Speed bleed


Speed Bleed
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The convoluted case of the ZX-12's missing mph
By David Edwards
June 2000

That hissing sound you hear is the air being let out of Kawasaki's balloon. The mighty ZX-12, pride of Akashi, intended to return Big K to its rightful place atop Vmax Mountain, is 10 miles per hour too slow. Insult to injury, even with its suspension slammed and a hired gun in the saddle, the 12 is slower through the quarter-mile than a stock Suzuki Hayabusa.

"It's an embarrassment," bemoans one frustrated Kawasaki official.

What happened?

The ZX-12 ran into a buzzsaw of political correctness and social responsibility, is what happened. There's not a lot of speaking on the record yet, but here's what we know:

Last year, a promotional video for the Hayabusa was shot on a two-lane stretch of German autobahn. It featured a couple of fast cars steaming along at the voluntary speed limit agreed to by most European auto-makers, 250 kilometers per hour (155 mph). Suddenly, a Suzuki lane-splits the two cars, busting past with an extra 50 kph in hand, easy.

Aired extensively, the footage did not sit well with certain European Community legislators, safety-crats and ecologically oversensitive "Greenies," already geared up to rid the world of frivolous personal transportation anyway, especially if the dreaded internal-combustion engine is involved. The Germans and French were particularly hacked.

Perhaps better than any bike-maker, BMW understands Europe's climate of political correctness (it was early with catalyzer exhausts and recyclable plastic bodywork). Last October, warning that continued escalation of the speed wars might lead to legislated limits or a ban of ultra-high-performance bikes altogether, BMW officials traveled to Japan. They proposed not a horsepower ban as might be expected from a company that produces just one 100-bhp bike, but a voluntary speed cap of 300 kph (186 mph).

A subsequent December meeting in Bologna between Japanese and European manufacturers sealed the ZX-12's fate. Delegates at that meeting agreed to "freeze and reduce" the top speed of their high-end sportbikes and to "cease competitive marketing strategies with respect to the maximum speed achievable" by those vehicles. By 2001, the agreement stipulates that no stock motorcycle will be capable of speeds in excess of 299 kph (185 mph) and that "a further step (in speed reduction) will be seriously considered." The 250-kph figure that cars now adhere to was suggested.

About to add a 197-mph fan to these flames, Kawasaki was forced into an abrupt about-face. A planned world press introduction was scrubbed while new electronic control units were made up. When the ZX-12 finally arrived (no intro, no fanfare, just, "Here's the bike and don't ask us anything 'cause we don't know"), the altered ECUs made sure the World's Fastest Bike would never be. A pity. Shot down by Euro-weenies.

The one silver ray in all this? Savvy speed-tuners, already in the process of changing over from camshafts and degree wheels to keyboards and microchips, will soon have a remedy. What the Black Box taketh away, the Black Box can also giveth.
I remember reading that when it came out in the magazine, Its disappointing that the "euro-weenies" dictate how fast U.S. production bikes can go (unmodified of course). What's next, bikes governed at the speed limit??
The day that happends is the day I build my own bike, in fact im already working on a car.

My truck is limited to 100mph(as soon as the speedo hits 100mph the engine makes this noise and until its going about 75mph and the gas peddle starts working again  
) Did GMC realize how dangerious that is, to be startled by that sound. I thought I blew something, or sent a rod thru the block.

Anybody know where that wire is? 1997 GMC Sierra
That just isn't right that they would make it cut out until you hit 75 again.

Although, on big trucks and full-size rear-wheel drive cars, speed limiters do serve a good purpose. With steel drive-shafts, sustained speeds over 110 mph will result in flexing due to harmonics and eventually the driveshaft will snap out of place, turning your car/truck into a nice javelin. Of course, if you have an aluminum drive shaft, this isn't a problem.