Kawasaki ZX-14

Introducing the strongest Ninja ever

If you thought the whole unlimited ber-sport idea was dead, have a look at the ominous prow of Kawasaki's 2006 ZX-14. Aimed at the collective jugular of Suzuki's venerable Hayabusa and BMW's K1200S, Team Green's all-new ZX-12R replacement will up the ante for aficionados of massive torque and humane ergonomics. Hard numbers are in short supply as we go to press, but the fuel-injected 1352cc ram-air-assisted four beneath that full-figured fairing--choose Red, Ebony or Candy Thunder Blue--promises to be stout.

Starting with the 1198cc ZX-12R mill, Kawasaki engineers increased bore as well as stroke to 84mm x 61mm to get the extra displacement, but claim to have maintained virtually the same engine width. Requisite combustibles come from four 44mm throttle bodies--2mm smaller than what you'd find in a ZX-12R. Compression is set at 12.7:1. Although bikes have yet to enter production, the factory estimates its strongest streetbike yet will send 200 horsepower and 100 lb.-ft. of torque to a 6-speed gearbox. At that rate you could be looking at the first off-the-rack sportbike to put 180 horses to the pavement.

Niceties abound. The cockpit incorporates a white-face speedometer and tachometer, as well as a shift light, fuel gauge, gear indicator, dual tripmeters and a clock. With four projector headlamps--low-beam lamps are inboard of the high beams--there should be plenty of candlepower for high-velocity nocturnal strafing missions.

Although specifics such as wheelbase and steering geometry haven't been released, expect a wheelbase that splits the difference between the current ZX-12R and ZZR1200. The aluminum frame retains the ZX-12R's stressed-engine monocoque layout that also incorporates the airbox. A fully adjustable 43mm inverted fork handles front suspension duties, followed by a single rear shock using Kawasaki's proprietary Uni-Trak linkage arrangement. Radial-mount front calipers grab what look to be ZX-10R-spec 310mm petal-style rotors. The jury is still out on styling. We're hoping it looks better in person in February of next year when bikes are scheduled to materialize in showrooms with an MSRP of $11,499.

While Kawasaki claims its ZX-14 is the world's most powerful streetbike, there's more to this motorcycle than just wild horses. The big Kaw is also supposedly exceptionally rider-friendly, with prodigious torque, humane ergonomics and sporty yet stable road manners.