SPECIAL!! Big power delivered smoothly has always been a big Ninja hallmark, the changes for 2012 began in the new ZX-14R’s engine bay. There’s more displacement via a 4mm stroke increase; to 65mm (up from 61mm), with displacement now registering 1441cc (up from 1352cc).
Feeding this class dominating engine is a revised fuel injection system that offers automatic idle adjustment and reduced emissions.
The benefits of all this hot-rodding are substantial, as there’s more power virtually everywhere across the rev range. The increases are most profound in the mid-high rpm range, with notably stronger acceleration from 4,000 rpm onward. This translates into the sort of thrust riders can appreciate in a wide variety of situations, whether it’s powering up a freeway on-ramp to merge with fast-moving traffic or cruising along a deserted backroad on a sunny, Sunday-morning ride. On the ZX-14R, total domination is just a twist of the throttle away.
But the ZX-14R’s new engine is more than supremely powerful; there’s plenty of polish and panache to go along with it.
That power is more manageable than ever, too, thanks to the addition of a slipper clutch assembly and a KTRC traction control and ignition management system that features three different riding modes – full power, medium power and a third mode for low-traction (wet/slippery) conditions. The slipper clutch technology comes directly from the racetrack, and helps eliminate the wheel-hop and stability-eroding torque effects of energetic downshifting and braking while cornering, or during spirited – or emergency – stops. It also helps protect the bike’s drive train, for optimum durability.
The result of all this refined and high-tech hot rodding is arguably the finest open-class streetbike engine ever built – and an engine this capable needs a similarly competent chassis in which to live and thrive. The 2012 ZX-14R is up to the job, and then some. 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.
Both the 43mm fully adjustable inverted fork and multi-adjustable single shock have improved bottoming resistance and revised internal settings, while new lighter and beautifully machined 10-spoke wheels look great and reduce unsprung weight by a whopping 3.3 pounds, further aiding acceleration, handling and suspension action. The new ZX-14R’s triple disc brakes are updated, as well, with more rigid disc material and revised pads for powerful, fade-free stops and a progressive feel at the lever.
The new ZX-14’s instruments and controls have been reworked as well, with a newly finished gauge cluster and a new multi-function switch on the left handlebar that handles all system functions. There’s even an “eco” indicator on the LCD screen that lets riders know when they’re getting maximum economy and fuel mileage.
The end result of all this technology and all these features is a dominating open-class ride – a supremely smooth, powerful and refined sporting motorcycle that’ll gladly go anywhere there’s asphalt and do it with an uncanny level of competence. High-aggression Sunday-morning rides? No worries. Two-up along the coast for the weekend? Easy. Commuting to and from work? Simple. Weekend bracket racing at the local dragstrip? Cake.