“I’d probably kill myself on one of those things”.
I know exactly what the next two sentences from my well-meaning friend will be.
“You can’t even use all that power on the road anyway.” Yep.
“I mean, it’s too much bike for anyone really.” Exactly.
What my friend will never, ever understand, of course, is that of course it is too much. That is entirely the point.
And the $17,999 2018 Kawasaki ZX-14R is absolutely too much. It’s far too big, far too powerful, and far too good for the humdrum of daily traffic and boring highways.
That’s what’s so great about it. Most of us will rarely, if ever, approach the 11,000 rpm redline or access the 207 ram-air-fed horsepower. Few of us will experience the 335 km/h maximum speed, let alone the full force of a 2.9 second 0-100 km/h run.
Simply arriving at your destination without risking licence or limb on a bike like this feels like an achievement. Restraint and subtlety do not come naturally to me. This bike forces me to exercise those weak emotional muscles, and therefore, grow as a human being.
Before the supercharged H2 came alone, the ZX-14R was Kawasaki’s flagship sport bike. And way back when I was a fledgling motorcyclist, the ZX-12R and Suzuki Hayabusa were at the peak of their drag race for supremacy. In 2006, Kawasaki upped the ante with the ZX-14, and since a refresh in 2012, the ZX-14R.
Wisely, the ZX-14R is fitted with three-stage KTRC traction control – all managed through the easily read TFT dashboard. Unwisely, it is fully switchable, and can be turned off completely. Please don’t. There is also two-stage Power Mode selection, so you can opt for less power if it’s raining, or if you decide you want to save fuel/your licence.
There’s a paradox here. As much as this bike is too much, its size and weight renders it comfortable for passengers. One of my regular pillion passengers said it was the best bike I’d taken her on, while another said she was surprised at how comfortable it was. You’ll need to take off the seat and unscrew four screws to remove the standard passenger seat cowling and get the bike ready for passengers.
There is no way to store the cowl on the bike because it’s big, so you will need to plan ahead of time for passengers and be willing to sacrifice looks for a brief period. The optimistic owner will arrive at the dance with the pillion seat cover removed.
Any lucky passengers will experience the comparatively low and wide pillion seat, the smoothness of the dual counterbalancers, and the effortless riding experience that comes from too much engine in just about the right amount of bike. The 1,480 mm wheelbase is long enough to smooth out the road, without being so long it makes the bike unbearable in corners.
Indeed, the ZX-14R around offramps is a lot more fun than any 269 kg motorcycle has a right to be. It is composed, and more agile than its heft and sheer physical presence would suggest. The suspension has plenty of room to accept and adapt to the tarmac underfoot, and the Brembo ABS brakes are appropriately massive.
Because this chassis has had some fairly minor updates over the past decade, the suspension and geometry is by now well-tuned and stable. Couple that forgiving platform with the electronic aids and all that power and torque becomes actually quite manageable. The threat of whiskey-throttling yourself into purgatory is muted: present enough to spike your heart rate, mitigated enough to maintain your sanity.
The ZX-14R then is a free-choice advocate. If you’re smart, you’ll electronically restrain yourself on the weekday commute, then take it to the track and unleash all your pent-up aggression at the local drag strip on the weekend.
It gives you the opportunity to make good decisions, and the power to make bad ones. Don’t abuse that power.
Key Specs: 2018 Kawasaki ZX-14R
Engine: 1,441 cc inline four
Curb weight: 269 kg
Power: 207 hp @ 10,000 rpm (with ram air)
Torque: 116 lb-ft @ 7,500 rpm
Wheelbase: 1,480 mm
Length: 1,170 mm
Seat height: 800 mm
Brakes: dual semi-floating 310mm petal disc, four-piston radial mount front/single 250 mm petal disc rear.
Front suspension: 43 mm inverted cartridge fork with adjustable preload, stepless rebound and compression damping adjustments and 117 mm travel
Rear suspension: Bottom-Link Uni-Trak and gas-charged shock with adjustable preload, stepless rebound and compression damping adjustments and 124 mm travel
Tires: 120/70/ZR17 front, 190/50/ZR17 rear