Öhlins Kawasaki: Best made better

2014-08-25 09:51

Motorcycling correspondent

When your flagship model is widely hailed as the fastest-accelerating production motorcycle yet made and you are subject to a gentlemen’s agreement to limit its top speed, what do you do to improve it? Simple – you give it better handling.

Meet the Kawasaki ZZR 1400 Öhlins Edition...

That’s what Kawasaki has done to the mighty ZZR 1400 Öhlins Edition – the bikemaker took the machine (previously known as the ZX-14R in the South African market) to suspension experts Öhlins and asked for a new rear suspension.


The result is the Öhlins TTX39 suspension and a number of benefits: better rear stability though corners while keeping the system supple to improve ride comfort. Despite this


comfortably soft feel road feedback doesn’t suffer and neither does high-speed stability – the big Kawa remains one of the most confidence-inducing bikes with which to explore the naughty side of the speed limit.

Locally we get the European market’s version (black and green) while Australia and some Eastern countries get white and gold. The test bike had neither the titanium Akrapovic slip-on end cans nor the bubble screen , each available as accessories, but my impression was that the standard screen was adequate in terms of wind protection.


The ZZR 1400, like its competitor from Suzuki’s stable, is not the kind of bike you buy if commuting is foremost in your mind but for all its size it is a remarkably practical everyday mount. I had no real problems threading it through Gauteng’s rush hour traffic although the long wheelbase would occasionally prevent me from taking some of the smaller gaps.

Its fly-by-wire throttle behaved well, responding with immediate power when called upon to do so.

What is remarkable about the ZZR is its frugal thirst when ridden with a gentle hand. The fuel consumption in the accompanying specifications gives a rather skewed view of this, since that was the average consumption over the entire review period (and when testing a bike, economy is not exactly foremost in my mind).

Like most modern bikes, the big Kawa has an instantaneous fuel consumption indicator. According to it, at a steady 120km/h in sixth gear on a level road the bike returned a consumption 4.16 litres/100km - 24km/litre - which is firmly in mid-size bike territory.


But the ZZR was not designed (and one assumes not bought) with economy in mind and it remains an almost unimaginably fast machine. Already a very stable bike due to its long wheelbase, the added stability imparted by the Öhlins suspension makes the bike’s prodigious performance all the more accessible.

With a remarkably low centre of gravity and a perceived lightness, it handles twisties better than its size would lead you to believe, but long, fast sweeps are its real forte.

The seating position is noticeably forward-canted and it hit what is for me the magical spot halfway between super bikes and standards. This, in combination with the comfy suspension, means that you will be looking for excuses to do high-speed long-distance trips.

And if you should happen to come across a drag strip somewhere on your journey,rest assured that it will reign supreme there too.

Manufacturer: Kawasaki
Model: ZZR 1400 Öhlins Edition

Type: Liquid cooled, four stroke, transverse four cylinders, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Displacement: 1441cc
Maximum ower: 154.5 kW @ 10 00rrpm (with Ram Air)
Maximum torque: 162.5 Nm @ 10 000rpm
Fuel supply system: Fuel injection: ø44 mm x 4 (Mikuni)
Fuel type: Premium unleaded 95 Octane RON
General fuel consumption: 6.3 litres/100km

Type: Six-speed return
Final drive: Chain
Overall length x width x height (mm): 2170 X 770 X 1170
Kerb weight: 268 kg

Passengers: 2
Fuel tank: 22 litres

Front: Dual semi-floating 310 mm petal discs with dual radial-mount, opposed four-piston callipers
Rear: Single 250 mm petal disc with opposed, twin-piston callipers

Front: 43mm inverted cartridge fork with adjustable preload, 18-way compression and 15-way rebound damping adjustment
Rear: Bottom-Link Uni-Trak, Öhlins TTX39 rear shock with piggyback reservoir and remote pre-load adjuster, 22-way compression and 22-way rebound damping adjustment

Front: 120/70ZR17M/C (58W)
Rear: rear: 190/50ZR17M/C (73W)

PRICE: R189 995


  • Egor Oussov - 2014-08-25 10:29

    What's a point of making fat pig handle better. If you like a proper sports bike get something much lighter with similar power

      Charles Glass - 2014-09-02 17:15

      Some people buy superbikes for track days, some people buy big hyperbikes for touring. Different strokes for different folks, you know? What's the point of making a fat pig handle better? OK. I suppose Kawasaki should just stop improving their products now.

  • BLUESILVER2012 - 2014-08-27 05:18

    Correction, in 2013 S1000RR, ZX14 and Busa were tested in the UK for acceleration and top speed, the S1000RR thumped both Hypersports bikes so...these "tanks" have become dinosaurs for 2015......so much plastic and stupidly huge exhausts to name but a few Made for America....

      Charles Glass - 2014-09-02 17:12

      [Citation needed]

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