29 May 2012

2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R vs Suzuki Hayabusa

It was inevitable, we suppose. The toughest kid on the block will always have someone looking to knock him off the top of the food chain. But for Suzuki’s Hayabusa, that reign as the king of brute horsepower (and speed, at least before the onset of industry-wide speed limiters brought on by European government hysteria surrounding the 2000 Kawasaki ZX-12R) has been uninterrupted since the bike’s release in 1999. Even when the Hayabusa underwent a significant update in 2008, it wasn’t as if the Suzuki was in danger of being ousted from its throne; even a concerted effort by the previous generation Kawasaki ZX-14 (“Big Numbers”, April 2008) failed to topple the ‘Busa from its perch atop the sportbike pile.

Granted, there was a small blip on the ‘Busa’s reign when BMW’s reworked K 1300 S managed to come out on top of our comparison (“Warp Speed Ahead”, September 2009) by dint of its better overall performance, rather than just monster power. But BMW was unable to procure us a 2012 model in time for this comparison test; and it’s doubtful the Beemer would have stood much of a chance in this comparison once you read the details.

We’ve already covered both bikes’ tech details ad nauseam, so we’ll skip that portion and head right into the meat of the matter. Suffice it to say that for the loyalists out there (and there are many when it comes to this category…), it won’t matter what bike does what better — they’ll stick with their brand through thick and thin. But for those who are interested in how these bikes compare in daily life and overall performance, read on…

The “Hyper” in Hypersports Interestingly, the spec sheet on the Hayabusa states its seat height as 31.7 inches, while the Kawasaki is listed at 31.5 inches — but the Kawasaki definitely feels much taller than the ‘Busa from the saddle. Not that the ZX-14R makes you stand on your toes at a stop, but the spec sheets belie how each bike feels when you sit on it. Turning the key has the Suzuki’s analog dial gauges go through a test windup, while the ZX-14R’s LCD panel goes through a startup display depicting the bike’s distinctive front headlight profile.

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