Fast Mover: Kawasaki GTR1400 Launch

TWO's editor checks in with a first ride report

Swiss Alps, July 2nd



KAWASAKI are unashamed about the brute power and speed of the GTR1400. "This bike is full of spice and Kawasaki ingredients," they say at the press briefing. "Class-leading power, class-leading performance, and a new benchmark in sports-touring motorcycles."

So before you go thinking this is some half-arsed attempt at stealing a bit of FJR1300 thunder, don't bother. Kawasaki have gone the whole hog. You've got 155bhp and 136Nm of torque from a re-tuned ZZ-R1400 engine with Variable Valve Timing, ram-air and all the trimmings. You've got a massive alloy monococque chassis (20% stiffer than the ZZ-R it comes from) with an all-new shaft-drive system, massive brakes and wind-tunnel developed bodywork. You've got a torrent of technology as well, from the KIPASS electronic key system to the ABS and even - goodness! - an electric screen that goes up and down. Didn't we see that on the Suzuki GSX1100EFE back in 1983?

It's a big bike. It weighs 279kg dry, so call that well over 300kg wet and ready to roll. But it is not cumbersome. As soon as you sit on the GTR, it exudes comfort and class. The suspension squishes in a firm but pleasing way, the bodywork is well-fitted and finished and there are almost (dare to say it) Honda-levels of quality on this bike.

Whether it will stay like that over time remains to be seen, although this bike was built predominantly for the European market and that means stainless steel everywhere and ergonomics specifically designed for lofty buggers. And it looks good, the design is clean and holds together. Unless you take the panniers off, in which case it looks exposed and awkward. So is it any good? Yes, it's bloody good, in fact even at this early stage I'm prepared to say it's significantly better than the Pan European or FJR1300.



I won't address the BMW issue because BMWs are, well, different - as are their riders. But the GTR1400 feels right from the minute you set off. It's not top-heavy, it's exceedingly fast, and the handling is in a different league from any other bike in this category. Once dialled-in to the way the bike feels and given some dry roads, the GTR could be hustled at outrageous speeds on the grippy, twist mountain roads we rode it on today.

The tyres are remarkably soft - they're designed that way so they absorb smaller bumps, allowing the suspension to be firmer - and mid-corner the GTR grips and feels like a bike half its size. I don't think the tyres will actually last very long, but if you can afford a bike like this that's not your first concern.

The engine is very strong, the re-tuned ZZ-R1400 motor providing seamless, solid power. There are no clunky power steps with the VVT system as witnessed on earlier VTEC Hondas (the VFR is ghastly for this) just a whoosh of power from 2,500rpm onwards. It's classy, civilised power, the sort of power that pillions appreciate and that solo riders can have fun with.

Maximum speed we saw today on the short stretches of motorway was an easy 240km/h - do the maths, I don't have time. In the cruise it's EXTREMELY comfortable, although Kawasaki do have a bigger screen and gel seat as aftermarket add-ons and I would have thought these would be obligatory for long-term ownership. They're not needed out the box, but I would fit them.

They reckon you can get 200 miles out of the 22-litre tank, although since their range computer is the same useless thing fitted to the ZZ-R, who knows. The gearbox is astonishingly slick and the shaft drive truly, honestly feels like a chain drive. Without all the bother.



The only time you really feel the weight is slowing down and in the carpark. Two journos dropped their bikes today doing U-turns, and the brakes don't half overheat and fade when you really start cramming them. This has been a problem on ZX-10Rs as well, so it may be an inherent problem with modern Kawasaki brake design.

The electronic key system is good (although a bit unnecessary) and the panniers are excellent, being 35 litres (I think, don't quote me on that) and completely waterproof. I know that because it pissed down all this afternoon, and they didn't leak a bit. In the wet, the GTR was poised and while it would be a huge lie to say you could feel the grip from the tyres, any slides or shimmies were user-initiated and you never felt like you were riding a huge, uncontrollable mass about to have an impending crash.

IN SUMMARY

Very, very good. Kawasaki have sat back, studied the competition, applied their own big-balls, big-power ethos and come out with the GTR1400 super-tourer. You can hustle it, cruise on it, corner on it and even commute on it. I don't like the ZZ-R1400, I think it's peaky and pointless, but the GTR1400 is a cracking bike. If you've got a 1,000cc superbike and you're not sure you know what to do with it, get a test ride on this thing. It's seriously ballistic and (whisper it) deeply practical. Is that possible?

John Cantlie