Seventeen years old. Many have passed since Kawasaki … joined the global trend of increasing the displacement of super sports flagships – retiring de facto the ZX-7R – with the 2004 ZX-10R. A model that, thinking of the maxi, marked a clear break with the previous ZX-9R, certainly a handsome bike but with too many concessions to tourism to be able to aim for the top of that category where Yamaha YZF-R1 and Suzuki GSX-R1000 shared the successes of public and critics.
It has since passed lots of water under the bridges. The Ninja ZX-10R has constantly evolved, alternating performance evolutions with refinements that have made it more usable. Since 2012, the year in which the Akashi manufacturer completed the redefinition of its racing programs – from the 2009 MotoGP disengagement to the return to Superbike with the PBM team – through the agreement with the Spanish team Provec-Motocard, the development benefited from the experience in Superbike.
Nine years and seven world titles later (one with Tom Sykes in 2013, and six consecutive with Jonathan Rea from 2015 to 2020) here we are, commenting on the most recent version of a Ninja ZX-10R that – at least in Johnny’s hands – doesn’t it seemed to be in great need of revisions.
It is true, in our comparisons it has not shone for some years due to those Euro regulations that have emptied it a lot at low and medium revs and a very … Japanese ratio (euphemism for senselessly long) but at a competitive level it never seemed too much out of breath.
In Akashi, however, they firmly believe in the world of derivatives as a test bench for the development of the series product. So, to simplify Johnny’s life a little and to continue improving their flagship, the arrival of the Euro-5 brings with it a whole series of improvements – in terms of chassis but also of engine, thinking about the ZX-10RR – what a damage a result greater than the sum of the individual parts.
We took to the track, on the renewed Cremona circuit, to finally touch the new Kawasaki super sports car practically at the same time as its arrival in the dealerships, at the price of 19,890 euros. Here’s how it went …
How it is made
But let’s take a step back: let’s see what has changed on the Kawasaki super sports car. The first aspect that catches the eye is obviously the aerodynamic package, with fins integrated into the fairing under the headlights, which convey the air flow and determine an increase in downforce of about 17% more than that of the previous Ninja. Which had no aerodynamic appendages, you might say, but in reality the shape of the windshield was still designed to generate downforce, albeit in a less evident way.
To this is added a plexiglass of the 40 mm raised windshield, which works together with the aforementioned fins and the new tail design to generate a low pressure area behind the driver’s back, improving both aerodynamic efficiency (+ 7% a rider on the saddle) and ergonomics in sporty riding, with more open and advanced handlebars (as on Rea’s bike) and 5 mm raised footpegs.
Staying on the subject of the bridge, it stands out (finally) the new color TFT display with racing screen and Bluetooth connectivity for association with the Rideology app which replaces the previous – and obsolete, let’s face it – LCD unit, but also cruise control and the optional heated grips. The headlights are based on direct-projection Mitsubishi LED units, a first on a motorcycle.
And it is also worth noting the presence, on the back of the dashboard behind the plexiglass, of the river mark – the symbol that recalls the ideogram meaning “river”, that is precisely coffee in Japanese – that Kawasaki reserves for its top products, returned to grace Akashi’s bikes with the first H2 of 2014.
Moving on to the chassis, the pivot (with eccentric adjustment over a range of + -1 mm) has been lowered by 1 mm, with a swingarm extended by 8 mm, while the fork boasts plates with offset increased by 2 mm (and a ‘ stiffer lower unit) defining a 10 mm (1450 mm) longer wheelbase which helps to increase stability and traction out of corners. Other characteristic sizes include 105mm trail and a 25 ° steering head angle
Of course, the suspension setting is different, with springs having an elastic constant reduced by 0.5 N / mm in the Showa BFF inverted fork and increased instead in the Showa BFRC monoshock, activated by Horizontal Back Link levers. The electronically controlled Ohlins steering damper remains.
The braking system is edited by Brembo with monobloc M50 calipers, 330 mm discs and radial pump. The tank has a capacity of 17 liters, the curb weight is declared in 207 kg.
The 998 cc in-line four-cylinder with finger rocker valve control (introduced with the previous version) now it is equipped with an oil cooler like on the Superbike, and has been updated with many small changes to comply with the Euro-5 standard, with particular attention to the exhaust and catalyst units. So it was possible keep the maximum power unchanged, which stands at 203 horsepower at 13,200 rpm (which become 213 with the airbox under pressure) with a maximum torque value of 11.7 kgm at 11,400 rpm.
In order to improve its exploitation the ratios have been changed both at the gearbox level (with the first, second and third gears shortened) and at the final drive level, with a chainring that goes from 39 to 41 teeth. The rear derailleur is equipped with a quickshifter with engagement and downshift support.
The e-package sees the adoption of the Bosch inertial platform which, together with the system ride-by-wire goes to define strategies for four riding mode (Sport, Road, Rain plus customizable Rider) which mix the settings of power curves (three levels), S-KTRC sport traction control (six levels), KLCM launch control, KEBC engine control and KIBS ABS cornering.
For almost exclusively racing use, Kawasaki also offers the Ninja ZX-10RR limited to 500 units. The engine gains 400 rpm (to compensate for any penalties provided for by the Superbike regulations) thanks to the adoption of pins, lightened titanium connecting rods and single-segment pistons plus oil scraper (paired manually and individually) Pankl.
The result is 204 horsepower (214 with airbox under pressure) at 14,000 rpm, with a small sacrifice in terms of torque (11.4 kgm at 11,700 rpm). The entire delivery curve moves up by 500 rpm
In terms of chassis, the RR adds aeronautical braided fittings for the braking system and forged Marchesini rims – also available in kits for the ZX-10R – fitting Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires in place of the Bridgestone S22 of the ZX-10R, again in sizes 120 / 70ZR17 and 190 / 55ZR17. The price? It goes up to € 28,990.
How are you
The (renewed) Cremona circuit is unfortunately flooded by rain. Fortunately, “our” Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10Rs are fitted with rain tires, which allow us to at least get a first impression on the evolution of the Akashi super sports car.
The driving position has changed, significantly modernizing. Now you sit down with the correct triangulation for driving well of body, with the knees bent correctly and the right load on the handlebars: it will make no difference to those who prepare a racing bike, but for the “standard” user the matter is quite different. On the contrary, the Ninja maintains its… spaciousness, welcoming riders of all sizes well. And now, the glance on the blocks and the dashboard is truly gratifying.
Chassis chapter: the rain tires and the related set-up tend to “soften” a lot the behavior of the bikes, so it is difficult to accurately assess the progress made by the ZX-10R. Certainly, however, the impression is that of a lighter bike when changing direction, even if it is difficult to distribute the merits between the cycling updates and the aforementioned more effective driving position. Just as surely they remain the granite front that has always distinguished the Ninja, capable of instilling great confidence in the driver, and braking stability – a situation in which the ZX-10R does just fine, even if it lacks a bit of initial bite on the lever. Impossible, in these conditions, to make other considerations.
On the contrary, the improvement made in terms of engine responsiveness through the shortening of the ratios is immediately evident: the response is now brilliant even at speeds below 8,000, even if of course the mid-range boost of the “oversize” competitors or with variable valve timing systems is missing. The oomph at the top is really tasty, and while paying something in terms of maximum power for the category references, if the Ninja’s thrust is not enough for you, you have a guaranteed career in competitions.
The electronics seem to work very well, even if it is necessary to wait for a more convincing test to verify its functioning in more significant conditions. A small note we feel to move it to the quickshifter, in its grafting action. Flawless when you push the engine to tickle the limiter, but with a too pronounced cut in the mid-range: when you anticipate the gearshift to make the bike run, the engine “lacks” for a fraction of a second too long, losing efficiency and a little ‘of coherence of structure. A sign – perhaps, and we would like to emphasize the perhaps – of an electronics somewhat linked to road use.
The impression – we say it once again, waiting for a more convincing test – is however that of a bike in which few, targeted tweaks have rejuvenated the ZX-10R in an instant. A sign that the substance, the basic project was and remains valid. Jonathan Rea’s rivals are warned…
Who is the Kawasaki ZX-10R for?
Akashi’s super sports car is, in today’s super sports car segment, one of the few that could (perhaps) get by on the road without requiring a therapist at the end of each lap, and even though it is not even remotely conceivable to exploit more than 20% of its potential. on the bumpy Italian roads – but also going abroad, with asphalts pulled at billiards the figure does not go up much – you can almost enjoy it even outside the circuits.
Of course, it is still on the track that you can explore something more of its potential and really enjoy it, but – we said – on the street it is probably one of the few super sports cars still vaguely usable, and on the track continues to please him very much for the confidence that its front end can instill in the pilot but also for the furious thrust at high revs. Now, with the arrival of the TFT dashboard, it is also decidedly more rewarding in the glance from the bridge.
In this regard, we regret that Kawasaki has not re-proposed the ZX-10R SE version with Showa semi-active suspension, which would have offered something more both in this situation and in amateur use on the track, and that it is no coincidence that the Akashi manufacturer had reserved for the “R” version and not “RR”. How do you say? This or the “RR”? Assuming that one of the five planned for Italy is still in circulation, if you don’t have to run (at least) the CIV, forget it …
Moto: Kawasaki ZX-10R 2021
Weather: Rain, 16 °
Location: Cremona Circuit
Casco: HJC RPHA 11
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