We spend a day aboard Kawasaki's flagship to see whether the ZX-14R has only the thrill of speed on offer or does it have any surprise stored underneath its monstrous soul
Since the inception of combustion engines, one aspect has always remained vital in the advancement of automobiles, and motorcycles on the whole and that is top speed. Year after year engineers have strived hard to make their motorcycles go faster than ever before and when it comes to the crown of the fastest production motorcycle the stakes get raised considerably. The roots of the Kawasaki ZX-14R can be traced back to the era between mid 1990 and early 2000, when the Japanese trio of Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki were engrossed in a dogfight for the tag of the fastest production motorcycle manufacturer. Kawasaki was ruling the roost till mid 1990’s with its ZX-11 before Honda clinched the crown from its grasp with the Super Blackbird. The boffins at Kawasaki didn’t take it too kindly and fought back with the ZX-12R to regain its crown. When most motorcycle enthusiast thought that the fight for the crown would be restricted between Kawasaki and Honda but that wasn’t to be as suddenly out of the blue Suzuki entered the fray with its Hayabusa in 1999 and was swiftly crowned the fastest production motorcycle in the world.
Also around this time there was a growing impetus in both Europe and America to place import limitations or ban open-class motorcycles due to their ever expanding speed ceiling. Fearing backlash, the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers and their European counterparts penned down an agreement to limit their bikes top-speed to 300km/h and it was labeled as the “gentleman’s agreement.” But Kawasaki didn’t take the success of the Hayabusa munificently and came out with its latest flagship, the ZX-14R to topple the Busa from the top in 2006. Suzuki was quick to counter and released the updated Hayabusa in 2008 and it appeared the bird would rule the roost in the near future. It seemed Kawasaki wanted to end this skirmish once and for all with the 2012 ZX-14R.
The supposed “gentleman’s agreement” to keep a tab on horsepower was tossed out of the window, and the fastest, most powerful production bike ever was released to a surprised motorcycle industry that never saw it coming. The ZX-14R was given an up-date to maintain its reign at the top by embracing excess in 2012 by hiking its displacement and endowing it with more power. To handle this jump in power, the bike was fitted with electronic aids like power modes and three-stage traction control. Kawasaki made its foray into the Indian performance market with the new ZX-14R and we got an opportunity to spend a day with the beast and to judge ourselves whether it really stands up to its reputation of a machine which was built with only one principle and that was SPEED or is there something else on offer?
Looks that matter:
The first visual that strikes your mind as your eyes scrutinize the bike is that it’s big and it has no qualms about its size and bulk. The 14R was conceived for speed and it can be easily understood from the bikes silhouette as aerodynamics has played a major part in the minds of the designers while developing it. The most striking feature of the bike is the front of the bike with its quartet of projector beam headlamps, flanking a large, gulping air-intake, redefines the word menace. Behind the headlamps, one finds the side-by-side tachometer and speed gauges along with a LCD information center, which displays a plethora of information like engine temperature, oil temperature, fuel gauge, range, gear indicator etc. The instrument cluster looks dated when compared to that of the ZX-10R but it excludes an old-school charm with its analogue dials and simple layout as analogue speedometers especially are becoming extinct in this segment.
The four ribs along the side fairings are finished in a contrast of black, which apart from adding to the bikes visual appeal are also instrumental in channeling the hot air away from the bikes motor. Everything about the ZX-14R screams macho, like in the case of its bulging fuel tank, sofa like seats and those humungous twin-exhaust pipes finished in black, which proclaims to the world that it means business and it isn’t afraid to flex its muscle or shy to get into a scuffle. The rear of the bike is tapered down from the front and houses a V-shaped LED taillight below the grab rail. The Kawasaki ZX-14R is an attention-grabber wherever we went and it isn’t hard to notice among the crowd too with its shade of sparkling green.