2008 Suzuki GSX1300R And 2008 Kawasaki ZX-14 - Vegas Or Bust
$200 Doesn't Go Far These Days, But Would It Be Enough To Take The Two Fastest Production Bikes On The Planet From L.A. To Sin City And Back? Oh Yeah- That Includes Food And Lodging!
Both behinds are more Beyonce than Lohan, and fender-eliminator kits and exhausts should be high on the mods list.
Analog gauges are hard to read at warp speed. The Kawi offers a bit more trip info in its center display.
The world around us is shrinking. Cell phones are tiny, iPods are nearly invisible and our wallets are damn near empty. Is there really a place for king-sized killers in today's hybrid world anymore? SSB proves there is with a balls-out run on the biggest bikes to the city of excess-Las Vegas.
These bikes have been to the dragstrip and racetrack in every magazine on the stand, so we took 'em to a different sort of strip. A high-speed blast through the desert from the Sunset Strip to the Vegas Strip seemed a bit more practical than trying to drag a knee on a closed course. Along the 300-mile trip we tested the true ridability of the bikes: we rocked the highway for a few hundred miles and then hit up Red Rock Canyon in order to evaluate the bikes' big mileage and twisty abilities.
The 2008 Suzuki Hayabusa and Kawasaki ZX-14 are formidable machines with monstrous motors, but gas-guzzlers they are not. To prove that we could blast two high-horsepower machines on a green-friendly budget we set a $200 limit for the weekend that was to include gas, food, lodging and entertainment.
With credit cards safely stashed at home, we met in the wee hours for a sizzlingly fast shot to Vegas. Once the initial shock of the cold wore off we had a chance to get a feel for the bikes' manners.
On the open highway, Kawi's King felt plush and smooth. The throttle response was immediate and the suspension kept the bike gliding down the road (though more in floaty Cadillac style than the 'Busa's stiffer BMW way).
The sun was now up, but we were climbing into the mountains and the snow-capped peaks were laughing at our feeble attempt to keep warm. It's amazing how 175 horsepower can make your body forget all about the temperature, though, and the buzz of adrenaline warms as quickly as a hot bath.
The ZX-14 is like a sexy librarian. She'll quietly go about her daily tasks with hair in a bun and glasses on her nose, but get her opened up and she'll attack with a ravenous lust for adventure.
After letting the 14's hair down the result was shocking. With acceleration that will put your eyeballs in the back of your head, the bike gets up and goes, and the stability and smooth delivery seem to mask the truly significant numbers on the dial.
Gliding along at high rates of speed took about as much effort as popping Cheetos in front of the boob tube. Cruising the Kawi is akin to riding the quickest couch in the country.
Eager to sample the latest edition of the bike that reinvented big-bike power, I threw a leg over the bulbous orange 'Busa and we continued on our route.
With the flogging resumed, the Suzuki's smooth and hard acceleration was phenomenal and it came with a more linear delivery than the 14, but at a price. On stock suspension settings the 'Busa doesn't cut through the bumps as much as it does bounce or spin the rear wheel on occasion. This stiffness makes it feel quicker than the Kawi, and from low down in the rev range it is. The 'Busa's massive torque makes changing lanes and squirting away from silly kids in tuner cars a simple wrist twist-no gear stomping necessary.
Soon Vegas was on the horizon. A few laps of the strip showed the streets buzzing with tourists, and what better place to get a real-world impression of how the non-riding public views the bikes?
The ZX-14 needed a set of stunna shades to make its way down Fremont Street, while the 'Busa, with its flashy orange front and familiar style, drew flocks of gawkers as well.
After a quick cheapy buffet we headed to a local entertainment club, and the bikes ended up getting more lap dances than their pilots from the welcoming committee in the parking lot. Several of the ladies came out to caress the bikes and beg for a ride-it's all part of the act, but these bikes obviously still have quite a bit of sex appeal despite their heft.
Maintaining our $200 budget would be a bit of a challenge in a place like this, but anything is possible in Vegas.
By the end of the night we had spent all but $40. The gas on the ride out was a thrifty $39 and we ate $21 worth of our budget, and the remaining $100 went to good times at the club. But with only $40 remaining to get back, we'd need to stay somewhere cheap. The bikes had been docked long prior, so it was a foot parade at this point.
Outsmarting the casinos isn't easy, and though crashing on the sofas in the lobby of the Sahara seemed like a good idea we were soon ushered along. The Tropicana was friendlier, and after a few desperately needed winks we were back on the move and gearing up for the ride home.
The morning was colder than a scorned stripper's heart, but the show had to go on so we headed for the hills. Red Rocks Park is a gorgeous attraction, but we weren't there to admire the geologic art, we were out to carve some corners on the biggest sportbikes around.
The ZX-14's plush suspension that had made the highway miles a breeze kept the bike from hanging onto the Hayabusa, which through high-speed sweepers felt more planted.
The Hayabusa, with its sportier feel, was a bit more nimble through the tighter stuff and gave a taste more feedback through the curves. It was no R6, but it sure felt at home in the turns.
When all was said and done, these bigguns navigated the corners with the fervor of a fat kid making his way to the dinner table. They are large and in charge with a voracious appetite for action.
With bikes fully flogged we called it a wrap and bid the twisties adieu. The ride home was a flat-out, no-frills shot. Sure the bikes were fun to ride and fairly easy on the ass, but having gone 500 miles in just over a day and with 300 more to go, home beckoned.
Finally we made it back to the garage with empty stomachs, $3 in our pockets and fuel lights glowing. Worn and weary but laughing at the high-speed shenanigans, these big bikes reminded us why oftentimes bigger is better.
The ZX-14, with its compliant suspension, improved midrange and sexy stance, really had my motor running. The 'Busa's styling didn't suit my fancy, but the sportier suspension and roaring motor make for a fantastic ride and a fun trip through the twisties.
These big boys from Kawasaki and Suzuki reminded me of what a streetbike should be. The track may favor tiny bikes more reminiscent of the gizmos on my desk, but these bikes prove that if you want to enjoy life, go big.
Are these bikes economically friendly, fast as fuck and wickedly fun to ride? Of course. They each got better than 35 miles to the gallon at break-neck speeds. They're as nimble as a Vegas stripper and almost as entertaining. We even stayed within budget despite all efforts to the contrary. For an everyday ride, I say forget the twitchy literbikes...give me a quick couch, and in this case one with a big 'K' on the armrest.
2008 Suzuki GSX1300R**
Motor: 1340cc, four-cylinder, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve
- Bore x stroke: 81.0 x 65.0mm
- Compression ratio: 12.5:1
- 43mm fully adjustable USD fork
- Fully adjustable shock
Wheelbase: 58.5 in.
Weight: 485 lbs.
Tank capacity: 5.5 gal.
2008 Kawasaki ZX-14
Motor: 1352cc, four-cylinder, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve
- Bore x stroke: 84.0 x 61.0 mm
- Compression ratio: 12.0:1
- 43mm fully adjustable USD fork
- Fully adjustable shock, adjustable ride height
Wheelbase: 57.5 in.
Weight: 485 lbs.
Tank capacity: 5.8 gal.
"One of the best ways to truly appreciate a big bike is by riding it on an open highway like the one found between L.A. and Vegas. Until you have an open patch of pavement to really appreciate the power of these rockets, the sheer size and weight of both bikes makes them less than ideal for hitting light-to-light surface streets. But the moment the right hand has some room to wiggle, hold on to your license because both these bikes are guaranteed driving-record wreckers.
"Even though the low-end power range has been greatly improved for 2008, the ZX-14 just doesn't have the same twist-and-go grunt of the Hayabusa. I also prefer sitting in the 'Busa versus being perched on top of the ZX-14. Going triple-digit speeds requires great wind protection, and the Hayabusa seems to edge out the Kawi in that department. When it comes to looks, I've never really grown to appreciate the alien-eye look of the ZX-14, although anything has to be better than riding to a bike night only to find 100 other people on the exact same bike. Neither bike would be my first pick for a track day, but either would be a fine choice for going long distance on a full day of riding.
"If an open-class beast is on your short list of bikes to buy, be sure to set aside some green for speeding tickets because the allure of the open road is bound to include at least one trip in the back of a black and white, but until then it's 'Busa orange for me."