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|11-27-2007, 04:50 PM||#1|
Busa Chairman of Posing
ZX-14 2008 Press Introduction
Monday, November 26, 2007 Brock Davidson / Matt Polito
By Brock Davidson and Matt Polito
Photos by Matt Polilto and Kawasaki
Drag Race Report
“Note: To all birds of prey, it’s time to fly the coop. The Ninja rules.”
Brock: These very bold words clearly aimed at the Suzuki Hayabusa concluded the 2006 ZX-14 Press presentation the last time we were invited to test Kawasaki’s flagship model Ninja. Anyone who read the ZX-14 Diaries here on dragbike.com realizes that I really liked the 2006 ZX-14 and it had nothing to do with brand loyalty or any other reason beside that is was a very good bike which delivered to us what we like to do best—GO FAST! We even ventured to the track and proved for ourselves that the bike was capable of living up to the hype and then some at a national (and world) level from the drag strip to land speed racing. Me…brand loyal? Yea… Quite honestly, the last Kawasaki I owned prior to my personal ZX-14 required oil to be mixed with the gas. I tell everyone the same thing, “I don’t give a about the name on the tank. If it’s fast, I want to race it.” BUT, I won’t say that I am alone in this loyalty attitude as I am made aware on an almost a daily basis from my aftermarket customers and internet rumblings. There is a serious Ford vs. Chevy style rivalry brewing in the ‘stupid fast’ motorcycle world right now.
www.UFODesignstudios.com, By Daymon Harrison
I feel the need to note that in the recent past, this was not the case because the Hayabusa simply dominated the scene for eight years before the release of the ZX-14. Kawasaki purists will mention the ZX-12, but in the ‘go fast’ world, it basically gained a reputation as an “also ran” which did little, if nothing, better than a Busa and quite a few things worse. “Ehh—whatever,” was the general chilly reception given to the 12 by all but the most fanatical team green followers. There is no doubt that the bike to beat (in stock form) with bolt on accessories on the drag strip, street, and Monster Mile has been the ZX-14 for the last two years, whether the Suzuki crowd wants to admit it or not. In fact, with an additional 20+HP set up apples to apples vs. the ‘old’ Busa, it really wasn’t even close to guys who know how to set up a bike. The only exception to this rule would be modified engine Busa’s vs. stock engine 14’s as the Busa has become legendary in the big horsepower arena over the last several years.
Matt: We drive to the Fontana dragstrip which is part of the California Speedway NASCAR track. The dragstrip is an afterthought placed in the parking lot in the back corner of the property next to the railroad yard and has a constrution trailer office for a control tower. No kidding. The strip used to be in the front of the facility but got moved to the back a couple of years ago. Drag racing gets no respect I tell ya!
As we get there they tell us the dragstrip runs up hill and there is a 60 foot difference between the starting line and the finish line. What?!? 60 feet? No way! That is like two average-sized telephone poles on top of each other. Can you imagine? They assured us that this was the case and even stated they checked it with an altimeter. Looking at the track they still tried to convince me it was 60 feet. I wasn’t buying it.
Brock and I took his combination altimeter-wind-speed-indicator-slicer-dicer-blender and made measurements at the starting line and finish line. It turns out the difference is more like nine feet. More understandable but still a bit of a problem if you are trying to wring out the best e.t. possible. Then you have to combine that with the 3200 feet adjusted altitude, 90 degree temps and a pretty stiff headwind and it was clear that impressive runs were going to be hard to come by.
Brock: This year's 2008 ZX-14 press introduction was a bit less elaborate than the ‘06 intro from a theatrical standpoint due in most part because the list of attendees was MUCH shorter. Last time we had multiple limousines and busses to cart 50-60 writers around Las Vegas. This time Kawasaki decided that they wanted to allow a select few journalists enough time to really enjoy themselves at what the updated ZX-14 does best--haul on the drag strip and show incredible manners on the street. We at db.com are very proud to have made this list which also exemplifies Kawasaki’s respect for the street bike drag race enthusiast. The fine folks at KMC-USA took this pro-drag race attitude one step further by preparing two ZX-14’s IN ADVANCE for drag strip use by lowering the front and rear ends! Thank you, Kawasaki, for realizing that only a self deprecating rookie would EVER show up at a dragstrip on a stock bike. You might as well roll up to the senior prom on a scooter; the overall feeling of self worthlessness is very similar.
Matt: The first part of the demonstration was a technical presentation by Kawasaki’s Jeff Herzog. His main focus was the improvements made to the bike over the past model year. “We made refinements to the power curve,” he said. “We did not chase after peak horsepower but looked more to smooth out usable horsepower through the entire range.” He did note however, that the peak horsepower did increase to 203 with the ram air from “right around 200” for the 2007 model year.
The bad news is that most of the refinements came from tweaking the exhaust system - the first thing you are likely to take off the bike when preparing the bike for the track.
The press intro was set up as two one-day events with eight journalists attending one day each. The daily groups were split again so four each would do a half-day of drag racing (love the respect) and a half-day of road riding. Originally we were told that dragbike.com was the only magazine or website that had two attendees (LOVE the respect) so we would have to share a bike. No problem! Brock was much better suited to do the evaluating. Besides that, my leathers probably don’t fit me anymore since fine dining became a full-time hobby of mine. And let’s face it: I have been down a dragstrip on a motorcycle about 20 times and couldn’t really provide any competent feedback anyway.
Last edited by NoFear; 01-08-2008 at 11:05 AM.
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|11-27-2007, 04:51 PM||#2|
Busa Chairman of Posing
And then there was the road riding. I do have a modest amount of road riding experience but it would have been a bit scary to get on a bike that is heavier and more powerful than my lightweight Ducati Monster and ride it on tight, ascending turns (the WORST for me) with a bunch of heavily-experienced riders that would be calling me “putz” under their helmets (all that respect would go out the window).
And then to get to those tight, winding mountain roads they would be taking the legendary Southern California freeways with the legendary Southern California freeway traffic. That would mean one thing: the California motorcyclist’s required skill known as lane-splitting. The legal term is lane-sharing but I call it the death dance. They actually ride between the lanes of cars on the dotted white lines. The best part is that the lanes are so close together that you actually have to slolom a bit to avoid hitting the car mirrors. When I moved out to California I swore I would never do it. But once you realize that you can get somewhere in half the time and the indignity of all other motorcyclists calling you “putz” under their helmets sinks in, you join in on the fun. It is kind of like surfing in a shark-infested coral reef. Not that I have ever done that. I wonder if Brock knows or supports lane-splitting?It turns out we were one man short on our group so I could have ridden anyway. I acted disappointed cursing the fact that I didn’t bring any gear. They started rummigaang through the trailer for a jacket and helmet I told them not to bother, that old shark-wrestleing injury was acting up!
Brock: Rickey Gadson would be supplying the drag strip instruction for all interested. I had no problem listening to RG’s advice even though I used to be able to claim to have some clue as to how to drag race a motorcycle. Unlike most, I can even boast outrunning the living legend on more than one occasion and winning an AMA/Prostar Superbike National Championship in the process 7 VERY long (and much lighter) years ago. This was due 70% to my mechanical ability, 20% to my riding skills with a 10% factor for blind- luck, which I have never had a problem admitting. I am no jockey; never have been. Even at a 50lb. lower ‘race weight’, I by no means have ever been good at adapting to what the motorcycle wanted me to do, but have always had far more success at changing the bike set-up to ‘bring it to me’ and my skill level. Of course, we could have invited a “ringer” who weighs about as much as one of my legs, but that wouldn’t give the average guy any clue what the new 14 is capable of running with a new owner or potential purchaser in the saddle. Jockeys are for bragging rights, and we like to invite them to show off on certain occasions. I’m sure we will have a leather-clad wee-one (with a body weight which makes Nicole Richie envious) throw a leg over a properly set up 14 before long.
As most Diary readers know, I simply HATE riding completely stock motorcycles, all up in the air making me tip-toe, etc... , I was one of those kids who liked to have at least one toe touching the bottom of the swimming pool, and I still bring this feeling with me to the strip on every pass. Naturally, the stock bike session was first and mandatory. “Listen Rick, you need to let me just skip past this stock , and let me on one of those slammed beauties over there. I like the blue one.” “Sorry Brock, but let me show you how well the suspension works on the new 08,” Mr. Gadson explained in his best (under his breath) ‘you must be crazy’ tone. Rick proceeded to crank the front fork rebound and compression setting to remove the sag and slide hammer affect known to drag racers from a stock front end which is not strapped. “That’s pretty cool!” I exclaimed. “They didn’t change the clutch did they?” I am still convinced that the ZX-14 was the ONLY bike EVER drag raced in Japan before it was placed into production as proven by its bullet-proof clutch. It still amazes me when I hear of a failure from a customer (or read on-line). “How horrible can your riding possibly be?” is my first and only thought.
Matt: I have to say I really get disappointed at the lack of respect the motorcycle media gives the sport of drag racing. I really do believe that the stars of our sport have world class skill in accelerating a motorcycle. I would put guys like Mike Slowe, Johnnie Locklear, Ryan Schnitz (the list goes on and on) up against ANY roadracer or road-test editor in a straight-line contest. I would LOVE to have them bring some fancy-pants racers to the track and we would bring in timid high schooler Jeremy Teasley to kick all their !
Secretly I was hoping (and pretty confident) that Brock would have the best times in the group, the day and hopefully the whole event. What do those twisty-turny guys know about the unforgiving world of the 60 foot clock?
We had a good group in our split. One was Dave Sonsky, editor of Super Street Bike. SSB has had a strong drag racing presence over the years and is one of the few books to regularly have drag racing in their book. Dave has a stunting background and although being a skilled rider, is a big guy – not advantageous in drag racing.
The other was Steve Lita of Roadbike Magazine. I got to know Steve from working with Roadbike’s sister publication, the industry-leading Harley book American Iron. Steve took over the editor position after the short-lived tenure of Eric Putter. Steve most likely had the least drag racing experience of anyone at the press into. Sadly, including even me.
I had my money on Brock to earn respect for us straight line folks.
Brock: I’m not going to bore you with the details of my stock-height experience in the miserable conditions listed above other than to say that I beat the living out of every tall bike available to the tune of 20+ passes total with a best of 10.123 at 139.20 MPH with back ups of 10.14, .16, and .17. After a while, I stopped and told Rickey, “That’s it. I hate this .” Every time my mind tells me to screw on the gas to get a better E.T., those secondaries open up, and I’m hanging on to a unicycle. I wish they had left them out so I could control the power output myself. “Brock, YOU can remove the flies anytime you want…on your own bike.” I’m guessing Kawasaki realizes this also.
After a brief break from the uphill track, performance crushing head wind and 90 degree heat, we were finally allowed a shot at the lowered bikes. I was openly frustrated beforehand, and sick of Polito giving me the ‘stinky’ fingers over the nose signal every time I returned from a pass to hot-lap another stocker. “Step aside boys…What was the best pass from the first wave?” I asked. Jeff Herzog blurted out, “Kevin Duke ran 9.69 lowered, and 9.85 stock yesterday.” Duke again… made me look bad in ‘06 also. little guys. “Were the conditions this bad?” I asked. “No, there is definitely more wind today,” one of the guys exclaimed. Great…I will admit that this story would have been over from drag racer’s point of view had they not provided the lowered machines.
That’s it! Next time we are sending in Teasley!
We at dragbike.com are not in the business of making excuses for any person, company, or machine, but as a long time racer I realize that it is very easy to slow a bike down at the track due to conditions provided by Mother Nature. BUT, I couldn’t even break 140 MPH on a stocker!? I began to wonder what was going on myself. My first pass lowered was a, “Wow, I can leave a bunch harder on the next pass,” 10.00 at 140.11 MPH, followed by a 9.827 at 142.75 MPH and a 9.81 at 143.95 MPH.
That is more like it, and look at the difference in MPH between up in the air, fighting wheelies and lowered getting the gas pinned in first gear. All of the bikes have the same power, but my inability to ride the stockers made them look slow by bragging standards. I tell my customers with MPH problems all of the time that front half acceleration is the key to a high MPH on the big end. The lowered bikes were traveling 4-5 MPH faster at the 1/8 mile which made it easier to reach a higher quarter mile trap speed. It’s math. It would take 20 or more HP to make up 5 mph on the back half to compensate for rider (or chassis) error on the front half. Since the bikes tested don’t have any more HP available, the only way to get them to go was to be able to use more of the available power on the front half of the track due to the chassis mods. My last pass of the day was a 9.796 at 142.75 MPH which made me pretty happy AND the second quickest journalist. The ZX-14 clutch is TOO GOOD, by this I mean that the lever pressure is very light by design (Kawasaki engineers are rightfully proud of this feat for comfortable street use,) which makes it hard for a 200+ pound suited rider to get the bike moving in the first 60 ft. I was one set of stiffer clutch springs away from some 9.60’s or better, which is fast for a lowered, stock bike on pump gas with the mirrors on, traveling uphill bike in a headwind with a ‘the older I get…the faster is was’ overweight rider. No excuses…that’s fast.
|11-27-2007, 04:52 PM||#3|
Busa Chairman of Posing
Matt: I had to goad Brock by telling him how crappy his bad runs were during the whole drag race portion. I know enough racers to know how to motivate them. Tell them they are great and they get lazy and make mistakes. Tell them they suck and they get after it. I wanted to Brock to be the quickest but also get in uncharted territory. He was the only one in our group in the 9.70’s and indeed the 9.80’s. And who the is this Kevin Duke guy?!? Where is Teasley when you need him?
Street Ride Report
Brock: The street ride started out like nothing I had ever experienced. I commented to Justin Dawes, lead rider for the street ride on a Concours, about his Aerostich riding suit before we left. “Kawasaki force you to wear that? It’s 90 degrees in the shade out here.” “No, I want to wear it. Traffic can get pretty hairy around here. My father was in a pretty bad accident a while back. His really helped him from getting more torn up.” That’s cool. Then, while I was running back from grabbing my boots and leather jacket as a result of his words, I caught the end of a conversation to the rest of the group about heavy traffic on the way back, and that we might need to “lane split.” Hmm, I’ve heard the term before…I wonder what it means? I decided to ask Justin about the details when we reached our destination since it didn’t seem to be a problem on the way there from the sound of it. I must admit that this whole motojournalism deal could be worse.
As we sat smoldering in traffic just attempting to reach I-10 (Note of interest: The fan came on but the heat was blown forward and away from the rider!), I had time to reflect that I had never ridden on the street west of the Mississippi (the drag strip in Vegas was the closest). I had never ridden in any mountains (of course my bikes see the big hills on the east coast from the confines of my rig on a monthly basis). Just as we merged into heavy traffic on the interstate, and I saw the rest of the group disappear BETWEEN ROWS of slowly moving traffic, I realized that I had never LANE SPIT either?! Holy SH*T! I was afraid that’s what he meant; don’t they have a hazard lane or something bikes are allowed to use instead?!
Matt: HA! I KNEW it!!
Where I come from in Ohio, I would have helicopters chasing me for live footage on the 6 o’clock news if I tried to pull one of these little tricks. I had traveled to most of the larger cities on the east coast, and the closest I had ever seen is an occasional “express-hole” who takes advantage of the car pool express lane in heavy traffic. They are usually met by disgruntled semi trailer drivers who take up _ of their lane to express that we are ALL in misery together. To say that the pucker factor was high, is an understatement. I really don’t ride much on the street back home, as I prefer the drag strip so as to get my rush in controlled conditions while firmly grasping my ‘non-revoked’ driver’s license and low insurance premiums. I had dodged so many impatient, no 2nd look, cell phone-using, kid-screaming soccer vans at home, that I stay out of the cross hairs by attending my local tune and test for some MUCH SAFER 150 MPH runs!
That being said, I’m a big boy, and if the rest of the group can dodge truck mirrors at head level, so can I. A couple of the veterans were off and gone before we reached the entrance to Rim of the World Scenic Byway which traverses the crest of the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California. Wild fires driven by the Santa Anna winds had been raging out of control in the area for weeks, and I was interested to know if any damage could been seen from the road. What I hadn’t expected was 30-50 MPH wind gusts on one of the most winding roads I have ever seen! Another thing I had not expected was to be IN THE WAY of the locals who drive this route ever day?!
On the way back down the mountain I had a young lady in a pickup truck and a construction truck with equipment teetering on the edge both pass me with tires screeching. All I was trying to do was keep from scratching Kawasaki’s pretty blue bike, see some of the views I had missed on the way up, and not get blown into their lane to slow them down, as they obviously had places to be and were in a bigger hurry than I was in.
Matt: Ahhh! Brock was puckering up while I am in the air-conditioned construction trailer, er, track control tower, going through the morning photos, working on some correspondence and doing some on-line shopping.
Seriously, it must have been a great ride. I have driven in the area Brock was riding and it is truly spectacular. I think I came across the same woman in the pickup truck!
Brock: Our photo shoot near Big Bear Lake was at a breathtaking location around 6000 ft. actual altitude above sea level. I had never traveled on a bike to an elevation which was noticeably cooler than where we started. I was amazed at how much power was zapped from the very strong and newly tuned ZX-14 engine. At the drag strip (and return road,) I could not keep the front end down no matter what I tried. At this elevation, I could barely get it to power wheelie. Anyone who lives in higher elevations knows exactly what I am talking about, and I now have much more of an appreciation for high altitude racing. I had no idea it was so bad at tracks like Denver. I just thought they were whiners!
All in all, the 14 handled and braked beautifully as my comfort level rose in the heavy wind and crazed drivers. Toward the end of the run, I decided to strafe the nut-jobs just to make sure they didn’t have any stories to tell at my, or the ZX-14’s, expense. I’m such a big kid sometimes.
Brock: In conclusion, if you like REALLY fast motorcycles, this is a GREAT time to be alive! Not since the KZ vs. GS wars of yesteryear have the factories gone at it with such a lack of restraint. Of course, these politically correct days require a bit of restriction, but the factories know this and are sure to deliver a bike which comes alive with a bit of aftermarket ‘tweaking’ to remove some of the environmental and self-imposed speed governing.
The 2008 ZX-14 is refined and updated compared to the 2006/07 version. Translation--just as smooth and even faster than the previous model! The earlier units were neutered to the point of complaint from the folks who purchased such a fast bike because it is so fast. The ‘08 still retains the smoothness of the earlier versions, but is has a much harder ‘seat of the pants’ kick from the upper bottom-end range to red line. The brakes are also class leading, and I can’t believe I just spoke those words. As a drag racer, brakes just slow you down. As an enthusiast and a guy with a bit of sense, if it’s going to accelerate like a missile, you had better be able to slow it down in a hurry.
|11-27-2007, 04:52 PM||#4|
Busa Chairman of Posing
Is it stronger or faster than the new 2008 Hayabusa? We are not sure because we have not tested the 2008 ZX-14 on our dyno or on the same track/same day, etc... We hope to “set the new 08’s still” at the drag strip soon. We did test my 2006 Diary 1 ZX-14 at Gainesville a couple of weeks ago and Chip Ellis ran a 9.002 at 155.24 compared to his 8.91 at 156.99 on Chronic the dragbike.com 08 Busa set up as identical as I knew how to make them. The 06 ZX-14 weighed in at 502 lbs. with exactly two gallons of the same fuel MR9 fuel from the same sealed container added to drained tanks, same exhaust, same tires etc. vs. 508 lbs for the Busa on the official AMA/Prostar scales. If the 08 ZX-14’s engine is as strong as it appears-it’s going to be a gun fight after they are set up apples to apples. One thing is for sure, if you like fast bikes, you can choose your favorite brand without being worried that your smart- buddy will be lipping you! When it comes down to it, both you and your bud had better be on your game (regardless of which bike you’re on) because playing catch-up after a mistake is NO LONGER an option.
I hope you enjoyed the story. Since its Thanksgiving weekend I have to run….I don’t like missing meals these days!
- and Matt
Matt: When the kids got back the fun stuff began. Everyone was a bit punchy and started taking the Mule ATV down the track. They broke out one of the Concours and Brock and Rickey were making laps on it. Pretty cool seeing a touring bike with full bags picking up the front wheel. They started talking about lowering it and one of the technicians broke in and curtailed the tomfoolery. That Brock! He just can’t leave well enough lone. He’s always gotta’ make it go quicker!
Note from Brock: What do drag racers do after a hard day at the strip beating on cool new bikes? They leave the scenic ride early to lane spit back to the drag strip in a hurry to DRAG RACE the CHASE BIKES! It this case, the Kawasaki Concours was the “bagger” of choice. The folks at Kawasaki and PR firm, Freeman McCue, were so adamant that the Concours was one of Kawasaki’s best machines, AND that is was very fast for what it does, that I had to give it a shot in the only way I can relate to performance--on the strip. You should have seen Gadson running for his leathers at the thought of getting some track fun after watching other guys have fun for two days. “I’m gonna’ go run in the 10’s on a Concours,” and he did on his first try with a best of 10.88 at 124.27 MPH. It took me a couple of tries, but I managed a 10.97 at 123.78 MPH. (I didn’t have time to strap the front end….) Let a punk on his shiny new 600 roll up and see what an old man can give him from stoplight to stoplight!
We are waiting for a file from Kawasaki to add to the end of this story with specs that drag racers love. Until then, here is a little info to hold you over comparing the 2008 Model to the previous years:
More Low-End Torque and Power (Still doesn’t hit as hard as the Busa off idle, but the smoothness is nice on the street.)
More Mid-Range Response (The bike is useless at the drag strip at stock height. It’s like a big unicycle when the quicker opening flies let it breath!)
Higher Peak Horsepower--203 HP Claimed (with ram air, measured at the crankshaft). The conditions we saw at Fontana were horrible, and I still managed times close to the ‘08 Busa which I rode in near perfect conditions at Atco.
Revised - Cylinder Head
Revised - Intake Porting
Provides Optimum Flow Characteristics
Revised - Sub-Throttle Injectors
Increased Spray Angle from 15° to 20°
Dispersing Atomized Fuel over a Wider Area
Increased Low-End Power and Torque
Improved Mid Range Response
Revised- Piston Profiles
Reduced Mechanical Noise
Revised – Cylinder Head Cover
Secondary Air Ports Increased Approx. 20%
Increased Clean Air Flow into Exhaust System
Revised – Air Switching Valve (ASV)
Handles Approximately 5% More Air
193 PS (Without Ram Air)
203 PS (With Ram Air)
MSRP $11,699 - Atomic Silver / Metallic Midnight Sapphire Blue
MSRP $11,999 - Metallic Flat Spark Black
We will add the full line of improvements soon.
|11-27-2007, 09:43 PM||#5|
Powa Ranga Action Figure
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Houston, XY
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I will be purchasing an 08 to replace my stolen 06. The ZX-14 is a awesome motorcycle, hands down.
2002 Honda CBR-1100XX Blackbird. All Stock!
1991 VMAX, A little bling, a lotta sting - redecorated courtesy Houston Police Department
2002 Ford SVT Lightning, 5.6L stroker, 3.4L WhippleCharged, 806HP