Or is it?
Kawasaki are still refusing to release an official power figure, despite a stray spec sheet which appeared on one of K’s websites quoting 197 bhp. If this is true, then virtually all the speculation has been wrong, since that 197 would be a crank figure – manufacturers seldom quote rear wheel dyno figures since crank testing is part and parcel of the production process. And of course it yields a fatter number, since drive train losses don’t come into crank tests. 197 crank would yield around 183 on the dyno, give or take a few bhp. The addition of the ram air effect would give some of those missing ponies back, but the reality seems to be that any talk of a a production bike making 200 bhp on the dyno remains strictly hypothetical. The 197 figure raises another question: why miss the golden marketing opportunity of being the first to 200 – for the want of 3bhp? Had that been achieved, the distinction it was a crank generated number would be lost in the blitz of publicity….
Could it be that Kawasaki reckon that some of the publicity might be damaging? That really does seem to be the only sane interpretation. Instead of concentrating on the bike’s power, Kawasaki have publicised the ‘fastest acccelerating’ angle, courtesy of that longer stroke. In many ways, that is a real world improvement, since on the road the need for maximum acceleration as you approach 190 mph is totally irrelevant. What we do know is that the 2012 1400 incarnation is heavier than it’s predecessor, confirming the purist’s fears that only sportsbikes are exempt from extra tonnage these days. The Japanese seem to have decided that more power always compensates for more weight: from an engineering point of view, extra power and extra weight go together, outside the realms of highly focussed machines. There comes a point when all that power becomes unusable, and some manoeverability has been sacrificed. But in this case, the addition of top notch traction control to ABS, the longer stroke and the bike’s surprising aptitiude for cornering suggest that the ZZR has not reached that point, despite being heavier.
When we tested the V4 Tuono we felt that for all its prowess, 165 brake on a naked was something of a contradiction in terms. The same could be said for 185 brake + on a faired bike, improvements notwithstanding. So why not concentrate on weight loss along with the improved ride characteristics and electronics? Virtually the entire world biker population would have more to gain from a slimmer, more agile machine at the expense of astronomical power figures. Even hyperbikes should not over rely on big numbers for their fun quotient – precisely because of associated fat content. But the 14 was always a sweet handler for a hyperbike: we’d just love to see weight kept in check as the concept evolves.
Despite that reservation, it’s hard not to be excited by huge power capability. And if any bike is going to hit big numbers, it should be a big green ‘un. The ZZR14 introduction left us feeling a bit flat after initial excitement, courtesy of a few missing ponies, and a few extra pounds. Going in either direction would have pepped up the story – it would have been very expensive to tick both boxes. Let’s hope the newly found grunt and upgrades provide compensation. We wouldn’t back against it.