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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

2012 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R: MD Ride Review, Part 1 (with dyno charts and video)

We have been testing Kawasaki’s 2012 Ninja ZX-14R here in Southern California.  This is the first of a couple of reports, and we will be brief this time.  Stay tuned for part 2.

Trust us, there is a lot more to the new ZX-14R than simply big horsepower numbers, but those big (huge!) horsepower numbers deserve some focus.  We had a chance to take our test unit to our friend Glenn Castro at North County Hypersports in Oceanside, CA (phone number 760-722-8863), a very experienced tuner who has surely done hundreds of dyno runs at his shop over the years.  In the video below, you can see Glenn aboard the ZX-14R as it sets his shop record for rear wheel horsepower from a bone stock motorcycle.  Below the video are two dyno charts, including the first one displaying a run through the gears resulting in a peak rear wheel number of 195.72 horsepower. The second chart is a fourth gear pull showing a peak of 191.33 horsepower.

We’ll be back with part 2 to tell you why there is a lot to like about the new ZX-14R beyond its incredible engine performance.


  1. Rohan says:

    I love my 2008 ZX-14, and it is ear-to-ear grins any time I take it out. If the new 14 is as good as they say it is, I would advise anybody who can to give it a run. You don’t NEED all the power of a 14 but when you have it and play with it (in relative safety) there isn’t a whole lot of 2 or 4 wheel vehicles out there that can give you that jolt of adrenaline. Buttery smooth mind boggling acceleration and I emphasize BUTTERY SMOOTH.

  2. bigmike516 says:

    Currently riding a 2001 zx 12 A1 Canadian model..1287 kit, port and polished, pcIII, full muzzy system. My bike on the dyno making 193hp @ rear wheel with 33k on the odometer. Bike easily runs past 200mph and have no problems dispatching Bmw 1000’s and Busa’s. That being said I really like the new 14r but have problems paying 15 grand for a bike that won’t out perform my 11 yr old bike. I’m in my 40’s and don’t ride hard anymore but you know how the saying goes…rather have it and not need it than to need it and not have it..It’s all about bragging rights and this phase of the game..Think I’ll wait til 2013 to see if there are any bugs like with the 12r A1.Would love to know if the givi bags from the Connie would bolt right on?

    • Roland says:

      Compare a tuned bike to a stock bike and say it “won’t outperform”? Not very serious right?

      You say your 11 years old bike has 33k on the odo? Do you ever ride at all? I mean that is an average of 3k(!) per year? My 2007 ZX14 has 84k on the odo….

      • bigmike516 says:

        I do ride my friend, I also split my time between the 12 and an 06 suzuki m109…I understand the comparison between stock vs. worked but my only complaint is that until they stop putting electronic limiters on bikes it is hard for me to justify the price of today’s machines. I too contemplated many times trading mine in for the model like yours. I’ve owned 6 different kawasaki’s from an ’90 600r to (2)zx-6 e, 95 & 99 zx-9 & the 12. I love kawi’s. I know the new bike will have it’s fans just like every other model. I’m just not convinced yet..time will tell

  3. J$ says:

    Had the privilege to take this refined beast out for a test ride on Saturday at the IMS show in LB.
    All of you computer jockeys can nit pick this bike all you want about flames, headlight styling, weight, paint, or whatever seems to be the thing to detract from the fact that this is an amazing motorcycle no matter what you may think about it.
    Once you actually ride it and feel how insanely smooth and mind boggling fast it is none of that other crap matters. The proof is in the ear to ear grin you will have after the first twist of the throttle.

    Some mental notes I took during the test ride:

    Tranny is so buttery smooth (not that it matters what gear you are in)

    Fit and finish is excellent. Green metal flake paint in sun really pops. And black is black and always looks good.

    Some might think the ZX14 may seem big when first throwing a leg over it, but the size just disappears once in motion. 6′ guys with a longer reach will like the distance to the bars.

    Wind protection was very good and turbulence was almost non existent to my surprise.
    Just so stinkin smooth that you have to do a double take when you glance at the speedo and think your doing 55mph and its actually 95!

    AFWIW… I also had the opportunity to sample a Connie 14 right after the zx14 test. And as nice as the C14 is for what it is , the zx14R just destroys the Connie in the power / speed departments.
    And yes obviously the ZX14 isn’t as comfortable as the C14 for long distance touring or storing your gear but…

    It does have is a great factory seat with somewhat relaxed ergos compared to any pure sport bike currently sold. I personally would just add a LSL superbike conversion kit, Lanimar lip, Givi trunk, and enjoy my ear to ear grin for many miles!

    Absolutely addictive ride!

    • Philip says:

      Nice review J$, thanks.

      • carl says:

        Had the 06 ZX14 was great bike, really enjoyed it and getting tempted by the new one. Only draw back was the insane insurance rate charged for the bike.

        • Philip says:

          That is true about insurance rates. I made the mistake of buying a 1000cc bike a few years back and being floored by the quotes I got to insure it. Always check rates before you buy, it may sway your decision.

  4. Bikergeek says:

    Amazing dyno test.

    But what’s up with the black shoes and socks with shorts?

  5. ROXX says:

    This was a “horsepower” review. Not a “ride” review like the title of the article.

  6. Reinhart says:

    I have difficulty using the 100 horsepower in the 495# bike I ride already. I would never really get to sample what 195 horsepower is like in this bike because I don’t live near a racetrack or the Bonneville Salt Flats. I think this statement is true – “I’d rather ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow!” Having 195 horsepower on tap but never getting to dip into it on the STREET would cause nothing but frustration. I think most riders know what I’m talking about. I’m not one that favors governments limiting horsepower, but I do not see the usability of a bike with 195 horsepower on the street.

    • mickey says:

      I understand what you’re saying Reinhart, but here in America they want what they want whether they can use it or not, physically,legally or otherwise. Sometimes I think they only want it to say “up yours” to the beaureacrats who would choose to limit them. The 1972 Kawasaki 903 Z-1 was a true superbike that would break the speed limit anywhere in the US in 1st gear, and it made 83 horsepower. 195 horsepower is nuts unless it’s for the racetrack. However, I’ve learned to quit arguing that point on internet boards.

    • Roland says:

      I live in the Netherlands, about half hour drive from Germany. In Germany they have the autobahn, with NO speed limit…. yes you may turn green in envy now 🙂 🙂

      I did an Iron butt run, (Bun Burner 1500) on the German autobahn on my 2007 ZX14.. rode hours and hours at very high speed. Sometime had to slow down to relieve the tension on my neck…. 🙂

      Yes, I will be ordering the new ZX14r, and yes I will enjoy all of the horse-powers 🙂

  7. AFW says:

    Boss bikes and Kawasaki, formed in the same womb.

  8. Bob says:

    Dang you Kawasaki! Here I talk myself out of a top horsepower bike for something a little more mellow in my umm…”older” years and then this comes out! I dont really care for the looks but with that engine under you, who cares how it looks?!

  9. Dale says:

    The new ZRX1400R!!!

    Give US a bike with Good chassis/brakes with this engine in a “Naked”, if you build it We will come. Make mine Red with an available/removable centerstand and I’ll buy one.

    • Dave says:

      Suzuki tried it with the B-King. Hasn’t seemed to go over well. I know some will say that the styling is the culprit but history has shown that the compelling bikes become the styling benchmarks, regardless of initial impression. Suzuki’s (ugly) Hyabusa is a perfect example of this.

      • Dale says:

        The B-King was a great idea, slightly poorly executed, IMHO.

        I believe that Kawasaki could bring this engine to a under 500 pound dry bike (ZRX1200R weighed 492 dry). With a modern chassis and the new ZX14R engine the ZRX concept would continue to work for me. Give it enough fuel capacity to still be able to “Sport Tour” with (two fuel map settings: FULL and MPG might help). I wouldn’t complain, too much, if Kawasaki retuned the engine for torque as long as it still has 180+HP and “”runs out/pulls through” to redline. Integral grip warmers are important for safety on a “daily driver” IMHO. They could just call it the new “Kawasaki Z-1” if they wanted too… I would consider it the “Baddest Naked on the Planet”, “a Naked with a Ninja’s Heart…”.

        I own two Red ’02 ZRX1200R’s. One is a wore out/crashed out, “retired” (She’d Still run if I asked her to) parts bike with over 100K miles that I bought new in ’02 in Anchorage, AK. The other is a 15K mile “mint” replacement that I was able to source after realizing that no other bike was more desirable/versatile to me (a “clock” would have been OK), overall, here in the boring flatlands. I also have never seen/heard of a bike/engine combo that I KNOW is SO F—ing Tough, on the Street. Kick it straight enough, pick it up, start it up, bang it off the rev limiter and continue to ride it like you stole it, again… and again. Ride her hard and put her to bed wet, again and again, She revels in it.

        Long, Long ago, in a place Far, Far away it was said (Floyd Clymer (sp.)/Cycle???), and I paraphrase, referring to “Favorite Bikes” in this case the coffin tanked Z-1R (direct lineage to the “ZRX”), “The Kawasaki Z-1R, Fast, Tough and a trifle unrefined… just like We like em.” Still.

        There’s a Bunch of Cool bikes out there these days. None of them can beat the feeling (or versatility) of being on an Effortless, Easy Fast, Sporty, Naked, Kawi though… for me, in the boring flatlands.

        • Dave says:

          The ZRX 1200R is a fantastic motorcycle, as is the Yamaha FZ1 (though I don’t know what a naked bike rider would do with 180hp that they couldn’t do with 125). I only wish more like you would see the light.

  10. Dale says:

    Two questions, one statement.

    How fast will this sucker run with a chip that eliminates the 300 KPH/186 MPH “limit”? At speed, with just a chip, is the 2012 ZX14R a true 200/200 (200 horsepower/200 MPH) bike?

    Hey Kawasaki, that thing would look Real good in a deep red…

  11. dan says:

    I eagerly headed for the Kawasaki booth at the IMS only to fin the ZX14 another bike I can’t have because of the too-high footpegs. I’m 5’11” which seems kind of normal and yet its amazing how many bikes are infeasible for ergonomics reasons.

    • paul246 says:

      I’m sure you can fit some floorboards and maybe even some highway pegs to it ( just joking ).

  12. mickey says:

    That’s a lot of horsies for mere mortals

  13. Curve Killa' says:

    As long as the U.S. imposes a 186 mph limit on the bikes, we’re good. Horsepower won’t be limited. The Japanese limits its HP to 100 on all bikes. That’s why Americans serving over there buy Australian-spec motorcycles.

    • Jason B says:

      The 186mph limit is a hand shake between the manufacturers, there are no laws on the books in the US limiting top speed.

      • ze says:

        No? so you can travel at 200 mph anywhere in the US?

        • Jason B says:

          Ok, let me rephrase that, there are no laws on the books in the US that require the manufacturers to limit the top speeds of their motorcycles. There are of course posted speed limits on the road, duh.

      • Dave says:

        I believe the 186mph limit came from European pressure, not concern for the US.

  14. Sean says:

    I sure hope our government doesn’t start to regulate the horsepower of these new bikes the way France has. Between the new ZX14 and the BMW S1000 we’re seeing power numbers you couldn’t have dreamed of 15 years ago on a stock motorcycle.

    • fastship says:

      Apropos your point – On Monday (5th Dec.) the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) committee voted through stringent proposals for the regulation, approval and market surveillance of motorcycles, three wheelers and quadricycles.

      The IMCO committee vote is an early stage of the legislative process and is in effect a recommendation to the European Parliament. If the European Parliament take the same view, it would mean that from 2014, measures to prevent power-train modifications must be devised and applied by manufacturers and also that owners must present their motorcycles for inspection after carrying out ‘substantial’ modifications. It would also mean that as from 2016, tighter emission laws would apply and all machines would have to be fitted with ABS, not just those over 125cc as previously tabled.

      Contained within the legislation is the requirement for dealers to report owners who fail to comply to the authorities under pain of two years imprisonment.

      Luckily the hated EU is about to implode or at the very least, us here in the UK are leaving 🙂

      (PS – am I the only person who is frightened watching bikes on dynos but not head down behind bubble at 180mph?)

      • Reinhart says:

        Wow. Big Brother at its finest!

        • carl says:

          If they regulate bikes then they should do cars as well. Do you need a 600hp viper or 700+hp SLP camaro? The only difference is financially these bikes are a lot more excessible than many of these hypo cars. I had an 06 ZX14 and never got in any trouble with it.

  15. Bruce says:

    Maybe 220ish at the tarmac, with the intake/airbox boost @ 150+ mph?
    Holy crap, what a rocket!

    Want! 🙂
    It’s even a bit better looking than the previous version (hard not to be…).

    • Jamie Paterson says:

      These numbers do not take into account the Ram Air effect either, which does add more to the result.

  16. Bartman50 says:

    I like it!! Gotta have one. But…those least I hope they are slip-ons are HUGE!! They look like some kind of personal rocket launcher(no pun intended).

    • Jason B says:

      It has become almost impossible for the Big 4 to build an exhaust that looks good and meets their higher emission standards. Luckily there’s an aftermarket. 🙂

      • Fred M. says:

        No, it’s become almost impossible to build an exhaust that looks good and meets the lower noise standards — while not harming power. Big displacement means big mufflers, unless you want to strangle the bike and harm power output.

        • Jason B says:

          By “higher” I was referring to the tougher standards the Japanese must meet for both pollution and noise as a larger manufacturer. We basically said the same thing, just differently.

    • Donnie says:

      That would be the stock exhaust, not slip-ons.

      Speaking of which, when Brock’s Performance installed a slip-on exhaust system and used a ZX-10 Power Commander (None available yet for the ’12 ZX-14R), they managed 203 hp at the rear wheel 😮

  17. Tim says:

    That Roadcrafter is way too clean.

  18. Roadrash1 says:

    The Roadcrafter is for riders who want protection, quality & something that is easy to wear over street clothes.
    Posers who only are concerned with how others preceive them, need not apply. 😉

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Dork. 🙂

    • Mike says:

      The Roadcrafter is way too hot when temperatures and humidity get high……you know when most of us ride in the USA, most of the time.

      Guys I ride with roash when we come in town or have to rider slower…..and when we stop have to rip them off immediatly to not pass out ……..again when it is hot and humid.

      Simply put….suits made to do everything in all all kinds of weather never work that well in hot temps and high humidity

      How many layers does the Roadcrafter have now…30…….plus they reallllllllllllly look like something KMart sells…..and stupid when wearing them in summer.

      • Roadrash1 says:

        You are right about the heat. I believe the one in the picture is the new unlined version.
        I live in the upper Midwest & use mine mostly for my commute to work @ four AM, when it is pretty cool where I live.

    • Justin says:

      Just look at the bike in question! It’s not really the kind of bike for people who don’t care how others perceive them. It’s got 200 hp and is bright green with flames on the side for cryin’ out loud!

    • Roadrash1 says:

      After further consideration, & given the potential performance offered here, perhaps as safety equipment the Roadcrafter is actually not the proper kit. I am now recommending a Martin-Baker ejection seat. 🙂

  19. skytzo says:

    Look closer – they’re UDS forks just like the previous gen bike only they’re got some type of black DLC coating on them.

  20. brinskee says:

    Conventional forks? In 2011? Really?

    • huh says:

      Its irrelevant if the fork is conventional or USD. What would be important to know is if the internals are damper-rod (70’s tech, but still common) or much, much better performing cartridge design. For some reason this is newer mentioned in the specs.

      • Blitz says:

        Front Suspension / wheel travel
        43mm inverted cartridge fork with adjustable preload, 18-way compression and 15-way rebound damping adjustment / 4.6 in.

        • Mike says:

          Thanks for this info

          Sidebar: Kawasaki Concours 14 suspension adjustments:

          I would like to add that the Concours 14 still does not have compression adjustment on the front or back…….massive issue when one rides both two up and solo often.

          I had to sell mine after one year due to this.

    • Dave says:

      It would be the first conventional fork I’ve ever seen with radial brake caliper mounts cast into the lower. It’s USD, the legs are black-coated so it’s not as obvious.

  21. Tony says:

    HP = Torque x RPM/5252 so… HP x 5252/RPM = Torque

    • Brian says:

      Yes, that will get you peak torque but it says nothing about the curve or give you torque figures across the range.

  22. harry says:

    Most fun you can have standing still.

  23. Reinhart says:

    That’s almost twice the horsepower that the Suzuki Bandit makes! I’m sure these will sell like hotcakes to the adrenaline junkies. It will be a solid 9 second bike with capabilities of dropping into the 8’s will some work.

  24. Brian says:

    Could torque figures could be included in part 2 ?

  25. Gary says:

    I can’t imagine that much power. Mindboggling.

  26. Jeremy in TX says:

    That is astounding from a stock machine. It isn’t the type of bike I would buy, but I sure would love to open one up on a straightaway just to know what that much power feels like.

    • Stinky says:

      I’m with you on that one. I have a friend that always has to have the latest, greatest. I get to ride them after he CAREFULLY breaks them in. They never get a scratch and I get to twist their tail. That’s all I really want, don’t wanna own them, too heavy, too complex, but a real hoot to test ride.

  27. Curve Killa' says:

    I’m not a fan of the flames but so far, green is the best selling color. I guess Kaw knows what it is doing. I like the traction control and slipper clutch. The TC limits front wheel lift during hard acceleration so it will allow for quicker passes on the strip. And hit helps guys like me who like to twist a little harder coming out of a corner on a roadcourse. The slipper clutch is also a huge bonus when downshifting approaching a tight corner. All of the liter bike boys better watch out when the 14R crew shows up at Barber Motorsports Parkway. Let’s get ready to rummmmbllllllle!!!

    • Jason B says:

      You might want to hit a track like Road Atlanta if you’re looking to really take advantage of this bikes power and improved handling. At a track like Barber you’d probably have a hard time shaking a 600, let alone a properly setup liter bike.

  28. Frank says:

    Get rid of the chain and flames.

  29. Curve Killa' says:

    It also comes in all black and blue/black. The bike is a beauty in person. I can’t wait to get one…in 2013 when it has ABS. The Euro model already has it. Guys on the ZX-14 forum say that it handles better in the curves than the previous models. Now, that’s what I’m talking about. With a TC and slipper clutch, it’s the ultimate curve killa’ and it won’t break your back on a 500-mile ride.

    • GS1100GK says:

      2013 with ABS??? Conjecture for sure. I would love ABS as well on this bike and was really disappointed when this new ZX14R came without it. As you said, the Euro model already has it and why Kawasaki decided not to bring it here baffles me. Still, even the original ZX14 Euro model came with ABS which makes me think that the US will not get it. 🙁

  30. MadMax2 says:

    The bike is sexy, but the Roadcrafter isn’t.

  31. RideRed says:

    Honda where are you. Answer this challenge with an update to the CBR1100XX

    • ben says:

      Honda is still working on the answer to the 13 year old hayabusa challenge… ha ha haha

    • Mike says:

      Honda has no answer for the current competitors large capacity sportbikes…..nor will they ……..nomatter what a few out of thousands of road tests state (MGNorge post)

      All this year after year reminds me of the Honda big twin sportbike fiasco. VTR1000F Superhawk Superdud followed the RC51 which did have a few moments of glory…….then Honda just gives up and discontinues the big twin sport bike line all together. All this after had 20 plus years to study Ducati and come up with a superior design and performance.

      For performance bikes, Hondas main concern is the effect on Honda the car company and potential car owners a national news video showing a rider topping out at 200mph on some interstate on the latest Honda sportbike. If Honda cared about the sportbike market…… V5 600 and 1000s would have been in their dealer show rooms long ago.

      The fact is Honda sportbike motorcycles are effected more by attorney input and the view that Honda is a car company…….and never will introduce class winning large capacity sportbikes like Mr. Honda would have insisted on if he was still president.

      Honda…..the motorcycle company that has losts its way in performance bikes and many other market segments due to Honda the car company.

      • MGNorge says:

        Gee Mike, tell us how you really feel.

        • Mike says:

          Hows this….give us your top 5 list of motorcycle things you thought Honda coulda, shoulda done better?

          Right now……I am thinking since you have never posted anything negative about Honda Motorcycles you actually work for Honda or are compelled to give only positive comments about Honda for some reason.

  32. Tom R says:

    This bike will be great compensator for the modest genitalia crowd.

  33. Eric says:

    Now if Kawasaki would take that engine – unchanged – and drop it in a comfy ‘standard’ bike configuration (say 60″ wheelbase with passenger room, and some place for Givi to make a rack)… I would trade in the wife, kids… and yes – even my little rat-dog for one.

    • Pokey says:

      It’s called a Concours 14. 😉

      • blurgixxerninja says:

        The Concours is a great bike, but I would LOVE if Kawasaki drop the EXACT motor into a Concours 14. That would be INSANE!

        • Jamie Paterson says:

          The Concours is the same motor as the ZX14 with a few tweaks to make it labour in fourth gear at suburban road speed for the geriatric set without stalling…….

          • Fred M. says:

            No, the Concours is the same motor tuned for sport-touring rather than sport. It’s not like you have the skills to use the horsepower that the motor produces in either state of tune, anyway.

  34. Tim says:

    Nothing says Art Deco hot rod like flames on a 14er. This bike continues to be one of the better offerings coming out of the Asian market.

  35. Denny says:

    This bike has a presence, ugly or not. It keeps in the tradition of ZX-14. The performance, the right kind of mechanical clutter – wow!

  36. Kerry says:

    Great statistics, ugly motorcycle. I cant believe Kawasaki has produced something this ugly. But…. if you like it, great!

  37. Ehh? says:

    No torque chart? No vs RPM chart? I am a tad disappointed. I’d like the know how the engine is making power more than I’d like to know how much.

    • Dave says:

      With this horsepower figure, does it really matter? 🙂

      It’s in Cycle World’s article:

      “the revised inline-Four spins to 11,000 rpm.”
      “Impressive, but the number you’ll feel with every throttle movement is the 112-114 foot-pounds of torque”

      There are dyno charts too.

      • Nick Papagiorgio says:

        Arrrgghh. I don’t know why motojournalists write that kind of stuff. Perhaps its because they know readers like to read it. Does it mean that instantaneously thrust and wheel torque are more intimately related to actual engine torque than to actual engine power? If that is what it means, it is not correct. Or, does it mean that performance throughout the rpm range is more closely related to peak engine than to peak power? If that is what it means, then two points. First, the author should have written what he meant, and not something, when interpreted literally, is nonsense. Second, if that is what the author meant, then it is a contrivance that has no general truth, i.e., it is true when it happens to be true. Magazine writers do this kind of stuff all the time. I think it is best not to encourage them.

        And by the way, I don’t think that the quote from CW really addresses the point that Ehh? was making. I think he said exactly what he intended to say, i.e., that he simply wants to know how much power the engine makes at each particular engine speed. And I didn’t see any dyno charts in that article.

    • Mack says:

      i think thats why the article is titled part 1.

  38. MGNorge says:

    Mental note to self: Add $200/month to bike budget for new rear tires.

    I’d have too see it in person but that green’s a bit much for me.

    • blurgixxerninja says:

      No worries. It comes in Black and Blue! The blue is really eye catching, and black…what can you say about black? It’s mean as hell!

  39. Justin says:

    Needs a turbo, some NOS, a 4′ swingarm, and some neon! Gotta have the neon! It makes it faster! Shoot, it’s already got flames!

    In all seriousness, it is a very impressive bike. Wouldn’t mind taking one for a spin (maybe one without the flames on the side).

  40. Ken says:

    Very impressive! My 2006 with PCIII, Brock full exhaust system, ported head makes 195 hp and this new bike is stock. I would think they will get into the 225 hp range with head work and an exhaust system. I wonder if my extended swing arm will fit the new n bike?

  41. chris says:

    wow…add some pipes and a tune, 205-210 at the rear wheel…wow