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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R - Ride Review

From tiny countries come giant products! India Kawasaki Motors Pvt Ltd invited us, Throttlequest.com to try out their fastest behemoth that has come out from the land of the rising sun. Yes, India Kawasaki has a very impressive portfolio today. And the ZX-14R is a true behemoth to say the least,  but a wise and gentle one, even if the rider is not one! Or is it? 

First Impressions
This is not a big bike. It is Huge! It looks exactly like what it was designed for; dragstrip races, conceived to beat records. I would not say that it looks mean. It looks calm, composed, muscular, lean, ready to pounce… it carries the reputation of the biggest and fastest Ninja to have come out from that island at the edge of the Pacific. And it is very attractive.

In India, you get only the option of Kawasaki Green with the metallic flakes really shining through in the light of the setting sun. Almost as if getting ready for the hunt… in the darkness!

The instrument cluster houses a host of information, KTRC, ABS, Power modes, ambient temperature (like we care), of course coolant temperature, fuel gauge, range left on existing fuel, (that is important if you plan to tour with this machine and a touring comparo is coming up soon too on TQ), all kinds of mileage indicators, gear and shift indicator, no lap times (not surprising) and no tyre pressure. 

Analog tachometer redlining at 11K and analog speedometer. We can live with that! I have lived with far less. :)

Engine quality
This 1441CC engine is an increase and improvement on the earlier engine which was at 1352CC. As the engine starts, it is not deafeningly loud. It is not stealth smooth either. At the same time it is not neutral. It has character. The bike that we were given by India Kawasaki was barely out of the factory with a few kilometres on the odo. Hence it was a little rough initially. I took it out of the delivery bay and straightaway hit dense traffic in less than 25 metres! I prepared myself to become a steamed piece of human kebab!

And I was stuck in traffic for the next half an hour with a Hypersports class motorcycle running fresh 1441CCs between my legs in the middle of an Indian summer. And I had nowhere to turn! That is when I realised how good heat management system worked in this monster. Under normal circumstances, on any other Superbike, I would have had sweat trickling down my boots into my toes. No such disaster happened. I waited for the traffic to clear and shot straight ahead on the wide open roads. Oh what an amazing feeling.

The engine redlines at 11000Rpm. You do not have to go there! You are already so fast that you need to check your emotions rather than the redline. I found the RVM to be inadequate. But who the heck cares! I do not need to look at the my mirrors when I am riding the fastest production Hypersports motorcycle on the planet! All that the people could catch was a big green thing whizzed past, almost unreal and unbelievable.

Because the engine was brand new, initially the gears were a little notchy. It got better and easier over the 500 kms that I rode! Despite it being a massive engine, the hydraulic activated clutch felt really easy and light and was not a stress at all. Compared to a regular Superbike, the gearing seemed significantly shorter.  But that is normal as the stroke is deeper and they have designed this for more torque than for higher revs. As I shifted from 1st to 2nd at 10000Rpm, I was at 115kmph. On a Superbike, I would be at 12500Revs and would change gears at 145Kmph! But before I knew it, I was taking a long corner at 200+ clicks! Yes you heard right. I was doing a corner. More on that later!

Engine braking is gentle. I downshifted like a man possessed. But no harshness was felt. The slipper clutch made it easier for me. Once I was down to 40kmph and on 2nd gear, I wrung out the throttle again. Boy the needle sailed all the way to the North! This bike is not fast. It is demoniacal. But it is gentle at the same time. Is it not an oxymoron? No sir! That is the way Kawasaki designed it’s biggest baddest Ninja of all time.

And then there is no wheely control. But they have given two power modes, Low and Full Power. I am trying to wonder why have they given Low Power mode? Would you EVER ride it on Low Power mode if you possess the Fastest Hypersport Tourer on the planet? Or is it for the novices? I strongly advise that a novice NOT ride this bike without a hefty insurance. Heck, even with a massive insurance, I would not give it to a novice!!! This bike makes 192Bhp at just 10000Rpm at the rear wheel!!! And a humongous 153Nm of Torque at a meagre 7600Rpm. With that kind of Torque we can follow your tyre trails on the tarmac all the way to where you parked it! 

The Torque gives you a massive thrust from 6000Revs. If you are not careful, the bike will fly away all the way to outer space. That would be a pity for a 19L INR bike!

For a production bike that was designed to break land speed records, the seat feels like a luxury living room sofa. And it is designed to take a pillion comfortably. I mean the bike is quite capable of breaking speed records with a pillion! And the seat is wide enough to comfortably seat human beings weighing unreasonable weights. Similarly, out on the roads, the ride comfort is more like a Goldwing rather than a Hypersports. 

The bumps and the potholes were absorbed with such grace that I was wondering whether I am on the right bike! After a hundred kilometres, I tightened the front preload by 5 clicks clockwise and I got a tougher stiffer suspension. That is when I started getting the long corners at high triple digit speeds. The bike felt really good around the corners and I would love to take it longer around the bends in the hills.

Honestly, the default factory settings of the suspension are quite plush and are perfect for long haul touring. However, if you are looking to take it to the track, you clearly have to readjust the suspension from everywhere. I am saying this again because of my fondness for the Superbike feel that is stiffer and harder and gives you the “on the edge” feel. The ZX-14R gives you the feeling of a really fast comfortable monster! 

The monocoque chassis is different from the previous version. It is a no-welds, wrap around aluminium monocoque chassis incorporating the ram air intake box. This gives a remarkable manoeuvrability to the bike at very high speeds and low speeds as well. Yes, it is surprisingly easy to ride in city traffic despite its mammoth 256 kilos.

Another element that is deceptive is the seating posture that is very easy. That is something unexpected of a bike of this stature. It is not overly aggressive. The pillion sits even easier. However when the bike starts to hit 6000 Revs, the pillion has to be a very fit one to remain seated on the bike!

Braking is phenomenally good. The ABS works great. As usual, we put the ABS test on polished marble surfaces and the feedback was more than satisfactory. I was personally very happy with the overall handling and braking. Though heavy braking does start to build up a little lag. I need to check this out with the pads worn out a little.

Blackbird, then the Hayabusa, then the ZX-14R. And clearly the ZX-14R has built a reputation! Red, Green, Black and Blue. No, those are not the colours that the ZX-14R beats its opposition into. Those are the colours that it is available internationally. However in India, it is just the Ninja Green. And the fit and finish is fantastic.

Especially the metallic colour. I am a little old fashioned. The instrumentation panel is overkill. I say that for the Ducatis too! That said, this is a fantastic bike for going really fast, for touring really fast and I would also love to commute on this to office. They have got the heat management perfect!

Hunting season begins… let us go hunt some falcons! ;)

We cannot bring this review to it's culmination without Thanking India Kawasaki Motors for giving us their flagship Motorcycle and partnering with us for this review. Thank You India Kawasaki Motors!!

Imp Note: We at Throttle Quest have carried out these tests in actual regular street conditions by professionals who are trained to conduct such tests. We at TQ do not support irregular, high speed, high risk and unsafe riding by anybody.

Text by: Krishnendu Kes
Images by: Krishnendu Kes, Saurabh Agarwal and Sajal Chakraborty
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Item Reviewed: Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R - Ride Review Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sajal
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