The restyled upper fairing flows into all-new bodywork designed specifically for max airflow.
The perforated strip within the rotor ring is the speed sensor to calculate traction control.
Get more shots of Mikayla and the ZX-14R by scanning the QR code with your phone.
Bike enthusiasts always have their camera phones holstered with the safety off in hope of snapping a blurry spy shot or two of a new model. Kawasaki bolstered these aficionados with its viral video program that promoted a lightning fast new model for 2012. Months and months of flirtatious marketing hinted at something beastly, but everybody knew what it was—a new ZX-14. But what would it look like? How fast would it go? Surprisingly, there wasn’t a single authentic photo leaked until its recent unveiling.
When the cover finally came off there was a collective sigh reflecting obvious disappointment. Where was the supercharger that was reported by some of the tabloid Web sites? Where was the all-new bike? At a glance the redesigned ZX-14 only sported new bodywork, but first impressions are often deceiving, as Robert Fisher at Roaring Toyz found out: “ZX-14 guys know the difference immediately, but your average Joe might not be so quick to put his finger on the changes. Once I rode the thing it became glaringly obvious just how much different the new model is, and we wanted to highlight that through customization.”
The Roaring Toyz crew focused on the bike’s lines, much the same way that Kawasaki did in its overhaul. The front fairing has been slimmed down and more aggressively styled than the previous model’s bulbous shape before flowing into the exaggerated side panels. Ryan Hathaway, paint magician at Roaring Toyz, accentuated the upper fairing’s lines with sharp edges to highlight its new shape. The same was true on the side panels; Kawasaki engineers enlarged the iconic side fins for better aerodynamics, so Hathaway took it a step further and made them come to life with his clever shadowing and airbrush talents.
The new, heavily emphasized side panel slats are what tipped Fisher off for the overall theme—contrast. The Performance Machine Element wheels feature PM’s unique “contrast” cut design where material is removed to add dimension to the otherwise traditionally flat appearance. When viewed from the right side, the bike is all wheels thanks to the single sided swingarm that elongates the look with a mild four-inch stretch. But from the left we see the one-off swingarm that mimics the wheels’ three-lined pattern. It was executed so flawlessly by the Roaring Toyz CNC technician that the lines match up when the wheel spoke is aligned, giving a cool, transparent appearance that heavily customized bikes rarely exhibit.
Four-inch-over swingarms seem to be the new twelve-over in the custom world, at least from within the walls at Roaring Toyz. It’s a stark reversal of the “longer is better” shop mantra from the early 2000s. The same notion is apparent for the 240-wide rear tire, which looks better than the stock 190-rear because it fills in the spacious area under the tail section as if it was designed at the Kawasaki factory, yet it doesn’t hinder performance like a larger loop of rubber would.
After the paint was sprayed and chassis foundation laid, the CNC machines kept on spinning. With the big-ticket items fabricated and functioning, Roaring Toyz turned its attention to the accessory department for finishing touches. The abundant billet plugs, covers and caps blend into the overall scheme as if they were designed as part of the stock bike, which is precisely what these tasty bits are supposed to do. It’s only when they’re missing that they’re so glaringly absent. Being almost completely self sufficient, Roaring Toyz was able to design and produce most of the billet accessories save for the clever see-through clutch and stator covers courtesy of M43 Powersports.
Instead of looking at the latest creation from Roaring Toyz as just another painted bolt-on special, consider the work and R&D; that went into it. If a new bike appeared in your driveway would you be able to fit it with a single-sided swingarm, wheels and accessories that were all specifically designed for it? Of course not. Fisher and his crew accentuated the idea of speed that Kawasaki initiated with its bold new lines and stance. Combined with the new engine that’s reported to be producing some major firepower, the 2012 ZX-14R might be the bike to pass the other big players while they’re napping.
2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R
** **Front end: Performance Machine Element wheel, Roaring Toyz stainless brake/clutch lines
Rear end: Roaring Toyz four-over 240 swingarm, Performance Machine Element wheel, Pirelli Diablo 240 tire
Motor: Brocks Performance Alien Head exhaust
Paint/Chrome: Ryan Hathaway, Roaring Toyz
Accessories: M43 Powersports clutch and stator covers, Roaring Toyz billet gas cap, axle caps, lowering links, kickstand, motor mount caps, swingarm pivot caps, fork caps, stem cap, grips, block-off plugs, RSD bar ends
Builder: Roaring Toyz (roaringtoyz.com)
What’s New for 2012?
Performance has followed Kawasaki since the 500cc Mach III launched back in 1969. Over 40 years later yet another incredibly powerful release from Team Green has the industry’s attention. The redesigned 2012 ZX-14R is a far cry from the first generation version that really saw no major change since it debuted in 2006.
At first glance, the “R” model does not seem much different albeit with more aggressive angles and streamlined bodywork, but one twist of the throttle should indicate the force of improvement.
How did the new 14 become the most powerful production bike Kawi has ever created? Without changing the 84mm bore, the stroke was increased from 61mm to 65mm. This 4mm difference bumped up total displacement to 1441cc (from 1352cc) and helped boost midrange grunt. A longer stroke motor would theoretically sacrifice top end for streetable torque, so to compensate, lighter pistons and a reworked head with polished ports made sure power continued up to the limiter.
Smaller changes included an exhaust system redesigned for more flow and a slightly heightened compression ratio of 12.3 compared to the 12:1 of old. So what will this pumped up powerplant put down on the dyno? Our insider sources are pointing at rear wheel power upwards of 190. Hayabusa owners, you did indeed read that right.
Loads of horsepower is worthless without traction and that is where electronics and chassis refinement come into play. Beginning with gadgetry, the ZX-14R comes equipped with a three-mode adjustable KTRC traction-control system inspired by TC elements used on both the ZX-10R and Concours. The first two modes should help improve quarter-mile times by limiting tire slippage only to the point of complete acceleration loss. The third mode cuts out slippage all together, and while not the most exciting, it will help on slippery surfaces. Or, from the left handlebar switch riders can flip it off completely and start roasting rubber with no regard. For further control, dual power modes allow full power or a neutered low mode that cuts the fun out an estimated 25 percent, mostly on the high end—no thank you.
Don’t assume speed is the only area this new flagship excels.
Past ZX-14s caught heat for feeling like a sport touring couch around a corner and ‘Busa riders quickly latched onto this handling pitfall in any head to head argument. Until now, Kawi took a back seat to the jibber jabber, but things have changed. The new 14 is claimed to handle on an oversized rail for a few reasons. On the tech side, a back-torque limiting clutch smoothes out corner entry by keeping rear tire chatter to a minimum on hard downshifts. A slipper clutch has been added along with a newly designed frame. The hollow aluminum monocoque frame is lighter, braced against the engine for more strength and more rigidity than before. The swingarm is also slightly longer for stability at speed, indicated by a new wheelbase of 58.3 inches as compared to the older version’s 57.5 inches. Finally, a revamped and potentially stiffer suspension system and 10-spoke wheels that are three pounds lighter than before improve handling and add to an all-around better cornering experience.
At this point, it is hard to say if this next level hypersport will do to the market what the S1000RR did for literbikes, but we expect Suzuki will have no choice but to upgrade its tried and true Hayabusa to keep up. It will be interesting to see how a bike 17.6 pounds heavier than last year (according to factory curb weight stats) with a substantially larger motor and revamped cornering characteristics runs against the competition down the strip and across state lines. SSB
** -195 horsepower (est)
-Selectable power modes
Web site: kawasaki.com