Long-Term Wrap-Up: 2006 Kawasaki ZX-14

Sayonara to the bullet train.

Photography by Brian Blades

2006 Kawasaki ZX-14 - Long-Term Wrap-Up

2006 Kawasaki ZX-14 - Long-Term Wrap-Up

Dollar for dollar, pound for pound, pony for pony, the Kawasaki ZX-14 is one of motorcycling's finest all-around streetbikes, with comfort, power and speed in spades. That is the consensus CW editors reached after living with a Passion Red 2006 model for the past two years.

Kawasaki's reply to the Suzuki Hayabusa, the ZX-14 won Best Open Streetbike honors in our annual Ten Best vote-getting right out of the box and again the following year. "Big performance generates big headlines," editors noted in 2007, "and no motorcycle created more of a stir last year than the ZX-14."

Rooted in those headlines were the big Kawi's chart-topping test numbers: 2.5-second 0–60-mph acceleration, a 9.8-second quarter-mile, 170.2 horsepower at 9670 rpm, 103.8 foot-pounds of torque at 7770 rpm and a top speed (electronically limited) of 186 mph.

But as the back-to-back award-giving indicates, the ZX-14 is hiding more behind its full-coverage fairing and monocoque aluminum frame than just exhilarating get-up-and-go and eye-opening maximum velocity. Daily commuting and long rides along California's central coast spawned praise for its smooth engine, moderate ergonomics and sport-touring capabilities. Underseat bungee hooks provided secure tie-down points for luggage capacious enough to allow multi-night stays near Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the U.S. Grand Prix or with extended family farther north in San Francisco.

Along the way, we made quite a few modifications—some bargain-priced and others staggeringly expensive. Best bang-for-the-buck was the Ivan's Rockland County Motorcycle Timing Retard Eliminator ($70; www.ivansperformanceproducts.com). The simple, plug-n-play device fools the ECU into believing the transmission is always in sixth gear, mapping for which provides the quickest opening for the secondary butterflies. In back-to-back fourth-gear dyno runs, the TRE-equipped 14 outperformed the stock setup all the way to 7000 rpm, with the biggest gains—as much as 11.5 hp and 15.8 ft.-lb. of torque—coming between 2500 and 4000 rpm.

At the opposite end of the price spectrum, Blackstone Tek wheels ($3916; www.motowheels.com) eliminated 13.5 pounds of unsprung mass, endowing the ZX-14 with decidedly lighter handling. They look great and are tough, too. On the braking front, roller bearings in the pivot mechanism of the Beringer Aerotec Radial Master Cylinder ($535; www.beringer-brakes.com) all but eliminate stiction, resulting in exceptionally light feel and silky-smooth lever travel. Modulating edge-of-traction braking is easier, too. We later added a matching Aerotec Radial Clutch Master Cylinder ($535) and four-piston, machined-from-billet front brake calipers ($1200 per set). One finger on the lever is all that's needed to haul the bike down from even triple-digit speeds.

Maintenance was nominal. The 7500-mile service cost $543 and was completed by Champion Motorcycles in Costa Mesa, California. This included installing new sparkplugs, changing the oil filter and adding four quarts of 10w-40 Royal Purple Max-Cycle ($16 per quart; www.royalpurple.com), plus myriad checks and adjustments. New Driven #530 chain and sprockets ($253; www.drivenracing.com) were fitted at the same time, as were Michelin's latest Pilot Power 2CTs ($531; www.michelinmotorcycle.com), which replaced the long-wearing Pilot Powers ($474). Also worth noting: Over two years and more than 10K miles, the ZX-14 never skipped a beat. We never even replaced a light bulb.

We'll miss our big Kawasaki. Good thing there is a 2008 Concours 14 in the garage to help fill in the gap.

#### SPECIFICATIONS
List price (2006):|$11,499
Current Blue Book value:|$7855
Warranty:|12 mo./unlimited mi.
Engine:|liquid-cooled, four-stroke inline-Four
Bore & stroke:|84.0 x61.0mm
Displacement:|1352cc
Valve train:|dohc, four valves per cylinder, shim adjustment
Carburetion:|fuel-injection
Weight: tank empty:|531 lb.
Weight, tank full:|566 lb.
Fuel capacity:|5.8 gal.
Wheelbase:|57.9 in.
Rake/trail:|23.0º/3.7 in.
Total miles:|10,340
Miles since last report:|5140
Average fuel mileage:|33 mpg
Maintenance costs (including tires):|$1865

2006 Kawasaki ZX-14

2006 Kawasaki ZX-14

2006 Kawasaki ZX-14

2006 Kawasaki ZX-14

2006 Kawasaki ZX-14