ZX-14 First Test Seen
Here is the first test of the new Kawi ZX 14 that I have seen. Anyone have anything further on this new bike?
2006 Kawasaki ZX-14 - Dragstrip Test
By Kevin Duke
While we wait for Kenny to rifle through his thesaurus as he writes our First Ride article on Kawasaki's powerful new ZX-14, we thought we'd bring you our impression of how the 1352cc beast handled the rigors of dragstrip abuse during the bike's press introduction in Las Vegas. Kawasaki calls the 190-hp (claimed) grande ZX the most powerful streetbike in the world, and its ETs at the dragstrip back up the claim.
We arrived to Las Vegas Motor Speedway's "The Strip" after scaring ourselves silly trying to hold the ZX-14's throttle fully open around the banked oval NASCAR course. I'm much more comfortable on a 'strip, and I was anxious to see how quick I could go on the ZX after besting the journalists in attendance at the Harley-Davidson Destroyer launch. The first half of the assembled journos had already finished their runs, and I was surprised to hear that no one had yet been able to go quicker than 10 seconds.
There to greet us were a couple of racing legends. Rob Muzzy, the mustachioed one who has won AMA roadracing national championships (and a World Superbike title with Scott Russell), has spent the past several years toiling in the dragracing scene, bagging even more championships while selling his Muzzys branded performance parts.
And then there's Rickey Gadson, a dragracing legend who was at LVMS to tell us which way to point the ZX. A seven-time champion, Gadson knows a thing or two about what it takes to make a quick run. When Gadson sees three-time AMA dragracing champion Ryan Schnitz make a pass on the ZX-14, in less than 2 seconds he predicts the run will be a 9.79. Turns out it was a 9.78-second pass, just one-hundredth of a second off his forecast!
Straight away, the ZX-14 proves to be an excellent dragracing platform. On my first two passes, I ran nearly identical 9.98-second trips down the quarter (a 9.985 and a 9.989), both culminating in a matching 143.23 mph trap speed. Getting into the 9-second bracket on my first run on the bike is one thing, but logging equal runs back to back is incredible. Obviously, the mega ZX is super easy to launch, or that kind of consistency simply wouldn't be possible.
Helping keep the launches consistent is the ZX's superlative clutch, imperative for getting the most out of any run down the strip. The lever actuates a radial-pump clutch, an industry-first according to Kawasaki. Like radial-mount brake master cylinders and radial brake calipers, this type of arrangement generally results in more feedback through the lever. Feel through the ZX's clutch lever was as good as or better than any hydraulic clutch I've sampled.
Kawasaki also didn't skimp on the clutch pack itself, a beefy unit comprised of nine large-diameter steel plates that can handle the abuse of a claimed 114 lb-ft of torque. In testing, Kawasaki performed more than 60 passes on a single stock clutch pack without any signs of failing. Not once were any of my runs spoiled by an inconsistent clutch, despite motojournalists mercilessly abusing the 14's clutches for about a day and a half. A direct shift lever (no linkage) ensured positive shifts even at full throttle.
My pair of nines were the first sub-10-second runs of the event, and they were followed by a 10.09. And then on my last pass of this stint, I logged a 9.90 at 143.4 mph, a mark that would remain unbeaten by anyone else. Still, my group would provide plenty of competition.