It wasn’t the perfect day to be on a motorcycle. With a glowing sun beating down on us with all its glory, we were melting inside our gear, riding on tarmac that was fast turning into jell-o. While my colleagues had disappeared into the distance, astride the Kawasaki ZX-14R, I rolled off the gas after a brief moment of reaching transcendental speeds that wanted to burn me into flakes of ash. I parked the bike under some shade, took my lid off and sat down with my face between the palms, feeling emotions I had never felt before. Perhaps my vision was moist, or maybe it was the sweat trickling down my face. I know it was the heat, but I’m not sure if it was the terrifying joy of riding what Kawasaki calls the world’s most powerful mass production motorcycle that was causing my palms to perspire.
Images: Vaibhav Aher
The cause that still adorns my bedroom wall
It was then I realised that the cause for my condition was hidden in the past. A time when I used to read fables about these elusive predators who occupied top space in the motorcycling food chain, categorized as ‘Hypersports’. There were three of them jostling for top honours then, called the Super Blackbird, the Hayabusa and the Kawasaki ZX-12R. All three built for a sole reason – Being the fastest road legal production motorcycle that was ever made. Eventually, safety conscious Garfields brought the escalating race to build the fastest machine on two-wheels to a truce and the ZX-12R evolved into a larger, but an equally majestic animal, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R. It was almost a decade long fascination that I had with this breed which grew into an obsession to hunt this animal down.
Like some hunter then, who had only read and heard about an elusive man eater on the prowl, scaring the living daylights out of unsuspecting mortals, I have to admit unabashedly, after making hats and scarves out of jackals and rabbits, meeting the ZX-14R in flesh did give me the jitters. It is what Corbett must’ve experienced, looking into the eyes of a big fierce cat, his heart pounding like a bad-ass loudspeaker, imagining those sharp claws digging through his heart, but then like that gun wielding khaki clad idiot, as souls obsessed with the idea of going faster than the speed of light, these are moments we live for.
With the key finally in my hand, days of sitting atop a tree, looking for pug marks, tracing the musky aroma of octane to catch a glimpse of a mystical beast were over. However, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R wasn’t a motorcycle we were about to rip the skin off and proudly display it on our wall. We very well knew that like the ‘Toruk’ from Pandora, it was the 14R which could hunt us down and eat us alive if we cracked a whip too harsh using our right wrist. With a prayer, as I thumbed this spaceship to life, it only took a left turn out of the dealership’s gate to experience sweet psychotic terror.
After a ride out of town that caused many eyeballs to pop out of their sockets, here I was, with my face between my palms, staring at some green sheen that glittered in the blinding sun. It did not take long to conclude that everything about the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R has been designed with silly velocity in mind. It isn’t a monument that will go down in history books as the one which could make your eyes soggy, but it is a machine that is designed to reach monumental speeds. A thing of art that wouldn’t make you stand still and admire, but make you epileptic and cause you to veer off into thoughts about travelling at a gazillion kilometres per hour with the stars buzzing by.
This big Ninja is all about form following function then, and if you look at it that way, you’d start appreciating beauty that is outworldly and not defined by earthly definitions which call things bulbous. Having said that, the ZX14-R is a big machine and there’s no hiding that. This monstrosity on two wheels stands 3.8 feet tall, extends 7 feet in length, is 2 and a 1/2 feet wide and weighs 241 kilos without any fuel in the chiselled 22-liter tank.
As the ZX-14R moonlights my open eyed dreams, I still find myself captivated by the heart shaped RAM air intake flanked by an aggressive looking illumination system, capped off by a curved, swooping fly screen that is inspired by a space suit helmet. Assisting that wind cheating front is a large fender that covers the wheel halfway, while the only thing that adds a charming element to an otherwise furious looking front are those RVM sticks popping out like a bee’s antennas.
Shift your visionary senses sideways and you’d notice a sliced boomerang that channels the air flow in the fairing and a lower half that has been mauled by a female feline during the mating season. However, what really binds things within a time capsule is the twin, bazooka like exhaust system which looks like it’d change angle anytime like a Harrier jet and shoot the bike into outer space. Enough with this romanticizing then, let’s get to the part where your socks get knocked off at interstellar speeds.
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The sweet hazards of Power
To put it in words, as much as the ZX-14R looks intimidating, in reality it happens to be an emotive beast which is calm, sober and playful, but also angry, decimating and bonkers at the same time. It will behave in the nicest manners when you respect it, but crack a violent whip and the big Ninja will gnash its teeth and bite you back with such ferocity, there isn’t a thread that has been made to stitch you back up. In the simplest of words, let me try and explain how some of us in the office are still torn.
There’s a whole lot of volcanic activity that bubbles within the 1,441cc, four cylinder motor which emanates 209 bhp of heat (With RAM air). While it remains on simmer below the 4000 rpm mark, the moment you breach that boiling point, dial in another thousand revs, your vitals start to rumble and the big Kawasaki erupts angrily, leaving a mirage of your soul behind once past the 7000 rpm mark. The thrust is so massive; it almost feels like an out of body experience, maybe similar to riding shotgun on a ballistic missile. The speedometer starts pointing at silly numbers as you duck behind the windscreen, trying to focus hard on our roads which are notorious to spring a surprise any moment. Your family jewels permitting, the ZX-14R’s demonic motor will redline all the way till 11,000 clicks with a widowed howl shrieking from the twin exhausts, but even if you somehow manage to coat your pearls in Kevlar, finding a stretch of road that allows you to do that and still return back home is like fishing with bare hands, and our country is a Dead Sea.
In all honesty, we didn’t find a stretch good enough to verify, but the ZX-14R has been tested to shoot off from 0 – 100 in 2.9 seconds, reaches the double ton in 7.6 and is chained to a top speed of 299 kph. In a straight line, the big Ninja can make mincemeat of a quarter mile in 9.7 seconds flat. Another thing that frightens you in an addictive manner is 153 Nm of twist that wrenches your guts in a way, only Kawasaki’s other supercharged offering can match.
Now, although it can and will chop your fantasies of speed in a whisker, let’s talk about the duality of this kind hearted Ninja assassin. Kawasaki has equipped the ZX-14R with three selectable traction control modes which go a long way in making even lesser riders feel like a mythical Demi God astride a wild Unicorn. Mode 1 and 2 intervene in an unobtrusive manner if you happen to wring carelessly, while number 3 makes the bike forgiving, saving you from the after effects of stupidity in slippery conditions. You can even turn the damn thing off, if wheeling on a tightrope is the sort of thing you’d like to excel at. There are two power maps too, called ‘F’ and ‘L’, where the latter tones down the throttle response and delivers around 75% of engine power, the former is an all out Woolly Mammoth digging its long curved tusks in your flesh, through your blood, uplifting you by your bones.
Here’s the surprising part, while at standstill, a motorcycle with such hooliganism coming through the rear wheels sounds trembling, once on the saddle, the ZX-14R can also be ridden in a relaxed manner if you like. With a wide enough and well padded saddle, a relaxed riding position compared to litre class blood mongers, the biggest Ninja is also a Hyper GT, more like a big bored V12 on two wheels that can comfortably cross borders at supersonic speeds as you fill your passport with visa stamps.
With a solid monocoque aluminium frame paired to beefy 43mm inverted cartridge forks at the front and a bottom link Uni-Trak gas charged shock at the rear, the 14R isn’t a big girl asking you for an arrow straight highway with no one on it. Take it to the twisties and the 14R is a treasure that asks you to look upon it. It will sing a glorious song on fast sweeping corners, maintaining steady composure as it drops down to pretty low lean angles with comfortable ease.
However, on tighter, back to back bends, the bulky proportions and the large wheelbase ensure they do make their presence felt. Having said that, the ZX-14R is an easy motorcycle to ride fast and courtesy of the raised clip-ons and easily accessible controls, is fairly easy to pilot around town too.
The human head can only take so much of a rush coming to the head, and that is exactly where the dual floating, 310mm petal discs with dual radial mounted four piston callipers at the front and a single 250 mm petal disc at the rear come to your rescue. Paired with an ABS system, hauling down this runaway train is never a problem. You could be doing manic speeds one moment, but if the one that follows, warrants grabbing a handful of the front lever and stomping on the pedal in panic, a lot of serious momentum is shed in a controlled manner, the ABS silently working in the background. There is no drama, although the wheelbase and the bulk might make you think otherwise. The back torque limiting clutch comes in play when you manage to be untidy with your downshifts after attaining a fairly high velocity and are on your way back down. Lever action is surprisingly smooth for a unit controlling such amounts of power.
Although one would expect the big, angry motor to disperse tonnes of heat, the clever dissipation system on the 14R works wonderfully, as we figured on a day when the mercury soared into the high 40’s. Another aspect where the 14R shines bright is in delighting the pillion who can join you to scream in glee.
Perched behind the rider in a comfortable space, sharing the joys of terror with another soul behind is just as exciting. So you find an empty stretch, slide backwards and bend to hide behind the large windscreen, the pillion grabbing you by your beer belly, making you feel like batman sliding deeper inside the batmobile, as he races against time to get a poisoned Miss Dawes to his palace and administer the antidote.
We know some of you with sticky fingertips must be imagining how much does this big green monster guzzle? Since you asked, it could be anything between 11 – 14 kpl.
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How sold are we?
Some of us might question the need for so much power, given the fact that we don’t really have the right amount of space to enjoy such a motorcycle to the hilt. But as we found out, that’s the thing with the Ninja 14R or any other bonkers motorcycle you could imagine buying in India. One has to follow restraint on our streets and enjoy these machines in bursts. Some would say it’s too much of pointless power, but in essence, there are people who like to be in control, on top of the scheme of things, things which they can hold by the neck, crack a whip and enjoy it to its limit.
Then there are those who like the fact that there is always something more in reserve, a new threshold that can be breached, a new level to be reached, every time you get on the saddle and the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R is just that machine. It will intimidate you every day, keep you in check, keep you grounded, let you fly, kill you, make you feel alive.
The 14R is a viral disease and also the cure for it. It packs so much sweet venom, it itself is the antidote. It is a man eater, a wild thing and although for all these years some of us grew up thinking we’ll hunt, the big Ninja makes you drop that gun and surrender to its might. It makes you sick, makes your eyes burn in green agony and only love can do such things. We hear there’s another beast hiding in the bushes these days, some new kind of species never seen before, forest officials are calling it the ‘H2’.
Price as tested: Rs 16.9 lakh (Ex-showroom, Pune)
Next page for an exhaustive image gallery and specifications…
V-shaped tail light needs a fresh design
You don’t really need a horn on these machines. The toggle switch allows you to scroll through a plethora of important information available on the digital screen, lets you switch between power and traction control modes too
Twist for a twister
Front fork is adjustable in 18 different ways for compression and 15 for rebound damping
Keep staring and a shell might just pop out of those bazookas and shatter your screen
RVMs do a great job of mirroring what you leave behind
That ‘R’ is a meaningful suffix which added more madness to what used to be just a ZX-14
Those ridges are a result of a lot of wind cutting through over the years
Look me in the eye mister!!
Headlamps ensure you can continue riding fast, even after Sun down
22-liters of the good stuff fits inside
Shifting through the 6-speed box is a smooth affair
The biggest Ninja of them all!
What you see once in the holy seat
A steering damper would’ve sweetened the deal
Levers on both sides are adjustable
Filling in for the lack of green
Notice how even the trees swayed in wake of the bike’s velocity
|Engine||Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve per cylinder, inline-four|
|Bore x Stroke||84 x 65mm|
|Fuel System||DFI® with four 44mm Mikuni throttle bodies|
|Ignition||TCBI with digital advance|
|Transmission||Six-speed with positive neutral finder|
|Final Drive||Sealed chain|
|Front Suspension / Wheel Travel||43mm inverted cartridge fork with adjustable preload, 18-way compression and 15-way rebound damping adjustment / 4.6 in|
|Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel||Bottom-link Uni-Trak® and gas-charged shock with adjustable preload, stepless rebound and compression damping adjustments, adjustable ride height / 4.9 in|
|Front Tire||120/70 ZR17|
|Rear Tire||190/50 ZR17|
|Front Brakes||Dual floating 310mm petal discs with dual radial-mounted four-piston calipers and ABS|
|Rear Brakes||Single 250mm petal disc with twin-piston caliper and ABS|
|Frame Type||Aluminum monocoque|
|Rake/Trail||23.0 degrees / 3.7 in|
|Overall Length||85.4 in|
|Overall Width||30.3 in|
|Overall Height||46.1 in|
|Ground Clearance||4.9 in|
|Seat Height||31.5 in|
|Curb Weight||241 kg Wet (Empty Tank)|
|Fuel Capacity||22 litres|