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MD Long-Term Update (Part Two) – 2006 Kawasaki ZX-14

I’ve spent quite a bit of time aboard our ZX-14 long-term bike over the last six months, and it seems that no matter how many other new bikes are available in the MD stable at the end of the day, the big blue hyper-tourer remains high on my list of possible rides home. Having spent the last year not owning a car (I occasionally take home the MD work truck when I really need to haul something), I’ve found the ZX-14 comes closer than any bike I’ve yet ridden to being the perfect all-around ride. Now, that may seem crazy to people who use their bikes mainly around town, but I do a lot of freeway riding, and the 14 is incredibly comfortable and offers great wind protection – in fact, I prefer it to any of the touring bikes I’ve ridden in the past few years. Not only that, but its sporting capabilities are nothing to sneeze at, and I’ve taken the 14 to the SoCal canyons on numerous occasions and had little problem keeping up with friends on modern 600cc and 1000cc sportbikes. Not to say that the ZX-14 can match their ultimate pace (weight and wheelbase hold it back), but at reasonable street speeds, in the hands of an experienced rider, this big boy can keep up with the pack.

One thing that’s bothered me since my first ride on the ZX-14 way back in March of 2006 at Kawasaki’s world press launch (see our ‘First Ride’, Part One and Part Two) is the stock exhaust system. The massive twin exhaust canisters look ungainly, like two giant rocket boosters on one of Wile E. Coyote’s ACME machines. Not only that, but the stock system was obviously quite heavy (just how heavy you’ll soon learn), and it muffled the ZX-14’s monster motor to the point where the noise produced was about equal to that of a VFR800. I don’t know about you, but if I’m riding one of the most powerful production motorcycles on the planet, I’d like it to sound powerful, not electric. Unfortunately, strict government emissions laws prevented Kawasaki from giving the ZX-14’s exhaust note some ‘meat’, so we turned to the aftermarket for a solution.

Brock Davidson and his team at Brock’s Performance Products have earned a stellar reputation among drag racers and enthusiasts of Suzuki’s Hayabusa by producing products that are designed through an exhaustive R&D process, refined with hundreds of hours on the dyno and on the track, and supported by a customer service system that is one of the best I’ve ever encountered. Luckily for us, we got to know Brock when he attended the ZX-14 press introduction on behalf of dragbike.com, and he was so impressed with the performance of Kawasaki’s new ‘Busa-beater that he headed straight for his local dealership to get his hands on one.

Once Brock’s ZX-14 made it back to the shop, it was quickly pressed into action on the dragstrip, on the dyno, and as a test unit to help design a new line of exhaust systems for both street and pure dragstrip use. Brock has made hundreds of dyno pulls with his ZX-14, testing both his own products as well as other common modification (some of them are even free) and has documented all the information in his “ZX-14 Diary”, which you can access through the Brock’s Performance Products homepage. Not only that, but he’s a frequent participant in ZX-14 related online discussion groups, and even hosts his own forum for customers and potential customers (customers get access to a private, password-protected forum offering speed secrets and other tips because, as Brock told me, “We want to make sure the guys running our products to go faster than everybody who isn’t”). The bottom line is, this guy isn’t just out to make money, he’s also contributed a ton of knowledge to the ZX-14 owner’s community by relentlessly testing and documenting all sorts of mods.

Brock’s Performance offers several options when it comes to exhaust systems for the ZX-14 – anywhere from relatively tame to race-only. We chose to go with the ‘Street Megaphone’ system, mainly due to the drag-inspired looks that make it stand out from the thousands of round and oval mufflers found on nearly every other sportbike we’ve seen.

To install the BPP Street Megaphone, check out the power gains, and fine-tune the fuel curve with our Dynojet Power Commander (see Part One of our ZX-14 Long Term Project), we turned again to Glenn at North County Hypersports (760-722-TUNE). Having tuned numerous Hayabusas for street and strip, Glenn was eager to get our ZX-14 up on the dyno again (he installed our Power Commander and dyno’d the ZX-14 in Part One) and see what our BPP exhaust would bring to the 175hp party.

Rather than having Glenn install the exhaust for me, I decided to put it on myself in order to gauge the difficulty for the home installer. Removing the bodywork is a snap, but make sure you keep track of all the little fasteners that hold the panels on – I lost a couple, but locally we were able to improvise with some metric hardware we had laying around until I could order the new parts. Once the bodywork is out of the way, removing the stock system was simple, and installing the new BPP exhaust was only a little bit more complicated – mostly due to the multi-piece construction, which required me to get everything bolted up loosely and then align it all before final tightening. The only possible hangup for home mechanics might be the bolts that hold the header primaries to the cylinder head itself – swivel sockets come in handy here, so if you don’t own any, a trip to your local Sears might be in order.

Once the system was installed, we strapped the ZX-14 to the dyno to see what kind of gains we had made. Part of BPP’s excellent customer service is a huge library of basemaps for a large number of different possible configurations, and we were curious to see how close the basemap Brock provided for our setup (we downloaded it from his website, actually, just like any other customer) would come to being ideal. Three Dyno Charts are at the end of this article.

With the Brock’s Performance Products Street Megaphone System bolted in place, and our Dynojet Power Commander loaded with the BPP basemap, our ZX-14 immediately ripped off a 184.9hp run – a gain of 9.6 horsepower over the 175.35hp figure we recorded with the stock exhaust system in place and the Power Commander running a ‘stock’ basemap from Dynojet. You may recall that our pure stock baseline was 168.94hp. However, we did experience some horsepower and torque losses below 7000rpm – most likely a consequence of my choice of a high-flowing, ‘race’ exhaust system over a more street-biased system.

To see how close Brock’s map was for our bike, I turned Glenn loose on the Power Commander to see what kind of gains he could make. After 33 pulls over the course of several hours, you can see the results below – Run # 35 is the first run with the BPP exhaust and BPP basemap, while run #68 is the final result of Glenn’s tuning. Seeing as Glenn is a highly talented tuner who has extracted big power gains out of all kinds of different bikes in the past, we’re going to conclude that the BPP basemap is really, really close to being ideal – despite the fact that it was developed way back at BPP HQ in Dayton, Ohio, while our dyno facility is less than 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean in Oceanside, California!

Riding the ZX-14 with the new exhaust setup, my first impression was the sound. Make no mistake about it, the Street Megaphone system (as you might guess from the name) is LOUD. The sound is deep and aggressive, and everyone who’s heard it agrees that it’s quite unlike any bike they’ve ever heard. Whatever it sounds like, I personally think it’s bad-ass, and consider it the best sounding motorcycle I’ve ever heard – but if you’re looking for something that won’t wake up the neighbors, you might want to consider BPP’s Gen 3 Street Systems.

Running through the gears, throttle response is far more direct, making the bike FEEL faster even in the areas of the powerband where we lost power over the stock system. When you get the chance to rev it out, hold on tight – with almost 20hp over the already extremely powerful stock bike, our ZX-14 has now reached a level of acceleration that I could only describe as ‘obscene’ or possibly ‘life-changing’. Yeah, its that serious.

The fact that the bike FEELS faster even in areas where we actually lost power might have something to do with the significant weight loss, another huge benefit of the BPP exhaust system. The complete stock system (header and two mufflers) weighed in at a whopping 38lbs1oz, while the BPP Street Megaphone came in at a featherweight 9lbs15oz – a savings of more than 28lbs! Considering that much of the weight of the stock system is hanging way out near the rear wheel (the twin mufflers weigh a bit more than 14lbs each), you’d expect the new exhaust system to make a noticeable improvement in handling, and it does – our ZX-14 now changes direction more easily, and feels a bit lighter in quick side-to-side transitions.

Overall, we were extremely pleased with our new exhaust – the look, the sound, the performance gains, and the weight loss. Not to mention the excellent customer service from BPP! The ZX-14 Street Megaphone full exhaust retails for $1,045 from Brock’s Performance Products.

Depending on exactly how much longer we get to keep this bike, we hope to try out a few of Brock’s chassis products for the ZX-14, in an attempt to get my quarter-mile ETs (elapsed times) down into the low 9-second range.

Red = BPP Exhaust; BPP Map; 184.92HP

Blue = Stock Exhaust; Power Commander Map; 175.35HP

Red = BPP Exhaust; NCH Map; 185.16HP

Blue = BPP Exhaust; BPP Map 184.92HP

Red = BPP Exhaust; NCH Map; 185.16HP

Blue = Bone Stock; 168.94 HP