2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R ABS Test
While the motorcycling community has been rightfully enamored with smaller displacement bikes in recent times, as they offer so much for relatively little, the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R ABS is a bike that laughs at this notion. Kawasaki’s flagship occupies an over-the-top place in the pantheon of mega bikes, and makes no apologies.
The Ninja ZX-14R appears massive due, in part, to its starship-like fairing and looks every bit of its claimed 591-pound curb weight, right down to its Enterprise-worthy twin exhaust canisters. In white, it’s perfect for any Imperial Stormtrooper, to mix sci-fi metaphors.
But don’t let that fool you. Once moving the ZX-14R sheds its weight and image as an über-large sport bike and morphs into a machine that is capable of sub-10-second quarter-mile times, as well as lean angles that will scrape the peg feelers.
The Ninja ZX-14R can be docile at one moment and ferocious the next, wholly at your discretion. Big power is available from about 3500 rpm, and ludicrous speeds from 5000 to redline at 11k.
The engine is turbine-like, and one of the smoothest and sweetest mills you’ll ever straddle with a silky smooth torque curve that measures around 120 lbs-ft at the top with more than enough anywhere in the rev band.
With this kind of addictive acceleration and a top speed of 186 mph, one needs judicious use of the wrist to stay out of trouble, notwithstanding the dual-mode digital ignition (two maps), three levels of handlebar switchable traction control and ABS.
Riding the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R in the canyons reveals it to be eager to turn in and surprisingly willing to respond to changes in rider inputs at almost any point in the turn like a much smaller bike. Guiding it through all the familiar twisties on Mulholland Highway proves that it can lean in aggressively, hold or tighten its line at will, and respond neutrally to trail braking with the front brakes. Sure, it’s no 600, but once the apex is reached, the brutal, snarling drive out of the corners and acceleration must be experienced to really be appreciated.
On the freeways, the bike is smooth with negligible vibration at any speed in any gear. The wide tail section allows for a comfortable, fairly large saddle-shaped seat and the cockpit dimensions suit this six-footer perfectly for a relaxed, slightly forward leaning riding position.
The windshield is short but well directed; the wind blast is negligible on hands and torso even at 80+ speeds. And though the suspension is set up for canyons, I found the highway ride to be plush with little or no jostling over tar strips and small road blemishes and this is where its weight pays dividends.
The ZX-14R has impeccable manners at any speed and is calm in an urban environment offering neither tantrums nor reminders of its potential. Yet, a twist of the throttle unleashes Mr. Hyde who, in this guise, is predictable and never surprises unduly. Fortunately, should your speed get out of hand, radially mounted Nissan calipers intuitively grasp the semi-floating 310mm discs. ABS adds to your confidence, as it allows you to pull the lever and push the pedal aggressively, without worry of skidding.
Kawasaki has taken this marvelous engine, which can produce 40 miles per gallon when ridden conservatively – plus a 5.8-gallon tank–and combined it with a glass smooth-shifting 6-speed transmission mated to a slipper clutch (the clutch lever is easy-to-pull thanks to hydraulics), all wrapped within a monocoque aluminum frame with 3-way adjustable front and rear suspension.
No race-spec hardware here, but top shelf components were utilized to tame the claimed 200 horsepower that the 1441 cc motor produces and the tremendous speeds attainable within mere seconds.
Some spiritual beings teach that less is more, but there are those of us who will never succumb to that notion. We will gaze on the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R ABS and know that only more is more, and it’s all here embodied in this fabulous hyperbike.
Action shots by Don Williams (white ZX-14R)