2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R/2013 Suzuki Hayabusa GSX1300R Comparo Sneak PeekUltimate Motorcycling’s president Arthur Coldwells emailed saying it was time to take the two motorcycles we’ve lined up for a comparison in our next issue out to stretch their legs, and they are very long legs. This is the first of several side-by-side comparison rides we will take together.
It’s a fiery day in the midst of the best, or worst, heat wave Southern California has seen in five years. Arthur and I roll Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-14R and Suzuki’s Hayabusa GSX1300R out of the garage and into daylight. Two of the hottest bikes on the planet on one of the hottest days of the year. Temperature on this day will range from 70 F to 104 F.We play tag through the tight stuff and along the big straights leading through the valley. Compared to any sport or touring rig, these hypersports make the high-speed run seem incredibly easy.The Ninja’s power plant is turbine-smooth. It enjoys being ridden casually and doesn’t mind riding in top gear at any speed over 50. It will loaf along while all the time ready to charge ahead from 3500 rpm and up. Whatever the revs, the 14R is magnificently smooth and well known to turn sub-10 second quarter mile times. With a 186 mph-governed top speed this bike has it all. Truly, a gentleman’s wingless jet.Conversely, the Hayabusa lets you know it’s more comfortable hanging in lower gears. Holding fourth, for example, at 50-80 mph feels more comfortable on this bike. While you can run it at 50 in top cog like its counterpart, it simply communicates its wishes in an obvious way when riding.And while these two bikes are alike in so many ways, engine characteristics are similar only in their prodigious power. Otherwise, the Busa has more growl and a raspy note to the 14R’s perfect pitch. It’s actually slightly buzzy above 5000 rpm but not so much to be annoying. I’d call it character, and while the Kawasaki is all silk and what you might expect from a refined 4-cylinder motor, the Busa has some of the characteristics that most of us love in three-cylinder engines.Raw, yet refined, and capable of howling. I just could not get enough of powering the Hayabusa through the apexes, feeling the grunt and hearing the symphony it played. Again, 186 mph governed, and while I do not have a current quarter-mile time for the Hayabusa, my feeling is that it’s not quite as fast as the Ninja. Today, in the real world, on public roads, they both offer truly eyeball-flattening acceleration.Leave them in third or fourth gear and small movements of the throttle are all you need to keep any pace your gut can handle. The wind protection is good but with enough circulation to keep comfortable in this heat. There is no need to be shifting gears much or revving these incredible motors to find the desired power. There is always enough at any speed in nearly any gear.My only complaint is that both bikes, unfortunately, roast the rider’s legs. The Busa likes the right side a bit more than the left and the 14R is more symmetrically oriented, broiling both legs equally. I can report that the heat is less noticeable on days of average temps but that’s not today.When it comes to handling characteristics, again, both machines offer similar traits. Turn-in is quick and precise and both bikes will surprise you with their ability to to rail through turns and even change or tighten their lines at full lean angle. For motorcycles that weight the better part of 600 pounds fueled they respond like much smaller and lighter models. I felt that the Ninja was a bit more precise in its ability to track but there are grind marks on the peg feelers of both bikes to attest to their ability.With stock exhaust plumbing, neither of these bikes impress when revved up at the local hangout but all that changes at speed. It’s really hard to pick a favorite and one never tires of either machine. The same goes with braking capability. Both are ABS equipped, the Kawasaki has petal-style rotors with Nissin front calipers and an unmarked rear caliper.The Suzuki includes Brembo Monoblocs up front and a Tokico caliper in the rear. All front calipers are radial mounted and well matched to the weight and speed available. Both bikes utilize slipper clutches for racer-smooth downshifts but only the 14R has traction control and a trip computer. The lack of this, for me, is not a deal breaker nor is the overall feeling that the Hayabusa, around since 1999 is getting a bit long in the tooth. Its rounded, sculpted looks (part of the serious upgrade in 2008) are pleasing to me but unlike the more modern designs prevalent today.Onto Highway 101 next to feel how these babies handle the slab. Like many California freeways, drivers are often doing 85 mph, practically bumper-to-bumper. There is nothing quite like the feeling of complete road superiority that make these bikes the rarely-equaled GT machines that they have proven to be. Jockeying through traffic is easy with this kind of power.Splitting lanes, a California luxury, is so smooth and easy. The level of control both of these bikes have at any chosen freeway speed inspires extreme confidence. Slicing through traffic becomes point and shoot and while many fast motorcycles can do this I think few compare with this pair. Anywhere, any speed, any situation, anytime. These are the attributes that add up to what it takes to be the best in the world.The July/August issue of Ultimate Motorcycling Magazine is hitting newsstands right now. Keep an eye out for our Hayabusa/ZX-14R comparison review coming in the next issue, and I’ll fill you in on the details surrounding these two incredible motorcycles.
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.