20 live photos of the new ZX-14R and Ninja 650

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Just back from Kawasaki’s annual dealer conference in Orlando, Florida, here’s photos I shot of the two biggest news items unveiled there. The 2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R is a mild facelift of the existing bike, but thanks to a larger stroke upping capacity to 1,441cc, it should put out something in the region of 200bhp sans ram air in American trim, a slight advantage over the European model, which is held back to 197bhp by EU noise regulations. The 2012 Kawasaki Ninja 650 is pretty much all-new with the exception of its parallel-twin motor. That’s good, this is now a very, very good-looking budget middleweight.

In person, the ZX-14 refresh does little to reduce the bloated proportions of the old model. The new headlights do flow a little better, but that huge upper fairing — there to make the bike practical for high-speed touring, its raison d’etre in other markets — still looks ungainly and the overall package still appears exceedingly long and oddly detailed.

In contrast, the Ninja 650 appears positively svelte, and not just parked next to its very big brother. The new swingarm, especially, contributes to a design that feels way more desirable and upmarket than its $7,500 price and basic spec suggest. The exception there is the plethora of cheap black plastic fill panels nearly everywhere you look — even between the otherwise very nice-looking frame tubes ahead of the rider’s knees. Those are an odd touch of cheapness in a component that otherwise evokes tactility, quality and solid engineering. Still, with the SV650 going the way of the Gladius, this is now the best option for new-ish riders upgrading from a 250, commuters looking for something practical and capable or riders on a budget looking for a do-it-all quasi-sports tourer.

  • Jon B.

    All I see is old people.

    • Beale

      You need to drink in different bars.

    • isambard

      You are Haley Joel Osment and I claim my five pounds.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1100]

      All I see are dead pixels.

  • Coreyvwc

    2012 model? Ghost flames? Really?
    You stay classy Kawasaki…

  • Taco

    WTF. Those mufflers on the ZX14 maybe the ugliest cans I’ve ever seen on a bike and there’s two of them.

    • Gene

      Most of that styling is right off the Concours. (and reminds me of the RF-600, too)

      Apparently the naked sportbike is dead again.

  • http://www.kenta.ro Kentaro rides a NRS and a GSA

    Yeah those dual cans are fugly. Love the buell inspired exhaust on the 600 though. they should all be tucked in low like that.

  • slash5alive

    Hard for me to get into the look of the zx-14r, too many styling cues going on. The Ninja looks good though.

  • stefano

    why did suzuki kill the sv650? i love mine and i’d imagine it would be a popular bike. maybe i’m bias

  • Charlie

    Nature could not produce such an ugly thing. People conspired to make it uglier than necessary. Evil

  • John

    I still like this iteration of the ninja 650 more than the 1st and 2nd gen.

  • Myles

    Ninja 650 over a fz6? Cams and a pipe can turn a fz6 into a fairly quick bike.

    The motor in the Ninja650 is kind of always a boring shitpile. In my experience.

  • 2ndderivative

    “riders on a budget looking for a do-it-all quasi-sports tourer”

    I resemble that description. A slight upgrade from the Katana is all I’m looking for.

  • randry

    The U.S. has more power than Europe on the ZX-14r! WOW, that must be some kind of mistake.

    • Coreyvwc

      Nope, new EU noise regs are a huge power killer these days. I’m sure the pipes on the euro model and even larger and more unsightly…

      • Thomas

        You are spot on with the EU Regs, it seems that pipes get bigger and bigger evry year. I dont even count the wet weight of a bike until aftermarket pipe is on and all the extra plastic shit is removed for the track. ;)

  • troy rank

    New 650 looks dope. ZX14 is obnoxious.

  • CheerySmilesAndLaughter

    …so the 14R is little-changed?
    I guess. That’s all that I get from this.

    Eh, think what you will of the 14R. Just don’t ride one, or you’ll have to admit that you like it.

  • CaptainQueeg

    “Still, with the SV650 going the way of the Gladius, this is now the best
    option for new-ish riders upgrading from a 250, commuters looking for
    something practical and capable or riders on a budget looking for a
    do-it-all quasi-sports tourer.”

    …don’t hold back, man, let us know how you really feel.