Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R - a numbers game

27 March 2014, 07:35 PM Charles Pennefather




This is a power figure we’re usually excited about when it is quoted in a car’s spec sheet. When it shows up on a motorcycle’s spec sheet, it is cause for worry. But the good kind, because you’re sure you will discover the urban legend of Enough Power. The ZX-14R quotes more than 200bhp from its engine.


Most cars are limited to this speed. It is a speed that we don’t see often, regardless of the vehicle we’re in or on. The ZX-14R is just getting into its stride at this speed. 


Besides being a popular movie name, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R can eclipse this speed as well if it is delimited. And it can outrun more than a few supercars while it gets there. That’s what makes it the fastest production motorcycle in the world.

Looks & Styling


Evolution is the name of the game with the new ZX-14R. Yes, it is recognisably the same motorcycle as before, but there is a softening of the awkward angles, a suggestion of time spent not just in a wind tunnel but also a design studio. It is only available in Lime Green in our market, but is available with more colours like Red and Black globally. That is a shame. It would certainly make for an interesting look in matt black. Kawasaki has given it that compound-eye front for a very good reason; it balances the length and size of the motorcycle really well. 


Last known Ex-showroom price




Move around to the front three-quarter and you have the best angle to look at it from. You can see all the lines that are inclined upwards towards the rear. The sheer size of the motorcycle is also hidden from this angle, but move around to the side and it is on full display. However, with clever use of black inserts, black exhaust mufflers and the one-piece seat, the bulk is well hidden. The Ferrari Testarossa-like side strakes help to channel hot air from the radiators away from the rider and send it around the legs instead. The rear three-quarter view is dominated by the large mufflers, and from the rear the distinguishing feature is the V-shaped LED tail-lamp that is now asserting itself across the Ninja range.



To give you a fair idea of what the public thinks of it, they would follow it around shouting unprintables. It was never a “Wow!” like you’d expect a Ducati to get, for example. It inspires awe, but the kind which makes you want to keep a safe distance from it. And that’s just the way it should be. 

Instrumentation & Ergonomics

The instrument cluster is an interesting mix of old and new. It retains the same layout as before, but the fonts and colours have changed. The shape of the indicating lights has changed as well, giving it a very modern look. What has changed are the options on the digital display in between the clear analog speedo and tacho: you can now select one of three modes for ABS and traction control, what Kawasaki likes to call “K-Trac”. This is easily operated via a button on the left handlebar. Other than that, the ZX-14R remains as easy to figure out as an ordinary 150cc motorcycle. This is an extremely good thing, because it is such an intimidating looking motorcycle. Of course, the usual assortment of modern technology is present on the display, among which are twin trip meters, fuel consumption, distance to empty, etc. Another nice touch is that the seat height is adjustable. No doubt this feature is appreciated in South-East Asian countries where average height is, well, below average.  

The seat itself is a one-piece seat like a run-of-the-mill motorcycle and I’m very fond of it because it has just the right amount of support, give and grip. The rear seat is also quite comfortable, unlike other big motorcycles where you’d be better off sitting on a small rock. Those massive pentagonal mufflers that are present on both sides require concentration on the part of the pillion.

As the ZX-14R is a sport tourer rather than an all-out supersport motorcycle, it is comfortable to ride – it doesn’t feel like you’re doing a headstand, and unlike Honda’s VFR1200F, it isn’t a compact riding position. My 40-foot tall frame found it just about right, and moving around on the bike for corners also comes easily and naturally. This riding position is what makes it a good motorcycle to have in traffic if you absolutely must have a faired motorcycle – there is less weight on the hands and the front of the motorcycle, which makes steering easier. 

The stock screen is big enough to duck behind no matter how large you are, which makes it easy to maintain high cruising speeds for extended periods of time. The new noise regulations in developed markets have robbed it of an exhaust note at regular speeds – in our crowded city ride, even blipping the throttle didn’t have an effect on some noisy rickshaw drivers! I’m sure that most owners will ditch the stock exhausts for something with a little more noise immediately. The stock exhausts are perfect for a long day in the saddle though – they’re just loud enough to make you feel alive without annoying you. That said, the second the errant rickshaw drivers took a look at what was in their mirrors, they moved over in a hurry.  

Engine & Gearbox


This is what the enthusiasts among you have been waiting for, so here goes: 1441cc, 206bhp,162.5Nm. It is a short-stroke engine as per the numbers, but the displacement gives it a delightful torque spread. It pulls cleanly and without jerks from low revs and keeps building to the 11,000rpm redline. There are no vibrations, the noise is just right for the sport-tourer although I wish it was just a wee bit louder under regular conditions – but the most surprising thing is how easy this engine is. With that sort of power and torque figure, you’d imagine that it would want to snap your head off every time you breathed on the throttle, but even with the K-Trac set to its least intrusive, twist your right wrist and the ZX-14R hooks up and goes. Of course, disrespect it and it will rear its head, but it is not unpredictable. Speed is meaningless to this motor: show it any gear, any revs, gas it and it will take off like a scalded cat. Overtaking is a very simple affair: open the throttle.


The gearbox is as smooth as one could expect from the fastest production motorcycle in the world, with clutchless upshifts an easy thing even for a novice rider. The chain drive and the engine’s torque will probably mean more than a few chain adjustments to get the slack just right, but it is well worth the pain for the predictability it offers to the rider.

Ride & Handling


If there’s a single word that describes the ZX-14R’s ride, it is ‘plush’. We had the motorcycle for a very short time so didn’t play around with the suspension, but even with the factory settings, it rode very well over rough bits of road. Detractors will point out that the 265kg kerb weight has much to do with it, but it surprisingly handles really well. And by that, I mean in any situation. Its arch-rival has earned the nickname “The Bus” because it doesn’t want to change direction rapidly, but the same cannot be said of the Ninja. Sure, it feels its weight when your feet are on the ground, but get moving and it suddenly transforms to an easily-controlled machine, whether in traffic or on your favourite sweeping corner. 


Of course, there are better and quicker motorcycles around a racetrack, but they won’t be as comfortable on our roads. At really high speed the Ninja remains stable, but laying down on the tank pushes a tall rider’s elbows a fair bit below the wrists, making steering just a wee bit uncomfortable. This is the tradeoff for a comfortable riding position, and one that I will make willingly considering the time spent at high speed will be very little. The handling at high speed is surprisingly good, but lightning-quick direction changes aren’t possible because of the mass of the vehicle. Still, I believe that the Ninja has the best balance between comfort and handling in its class.




That is the ex-showroom price of the Kawasaki ZX-14R, in lakhs. Yes, it is an eye-watering price tag but you need to remember that this is the fastest production motorcycle in the world, it has a comfortable riding position, it has all the electronics necessary to help you ride whenever you want and it has evocative name on the side. Of the three motorcycles available as sport tourers in our country, I believe that the green devil has the best to offer. Just budget for a set of louder exhausts if you get one.


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