Honda CBR1100 XX Superblackbird, Suzuki Hayabusa and Kawasaki ZX-12R – what’s common between these three motorcycles? Among the motorcycles that are known as the fastest motorcycles in the world, these three have been the most popular. They played a vital role about how the future generations of sportbikes would perform at the turn of the 21st century.
The Blackbird was the world’s fastest motorcycle from 1996 until Hayabusa came and trumped it in performance. Then, in the year 2000, the Hayabusa almost got trumped by the Kawasaki’s then latest weapon – the ZX-12R. If not for the virtual Gentlemen’s Agreement, Kawasaki was well on its way to outperforming the Suzuki falcon in the game of top speed! They weren’t really supposed to wait till the mighty ZX-14R.
But the Ninja ZX-12R is indeed a very special motorcycle. It would appear that it was poised for great things but the so called “Agreement” spoiled the party a little bit. Kawasaki intended to destroy the Hayabusa in the overall performance (and especially in the top speed). It is said that the initial few lots of the ZX-12R when it was launched in 2000, were unrestricted and could reach a top speed of anywhere between 320 to 330 km/h. It is the reason why the speedos of the earlier ZX-12Rs are marked up to 350 km/h.
But the story goes like this – that Kawasaki had to make almost instantaneous changes in the ECU of their flagship motorcycle in 2000 to restrict its top speed to 300 km/h as the “agreement” came into effect. But we did say that it was poised for great things and it did partially achieve them. Even though the ZX-12R’s top speed was quickly handicapped, it remained the world’s most powerful production motorcycle till 2005 thanks to its ram-air inducing 190 BHP of maximum power at 10,500 RPM. Hayabusa, at that time, produced around 178 BHP and only when it was revised in 2008 did it produce around 194 BHP of power.
The ZX-12R was a fantastic machine for a variety of reasons. Its massive power was one. Then it was the dimensions, it looked almost like a litre class Superbike in the company of the bulkier Hayabusa and the Superblackbird. It was like a more toned up heavyweight bodybuilder! It used an aluminium monocoque frame in which the airbox was integrated. The purpose of such a frame is to make the motorcycle narrower and more aerodynamic both of which are vital in a sportbike.
In our quest to find 100 ultimate motorcycles, we were lucky to come across one unrestricted ZX-12R and looking at its speedo showing 350 km/h sent shivers into our spine! It is a sight which is impossible to be found today. And this particular ZX-12R belongs to none other than Dr Arun Thareja, the founder of the famous GODS (Group of Delhi Superbikers) motorcycle club.
And even though he has a total of five extremely fast motorcycles in his garage, which includes the likes of the Hayabusa, ZX-10R and a ZX-14R, the 12R remains his personal favourite and we understand why. Because it is not bound by the Gentlemen’s Agreement, it would beat all other motorcycles as far as the top speed is concerned. That’s the 17 years old motorcycle for you and us!
Having a motorcycle like this is like carrying a piece of motorcycling history, an event, which changed the dynamics of how motorcycles are made beyond the year 2000.
Dr Thareja’s ZX-12R is slightly personalized as per his requirements. The sprocketing has been altered for better initial pick-up. Originally, the ZX-12R is known to touch the 100 km/h mark in less than 3 seconds, so it’s anybody’s guess how much quicker his motorcycles is! Then there’s the aftermarket air-filter for better engine breathing and the Two-Brothers slip-on.
It is impeccably maintained but don’t raise your hopes up, he doesn’t intend to sell it ever and so you won’t find this particular ZX-12R on OLX. Although, you might get lucky with some other model.
Spending the time with this ZX-12R was like travelling back in time and witnessing the future (now present) of performance motorcycles in the making. We would like to thank Dr Arun Thareja for giving us this unforgettable opportunity.
And for Kawasaki, what a motorcycle you made, and we would like to say that the ZX-12R has indeed been succeeded by a worthy Hypersport motorcycle in the ZX-14R.