The Audacious Kawasaki ZX-14
As the year of Kawasaki’s 50th USA Anniversary winds down, the celebration gets bolder. “Audaciousness. It must be in our blood, because in every decade for 50 years, Kawasaki has blasted the powersports industry wide open with a new kind of product that, to borrow from a certain famous TV series, “boldly goes where no man (or woman!) has gone before.”
The radical three-cylinder, two-stroke H1 500 Mach III arrived in 1969. In the 1970s came the powerful 903cc Z1 and the original stand-up JET SKI watercraft. During the 1980s it was the game-changing GPz900R Ninja and the MULE 1000 side-by-side. The Ninja ZX-11 marked the ’90s, and today it’s the supercharged Ninja H2 and Ninja H2R superbikes.
But this century saw the biggest green dog of all, the 1352cc ZX-14. Its 11,000-rpm DOHC engine howled beneath an aluminum monocoque frame, and it sported the beefiest rear tire – 190/50ZR17 – ever fitted to a production Kawasaki sportbike. And was it quick? You might say that. The motorcycle media was eager to put the Ninja ZX-14 to the test. Soon after the launch, editors began hitting the local test tracks, with Rider Magazine stating the Ninja had “unmatched power,” and Motorcycle-USA.com saying “the ZX-14 is definitely a rocketship.” You can watch our new Managing Editor riding the ZX-14 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a few years back in the video below.
After its launch in 2006, the Ninja ZX-14 received various minor improvements until 2012, when the NinjaZX-14R got a significant displacement boost to 1,441cc, three rider-selectable power modes and traction control, Cycle World noted, “The 14’s power dominates like King Kong in a parakeet cage,” they wrote “Everything else is officially slow.”