'Fastest' bike could be the last

First Published: The Sydney Morning Herald
Friday, March 24, 2000


For the price of a Toyota Corolla, Japanese motorcycle maker Kawasaki can supply you with a machine that accelerates from rest to 100 km/h in about three seconds - in first gear - and has a top speed of more than 300 km/h. It is so fast that the mirrors had to be designed in a wind tunnel.

But the Kawasaki ZX-12R, labelled as "the fastest production bike on the planet", could be the last of its type. In Europe, governments are calling for the fitment of speed limiters and, according to Drive's sources there, makers are discussing a self-imposed limit. An announcement is expected next month.

So concerned is Kawasaki about a possible backlash to the ZX-12R that it is downplaying performance. Nowhere in the promotional brochure is there a claim for power or acceleration. It describes the horsepower as "phenomenal" and says the engine "emits a howl that will haunt you forever".

The ZX-12R - aka the "Ninja" - is due on sale in Australia next month priced at $20,990. So far, only Britain's Motor Cycle News magazine has tested the bike on a race track in South Africa, but is yet to test it back-to-back with the reigning world number one, Suzuki's Hyabusa.

Kawasaki held the "world's fastest bike" mantle between 1990 and 1996 with a model capable of 280 km/h. It was overtaken in 1996 by Honda's Super Blackbird (285 km/h) until early 1999 when Suzuki released the Hyabusa (named after a Japanese bird of prey), which Australian Motorcycle News magazine clocked at 311 km/h using a radar gun - on an airstrip.

"The sad thing is, all these bikes are easy to ride and are user-friendly; they just happen to have a high top speed," said Ken Wootton, the editor of Australian Motorcycle News.

"These are no more dangerous than any other motorcycle. A motorcycle is only as dangerous as the person behind the handlebars."

Kawasaki spokesman David Baines said: "Not just anyone can buy a motorcycle like this. A 17-year-old car driver can put P plates on a Ferrari but motorcycle riders have many restrictions before they can get a bike like this."