PROPER PICS WILL FOLLOW: This will/has appear(ed) in MCN on June 21, 2000 FROM the moment I first twisted the throttle in earnest, I've been giggling like a gibbon experimenting with helium. Having waved goodbye to my Hayabusa in February, I wasn't expecting to notice a huge leap forward with the ZX-12R. But the seat of my pants immediately told me different. If the big Suzuki was powerful beyond belief, the ZX-12R is at that place where they don't even know what belief means. It turns your eyes red, fills your head with naughty thoughts and starts churning out your body's natural drugs in such quantities that sniffer dogs will start following you home. If only Daniella Westbrook had discovered the ZX-12R before she discovered cocaine. I was absolutely buzzing about the alien-faced beast (that's the 12R, not Daniella) even before it was run in. Now I know some of you will grumble and want to start asking awkward questions when you hear the ZX-12R needs running in for 2000 miles (that's a set of tyres these days mate) but let me put you behind the clocks. For the first 500 miles you are limited to 4000rpm and that is no more exciting than Channel Five's "erotica". In top you'll still be in a position to offend magistrates on motorways - just about. But four tanks of fuel will take you to that first service so the pain isn't too severe. After the first service things get a little fruitier. Now we have 6000rpm to play with. In top, this will have magistrates automatically banning you ??d then some. And we've only got to stick to this for another 500 miles. Come the joyful day when 1000 clicks up on the LCD milometer and you have performance beyond that of almost any other bike on the road. Now you can hit 9000rpm in top - if you dare. This takes you to speeds best left to the back straight of Hockenheim. Our magistrate would have a heart attack. Go above 8000rpm and there's another surge like the one you get being tipped off the steepest big dipper you can imagine. Fighter pilots would be willing to compare notes. Twisting the throttle in this region, even in top, results in the front just begging to come up and the arrival of the horizon so fast that blinking is not an option. And this is all accompanied by a mournful music only the ZX-12R makes. Listen to one passing at speed. No other two-wheeler makes a noise like it. It's like a vacuum cleaner, the kind you might find doing the business at the centre of a black hole. From the saddle all you hear is the howling of winds at speeds John Kettley would be issuing severe warnings about. Tuck in and there's no engine noise, just induction roar and a sound not unlike an out-of-control tube train. Move your head up and down and you can change the tone - there's simply minutes of entertainment in that on a long motorway journey. Oh, and in case you need reminding, we still haven't run this red devil in. Those first 2000 miles did pass eventually, but like I say, I didn't feel I was missing out on too much. And as they came and went, so did my first set of tyres. I'm now on a replacement set of Dunlop D207s. No wonder they wear pretty quick - not only is the bike churning out more grunt than a Wimbledon fortnight, the tyres themselves are as sticky as you'd like. On bright and dry June mornings, while the roads are still quiet and your biggest hazards are the bleary eyed songbirds who haven't quite tuned into the day yet, coming out of tight turns with the power on as hard as you dare is one of life's more intense experiences. Some people live an entire lifetime and never feel anything quite so good. Does it pump adrenaline? Do GPs miss Doohan? It forces you into the unblinking stare. Your pupils dilate, your heart-rate rises and your mouth dries. And with all the fight-or-flight responses comes a quickening of all your senses. You'll smell a pool of diesel a mile off, see a pheasant about to walk out even further ahead and feel your tyres caress and kick at every ripple of the road. This is what we mean when we say motorcycling makes us feel alive. Now the Kawasaki is fully run in and able to blur vision and bend time with one jerk of the right wrist, my wife decides she wants to go on the back. Fine. "Why hasn't it got any grabrails?" she inquires. Why indeed. A ZX-6R does, so does a ZX-9R. Having been on the back of a ZX-6R myself and struggling to keep hold using the grabrails, I think I understand the logic of losing them from the 12. Try using them when the fuel-injection is being called upon to offer optimum fuelling and your passenger will be tumbling down the road. Holding tight to the rider is your only option. There is some considerable fannying about to be done to remove the pillion seat cover, involving a screwdriver and a fair amount of stretching and pulling. If you take a passenger regularly you're likely to leave it off. You can't tweak the rear pre-load as I am used to doing on other marques when taking a pillion. Thankfully, the 12 is happy enough two up without adjustment. I may have a fiddle with the compression and rebound before I tackle any two-up touring though - and I plan a bout of that in Scotland early in July. One thing that makes life easier for rider and pillion when you want to make use of the brain rattling acceleration is the fact that the seats are made of a grippy material that stops you sliding around. It prevents your butt flying backwards the moment you open the throttle. You can shift buttocks to make use of its excellent handling easily enough though. It looks more like a sports bike than the Hayabusa does, and it handles more like one, too. Of course, the Hayabusa can be picked up a lot cheaper than the ZX-12R, but probably not as much cheaper as you'll have thought. With a list price on the road of ?0 you'd expect a latest-and-greatest-not-many-about-yet bike like the 12R to be deal-proof. Oh no. I got the price of an official bike down to ?0 without too much trouble and felt pretty good about myself until a friend of a friend claimed he'd bagged his for ?0. One area I have saved a few quid on is insurance. It is one of the extremely few benefits of getting older (and I'm now a ripe old 34) that prices do start coming down, even for monster bikes like this. The insurance price you'll see quoted in my figures is fully comp with Norwich Union. It's about ?less than it would otherwise be because I've passed my advanced test with RoSPA to gold standard. Still, with the amount of tyres I fully expect to chew-up and spit-out this coming year, I have a feeling I'll need every penny. PURCHASE DETAILS Bought new in May 2000 for ?0 on the road from Corby Kawasaki, Corby, Northants (01536-401010) List price is ?0 otr. Free Kawasaki Riders' Club membership and RAC cover. INSURANCE GROUP (NU, max 17) Group 16 SERVICING AT Corby Kawasaki: First service ?4000 miles ? 7500 miles ? 12,000miles ? VALUE NOW 8000 (private) 7450 (trade) MILES TO DATE 2500 AVERAGE MPG TO DATE 34.8mpg BASIC RUNNING COSTS TO DATE Depreciation: ? Insurance: ? Chain lube:?9 Servicing: ?Tyres (and fitting): 1 Set Dunlop D207s ? (fitted) Fuel: ?.60 TOTAL: ?33.41 COST PER MILE: 69p ACCESSORIES Aegis titanium-look tank pad ?9 (fitting time, 2min) DIY TASKS completed Adjust chain every 400 miles VERDICT Build quality 90% Panel fit ain't perfect Reliability 100% On the button Easy to work on? 70% Everything's under cover Long term appeal 100% Every ride a winner OVERALL 95% Yahoo
If someone other than me has written an article, I'll be sure to include a byline at the bottom.