How to Buy a Used 2006–2011 Kawasaki ZX-14

Care and routine maintenance will keep this pre-owned sportbike handling like a dream.

2007 Kawasaki ZX-14, used kawasaki zx-14
2007 Kawasaki ZX-14©Motorcyclist

In 2006, when Kawasaki dropped the ZX-14 into the hyperbike skirmish like a hand grenade in a bowl of oatmeal, they intended it to be the most badass production motorcycle you could buy. With a claimed 197 hp on tap and quarter-miles in the sub-10-second range, it was hard to dispute they'd succeeded—even with the ZX's electronically limited top speed of 186 mph. And not only is it still on the top step of the performance podium, but the ZX-14 is still a breathtaking, arm-stretching, and eyeball-flattening bargain.

The first ZX-14 rocked a DOHC, 16-valve, inline-four displacing 1,352cc, fed by Mikuni fuel injection, and coupled to a six-speed gearbox. In 2008 Kawasaki snuck in a few tweaks that included new pistons, a revised cylinder head with larger secondary air ports, and a bigger header collector pipe. The intake ports were also massaged, and the spray from the sub-throttle injectors increased for better power.

Big engines require beefy chassis to keep them reined in, and the ZX’s followed the pattern. A 43mm inverted fork with adjustable preload, and compression and rebound damping, boasted 4.6 inches of travel and sported dual semi-floating discs measuring 310mm. A Uni-Trak rear shock with the same adjustments as the fork offered 4.9 inches of travel. The rear brake was a single 250mm disc clamped by a twin-piston caliper.

As with most sportbikes, used ZX-14s are often found with a raft of go-faster goodies tacked on with varying degrees of expertise.

With a claimed wet weight of 593 pounds you could be forgiven for not thinking the ZX-14 was light on its feet, but you'd also be wrong. Despite its apparent bulk, the ZX was a balanced machine that handled like a much smaller bike. MC's own Aaron Frank said of the 2008 model, "This is not a pure sportbike, but you sure can ride it like one." He had more good words for the ergonomics on the way home from a back-road blast: "The last hour of the journey wasn't spent contorted into some sort of race-replica yoga position. I could stretch out, duck down, and stick it on autopilot. Pure bliss."

One of the few faults some testers found was the engine’s “soft” power below 5,000 rpm, but that’s probably saved more riders from coming out of slow corners on their heads than it’s annoyed. Many other riders appreciate the tiered powerband.

Reported problems with used Kawasaki ZX-14s include short rear-tire life, a windscreen that’s too low to be effective at the speeds the bike can generate, and the front wheel’s tendency to lose contact with the ground under acceleration. (That’s not a problem!) The engine and driveline are practically bulletproof, and regular maintenance seems to be about all they ask of the rider. Gas mileage in the low 30s is a small trade-off for the enormous power and capability the ZX-14 brings to the table.

As with most sportbikes, used Kawasaki ZX-14s are often found with a raft of go-faster goodies tacked on with varying degrees of expertise. As ever, carefully consider the type of mods and the apparent skill they were installed with. It’s hard to break a ZX-14, but you can make it run like crap if you don’t know what you’re doing. While you’re at it, pay close attention to fast-wearing items like tires, chains, and brake pads, and adjust your offer accordingly.

CHEERS

Power, handling, power, style, and power. What more do you want?

JEERS

Fruit-fly-caliber tire life. Needs better wind protection for sport-touring.

WATCH FOR

Useless performance mods, dry and limp drive chain, used-up rubber.

VERDICT

Fast, smooth, and nicely refined. The only thing Hayabusa owners have to fear.

VALUE

2006 / $6,270
2007 / $6,535
2008 / $7,060
2009 / $7,655
2010 / $8,185
2011 / $8,635

Also Smart

used kawasaki zx-12r, 2002 kawasaki zx-12r

2000–2006 Kawasaki ZX-12R

Lighter and narrower than the ZX-14 that came after it, the ZX-12R was also electronically limited to 186 mph but still clocked sub-10 quarter-miles. The 2002 model received many upgrades, including ram air, slightly lower bars, and tidier aerodynamics. The ZX-12 didn’t set the world on fire, but it’s still a smokin’ ride.©Motorcyclist
used honda cbr1100xx

1996–2003 Honda CBR1100XX

The Blackbird was named after the famous Lockheed spy plane and briefly held the World’s Fastest title. In ’99 it got fuel injection and a host of upgrades but fell behind in the horsepower wars with Suzuki and Kawasaki. The big CBR is renowned for its superb build quality, but its stretched-out ergonomics aren’t to everyone’s liking.©Motorcyclist
used suzuki hayabusa, suzuki gsx1300r 2008 hayabusa

2008–2015 Suzuki Hayabusa

The most long-lived and best-selling hypersport is part Miss Manners, part Hannibal Lecter, the two personalities separated by a few degrees of throttle rotation. The second-gen ’Busa arrived for 2008 with more power from more displacement (1,340cc) but the same combination of high-rpm thrust with astonishingly flexible delivery. A class-defining speed merchant for the ages.©Motorcyclist

Watch

Sportbike Tire Comparison