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.