3 miles a minute on the 2012 ZZR1400

Chasing 200mph on Kawasaki's latest top-speed contender

On the launch of Kawasaki's new ZZR1400, we took the bike for a flat-out run around the 7.8m Nardò Ring to see what it's capable of and if it lives up to Kawasaki's claims of superior high-speed stability.

Riding that fast on a banked circle was a really strange experience. I've maxed out superbikes before, but only in a straight line. At the Nardò Ring, even though it's banked, you still require a bit of pressure on the bars to keep the bike pointing in the direction you want to go, rather than veering off into the armco making what would surely be a 300m long pink mess.

Flat out and tucked in like a monkey clinging onto a wet rock, the ZZR reached its limited 299kmh top speed with around 500 revs to go. Roll off the throttle a touch and you don't lose any speed but this is the part where it gets weird. With so much time to sit at that speed - rather than worry about what the inside of a jail looks like - you can relax and take it all in. The bike wants to go up the banking but with pressure on the bars it sits there with just a gentle weave - probably due to me gripping the bars too tightly. I'm there thinking 'I'm doing 186mph, the bike's moving underneath me but I'm in control. I hope', there's an armco 10 feet away but everything feels calm, sedate even.

After a couple of miles I wonder what the current mpg reading is and it's only when I take my left hand off the bar to press the mode button that I realise just how quick we're going. I nearly pat myself on the back with the back of my left hand as it catches the windblast..

If you want to know what the ZZR1400 manages at a sustained 186mph, well it's a respectable 11.8 mpg. So flat-out on a full tank, you'd drain it in 57 miles. That is, if your head hadn't fallen off first.