2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R | Doin’ Time

Staffers’ Rides

Photography by Brian J. Nelson

Wrist: Dave Sonsky
MSRP (2012): $14,699
Miles: 5240
Mpg: 36
Mods: None

Drag racing is tricky business, especially when you have a natural power to weight disadvantage. Being larger than the average jockey, I have always struggled to score very well on ET and top speed. Despite having 60-foot launch times on par with faster riders, I always lose out on the back half of the track where the lighter guys pull away.

On the dragstrip portion press intro for the first-generation ZX-14 back in 2006, I consistently ran in the low-10-second range, while others dipped into the nines. It seemed a 9-sec. pass simply wasn’t in my personal playbook, and I accepted the cards that nature dealt.

Of the various (stock) bikes I’ve returned to the track with over the years, I’ve failed to find that elusive single digit, and after I settled into a groove on the 2012 ZX-14R, I once again realized I would be relegated to the low-10-sec. realm. Pass after pass, the board displayed a frustrating result. The times were consistent, at least: 10.12, 10.11 and even a 10.08. Just no nines.

Then it occurred to me to shut off the traction control. Eureka! A 9.95 at 145 mph was soon up on the big screen for all to see—sadly, there were only three of us at the track that day, and the others were at lunch. I still couldn’t resist a few fist pumps toward the empty grand stands.

Although I ran a second and a half quicker on a highly modded bike just a few minutes earlier, it was this slower run that thrilled me the most. With stock height, sport-touring tires, a huge windscreen, and 240 pounds of rider to haul, the Kawi was being asked to do a lot. I was a happy man with the 9.95.

That day, one performance issue surfaced—the big Kawasaki doesn’t stop very well. I was riding the Kawi back to back with a much faster machine that was able to stop in considerably less space. Under regular riding conditions on the street, the ZX-14R’s stock brakes feel plenty capable, but under extreme conditions it needs to improve, and considering how much steam is pumping out the backside I think the front end should have comparable anchoring abilities. It’s probably unfair to compare the stock 14’s braking performance against a fully upgraded aftermarket setup. But, ultimately, distance is distance. I could barely make the first turnoff on the green machine, while the faster bike made it with ease.

Hopefully, the soon-to-be-installed race pads and steel-braided lines will help increase initial bite and feel, but I may need a larger master cylinder to improve overall power. We’re a fairly heavy combined load, after all.

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