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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

MD First Ride: 2006 Kawasaki ZX-14 – Part One

Alex gets the ZX-14 off the line at the drag strip
Dirck riding the ZX-14 on the Nevada backroads

Well, I just got back into the office from a hectic three days in Vegas, and here I am sitting at my desk trying to collect my thoughts. Dirck and I went to Vegas to test Kawasaki’s all-new 2006 ZX-14 – the replacement for their aging ZX-12, and the bike they basically designed to be a “Hayabusa-beater”.

As we’ve seen numerous times over the last few years, Kawasaki doesn’t do things by half measures. When they made the commitment a few years ago to revitalize their sportbike lineup in order to take back what they consider Kawasaki’s rightful place at the top of the performance food chain, it wasn’t just talk – they followed up with the 636cc ZX-6R and then the ZX-10R, both of which have topped their class in Motorcycle Daily’s shootouts.

Kawasaki didn’t do anything halfway on the ZX-14, and they didn’t hold back for the intro, either. Over the course of two days at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and on the surrounding roads, we had the chance to sample the ZX-14 both on the street and on the dragstrip. Kawasaki even had bikes running on the Nascar oval! Unfortunately, due to inclement weather on day two of the intro, we were only able to participate in two of the three activities, and we chose the street ride and the dragstrip.

It’s easy to find a beautiful background
in Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park

Kawasaki designed the ZX-14 to be their flagship model, and as such it is what we would consider a ‘multi-use’ bike. Many buyers will choose the ZX-14 for use as what we like to call a ‘hyper-tourer’ – the ZX-12 and Suzuki’s Hayabusa have both proved to be adept for this type of riding. Others may buy the bike to race it at the drag strip – Rob Muzzy runs Kawasaki’s drag team, and he is already quite far along in the developement of parts to turn the ZX-14 into an even better dragracer than it already is (more on that later). Even more, we expect, will buy one just to be able to brag that they have the most powerful (and most likely the fastest) production motorcycle in the world.

You’ll have to wait a few days for our full review, but for now let’s just say that the ZX-14 would be a great bike for any of these purposes. Despite the fact that I have very little dragracing experience, I was able to make it through the quarter mile in a best time of 9.83 seconds, reaching a terminal speed of 146mph (time and speed corrected to compensate for altitude) – the ZX-14 is definitely packing some heat in the engine department. Not only that, but it possesses awesome high-speed stability and relaxed riding characteristics that would make it possibly the ideal bike (for me, at least) for, say, a quick rip from SoCal to Vegas (or even Salt Lake City). To find out more about how it rides, plus hear about some of the unique design features of the bike, check out Part Two of our first ride impression later this week.

More incredible rock formations in the Valley of Fire – oh wait, and a ZX-14!