2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R | Doin' Time

Wrist: Dave Sonsky
MSRP (2012): $14,699
Miles: 4760
MPG: 36
Mods: Continental Road Attack 2 tires

I suppose I’m one of those riders who loves discovering versatile products that can do a little bit of everything well rather than being exceptionally talented at one thing and rubbish at the rest. Tires are a perfect example of such a product, and in this case the Metzeler Sportec M5 Interacts that came stock on the Kawasaki have handled everything I’ve thrown at them.

Surely a soft sport tire would’ve melted away and squared itself silly in no time, where a harder sport-touring tire wouldn’t offer the grip I need with the ZX-14R’s exceptional power output. The Metzelers probably would have even lasted a few hundred more miles had I not recently discovered the wheel spinning silliness involved with the number two traction control setting.

Over the course of the last 4760 miles, I’ve stuck the stock tires into every situation I could find time for—and they came back asking for more. If this were my personal bike, I’d be inclined to simply replace the worn Metzelers with a fresh set because I have been pleasantly surprised with their performance/mileage, and don’t have any major reason to take a chance on something else. And if it weren’t for one particular competitor I’d go with the Metzelers again.

I was lucky enough to attend the press intro for the Continental Road Attack 2 (www.conti-online.com; $180 front/$240 rear), where we tested the tire on a diverse group of bikes in various conditions—from dry track to wet road course—and they performed exceptionally well. But what about over the long haul with cold, wet seaside mornings and boiling-hot dragstrip days in the desert? Just because they did well on a particular day on (carefully) selected machines doesn't mean they'll be as competent as the ZX-14R's OE rubber. There's one way to find out.

Off with the old and on with the new. One of the unique characteristics of the Road Attack 2 is Continental’s Traction Skin, which supposedly eliminates the typical and somewhat stressful scrub-in period required to remove the greasy film from most new tires. Frankly, I don’t like tip-toeing around for a few dozen miles with a gripping uncertainty at every corner. The Traction Skin means the tires are ready to ride straight from the dealership.

Another cool design trait is Continuous Compound Technology. That’s Conti’s way of doing multiple compounds that start soft on the shoulders and fade to a harder center without the “bands” that appear on other multi-compound tires. Conti’s engineers have created a curing process that blends the various compounds to make a transition zone, rather than a defined line, which seems ideal for a bike like the ZX-14R that is heavy, loaded with firepower, and likes to corner.

Though certainly not touted as a track bike, I wouldn’t mind the handling to be a little quicker, even if for just rolling round town at slow speeds. As part of the tire selection process I opted for a taller profile. The stock tire is a 190/50ZR-17, but I chose the 190/55. While reducing the straight-line contact patch slightly—we’ll soon see how the 185-plus horsepower stable gets along with the new patch—the turn in/steering should be slightly quicker. Left to right transitions should be easier in general because of the slightly “rounder” contour that comes with the 5mm-taller sidewall versus the stock size.

I expect the Contis to be good, but they have a tough act to follow. Metzeler hit the nail on the head with the M5 Interact, balancing grip with longevity. In time we’ll see how the Road Attacks stack up.

Conti Road Attack 2s replace the Kawi’s stock Metzelers. A bump in size for the rear—from a 190/50 to a 190/55—should speed up steering response.