2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R | Doin' Time

Staffers' Rides

Photography by Joe Neric

Wrist: Dave Sonsky

MSRP (2012): $14,699

Miles: 7509

MPG: 36

Mods: Galfer braided brake lines and sintered brake pads, Royal Purple oil, and K&N filter

The ZX-14R is a bike that doesn’t need much in the way of aftermarket upgrades to begin with, and over the course of 7500-plus miles, I’ve had to nitpick it to death to find places needing genuine improvement. Suspension is typically a concern for larger riders. And while I’ve found and exceeded the limits of the stock suspension, whatever it lacks is not enough to justify the expense and downtime of upgrading. If trackdays were more common then it’d be a must, but for aggressive street, occasional strip, and mostly commuting/leisure riding, I can deal with the stock stuff.

Instead, I looked to improve upon the stock consumables that I’d be changing anyways; brake pads, tires, spark plugs, and the like. The addition of a Scottoilier system addressed the concern of chain and sprocket wear, and so far has performed well by keeping those parts consistently lubed.

At the 4000-mile mark the stock Metzelers were ready for retirement, and I opted to try Continental’s Road Attack 2 in the taller 190/55ZR-17 size. (Stock is a 190/50.) The taller tire made a noticeable difference in the bike’s slow-speed maneuverability and lightened the steering, but it comes at the cost of front-end stability. Take your hands off the bars above 35 mph and you’ll feel an obvious shudder. While it doesn’t get any worse at higher speeds, it wasn’t there with the Metzelers. Rear-end grip is considerably better with the Continentals, particularly when cold. I’ve used the bike’s traction control to let me explore the limits of grip on the same corners—day after day—in all sorts of road/weather conditions, and the Continental rear definitely outgrips the Metzeler.

With the odometer recently turning the corner on 7000 miles, I decided to upgrade to more aggressive brake pads, but not because the stock Nissins were worn out. In fact, they are only about half used and could handle another 5000 miles or so. At the end of quarter-mile drag strip runs the stock brakes showed their weakness. The first option was to try a more aggressive sintered pad for improved power. Galfer’s 1370 sintered pads are one step below its 1300 race compound, and seemed like the best choice for longevity/power. There was an improvement from the pads, but to go even further I installed steel brake lines to eliminate any line flex (www.galferusa.com; $243.92 for the lines and the pads). This setup offered yet another (mild) improvement over stock, and when the aftermarket pads and lines are combined it’s an obvious—and budget friendly—step forward in braking performance.

A less glamorous maintenance task was also due at the 7000-mile click, but by using Royal Purple this oil change was made a little more interesting. The oil is purple, and while that may not impress the masses, it’s little things like this that make an otherwise mundane task slightly more exciting. Accompanying the synthetic 20W-50 (www.royalpurple.com; $12.99/quart) was a K&N oil filter (www.knfilters.com; $13.99)—another company that adds a little spice to the standard by offering a 17mm nut attached to the front of the filter for easy installation and removal. And since that nut is 17mm, the same size as the drain plug, the whole process is as efficient as possible.

Are these exciting and aspirational upgrades? Perhaps not, but it says something about the Ninja that every time I consider making big changes, I just twist the throttle, enjoy the 14’s massive power, and remind myself just how stupid fast and capable it is in nearly stock form. Who cares if the upgrades are thrilling when the bike itself is this good?

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