It's not enough to be a competent 160-plus-horsepower hyperbike these days, I muse, after asking the many and various characters that loiter around the Motorcyclist bunker for their thoughts on the Kawasaki ZX-14. Reasons not to own one, allegedly:
1. Peaky Engine.
2. Not A Hayabusa.
The distilled, collective mutterings from young spunkers and old sages alike...nobody apparently had many kind words for the ZX-14 as it was. but as the key to a brand-new 2008 model had been shoved under my office door that morning with a hand-scrawled note stuck to a press pack-"need 1500 words by Monday, thanks"-I'd be making my own mind up fairly rapidly. That's OK, I had nothing planned for the long weekend. We don't celebrate Thanksgiving back in blimey anyway.
I spent 10 minutes having a good poke around the sleeklooking tool I found lurking in the depths of the workshop. In the dim light its silver flanks looked gray and I couldn't help but be reminded of some sort of large, predatory fish. I think it's the piercing, thousand-yard-stare headlights, gaping ram-air nostril and gill-like slatted flanks. The thing's a Great White on wheels.
Out into the watery sunlight and the ZX-14 feels solid, long and muscular. For a machine with heart and lungs this big it's slim, and not bulky at all. And I immediately get the impression that Kawasaki hasn't cut any corners-this is a well-made bike. not one bit of cheesy metal, everything fits perfectly and it gives off a quiet air of polished quality at rest.
"I couldn't help but be reminded of some sort of large, predatory fish. The thing's a Grea
There's a third honeycomb catalyzer nestling in the collector upstream of the internally r
Business-like and simple cockpit gets all relevant information across swiftly, which we li
On start-up, some of the subtlety and order evaporates. The needles in the pair of large, white-faced dials do a doubletime synchro backflip as the fuel pump primes and the engine fires instantly with a hint of an edgy, hunting growling idle-sooo Kawasaki. There's the right amount of information in the digital display between the clocks-range, average/current mpg, battery voltage, time-as well as a gear indicator, a fuel gauge and a pair of tripmeters, controlled by dual buttons. Both levers are span-adjustable; the hydraulic clutch gets five slots, the front brake six.
The riding position is on the relaxed side of sporting. The bars clip on above the satin-black top triple clamp and while they're set low, they don't heave your weight onto your wrists. The rubber-mounted foot pegs are not so high that your ankles are tucked under your thighs. Flat and long, the seat has plenty of room to move fore and aft, making it suitable for larger humans.
The 10-mile urban joust to my apartment passes effortlessly, the ZX-14 gliding through stalled traffi c almost unnoticed. What was that about a peaky engine with nothing below 8000 rpm? not this one. This thing's pumping hard from 3000 rpm, and even harder by 4000. Parking the bike, I retreat to my terrace: Time to crack a cold one and sift through what Kawasaki has to say about its new ZX-14. What's different, then?