2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R | Streetbike Surgery Lite

Squeezing the Lime

By Dave Sonsky, Photography by Kevin Hipp

Racking up more than 1000 miles in a single weekend will reveal a lot about a motorcycle. Minor engine or handling quirks can quickly develop into massive agitations, and body parts you didn’t know existed can become points of agony if a bike’s ergos aren’t suited to your size and shape.

Thankfully, the latest ZX-14R is already a well-sorted machine. Kawasaki apparently did its homework and took owner complaints (the few that existed) from the first-generation '14 to heart. The updated riding position is comfortable yet sporty, and gone is the old watercraft-ish bulk and vague floating sensation from the chassis. And there’s no need for bar risers or clip-on angle adjustments on this bike—at least for me. Just hop on and get moving.

From the soft and supple saddle, the only obvious annoyance is a bit more windblast than I’d care to live with, particularly when a lot of highway miles are on the agenda. There’s a quick, easy and inexpensive solution though—a Sport Touring windscreen from Zero Gravity (www.zerogravity-racing.com; $99.95). Several different size options are available from the aftermarket, and while ZG’s Sport Touring model offers the most wind protection it comes with a few dings in the style department. A large screen rarely looks sleek or sporty, but a dark tint helps improve its appearance, particularly when it’s complemented by black on black slip-on pipes (there may be a dark trend developing here).

Many bike owners have something in their DNA that mandates an aftermarket exhaust purchase within moments of buying. Oftentimes, pipes are acquired even before the actual bike. Going against the grain for once, an exhaust wasn’t at the top of the mod list initially because the ZX-14R packs so much sting that the addition of power seemed an abstract concept.

After a few hundred miles in the seat something just seemed wrong, though. The 14 doesn’t boast a boisterous intake snarl like the Hayabusa, and thus it almost started to seem electric due to its silence and instant, light switch power delivery. The missing component to transform the riding experience was a more visceral link to the motor sound. Something this fast and menacing should not have the voice of a kitten, and the drone of an aftermarket pipe became imperative. If you aren’t familiar with the guttural rasp of 1441ccs exhaling through dual cans then you’ve missed out on a very necessary spice of life.

With the installation of Two Brothers slip-on pipes (www.twobros.com; $979.98) came a few nice surprises alongside their massive appearance improvement. The aforementioned tone is pure magic—booming baritone off idle rising to a comfortable midtone at freeway speed. Quite unexpected, however, was the 31.5-pound weight savings. The stock bazookas tipped the scale at a beefy 42 lbs! The cherry on top came at the dyno where we scored a 2.6 peak horsepower gain with more significant improvements off idle and through the midrange—right where you want it the most.

Finishing off the mandatory mods and perhaps making the ZX-14R one of the fastest and most practical mid-range weapons to date is a set of Givi T474 Xstream saddlebags (www.giviusa.com; $195). We’re a little bummed that we couldn’t install the semi-permanent hard tail bag that Givi offers for European-spec ZX-14Rs, but if you’re interested there is a DIY tail conversion possible. Instead of chopping up tail plastic, I opted for universal soft luggage that’s just the right size to accommodate clothes for two over a weekend. The sleek bags add a nice bit of business-class flair and help reduce the attention that the 188 horsepower, lime green sportbike tends to get from most highway law enforcement agents.

By Dave Sonsky
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