PH2 ridden: 2012 Kawasaki ZZR1400


There is something gloriously ridiculous about hyperbikes such as the Kawasaki ZZR1400. It is hard enough to justify the reasons for owning a sports bike that has 180hp and can hit over 180mph, but you can always use the excuse of wanting to ride it on track to exploit its full potential. What excuse can you use for a bike with over 200hp that will merrily slap into its 186mph limiter within a few short miles? "I'm a regular user of the unrestricted German autobahns" isn't going to convince anyone...

Calm and peaceful setting for a loopy bike
Calm and peaceful setting for a loopy bike
Fast master
Kawasaki has always prided itself in building ludicrously fast hyperbikes. The ZZR1100, launched back in 1990, was the first of the 180mph busting breed. After trundling along for several years it was updated to the ugly but good ZZR1200 before a brief hiatus and the new style ZZR1400 emerged in 2006. Now in its second generation, the ZZR1400 has been updated for 2012 with more power (like it was lacking...) and a host of electronic gubbins.

The expanded 1,441cc engine has a 4mm longer stroke than before with increased torque and power and a few internal changes to improve performance. Apparently the acceleration of the old bike wasn't quite scary enough because, as well as boosting power, Kawasaki has down-geared the ZZR - nice. The monocoque chassis is redesigned for improved handling and ABS, traction control and power modes are fitted to help you modulate the craziness. Though Kawasaki doesn't quote figures you are looking at a genuine rear wheel figure of 197hp and 120lb ft of torque. On a bike that is so much about image, you would have thought Kawasaki would have been screaming from the rooftops about touching 200hp.

Speedo hard to read, which is a problem...
Speedo hard to read, which is a problem...
The emperor's new clothes
With hyperbikes it is all about the engine and the Kawasaki's lump is simply staggering. Mind-bendingly fast in every single gear with a surge of acceleration that simply doesn't give up - even in top gear. Given suitable environs - not your local bypass, we should hasten to add - the ZZR will accelerate hard through the gears to the top side of 180mph before you even notice what's happening. In top at 70mph you can count two seconds to 100mph and about three more to whip through 140mph. So that's two seconds to get banned and less than five to end up in jail with a new friend looking at you while nursing a trouser tent. That's a scary prospect. Which is the slight issue with the ZZR.

When you are riding the ZZR it is simply too easy to speed without noticing it. You can pull out to overtake a lorry and the next thing you know you are at 120mph. The engine is so powerful and the chassis so stable in a straight line that silly speeds are hit without any warning - something not helped by the speedo. The ZZR has always had a fondness for analogue and not digital displays on its speedo and they are a clutter of numbers. The gap between the digits is too small and it's hard to tell if you are going 70, 80 or even 110mph at a quick glance. And see how far that gets you in mitigation in front of the magistrate.

ZZR has always been about the big numbers
ZZR has always been about the big numbers
Too much of a good thing?
Setting the motor aside it's hard to argue much of a case for a hyperbike like this. Big lads like them for the extra power but, aside from that, the reasons for riding one seem a little limited. Though more relaxed than a sports bike the riding position isn't that comfortable for distance work and there are better places for racking up the miles, excellent Versys 1000 among them. In order to build in stability to the bike the ZZR is long, low and certainly less sporty than the Versys. In fast sweeping corners the ZZR is rock stable, but through tighter bends it feels long and takes effort to turn. It is in no way a bad handling bike, it just isn't that quick steering and errs of the side of stability rather than agility.

ZZR owners past and present will rave about the monster torque and power of the engine. If this is your thing then the new ZZR1400 certainly has this by the bucketful and the addition of traction control and ABS can only be a good thing. But a proper tourer like a Versys, BMW GS, Triumph Explorer or KTM SMT is more comfortable and certainly fast enough up to 100mph. Having said that, it's bloody good fun to let a ZZR off its leash every now and then ... in a controlled environment on a closed road, naturally...


KAWASAKI ZZR1400
Engine: 1441cc 4-cyl
Power: 197hp@10,000rpm
Torque: 120lb ft@ 7,500rpm
Top speed: 186mph (restricted)
Weight: 265kg (dry)
MPG: 45
Price: £11,499

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (36) Join the discussion on the forum

  • twizellb 04 Aug 2012

    Biker's Nemesis said:
    The Pits said:
    998420 said:
    On the real road, a 1000cc sportsbike is a lot quicker in a lot of places than a hyperbike, especially driving out of a corner onto any fast straight, the hyperbikes only beat you in imaginary drag races or in comfort if you ride long distances. I am 6'6 and happily look like a monkey in a circus on my 1000, it is worth it for the "think it and you have done it" handling. IMO, on the track the difference is magnified, anything vaguely fat and wobbly ties itself in dangerous wobbly knots really quick.
    I had my ZX12R set up by someone who knew what they were doing but even out of the crate it handled very well, it was very much a scaled-up sportsbike. The ZZR1400 (ZX14R in the US) handles even better and turns and stops very quickly. It never feels heavy on the road and I've yet to ride it on the track but it's a lot closer to a sports bike than a sports tourer to ride. It's reckoned to be the best handling big bike so maybe it's distorting my opinion of them. Again, I'm no big shakes on the circuit but I've yet to find the limitations of the bigger bikes. Certainly on the ZX12R ground clearance was never an issue, nor was kneedown versus the GSXR1000. It's most likely that I'm not skilled enough to get the benefit of a modern 1000 but it makes me wonder how many other non japanese racer sized riders might actually be better off on a bigger bike.
    I still ride with a lad that could kick my arse on the road all day every day on his ZX12R while I was riding my 05 R1. This included bumpy back roads that a supermoto would be ideal for.

    twizellb will confirm this about "The Coach" as we call him.
    Confirmed.

  • BILL PAYER 04 Aug 2012

    bobd said:
    Thought of one of these in 2008 and in 20011, but ended up on both occasions of going down the zx10r route. The latest one is the last of the line FAF performance editions, which I must say is a massively better handling and useable eveyday bike than the 2008 bike.
    The new zx10r is far too small for my 6ft 2 frame having sat on one and doesnt feel as it would be as liveable with eveyday. Although not test ridden yet.
    So next change might bring the zzr into contention, they do feel a bit long, but better looking than the Busa.
    2008 bike

    latest one

    what next?
    Power is good, you dont have to use it all the time, but its nice to know its there when you need it.
    I have a 2008 zx10r so hope you dont mind me asking in what respect is the green bike a better bike ?

  • Biker's Nemesis 31 Jul 2012

    The Pits said:
    998420 said:
    On the real road, a 1000cc sportsbike is a lot quicker in a lot of places than a hyperbike, especially driving out of a corner onto any fast straight, the hyperbikes only beat you in imaginary drag races or in comfort if you ride long distances. I am 6'6 and happily look like a monkey in a circus on my 1000, it is worth it for the "think it and you have done it" handling. IMO, on the track the difference is magnified, anything vaguely fat and wobbly ties itself in dangerous wobbly knots really quick.
    I had my ZX12R set up by someone who knew what they were doing but even out of the crate it handled very well, it was very much a scaled-up sportsbike. The ZZR1400 (ZX14R in the US) handles even better and turns and stops very quickly. It never feels heavy on the road and I've yet to ride it on the track but it's a lot closer to a sports bike than a sports tourer to ride. It's reckoned to be the best handling big bike so maybe it's distorting my opinion of them. Again, I'm no big shakes on the circuit but I've yet to find the limitations of the bigger bikes. Certainly on the ZX12R ground clearance was never an issue, nor was kneedown versus the GSXR1000. It's most likely that I'm not skilled enough to get the benefit of a modern 1000 but it makes me wonder how many other non japanese racer sized riders might actually be better off on a bigger bike.
    I still ride with a lad that could kick my arse on the road all day every day on his ZX12R while I was riding my 05 R1. This included bumpy back roads that a supermoto would be ideal for.

    twizellb will confirm this about "The Coach" as we call him.

  • AV12 31 Jul 2012

    I think of all the stats, it's the top gear roll-on which kills it.

    I think Bike magazine (I'll need to dig it out to confirm) tested this 0-186mph in 16 seconds??!

  • Numeric 31 Jul 2012

    I have a BMW R1200s and a mate has the S100RR - he's always saying I should have a go on his and I refuse saying I'd kill myself but there is another reason. My BMW could at best be described as "truck like" in its turning and I've always had a vision of my mate getting to the first corner on mine, flicking it in then being very surprised as it doesn't turn at all and drives straight through a hedge.

    I really do get the sportsbike thing but for a very average biker like me I have an inkling the ZZR would be better. The stability is comforting while the power would get me out of those "oh sh*t wrong gear for this overtake" moment. I love the big kick in the pants but will never be a scratcher and frankly just like the thought of oodles of power which I hardly ever use. If you have a lot it's your choice - very little and you have no choice!!

    But I ride boxer twins - sigh - condemed to eternal vibration!

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