gives the ZX-14 a responsive handling quality and incredible highway stability. By utilizing this frame technology, engineers were able to concentrate on delivering, as mentioned, a very slim, compact package. Inherently more rigid than twin-spar frames, and with the engine rigid-mounted, the monocoque's strength is greatly increased.
With the engine positioned forward in the frame, engineers were able to carefully select the wheelbase and front/rear wheel weight balance to achieve both high speed stability and responsive handling. The ZX-14 uses an inverted 43mm cartridge fork and new Uni-Trak linkage rear suspension to complement the highly rigid frame, thus offering both great controllability at high speeds and superb road holding when sport riding on twisting hill roads.
Does this ultimate combination of engine performance and chassis design make the Kawasaki ZX-14 rider-friendly?
The engineers and designers sought to combine the utmost elements of today's motorcycle technologies, yet still provide a package that is both approachable-and usable. The ZX-14 delivers seamless power, a smooth ride, and friendly ergonomics. Together, these characteristics are manifested in a ride that is surprisingly non-intimidating, yet still maintains the heart of the rebel so much a part of Kawasaki's brand heritage.
Offering a very relaxed sport riding position, it is compact without being cramped, and the bars are positioned so riders don't have to stretch to reach them. The narrow engine, monocoque frame, and fuel tank make it easy for the rider to keep his knees close together in any riding conditions. Footpegs are low-set to give ample legroom and the low seat height and narrow seat front make planting feet on the ground when stopped a cinch.
And when the rider is stopped, the motorcycle will be the center of attention. Because the monocoque frame goes over the engine and doesn't protrude through the fairing, the fairing design lines are uninterrupted, giving it a smooth, flowing appearance, from front to rear. Quadruple projector beam headlights adorn the ZX-14's front cowl, with the outer lights containing position lamps and high beams. Low beams are located in the two center lamps. The front and rear turn signals are integrated into the fairing and rear cowl, and the all new LED tail lamp features a unique "V" design.
Other key features of the Kawasaki ZX-14:
- - Instrument cluster with easy-to-read, white-faced dual analogue speedometer and tachometer.
- Shift indicator light and clutch engagement light.
- Multi-function LCD digital display includes fuel gauge, gear indicator, dual trip meters, odometer, and clock.
- Large diameter petal brake discs, radial mount front calipers and a radial pump brake master cylinder for impressive braking performance and superb feel.
- Hydraulically operated clutch features a radial mount clutch master cylinder for worry-free, silky smooth clutch operation.
- Fuel tank features a flush-surface tank cap.
- Idling speed control system contributes to easy starting capability.
- Lightweight Denso radiator with high-density cores provides efficient cooling.
- Massive head pipe casting contributes to frame rigidity.
- Airbox located in the frame, contributing to a very compact layout.
- Engine and chassis components designed to maximize mass centralization.
- Newly designed wheels feature center ribs which are slightly offset so that tire balance weights can be located at the wheel centerline.
All told, Kawasaki has once again brought its engineering and design expertise to the forefront of motorcycle creation. The Ninja ZX-14 lives up to its predecessors, and far surpasses them, as the meaning of the word "ultimate" has found a new definition, at least as far as roadgoing motorcycles go.