First Ride: 2006 Kawasaki ZZR1400

Kawasaki re-ignite the horsepower battle with the year's most outrageous new bike. Tim Dickson says 'hooray' for Japan's latest autobahn stormer.

Posted: 22 September 2010
by Tim Dickson
Dick Timpson, hard at work
Hold on tight, she's fast

Click to read: Kawasaki ZZR1400 owners reviews, Kawasaki ZZR1400 specs and to see the Kawasaki ZZR1400 image gallery.

CLEAR ROAD, TUCK in behind the screen and pin it. The speedo reads up to 280kph, but there's an unmarked segment beyond that, where '300' should be but isn't. The needle swings up to and a millimetre or two beyond the phantom '300' (186mph in English) with indecent haste; the tacho nudges past 11,000rpm and refuses to go further. Rolling off for traffic I glance at the clocks and notice the gear indicator - Kawasaki's new ZZR1400 was only in fifth. Another run in sixth is a repeat of before, except the rev counter only registers 10,000rpm.

This is one indecently fast motorcycle. Restricted to 186mph it may be, but the ease with which it reaches that speed is breathtaking. (Don't worry, this all took place on an autobahn where such things are legal, and therefore 100 per cent safe.)

With a claimed 197bhp, the ZZR1400 is being touted as the most powerful bike in the world, ever, for now. And it is nearly (but not quite) beyond reproach.

Initial impressions were of a bulky, imposing motorcycle with slightly dated white-faced clocks, enormous silencers and slender sticky-out mirrors, but to be honest I was taken aback by just how good the ZZR turned out to be. The first inkling came within a second or two of pulling away: burbling across the wet cobbles of the hotel carpark, full lock to full lock, the ZZR's size and mass (215kg dry) melted away. The combination of riding position and weight distribution rendered the bike as nimble as a 600cc commuter. Blimey.

Second surprise came on the twisty, bumpy and mostly wet German back roads. The ZZR was a breeze. Light steering, superb feedback and plush, compliant suspension made light work of unfamiliar roads. The forks err to the soft and would bottom over potholes, but overall it's an impressive chassis package given the ZZR's bulk. Once the roads dried and we found some faster corners ground clearance ultimately put a cap on fun, but dialling in a touch more preload would broaden the bike's limits. As it was the pegs kissed the ground first, followed by a bulge in the fairing on the right, but only after a dozen passes round one corner for photos. Braking impressed too; lots of feel and power front and rear, and none of the elastic sponginess at the lever present on some Kawasakis, notably the ZX-10R.

Click here to read the Kawasaki ZZR1400 review verdict.

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