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The Real Story on Kawasaki ZX-12R Performance?

It’s the “greatest thing since sliced bread”. It’s “crude and unrefined”. It’s faster than a Hayabusa. It’s slower than a Hayabusa. It’s better than a Hayabusa. The Hayabusa is better.

It’s hard to know what to believe about Kawasaki’s ZX-12R, isn’t it? The European press gushed over it, for the most part. The American press (again, for the most part) gave it a thumbs down.

Kawasaki, in response to largely unfavorable press reports in the United States, sent Rob Muzzy two, crated, box-stock ZX-12R’s to break-in and test. Below, Muzzy reports on the results, including a claimed stock top speed of 192.307 mph, and 199.115 mph with a Muzzy exhaust pipe installed. These figures were obtained under less than ideal conditions, and the ZX-12R is capable of more, according to Muzzy.

I don’t know about you, but the last time I was topped out at 185 mph and cursing under my helmet that “this damn bike is just too slow” was never. We hope to bring you a real-world riding impression soon, but, for now, here’s Muzzy’s take on the top speed “controversy”.

“As a result of the great deal of controversy and speculation regarding the performance of the Kawasaki ZX-12R, Muzzys Performance Products initiated a two day long test intended to determine the top speed capability of the ZX-12R both in stock form and when fitted with a Muzzy after market exhaust system.

The facility of the East Coast Timing Association at the Maxton-Laurinburg Airport in Maxton, North Carolina was rented on July 8th and 9th for the test. Maxton is a World War II-era concrete runway that the ECTA uses for monthly speed trials. Since Muzzys was the exclusive user for this test, the normal 1 mile acceleration length was increased to 1.16 miles by shortening the shutdown area and moving the start point.

Speed measurement (“timing”) was provided by internationally accredited (FIA, FIM, AMA, LSA) timer Jack Dolan. He has certified and verified numerous speed records for more than 25 years. Dolan uses certified photocells and a clock accurate within .001 second over 24 hours. He verified throughout the tests that the bike was not altered and is, in fact, the particular bike that ran a given speed. After the test was complete, the bike used was identified and sealed to ensure that no modifications could be made (or removed) while the bike is in transit and until inspected by a third party.

Two 2000 Kawasaki ZX-12′s were ordered from Kawasaki and delivered to Muzzys in their original crates as shipped from the warehouse. The bikes were set up per normal dealership procedures and broken in on Muzzys’ Schenk Dynamometer which allows continuous running. After break-in, valves were adjusted per the manufacturer’s specification, and the bikes were serviced with the correct quantity of Belray EXS oil. Since the power was equal, one bike was selected as the primary and one a back-up.

Muzzys employee and experienced high speed rider Doug Meyer rode the bikes over the course approximately 30 times during the test. Outside temperatures ranged from a low of 75 F early in the morning to a high of 98 F. The elevation is 256 feet above sea level and the humidity was 80-90%. Various “set ups” were tried, but in the end, the bikes were left standard. There is no speed limiting device on the ZX-12R.

The speeds reached should not be considered maximums. It is our feeling that given a smoother, longer surface, and lower air temperatures, the ZX-12 will go faster than the speeds recorded at Maxton. These speeds were repeatable and the performance was completely stable and trouble free. The ZX-12R with the standard exhaust including catalytic converter and ECU reached 192.307 mph. After that run, the stock pipe was removed and a Muzzys stainless steel pipe with the standard aluminum muffler was installed. The next run with the Muzzy pipe installed yielded a speed of 199.115 mph. Time and high outside air temperatures forced an end to the test at that point. The test bike remains sealed and will be made available to the press for inspection.”

According to Muzzy, the bike used in the test described above is being delivered to Motorcyclist Magazine for a follow-up story.

Two things about this Muzzy test are important for owners of the ZX-12R. First, it would be very interesting to know how Muzzy broke in this bike. Yes, it was on a dyno, but what rpm levels were used over what mileage ranges? Apparently, Muzzy has a break-in procedure that works extremely well for the 12R. We will contact Muzzy and try to relay this information to you. Second, apparently, the 2000 ZX-12R is not “top speed limited” by the ECU or otherwise.

Muzzy noted in its comments above that it used the “correct quantity” of oil in the 12R tested. Kawasaki has said that the 12R is quite sensitive to oil level, and that over-filling the crank case will rob the 12R of significant horsepower. We will also ask Muzzy for its advice on oil level in the 12R and report back to you.