There is no other bike like a Ninja. This model has become an icon of sportiness and adrenaline from the instant it was launched for the first time on the market.
When it arrived on the big-bore sportbike stage in 2006, the big Ninja blew everyone’s minds with its power, sport-tourer comfort, agile handling and aerodynamic full-coverage bodywork. Since then, the motorcycle received a lot of upgrades and the 2012 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R raised the bar even higher.
The R-designated 2012 Ninja ZX-14R is stronger, better looking and smoother than ever, thanks to the numerous upgrades received from Kawasaki’s technicians.
Big power delivered smoothly has always been a big Ninja hallmark, so the changes for 2012 begin in the new ZX-14R’s engine bay. First off, there’s more displacement via a 4mm stroke increase; to 65mm (up from 61mm), with displacement now registering 1441cc (up from 1352cc). Combustion chamber shapes are newly optimized for 2012, and they’re surface-milled now, not cast. Moreover, intake ports are reshaped and polished for maximum flow while working in concert with longer and more durable intake valves.
Hit the jump for more information on the 2012 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R.
The camshafts working those valves are more radical, with increased lift and revised profiles, while a stronger cam chain and revised tensioning system maximize reliability at the stratospheric rpm levels this engine is capable of. Newly designed forged pistons with thinner crowns offer increased durability and less weight, and are cooled by a new oil-jet cooling system that pumps a continuous stream of lubricant at the underside of each piston. (Testing shows the engine runs considerably cooler with this system.) There’s more: Compression is up from last year; connecting rods have beefier small ends, and are made of a stronger material; crankshaft main journals are thicker, from 38 to 40mm; a new air-cleaner element is larger and thicker, with 10% more surface area and 40 percent more airflow capability; and transmission gears have been heat- and surface-treated to be even more durable and shift more smoothly.
Feeding this class dominating new engine is a revised fuel injection system that offers automatic idle adjustment and reduced emissions. Burned hydrocarbons exit through a heavily revised exhaust system with reshaped, larger-diameter tapered header pipes and larger-volume, reshaped mufflers, each with an advanced catalyzer to minimize emissions.
The benefits of all this hot-rodding are substantial, as there’s more power virtually everywhere across the rev range. The increases are most profound in the mid-high rpm range, with notably stronger acceleration from 4,000 rpm onward. This translates into the sort of thrust riders can appreciate in a wide variety of situations, whether it’s powering up a freeway on-ramp to merge with fast-moving traffic or cruising along a deserted backroad on a sunny, Sunday-morning ride. On the ZX-14R, total domination is just a twist of the throttle away.
But the ZX-14R’s new engine is more than supremely powerful; there’s plenty of polish and panache to go along with it. The engine’s dual gear-driven counterbalancer setup, for instance, has been optimized to work with the new mill’s longer-stroke dimensions and crankshaft changes. The result is smoother power across the rev range.
That power is more manageable than ever, too, thanks to the addition of a back-torque limiting “slipper” clutch assembly and a KTRC traction control and ignition management system that features three different riding modes – full power, medium power and a third mode for low-traction (wet/slippery) conditions. The KTRC system is controlled by a bar-mounted toggle/push switch, and the system’s effects can be monitored on a seven-segment bar graph in the cockpit’s LCD info-screen. The back-torque limiting clutch technology comes directly from the racetrack, and helps eliminate the wheel-hop and stability-eroding torque effects of energetic downshifting and braking while cornering, or during spirited – or emergency – stops. It also helps protect the bike’s drive train, for optimum durability.
The result of all this refined and high-tech hot rodding is arguably the finest open-class streetbike engine ever built – and an engine this capable needs a similarly competent chassis in which to live and thrive. The 2012 ZX-14R is up to the job, and then some. Kawasaki engineers strove to retain the previous ZX-14’s light-handling and maneuverable demeanor, using the existing chassis design as a starting point for the new 14R and its increased power production. To maintain this sweet-handling character but also pump up the sportiness quotient, engineers modified more than half of the previous frame’s aluminum castings and forgings, all of which have different flex and rigidity characteristics than the parts they replace. So while the new alloy frame bears a distinct resemblance to the previous unit’s over-the-engine, monocoque design, it is vastly different: stiffer in some places and unchanged in others, the net result forming an ideal balance for the bike’s weight, power and cornering ability. In back, the swingarm is 10mm longer than before and features more gusseting to effectively match the new frame’s rigidity balance.
Front and rear suspension revisions help maintain this balancing act of wheel control, ride compliance and maneuverability. Both the 43mm fully adjustable inverted fork and multi-adjustable single shock have improved bottoming resistance and revised internal settings, while new lighter and beautifully machined 10-spoke wheels look great and reduce unsprung weight by a whopping 3.3 pounds, further aiding acceleration, handling and suspension action. The new ZX-14R’s triple disc brakes are updated, as well, with more rigid disc material and revised pads for powerful, fade-free stops and a progressive feel at the lever.
Longer-stroke design, revised (and ported) cylinder heads, lighter pistons, higher compression and more radical camshafts provide more torque and power throughout the rev range
Piston jet system sprays a continuous stream of cooling lubrication to the underside of each piston for cooler running temperatures, more constant power production and better durability
Stronger cam chain and tensioning system offers a higher degree of durability at stratospheric rpm levels
Crankshaft main journals are 2mm thicker (now 40mm) for added durability
More durable temperature and surface treatments allow the transmission gears to better harness the new engine’s prodigious power production
Chrome composite-plated aluminum cylinder bores are lightweight, durable, and quickly carry heat away from the combustion chamber and piston for supreme durability at high power outputs
Low mechanical noise via special piston profile and urethane insulation sheet on the inside of the magnesium chain cover
Revised internal settings for the inverted and multi-adjustable 43mm cartridge-type fork allow more wheel control and improved ride compliance
Excellent control and feedback from the fully adjustable bottom-link Uni-Trak® rear suspension
Linkage rates allow linear suspension action and greater wheel control
Bottom-link design helps create a lower center of gravity, which makes the motorcycle more nimble
New black-faced dual analog speedometer and tachometer are easy to read
Multi-function LCD digital display includes an odometer, two trip meters, fuel gauge, gear position indicator, clock, and many other variables, including traction-control information via a 7-segment LCD indicator
Programmable shift indicator lamp illuminates at pre-set rpm to signal rider upshift
Programmable clutch engagement lamp illuminates at pre-set rpm to signal the rider to engage the clutch
Controller Area Network (CAN) interface between the gauges uses fewer wires yet allows a greater volume of information, such as estimated fuel mileage, to be exchanged
Aggressive New Bodywork
Monocoque frame is positioned over the engine so the sleek new fairing is uninterrupted by protruding frame spars, adding to the extremely long and low styling
New fairing venting offers improved engine-heat control for more comfort for rider and passenger
Standard rear-seat cowl adds aesthetic appeal
Both the front and rear turn signals are integrated into the bodywork and have clear lenses to enhance appearance
Quadruple projector beam headlights in the new fairing give the ZX™-14 a distinctive new look. The outer lights contain position lamps and high beams, while the low beams are located in the center lamps
Lightweight Denso radiator with dual fans and high-density cores provides maximum cooling efficiency.
Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valve per cylinder, inline-four
Bore x Stroke
84.0 x 65.0 mm
DFI® with four 44mm Mikuni throttle bodies
TCBI with Digital Advance
23 degrees / 3.7 in.
Front Tire Size
Size 190/50 ZR17
Front Suspension / wheel travel
43mm inverted cartridge fork with adjustable preload, 18-way compression and 15-way rebound damping adjustment / 4.6 in.
Rear Suspension / wheel travel
Bottom-link Uni-Trak® and gas-charged shock with adjustable preload, stepless rebound and compression damping adjustments, adjustable ride height / 4.9 in.
Dual semi-floating 310 mm petal discs with dual radial-mounted four-piston calipers
Single 250mm petal disc with twin-piston caliper
Metallic Spark Black, Candy Surf Blue, Golden Blazed Green with special graphics (SE)
Ultimate Motorcycling----"The biggest revisions are an increase in engine displacement (1352cc to 1441cc), and the addition of KTRC Traction Control and a slipper clutch. And with the added power arrives revamped suspension, brakes and body work."