ZX-14 Diary – Part 2

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Memphis, Tennessee is a legendary location. Whether speaking of Beale Street, the Rendezvous’ incredible dry-rub ribs, or the King of Rock and Roll, there is always something famous to enjoy in M-Town. From a long-time drag racer’s perspective, there is another legendary figure in the River City – ‘the KING of motorcycle drag racing’, Keith Dennis – and I decided to let him show off his skills on my ZX-14 ‘Diary’ bike at the AMA/Prostar Schnitz Memphis Blues Nationals on June 10th & 11th…read on.

Introduction to Diary Part 2 and brief description of events after Diary Part 1

My poor ZX-14 has been trapped in the shop for new product development and testing since Part 1 was completed. There have been no changes or even additional street miles, with the exception of the addition of World Wide Bearings Ceramic Wheel Bearing Kit.

To Re-cap: No engine cover had ever been removed from the bike prior to June 6, 2006, which is where my diary restarts (a few paragraphs down.)

The engine/bike is still COMPLETELY STOCK with NO additional chassis mods or additions (except as written in my Diary – part 1) such as an air shifter, gearing changes, ignition module, TRE, or removal of the secondary throttle plates etc. (There are plans to test these items soon. I have a proven structure developed over years of testing. All will come in due time.) And especially NO Nitrous Oxide as some internet gurus have professed! (FYI: I consider this allegation the highest of compliments!)

Current NON-STOCK aftermarket Bolt-on additions include:

  • Brock’s Performance (by Hindle) StreetSmart Exhaust System.
  • Brock’s modified 2004 ZX-10 Power Commander PC3usb with matching map.
  • Front forks lowered 1.25 inches in the stock clamps.
  • Brock’s Complete Radial Caliper Front End Lowering Kit.
  • Adjustable rear lowering links.
  • Brock’s Performance (by Spiegler, USA) brake line kit.
  • EK530DR2 non o-ring chain. (Stock front and rear sprockets–still!)
  • VP MR9 race fuel.
  • Alisyn Pro Drive 21 Oil <<0W.
    (<<0W means less than zero weight for race track use ONLY!)
  • World Wide Bearings ceramic wheel bearing kit.


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Sunday, June 4, 2006-
Day at local MX Park with family to “relax” before Diary, Part 2:

All is well in my life until I try to chase my 12-year-old over a jump (on my CR450F Motocross  bike) and come up SHORT! Damn, jammed my right wrist so hard that I can barely drive the truck home!

150 MPH in the quarter on 200 HP Street bike-no problem-BUT jump a little hump of dirt on my Motocross bike-BIG PROBLEM! Now, I need a comparably sized/talented rider to take over the riding portion of the ZX-14 project/diary. No chance I can launch and blip gas properly (to shift) to produce consistent passes on the 14.

Call Sonny Kerschner, “The Fastest Unknown,” from Columbus, OH to ask if he would help. “No problem,” he says. See you at Two-Wheel Tuesday (track night.) All-right! Back to the PLAN! Sonny won’t be called the ‘unknown’ for much longer, as I already know he is fast.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006-
Two-Wheel Tuesday at Kil-Kare Race Track:

After the installation of the ceramic bearings, I want/need a baseline of bike and rider before heading to Memphis. Sonny jumps on the bike and throws down a killer 9.289@151.03 on his FIRST ever pass on a 14!?!

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Nice! Looks like all is well until he tries to back it up. A string of 9.30’s/40’s and a frustrating tone about not being able to get used to the clutch prompts the first inspection of the clutch since I picked the bike up a few weeks back.

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As you can see buy the photo above, the steels are discolored. OF COURSE they would be discolored after around 50 passes without wheelie bars! You must intentionally slip the clutch to keep the bike on the ground, which subjects the components to temperatures over 500 degrees Fahrenheit! These clutches are tough, but they are not made of Kryptonite.

The good news is that none of the steels are warped and none of the fibers are smeared or glazed, which means they are FINE, so I put them back in exactly how they came out with a little oil to remove some of the dryness after so many passes.

Did the blind pig find an acorn on pass number one? I’m not sure, and it really doesn’t matter. I have a baseline (and also I remember that Keith Dennis – who will be riding the bike in a few days – likes his clutch set-up soft.) I can always stiffen the clutch and let Sonny have another shot after I return from Memphis.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006-
Dyno tests in hot weather conditions one day after Sonny’s 9.28 pass:

Remove bike from the trailer exactly as it was run the night before. The heat and humidity has arrived in the Dayton area since Part 1. I know (from experience) the HP numbers will be down. The question is, how much? The bike has thus far made its quickest ET pass ever. It is NOT SLOW. I am worried about the numbers because most people think Dyno’s should correct properly for such changes in atmosphere. And while they do correct, it’s not nearly as much as one would see on a crisp Spring or Fall day. The dyno can only correct up from the HP the bike makes in crap air, which is always lower. It’s a mess. The uninformed will be confused, but oh well. This is the same air we must ride/race in, and there is nothing we can do about it.

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The chart above shows the power is much lower with the exact same map/set-up as in Part 1. I attempt to produce more HP in the poor conditions by remapping. Also, leaning out the A/F ratio helps, but it will be Fall until I see nice HP from this system again.

I decide to install our Street Megaphone System for the Memphis tests because I now realize that I can use all the HP I can get! I also test some more prototype parts for street riders who care more about lower RPM HP. Personally, I think they are nuts! One tooth added to the rear sprocket will help torque more than anything I can do with a pipe, but when the customers ask…

Since the weather report for Memphis is forecasting WORSE conditions than here in Ohio, I decide to produce a ‘Hot Weather Street Megaphone Base Map’ for the trip. I am also curious about a same day apples to apples test with the Street Meg vs. the Gen 3 to reproduce the results we saw at Hindle.

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The Chart above shows the increase in power by switching from the Generation 3 system to the Street Megaphone system with mapping for the same conditions. Just like a Busa, the more HP the bike makes, the more it responds to our megaphone based system. Surprisingly, there was zero difference in power or torque with the baffle removed…just a WHOLE LOT more noise! I’m not getting old or anything like that, but I personally think an un-baffled megaphone is almost too loud to dragrace! I can’t hear myself think. My baffle went back in as soon as I picked up all of the items which rattled off of the dyno walls during the pull.


Thursday, June 8, 2006-
Off to Memphis:

During the trip down to Memphis, my girl and I decide to stop in Nashville for some BBQ at the world famous Jack’s on Broadway. Hey, a guy can’t claim to be too big to be fast any longer without knowing about such delicious treasures! The problem we always have in Nashville is that the rig is a big hassle to try to park in the Music City. NO PROBLEM this year! We have the 14 – a fantastic street bike – in the trailer! A quick lockdown of the rig in a Kroger’s parking lot, followed by the installation of the stock air cleaner, and we are off to Jacks. I have Rhonda sporting a backpack to return with some jars of the best BBQ sauce our kids have ever tasted. (Backpack?! See my ham sandwich comment in Part 1!)

Unbeknownst to us, we were inadvertently subjected to near zero mph operation as the city was hosting its annual CMA Music Festival, also known as Fan Fair. The 14 handled well 2 up as we cris-crossed the city streets trying to find a parking spot. As mentioned previously, there is a bit of engine heat felt as the fan attempts to cool such a rowdy engine. But, even in the serious Tennessee warmth, it was not unbearable and hardly noticeable once we finally got moving. The Street Megaphone sound trapped between city buildings once again reminded me that we are on the verge of being socially unacceptable with this system, which is (bizarre as it might sound), exactly what some of our customers have requested. I think it’s just fine–if you behave yourself!

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After our Nashville ride, we were off again to Memphis. As we neared the city limits I decided to try to reach Keith on his cell phone. “Yes…You have reached the king of motorcycle drag racing, Keith Dennis. Please leave a message.” his voice mail confidently boasted.

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Rider profile of Keith Dennis
Born: May 15, 1963 in Memphis, Tennessee
Height: 5’ 3”
Weight: 140 lbs.-in shorts
Nickname(s): Shine, Sunshine, Shorty, The Midget.

  • 1995/96 600 AMA/Prostar 600 SuperSport National Champion
  • Multiple record holder in Streetbike Shootout
  • 2003 AMA/Prostar Prostock National Champion
  • Top 5 Plate holder AMA/Prostar, multiple years

Largest grudge race purse: $20k (Just curious, did you win? “Yes!”)
Biggest threat: Larry McBride (“You know, those other guys don’t matter…”)

Friday, June 9, 2006-
AMA/Prostar Memphis Blues Nationals:

We arrived at the track where we met Keith and had the bike tech inspected for the weekend’s racing. After a through inspection from AMA/Prostar Technical Director, Dean Phelps, Shine jumped in line to make the first pass during the Friday ‘Tune and Test’ session. I asked him if he had yet had the chance to take a 14 down the track, and his response was, “Hell, this is the first time I’ve ever even sat on one. There aren’t any that I’ve seen here in Memphis.” I was going to tell him about some of the things we learned about riding the 14, but instead decided to just watch.

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Above are the results of Keith’s first pass ever on a ZX-14. He did a typical burnout–no dry hop. He just went up to the line and felt what he needed to know on his first launch. All who watched were impressed to say the least. 9.17@153.09 is a very nice start to the weekend. Note: At this time there were only 284 miles showing on the odometer. This bike is FAST!

Keith came back immediately for another pass. Attempt number two is a wheelie-fighting 9.25@153.42. After he returned, the first words out of his mouth were, “Ok, I know what she’ll take now. I won’t be going backwards any more.” Subsequent passes on Friday were in the 9.13 to 9.15 range with the conditions worsening steadily as the day progressed.

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During some cool down time for bike, rider, and crew, I decided to stiffen the clutch a bit to see if the bike would respond like I felt in part one and Sonny suggested after his first ride. I had a set of our Hayabusa Clutch mod spacers in the trailer, which seemed to be good start. I didn’t want to get the clutch too stiff after the success we had enjoyed up to this point. After some quick measurements (to be sure we wouldn’t have a problem with coil bind) and speaking to Rickey Gadson about how fast Shine was going in the heat, we headed back up to the line.


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The results of a small amount of additional static pressure to the clutch were immediate.

Shine stunned all watching with a 9.10@154.35. We were all giggling as we walked away; words cannot describe how miserable the conditions were at this point in the day. I decided that I HAD to know just how bad the air was. I stepped next door to borrow a trick little weather station from the Woska’s who were fine tuning their SuperSport bike.

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A mere 7 minutes after the quickest pass of the day, I decide to document the moment:

A Density Altitude of 3010 feet. WOW! We definitely would be running in the EIGHTS on a stock engine/chassis/foot-shifting bike if we were at Gainesville. Absolutely amazing!! The ZX-14 AND the Midget. (Click Here to learn about density altitude)

Saturday, June 10, 2006-
AMA/Prostar Memphis Blues Nationals:

We knew the 9.10 was going to be tough to beat from yesterday as the temperature and humidity kept rising steadily throughout the weekend. AMA/Prostar president, Keith “Scooter” Kizer, graciously allowed us to make a couple of exhibition passes during Saturday’s event. I decided to attempt to perform some mapping changes to squeeze a bit more out of the bike. Keith was making consistent enough passes for me to be able to document changes by comparing the 1/8 and 1/4 MPH’s in addition to back-half E.T. The results were a ‘disappointing’ 9.13 and 9.14 for the day, BUT I was able to squeak a bit of MPH out of the bike, so to say the least, I was happy as a tuner.

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Shine and Bobby trying to cool off in the blistering heat

Sunday, June 11, 2006-
AMA/Prostar Memphis Blues Nationals:

Sunday’s racing program was fast as possible to try to get everyone finished up and out quickly. The forecast was predicting a high of 99 degrees, and people were struggling with the heat. The severity of the situation was more evident as ambulances were seen steadily cruising the pits to help those who couldn’t take it any longer and had passed-out. Prostar, once again, allowed us to make a couple of exhibition passes, and Keith responded with another 9.14 out of the sweltering trailer. Afterwards, I received a call from Sonny asking how Shine was doing on the bike. I told him about Friday’s 9.10 and the proceeding ‘bracket bike’ 9.13’s and 14’s. Then, I made a BIG MISTAKE–I let Sonny speak to Keith on my cell phone! What the hell was I thinking?! I’m going to spare you the details because I’m sure there will be some minors reading the Diary, Part 2. But, I can tell you that Keith boldly exclaimed that he put two tenths on Sonny and would continue to do so anytime Sonny asked. Note to self: Cell phone battery will die if two competitive street racers are allowed to trash-talk and argue about their talents!

After Keith was finally eliminated from the SuperSport competition he was racing in (which only happened after he had made it to the semi-finals of Supersport on his first race of the year on another bike he had never ridden,) I asked if he wanted to try one last shot on the 14 before the finals so the crowd (at it’s largest of the weekend) could watch. You want to get Shine’s full attention, give him the stage and step aside.

Once again, Prostar event director, Gene Burgstrom, allowed us to jump on the track. Armed with the ammunition that Sonny thought he could hang, pound for pound, AND with the stands occupied with fans anxiously awaiting the finals, Shine readied for the pass. I was gasping for air after running up the tower stairs to sit with announcer, Doland Bland, who called the pass. With Tim Breymaier and his Reelvue guys sweeping video cameras all around the solo run, a mere mortal would have probably succumb to the pressure. Doland and I watched the monitor as Shorty pulled the trigger on the quickest and fastest production motorcycle on the planet.

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Watch Shines 9.09 pass! Click here to download
(6.5mg Windows Media File)

I watched from the timing tower as Rickey Gadson reacted when the scoreboard flashed the number. He placed his hand on the side of his shaking head and walked off in amazement as a 9.09@154.85 flashed up on the board! The quickest and fastest pass to date on ANY stock motorcycle with bolt on performance components in officially the WORST conditions of the weekend.

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After my ZX-14s successful weekend, we (Vince Woska, Jr. & Sr. AND I) were greeted by one of Prostar’s most thorough Tech teardowns in the HISTORY of SuperSport. We didn’t leave the track until after 10p.m. Not until after ripping our record setting GSX-R1000 to the crankshaft. After deciding to stay the night and leave in the morning, the trip home was barraged by calls from Sonny, almost BEGGING me to bring the bike to Two-Wheel Tuesday EXACTLY how it was ridden in Memphis to give him another chance at Shine’s times.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006-
Kil-Kare’s Two-Wheel Tuesday:

In an attempt to give Sonny another shot AND document the performance of the ZX-14 by a non-mutant (Shine), I agreed to bring the bike to Sonny without even removing it from the trailer since the Memphis race.

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Rider profile of Walter (Sonny) Kerschner:
Born: 9-22-67 in Columbus, Ohio
Height: 6 ft.
Weight: 170 lbs. in shorts.
Nickname: Fastest Unknown
Largest grudge race purse: $5k (Just curious, did you win? “Yes!”)
Biggest threat: Keith Dennis

Sonny’s first couple of passes were ‘trying MUCH too hard’ messes. I began to wonder if he could calm down enough to get it done. I decided to see if my wrist had healed enough (from the MX incident) for me to ride the 14 myself. I asked Sonny to take a break while I gave it a shot. Even with my wrist wrapped, the slightest landing from a wheelie brought a tear to my eye, and there was no chance of shifting correctly because my wrist just wasn’t ‘quick’ enough to shift properly.

As usual, my trusty crew chief, Marc Huelsman, was watching the action. He walked over to me and promptly FIRED me from the position of riding my own motorcycle?! He then calmly explained to Sonny that he needed to launch at a MUCH lower RPM and let the bike do the work.

The results were instant: a 9.23@152.07 followed by a 9.21@151.46 (hot engine.)

Sonny explained to Marc that he was leaving at around 1800 rpms which calmed the bike down enough for him to get the gas open correctly in first gear. “Oh my God! Do you know how deadly I would be on the street with this thing? I swear, it will leave in the grass!” the Fastest Unknown exclaimed.

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Sonny just KNEW he could go teens….but after a few more attempts, he finally called it a day.

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Just for kicks and to prove how bulletproof the clutch in this bike is after 60 of so passes, I decided to allow my long time friend, Joe Holt, to take a lap. Joe is uhm…bigger than most guys at a bike-bending 345 pounds! The track was closing and I had to plead with track manager, Rick Chrysler, to have his tired employees stay for one last pass…”for the sake of the Diary,” I explained. Rick reluctantly agreed. Joe’s instructions from me consisted of pointing him to the water box and telling him to hurry the hell up!

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Joe left a bit soft then packed the wheel all the way through first gear! After he returned, he said he was sure he could go NINES with a little practice. As I said, the ZX-14 is amazing. Joe is ONE HELL of a rider; he is just big. Most would need to imagine a nine second pass with your girlfriend or wife on the back just to have a glimpse of Joe’s everyday drag race world!

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006-
Back to the Dyno:

For the sake of journalistic integrity, I reluctantly drug my tired ass back to the dyno to test the bike after the additional mapping I had performed in Memphis. I rolled the bike up EXACTLY as it was when Keith ran his 9.09 and Sonny ran his 9.20.

I would like all interested in the results to take a very deep breath and open their mind before viewing the chart below. I will try to explain. I promise!

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As if attempting to explain the discrepancies between weather conditions and HP numbers from ‘corrected’ dyno readings wasn’t enough—deep breath—

Here goes: The above chart shows the horsepower measured after the quickest and fastest passes were logged compared to the HP readings optimized on the dyno. The quickest runs were made with what APPEARS to be significantly less HP? (FYI: as a general rule, we calculate that it requires around a 3hp gain on the dyno to go 1 MPH faster at the drag strip on a bike like the ZX-14.)

Now, how can a bike go faster at the track with less HP on the dyno? The answer is the result of the RAM AIR affect on late model sport bikes WHILE MOVING. Truth be told, the fuel injection systems on modern bikes are not very sophisticated compared to those on automobiles. Because there is no O2 sensor present, the bike makes an educated guess as to how much fuel should be sent to the engine at any given RPM/speed/throttle position and a host of other factors. In Diary, Part 1, we realized that the ZX-14 was given a substantial amount of extra fuel beginning at around 8K and gradually sloping richer towards redline. Did Kawasaki make a mistake, or was this on purpose to prevent engine damage during high speed runs, or was it to help the bike perform better at the track? Well, we know it wasn’t the latter since we were able to go faster at the track with the stock exhaust and Power Commander which prevented this excessively rich condition. My guess is they were playing it safe; their R&D team isn’t likely to have made many mistakes.

I’m also making the presumption that Kawasaki engineers realize that the single most important modification that most new owners make is the addition of an aftermarket exhaust system. In my opinion, the stock mapping of the ZX-14 (less Power Commander) is better suited for an aftermarket exhaust than with the stock system. These guys are VERY sharp which is something most racers need to learn to appreciate. Most armchair, internet experts have no business second guessing the development work that goes into one of these marvels. I always suggest that new owners leave their bike alone until a trusted expert figures out the odds and ends of a new machine because it’s FAR less hassle, and you don’t have to worry about breaking your own bank if you make an irreversible mistake.

The chart above shows that the map which allowed the bike to go faster at the track is actually too rich to make optimum power on the dyno. Too rich? I thought it was BOILING HOT with stagnant air in Memphis?! Every tuner knows you would need to lean down the Air Fuel mixture in conditions such as these. Generally, this is true, but we made a change RELEVANT to the bike’s educated guess on how much fuel is needed. Apparently the 14’s ECU was not supplying enough fuel to allow the engine to accelerate it’s hardest on the track. We added more fuel, and the bike went faster. FYI: some models overcorrect naturally, so they want less fuel. Generally, we notice that this trend is typically consistent between models of the same year.

Dyno’s are a wonderful tool, but just like anything else, there are MANY factors involved in every aspect of the operation of an engine/motorcycle. We simply don’t have the ability to measure them all. We typically install an Innovate Motorsports Wide Band A/F Meter on our bikes to correlate A/F readings on the dyno verses at the track with the bike moving. Quite honestly in this instance, I didn’t have the time, and there was NO CHANCE of fitting the unit to the 14 without much work and fabrication. I tuned the old fashioned way with the consistent rider and time clocks which measure the real world performance as well as can be expected

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Rider profile of Brock Davidson

Born: April 1, 1965 in Charleston ,WV (raised in Dayton, OH since 1969)
Height: 5’ 9”
Weight: 185 lbs.-in shorts
Nickname(s): Brockster, Brocky, The Brock
Accomplishments: Something about running seven’s on a streetbike?
Largest grudge race purse: $599.00 (Over 10 years ago – no need to claim as income…under $600!)
Biggest threat: Rhonda’s cooking, chocolate and dirt bikes!

I hope you have enjoyed reading ‘The Diary’ as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I would like to thank all involved for helping us begin to figure out the world’s latest two-wheel, go-fast rocket ship. Brandi at Dragbike.com is the BEST, along with Scott and the rest. Dean Shields at American Made Cycles will probably want my first born grandson for the hassle I put him through during this project! It seemed like every time he hoisted a HUGE Harley up on our Dyno, I had him pulling it off for Diary work. Everyone at AMA/Prostar bent over backwards to get us on the track during their busy schedule. Reelvue captured all of the video action at the race track. Keith and Joe helped display the broad range of rider sizes and talents that the ZX-14 can accommodate. Sonny, quite frankly, did a better job of riding my ZX-14 than I could have done myself. He is one of the best riders I have ever seen for his physical size. I personally feel that I can go mid 9.20’s at my current skill/practice level and physical size. I will find out as soon as I get a chance to ride healthy.

Finally, on a more personal note, I truly enjoy the ZX-14. I have said it many times in the past several weeks: if you are going to purchase a fast bike and add bolt-on components alone, the ZX-14 is nearly impossible to beat. This is especially true if you like to drag race your street bike. If you want the fastest engine you can build, I feel the Hayabusa still has a bit of an edge from a big HP, aftermarket, go-fast perspective. As I “mature” (??!!!!) I have grown increasingly fond of not working like a dog to go fast, not only during the build process but in the repair area also. Any bike that can run in the eights with minor chassis mods and bolt-on horespower goodies, with stock engine reliability and hassle free maintenance gets my vote as spectacular. My hats off to all of the folks at Kawasaki–“Nice job.”

Good Luck and GO FAST!

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To Talk about the ZX-14 Diary or ask Brock questions, please visit his forum by clicking here