Into The Red Kawasaki ZZR1400

I’M TUCKED in tight, the throttle’s on the stop and my eyeballs are ricocheting in their sockets like stray bullets.

I’m using all my energy just to keep Kawasaki’s new ZZR1400 pinned and my imaginary balls firmly inflated. A small orange-yellow light blinks on the dash and I dare myself to glance down. The left hand needle is hanging off the dial, the right is hovering somewhere around 11,000 rpm. I’ve been flat stick at 186mph for almost 4 miles now and it feels like a lifetime.

That ‘gentleman’s agreement’ of limiting production, regular road going motorcycles to 186mph is utterly insane. You’d be barking mad to try this speed on the road, especially over such a long distance. But at Italy’s Nardo Technical centre, it’s just rude not too. The private and very secretive proving ground is home to the longest circular track in Europe. At 7.5 miles long, with four lanes and a sloping profile to compensate for centrifugal forces, it’s no wonder that I’ve been tucked in for well over a minute waiting to turn a corner that never comes. A blob at the side of the track finally waves a chequered flag and my lead rider slows down to a more sedate 125mph. It feels like we’re crawling.

At this pace, the ZZR feels totally balanced and absolutely secure. I reckon I could take both hands off the ‘bars and do a one-woman Mexican wave and the bike wouldn’t be fazed at all. And at top whack, although my head felt like it would be ripped clean off my shoulders if I so much as thought about popping out from behind the screen, the bike was still incredibly steady. In a straight line anyway. But then that was always the Kawa’s strong point and to be fair, although experiencing the ZZR flat out was something I’ll never forget, I wasn’t surprised by the ease at which the bike performed its duty. I was far more interested in its cornering ability.

The previous model was reluctant to tip in, as though the forks were made of wood and the chassis had a mind of its own. Thankfully, Kawasaki have addressed that issue and the 2012 ZZR is now the sportiest it’s ever been. Two 15 minute sessions on Nardo’s handling circuit was enough to show the Kawasaki as far more agile than its predecessor, especially considering its bulk and lengthy wheelbase. Rather than resisting your input like the previous model did, this new version is more compliant and it flicks and tips quite readily.

The standard suspension set up feels a tad on the soft side and I found myself bucked out of the seat a few times, but I’m pretty confident that a couple more laps and a few suspension adjustments would soon solve that issue. The brakes initially felt way too spongy and did nothing for my confidence in gassing the fastest accelerating bike on our planet. But a firmer, more deliberate squeeze on the lever and the anchors proved to be adequate. Not potent. But adequate. And the latest generation ABS is as unobtrusive as the new traction control system.

The ZZR1400 may excel in straight line blasts and be noticeably sportier, but its slow speed handling is also worth a mention. The easy riding position and predictable power delivery makes U turns and walking pace manoeuvres surprisingly manageable. The ZZR1400 has long been compared with Suzuki’s Hayabusa and until now, it has fallen short of matching the ‘Busa’s sporty nature. But Kawasaki’s latest revisions should make the ZZR a more than a match for Suzuki, especially as the Hayabusa has always had characteristically poor brakes and restrictive handling at low speeds, due to its sporty and forward riding position.

The Kawasaki hasn’t just had a few minor tweaks, the revisions are quite substantial. ZZR1400’s engine is 50% new and most of the changes are aimed at improving torque throughout the rev range. A larger rear sprocket increases acceleration and back torque limiter helps to smooth out downshifts and prevents the back wheel from hopping about. The swingarm is longer (by 10mm) and stronger to fit the new final gear ratio and although the frame looks untouched, more than half of it is new. Its rigidity was increased to suit the new engine’s output and to improve the bike’s handling.

Both the front and rear’s fully adjustable suspension units are also stiffer thanks to new springs and revised damping settings to deliver a sportier, firmer ride. Kawasaki have also shaved a total of 1.39kgs from the all-new wheels to increase flickability and the bike’s overall handling. In addition, the ZZR benefits from the same electronic aids as the new Versys 1000. The 3-Mode KTRC offers traction control modes 1 and 2 for forward acceleration, (from the S-KTRC system on the Ninja ZX-10R) and a more intrusive mode 3 for maintaining grip on slippery surface conditions, ( from the KTRC technology on the 1400GTR.)

The first two modes can distinguish between torque wheelies and sudden wheelies, the third mode prevents all wheelies, or you can simply switch the whole system off. There are also two power modes to choose from. The low power mode limits the engine output to around 75% (which still feels bananas and gives you around 150bhp) and it offers a milder throttle response. The dash is as you would expect, very comprehensive, and all the information is accessible via a button on the left handlebar. The LCD screen also indicates favourable fuel consumption, which is achievable at less than 6000rpm, with less than 30% throttle, at less than 100mph. But who buys a ZZR1400 to ride at half chat? Kawasaki claim their ZZR can outrun Suzuki’s Hayabusa by 6 bike lengths in a straight shoot out and it looks like it might hold its own on the twisties now too. Kawasaki appear to have fixed the ZZR’s previous niggles and produced the ultimate hypersports tourer for 2012.

Model: Kawasaki ZZR1400 £11,499
Engine: 1,441cc Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke In-Line Four
Power: 147.2 kW {200 PS} / 10,000 rpm
With Ram Air: 154.5 kW {210 PS} / 10,000 rpm
Torque: 162.5 Nm / 7,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed, chain
Dry Weight: 268 kg
Seat Height: 800 mm
Fuel capacity: 22 litres

Written by: Jane Omorogbe

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Mother of three grown-up daughters I am the ultimate multi-tasker and am passionate about my role as Silversurfers Website Editor and Social Media Manager. Always on the lookout for all things that will interest and entertain our community. Fueling fun for the young at heart!

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