The fastest motorcycle in the world (in a straight line)

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Already a little lighter and a little more powerful than the arch-rival Suzuki Hayabusa, Kawasaki has stroked the ZX-14R’s motor out to 1,441cc and fitted traction control and a three-mode, ride-by-wire throttle. The result of all this is a bike that should be considerably faster than before, but also easier to ride. Engine mods are designed to pad out the power and torque curves throughout the rev range, while the switchable drive modes and their altered power delivery and output, as well as the TC and slipper clutch, should make that power more accessible. Evolution, not revolution, but the 2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R is still one hell of a fast motorcycle.

Update: power, with ram-air, is said to exceed 200bhp. Ricky Gadson ran a 1/8 mile in 6.347/118mph on a stock ’12, saying it makes 210bhp at the crank.

Like what happened with the launch of the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R, final power figures aren’t being released until the bike undergoes homologation testing in North America in Europe. A rep tells us that unlike the ZX-10R, the ZX-14R is expected to make marginally more horsepower in American trim than it will in Europe. Variances in noise standards are to account for that.

Let’s detail all the changes:

- A 4mm stroke increase; to 65mm (up from 61mm), with displacement now registering 1441cc (up from 1352cc). Combustion chamber shapes are newly optimized for 2012, and they’re surface-milled now, not cast. Intake ports are reshaped and polished for maximum flow while working in concert with longer and more durable intake valves.
Longer-stroke design, revised (and ported) cylinder heads, lighter pistons, higher compression and more radical camshafts provide more torque and power throughout the rev range
- Piston jet system sprays a continuous stream of cooling lubrication to the underside of each piston for cooler running temperatures, more constant power production and better durability
- Stronger cam chain and tensioning system offers a higher degree of durability at stratospheric rpm levels
- Crankshaft main journals are 2mm thicker (now 40mm) for added durability
- More durable temperature and surface treatments allow the transmission gears to better harness the new engine’s prodigious power production
- Chrome composite-plated aluminum cylinder bores are lightweight, durable, and quickly carry heat away from the combustion chamber and piston for supreme durability at high power outputs
- Newly designed engine is compact and narrow, which allows the rest of the machine to
be smaller, lighter and more nimble
- Low mechanical noise via special piston profile and urethane insulation sheet on the inside of the magnesium chain cover
- All-new header assembly has tapered-diameter pipes for optimal power production and power delivery characteristics
- Newly designed mufflers offer lower noise emissions and, due to the dual catalyzers, are cleaner than before
- Airflow into the exhaust from the large secondary air ports in the cylinder head and head cover, plus a third honeycomb catalyzer in the collector, help meet strict Euro III emissions standards
- Internal silencer construction minimizes impact of emissions regulations while maintaining impressive top-end power
- Revised balance weights keep the newly dimensioned engine (more stroke) in ideal balance, resulting in improved comfort for riders and passengers
- Already in perfect primary balance, the 14R’s engine design features dual secondary balancers that virtually eliminate unwanted vibrations for extremely smooth operation and reduced rider fatigue
- 32-bit ECU works with dual throttle valve system to further enhance throttle response and control

- Rider selectable High & Low maps offer a choice between full power and approximately 50 percent power output to help suit changing conditions
- Digital Timing Advance enhances low- and mid-range power
- Individual spark plug-mounted ignition coils fire each of the four spark plugs independently to achieve the optimum timing for that cylinder
- ECU includes an idle speed control system for easier starting and warm-up

Traction Control
- KTRC traction-control system features three different modes for varying conditions
- Modes are controlled by a handy switch assembly on the left handlebar
- Modes are indicated on the LCD cockpit display

Slipper Clutch
- All-new “slipper” clutch assembly controls rear-wheel torque effects while downshifting or coasting to minimize wheel hop, chatter and reduce rider stress
- Radial-pump hydraulic clutch master cylinder offers smooth and precise engagement and optimal feel at the lever

- Engineers modified more than half of the previous frame’s aluminum castings and forgings, all of which have different flex and rigidity characteristics than the parts they replace. So while the new alloy frame bears a distinct resemblance to the previous unit’s over-the-engine, monocoque design, it is vastly different: stiffer in some places and unchanged in others, the net result forming an ideal balance for the bike’s weight, power and cornering ability. In back, the swingarm is 10mm longer than before and features more gusseting to effectively match the new frame’s rigidity balance.

  • tomwito

    Sooooo ugly.

    • tomwito

      From the side, the black one looks like a hippo.

      • DoctorNine

        I dunno man. This looks better than the new Ninja 650 in many ways.
        Admittedly, I like big butts, and I can not lie…

      • fodderbox

        Yeah, it looks fat and is in fact a porker. Within a twelve-pack of 600 lbs. Which, really, is not all that important when you have 200 hp. But…it just looks so bloated.

  • Anders

    Flames :&

  • jpenney

    Is that time actually 1/8 mile? That would make more sense.

    • jpenney

      I see that got updated. The laws of physics are still working.

  • Bill

    That’d be fun to ride once or twice just for kicks. But to commit to ownership for many years, dutifully shelling out the monthly payment for a roller-coaster ride that only has a thrilling high-speed descent in its otherwise humdrum resume, and doing so ’til something like 2016? Uh, no.

    • The other Joe

      If you wanted that kind of power, a K1300S is a much more practical and all around useful bike. Also more comfortable for longer rides.

      • stempere

        Also, not ugly.

        • The other Joe

          So true.

  • motoguru


  • Deltablues

    You may be naysayers, but I rode one for a year and it is a surprisingly capable motorcycle if you get it out of ‘main drag cruising mode’ and actually ride it. Granted, the kinda fun you can have on it is different than my current Daytona 675.

  • Erok

    So the way that they are beating emissions that come out of the end of the exhaust is by adding fresh air before it leaves the engine? Am I understanding this right?

    • Andrew

      Actually the fresh air helps the catalytic converter function more efficiently. So kind of yes, but not just to dilute the exhaust gases.

    • CCarey

      This isn’t anything new, similar systems have been used on virtually every automobile produced in the last 30 years. The air is injected into the exhaust stream, via electric pump, before the catalytic converter to help it heat up sooner as cats need to be very hot to efficiently clean exhaust gasses. This is only used for cold starts and shuts off once the cat reached operating temps, thereby reducing cold start emissions with no effect on performance once the engine is warm.

  • KP

    These things are so damn comfortable. Probably my next bike, while keeping my 600 for spirited/track riding. I will not accept delivery of it with the flames, though. That shit has to go.

  • Mark D
  • je

    Looks like some designers watched a few to many miami vice reruns.

  • The other Joe

    At the crank? Who cares what it’s got at the crank! Tell us what kind of power it’s putting out at the rear tire.

    • Sean Smith

      Those numbers are always so much less impressive though.

      • The other Joe

        I’ll take realistic over impressive.

    • Deltablues

      How do they measure Dyno output to include the effect of ram-air? Ram-air on a motorcycle has to add something to H.P. numbers, especially at high speeds.


    one straight line advantage the previous zx14 had over the hayabusa was a regular clutch, not a slipper. supposedly the slipper is not that good for drag racing.

    • Sean Smith

      That only matters when you start adding huge power, prepped tracks and long swingarms into the equation. At that point, a lockup clutch is probably the way to go, and neither bike is sold with one.

      The slipper will make that huge motor a lot easier to live with day-to-day. With a properly setup slipper (like the one in the RSV4), you don’t even have to blip the throttle on downshifts. Just clutch in, click down, clutch out. Smooth as butter.

  • Chris

    The front part of the fairing, and the exhaust make the bike look like a heifer.

  • Travisty

    Should come with a case of Colt 45. You guys were thinking too, so I just went ahead and said it.

  • Charlie

    Competing with B King for ugly title

  • Gregory

    It looks beautiful. Reminds me of a classic GT/ gran tourismo Italian car: a gentleman FAST ride. Like a Sunbeam or Talbot on two wheels. It would be awesome to travel far on this machine, on nicely paved roads. As for my wet, grey, foggy commute… I’d probably kill myself.

    Portland, OR
    2008 Kawasaki KLR 650