In my NEC Preview article, I may have given the impression that I was a fan of Kawasaki's ZZR-1400. And that's because I am - I love it. I had literally no replies from anyone agreeing with me, and 3 replies from people who completely disagreed. One comment suggested I'd been given one by Kawasaki, hence why I am so positive about the ZZR (Kawasaki, if you're reading this, I have cleared a large ZZR-1400 shaped space in my back yard).
I understand that it may not be the prettiest thing out there, but don't stare at it and look for sportsbike like qualities, like a tiny front end, pert little seat, or manageable size. Compare it to a sportsbike and it doesn't fair well aesthetically, I'll admit it.
It's the concept that I love, because in 2000 all manufacturers signed an agreement limiting bikes to a 'not exactly slow' 186mph. This came about after the launch of Suzuki's 1298cc Hayabusa, which - it was claimed - could do 200mph. It never quite managed it but at the time, the Hayabusa was the fastest of them all.
Until this gentlemen's agreement, the scope for larger capacity, machines seemed endless but then it all ground to a halt. Kawasaki launched their - still not slow - ZX-12R but the promise of larger and larger capacity machines faded.
The latest GSX-R1000, is quicker through the 1/4 mile than the 'Busa, faster off the line and will pull to the limiter in top, leaving the 'Busa behind. For me, that marks the end of the mighty Hayabusa's significance. It can no longer claim to be the fastest production bike, or king of the traffic light GP. And with it, the point of these hypersports tourers faded.
Until now that is, and that's why the ZZR-1400 brings a smile to my face. Rumours of 200bhp at the rear wheel from its brutal 1352cc engine make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It's totally pointless but in a way that's the point. No-one needs a 'tourer' that shreds rear tyres in 2000 miles. No-one needs anymore than 186mph, or anything close to that but just to know that Kawasaki are prepared to produce the ZZR-1400 marks them up a notch in my book.
While our country is obsessed with being a few mph over the speed limit and more and more bikes feature 'safety' in their sales pitch (ABS on sportsbikes anyone?) Kawasaki has - in my opinion - said in a big, bold Pearl Meteor Grey or Candy Thunder Blue statement "Have some of that!"Onto the bike itself:
It's interesting to note the ZZR-1200 has been discontinued. Perhaps we should have guessed that something bigger and better was in the pipeline. I've put the ZZR-1200 up against the ZZR-1400. That 14 front end is beautiful. To me, it looks like a basking shark; it's aggressive yet it looks lazy with it. The ZZR-1200 didn't know what it wanted to be, the 14 looks like it's on a mission.
When you look at it side on, the old 1200 looks fickle, disjointed and bulky. The ZZR-1400 doesn't look svelte, I know, but it looks more compact and complete. It doesn't look like the square-looking ZX-12R - which is a good thing - and it shares some family characteristics with the current ZX-10R and 6R.
From the rear, the ZZR-1400 beats the ZZR-1200 hands down too. It's just not ugly; it shares a similarity with the 6R, 10R and Z750. It's not as slim as a modern Blade for instance, but the ZZR-1200 looks bug-eyed from the front and behind and the ZZR-1400 is a drastic improvement on the ZZR series to date.
I can only hope the ZZR sells well for Kawasaki and this encourages more manufacturers to get back to the CAD software and work out other ingenious ways to house stupidly large, pointlessly powerful engines in-between two wheels.