Known for being one of the fastest production bikes, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14 is returning in 2012 with even more performance upgrades.
Since its debut in 2006 the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14 has been all about performance. Being one of the fastest production bikes on the market wasn’t enough, as Kawasaki has outdone itself again with sweeping revisions to the big Ninja. For 2012 the newly designated ZX-14R is hitting dealerships with performance upgrades highlighting the significant redesign for the open-class monster.
The headlining changes on the 2012 ZX-14R are centered on its Inline-Four engine. Displacement is increased through a 4mm stroke addition to give the ’12 ZX-14R an eye-popping total of 1441cc. The combustion chambers are reshaped along with the intake ports to maximize performance. The camshafts feature revised profiles with a reinforced cam chain, allowing the engine to withstand high rpm levels. The pistons have also seen changes to increase their strength while at the same time shedding weight.
One of the major highlights is a new oil jet cooling system that provides constant lubrication underneath each piston. Engine compression is now 12.3:1 and as a result connecting rods have been re-designed with stronger material. The crankshaft main journals are 2mm thicker compared to the past model, and a new air cleaner has 10% more surface area and 40% larger airflow capability.
The fuel injection system is also updated with automatic idle adjustment and lower emissions. Spent fuel
exits an altered exhaust system, with the new design featuring larger header pipes, reshaped mufflers and an advanced catalyzer. Kawasaki claims that all of these upgrades translate into more power across the entire rev range, with the most noticeable gains claimed to come in the mid-high rpm range (specifically 4000 rpm onward).
Aside from adding more power under the seat, the new ZX-14R also aims to control it better with a dual-driven counterbalancer. Engineered to complement the 4mm longer stroke dimensions, the setup is reported to balance power output.
While the new model retains its former chassis design, more than half of its aluminum castings and forgings have been modified. The rear swingarm is also 10mm longer, and the result is an overall alloy frame that is much stiffer in places. Kawi states the intended goal was to keep the previous ZX-14’s light-handling characteristics while increasing its sportiness.
Suspension is also upgraded, with the 43mm inverted fork and adjustable single shock receiving improved bottoming resistance and internal settings. While the overall weight of the bike is up, the use of 10-spoke wheels helps reduce unsprung weight by 3.3 pounds. Brakes have also been upgraded with more rigid material and altered pads.
The new ZX-14R is also equipped with a slipper clutch and a KTRC traction control and ignition system, which help to account for its new price tag of $14,699. Included in the system are three different riding profiles: full power, medium power and a third option for low traction conditions. The profiles are easily accessible to the rider via a bar-mounted toggle switch, with the system’s overall status displayed on the cockpit’s LCD screen. The bike’s slipper clutch helps reduce wheel-hop and negative torque effects associated with downshifting and braking.
The exterior features are fully upgraded with a more aggressive nose section and a quad-headlight assembly. Along with the big Ninja’s more angular and flowing shapes, the ZX-14R keeps its hallmark side fairing fin design – this time accentuating the lines for a more dramatic look. The tail section has also seen modifications with faired-in turn signals and a new seat cover. Meanwhile, the seat itself has been reshaped to offer more thigh support.
A quick glance down reveals new instrument controls. The ’12 ZX-14R includes a new multi-function toggle switch and select button on the left handlebar that gives full access to system functions. Riders can browse through a variety of LCD screens, providing on-demand access to fuel consumption, remaining range, battery voltage, temperature, traction control and much more.