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Revisited: Kawasaki ZZR1400

Published: 30 August 2018

Updated: 30 August 2018

MCN Guest Tester Phil West has been out exploring the Kawasaki ZZR1400 used market. Below is his take on the original model, 12 years on from its launch. 

What we said then

"The Kawasaki ZZR1400 is not only the fastest, most powerful motorcycle you can buy, it is also an extremely capable all-round machine, too. Limited to 186mph (300kmh) - the Kawasaki ZZR1400 will do it with a gear to spare. Capable of commuting, two up sporty touring, trackdays, drag racing, posing – almost anything is possible on the big Kawasaki ZZR1400 - just don’t try taking it dirt riding!" MCN launch report. November 23, 2006.

But what is it like now?

The big ZZR was instantly the boss of hypertouring and king of speed when it was originally launched in 2006. And following one significant update in 2012, it remains so today, 12 years on.

That in itself says plenty about Kawasaki’s hyperbike and approaching this virtually mint, early version on sale at KH Motorcycles in Market Harborough (01858 288030) you still get an aura - a sense of presence few other bikes can match.

MCN MODEL GUIDES

Long, beefy, squat and solid, it’s clearly a bike to be taken seriously and that doesn’t suffer fools gladly. More impressive still is that, considering its 12-years-old, how well it’s been preserved.

'Long, beefy, squat and solid, it’s clearly a bike to be taken seriously' - MCN's Phil West 

Despite all that, the big ZZR is actually something of a pussycat to ride! Though chunky and long, it’s not particularly cumbersome. It’s grunty, with light controls, making it a breeze in traffic.

Then, once out on the open road, it’s utterly slick, steadfast and smooth. Sure, it’s not exactly nimble or flickable, but it is surprisingly easy and predictable, with a monstrous powertrain that still delivers a hyper drive few other motorcycles can.

Common faults explored

High-end Kawasakis are usually quality pieces of kit, with few faults worth mentioning - especially when looked after - and that’s certainly true of this ZZR14. Although high performance, the engine is robust, the chassis is sturdy and dependable and the bodywork and equipment is quality and durable. That said, consumables get a hard life, so check the tyres, pads, chain and - being a big old bus - the bodywork, bar ends and levers for signs of drops.

Judicious additions

This ZZR is remarkably clean and original. Notable additions, however, include a black 'double bubble' screen (complete with gold anodised screws, which also make their way onto the fairing and which won’t be to everyone’s taste) plus a fruity Scorpion can – but that’s your lot.

Affection rekindled

If you’re after a Japanese hyperbike of this era, the choice usually boils down to either this or Suzuki’s Hayabusa. After our short ride, it’s evident the first generation ZZR still has an awful lot going for it.

It’s mind-warpingly fast, comfortable, classy and well-appointed (if lacking the electronic rider aids of the succeeding version). It’s also impressively timeless, durable and even reasonably versatile. 

Yes, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s also a big, long, heavy machine, but few motorcycles have such presence, stature and distance-crushing-ability – and all for so little money!

With thanks to: KH Motorcycles in Market Harborough (01858 288030) for the loan of our test bike.

Insurance:

Sample MCN Compare quotes for £4750 used hyperbikes, from cheapest to costliest:

The Mechanic: 'Sometimes first impressions aren’t all they seem'

Shaun Lock is the After Sales Manager at multi award-winning Bridge Motorcycles in Exeter

"I’d describe it as a bit of a workhorse. You don’t get many people buying them for pleasure and they tend to buy them for high mileage commuting.

"We’ve a few customers who use them for just that. One guy’s a doctor who uses his to visit loads of different hospitals and the ZZR14 does that pretty well. But, they have got a few issues that can cost quite a bit of money.

"The front brakes take an absolute hammering, going through pads - sometimes discs - with the calipers requiring overhauls as well. They’re also pretty heavy on front wheel bearings. Because of the weight and performance, the front end seems to take a lot of abuse.

'The radiators are seriously expensive' - Shaun Lock

"Then there’s the radiator – they’re seriously expensive and, again, because of the high mileage riding they’re used for, I’ve seen quite a few with radiators corroded away.

"Often they can look nice and shiny but as soon as you start jacking them up and checking over the chassis, you can tell they’ve had a bit of a hard life and done a good few miles. Look for wear and tear on the brakes and so on. You need to be careful and have a good look underneath the fairing, too.

"The engines are really strong, though. But then they’re so powerful, I guess they don’t get revved that hard! From a technician’s point of view they’re a nightmare to work on, especially for something like valve clearances, because the frame goes right over the top.

"You’ve got to do everything by feel as you can’t actually see anything. If you fancy doing it yourself, it’s probably one of the hardest bikes to do it on."

Fairings can hide corrosion

"Cosmetically, at first glance they do look good, but it’s only when you take the fairings off and get in behind them that you see how they can suffer.

"Accessories-wise, aftermarket cans are common, but they’re usually run of the mill quality ones that don’t cause any more issues than the standard ones. People also generally fit touring screens, heated grips, sometimes luggage. A main stand is a bonus and makes maintenance that bit easier.

"Overall, it’s a solid bike, but it’s also one you need to take a close look at. Sometimes first impressions aren’t all they seem with these bikes. They can look all nice and shiny, but be a bit of a horror story underneath."

Find your next two-wheeled companion at MCN Bikes for Sale.

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