A World beating Superbike: Kawasaki's ZX10-R

We were meant to have tested the ZX10-R a couple of months ago but someone (not one of us) managed to write-off the test bike the day before we should have picked it up, clever boy!

It's a very fitting time to be reviewing the ZX10-R as Jonathan Rea takes his bike to a record breaking third work title in World Superbikes. The ZX10's racing heritage is well founded and provides the basis for everything that goes on the street bike. Development is on the track and there is little if anything that makes it onto the production bike that isn't meant to make it faster, stop quicker and handle better.

Assisting the rider is a whole suite of electronic rider aids. You get Kawasaki Launch Control Mode (KLCM), Kawasaki Engine Brake Control (KEBC), Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC) and Kawasaki Corner Management Function (KCMF).

The KLCM offers three levels of adjustment, with riders able to take off with full throttle, with the system limiting engine speed and regulating wheel spin and lift. It is disengaged at over 93mph or from third gear onwards, as well as when engine temperature exceeds 100°C.

The Engine Brake Control allows engine braking to be reduced from that normally offered by the slipper clutch, with the setting saved until changed, including when the bike is turned off.

Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS) uses front and rear wheel sensors and also includes links with the ECU assessing throttle position, engine speed, clutch and gear position.

The Kawasaki Corner Management Function (KCMF) uses advanced modeling software and feedback from a compact Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) that gives an even clearer real-time picture of chassis orientation, KCMF monitors engine and chassis parameters throughout the corner – from entry, through the apex, to corner exit – modulating brake force and engine power to facilitate smooth transition from acceleration to braking and back again, and to assist riders in tracing their intended line through the corner.

What the ZX10-R takes to the street is a highly capable track and race bike that won't threaten to kill everyone that sits on it.

One of the most noticeable enhancements on the bike, direct from the race track, is the use of Showa’s Balance Free Forks and Balance Free Rear Cushion shock. On both systems damping is generated in an external chamber and compression and rebound are independent circuits.

Complimented the Brembo brakes and with the rider assists in play, the ZX10-R is one of the best handling litre sports bikes we've ridden.

It felt bulkier that others including BMW's S1000RR but the ZX10 handles better. Unlike some previous models, inputs to steering are quick and smooth and although we were initially cautious and were keen not to be the next one sliding down the road or trashing the bike in an ego-ending crash it wasn't long before the sheer pleasure of riding the Ninja kicked in and limits were getting closer to being found.

There is undoubtedly plenty of power on tap and its available throughout the rev range. If you're a bit wary of getting on the gas the bikes also has power modes that allows cutting back on the power to 80% (mid-power) and a lower power setting at around 50-60% of the available 210 Bhp.

Although we didn't try the power modes they could be a good way for riders new to litre sportsbikes to get used to the ride before unleashing the full potential.

The full potential of the ZX10-R is only ever likely to be reached on a race track but on the road its an adrenalin pumping beast, the kind you would expect to threaten your existence at every turn but with the rider aids working their mechanical and technological magic everything stays in place and the bike remains planted firmly on the road. The feel through the bars and the confidence the Showa suspension and Bridgestone tyres provide give the feeling of a smaller capacity bike with with big bike capacity.

The ZX10-R also comes with a up-only quickshifter but has an optional race ECU that will give clutchless downshifts too. Changing up and down the quickshifter is almost seamless. As you'd expect with a bike with the stature and racing heritage of the Ninja getting through the gears and up to top speed can be a very rapid affair!

Stopping the bike in a hurry isn't for the faint hearted either. Get hard on the brakes and the ZX10 dives to a stop as you feel the electronics maintain control of the writhing beast underneath you.

If there was anything we would consider changing of the ZX10-R we might adjust the position of the footrests (maybe a result of us getting older) but that is merely a personal preference and doesn't detract from the bike whatsoever.

It's clear that Kawasaki have taken a wealth of track development and their racing experience and built one of the best litre series sportsbikes available today.

Whether it is the best of them all of subjective but if we were to make a choice right now we've take it before all others in its class. That may change when the next set of new models are rolled out but for its Kawasaki's ZX10-R for us!

When the new ZX-10 (2018) comes out later this year it is pretty much the same bike with some cosmetic changes so expect the same great performance.



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