BMW K1300S HP vs. Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R vs. Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa | A Fast Getaway

Major Miles on the World’s Quickest Production Bikes

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Kevin Wing

Later that day, on an undisclosed road just brushing the southeastern border of Death Valley National Park, we finally get an opportunity to pull the trigger on these big-bore ground missiles. Forget the quarter-mile sprint—you haven’t ridden any of these bikes until you’ve held the throttle pinned WFO for five miles straight. Any literbike can twist your shorts in a stoplight dash; what’s so amazing about these bikes is how ungodly fast they continue to accelerate even as the speedometer climbs. Especially the new, long-stroke, higher-compression Kawasaki that seems to pull just as hard above 150 mph as it does at 50. And all are just stupid fast—you should remember that the Hayabusa held fastest-bike honors right up until the manufacturers entered into a “gentleman’s agreement” to limit speeds to 300 kph (186 mph) in the name of general sanity.

So, the future promised us jet packs. Those never arrived, but these three motorcycles are an acceptable substitute.

Horsepower is mostly a function of engine speed, and some 1000cc bikes—BMW’s S1000RR in particular—almost match the 183.9 bhp ZX-14R in terms of peak power. Where a liter bike can’t compete with these long-stroke, large-displacement mountain motors is torque. The K1300S delivers a steaming 87.2 lb.-ft.—16 more than the S1000RR—while the ZX-14R’s 108.9 lb.-ft. peak torque crushes everything short of Triumph’s 2300cc Rocket III. Besides shoulder-straining acceleration, such tremendous torque also provides a relaxed, luxurious ride character at low revs. These big-bore behemoths are barely breathing at 80 mph, turning less than 4000 rpm in 6th gear, with a hushed, unhurried fluidity that softens the hard edge off a long day in the saddle. And downshifting is unnecessary even when you need to get out of the way. All that torque acts like an automatic transmission, which you appreciate after 10 hours in the saddle, burning interstate to get home.

The ZX-14R makes more peak torque but the Hayabusa holds an advantage up to 4500 rpm, making the two bikes essentially equal in low-rpm roll-ons and off-the-line. If anything the ‘Busa is easier to launch, with a more predictable though stiffer clutch. The ZX-14R offers lighter action and smoother engagement but is more easily overwhelmed by engine torque, making a quick, wheelie-free launch more challenging. The K1300S is also strong off the bottom—70 percent of peak torque is online at 3000 rpm—but it’s slower to rev until 8000 rpm, where it really wakes up. The high-pitched wail from the HP-only Akrapovic exhaust only enhances the sensation of a pronounced top-end rush.

The BMW offers the cleanest throttle pickup and, aside from a hint of sogginess in the middle revs, excellent fueling manners. The Ninja’s K-TRIC injection programming is flawless and the Hayabusa’s SDTV digital throttle valve mapping is nearly as good, with just an off-idle stumble made more noticeable by driveline lash, the most of the trio. The Ninja’s gearbox is smooth and precise, save for an unseemly clunk when shifting back to first, a side effect of Kawasaki’s Positive Neutral Finder. The BMW is the best-shifting

bike here, because it’s (unfairly) equipped with an electronic Gear Shift Assistant (GSA) that enables instant, clutchless upshifts so you sound like Marco Melandri accelerating away from every stop sign. Note, too, that the K1300S is the only bike here with shaft-drive—lack of which is a deal-breaker for many hardcore touring riders—though you’d hardly know riding the bike, BMW’s well-developed Paralever system so effectively eliminates shaft jacking.

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