Kawasaki doesn’t redesign the 2009 ZX-10R although there have been question marks related to its doubtful approach on the most recent model years. Still, the Ninja is a high-performing sports motorcycle (no mechanical changes either) which lets no room for error in the liter class so it requires its fair share of additions consisting in nicer green and white, bronze and black color schemes.
The new colors diminish its ugly nose and make a Kawi fan “miss” the design drawbacks, especially if it lives in Europe and can go for the all-white model now available on the old continent.
Ok, so the bike may not be new (in fact, we’re eagerly expecting the 2010 model year which is supposed to be a big hit), but there’s plenty to it in order to keep on backing up the Ninja name. Kawasaki’s goal, like every other Japanese manufacturer’s, was to deliver the ultimate superbike, a machine combining power with finesse, sharp handling with accuracy as well as attractive looks with no killer riding position. And, as far as we can recall, the Green team has their Ninja ZX-10R powered by a carefully tuned 998cc, four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC inline-four engine with four valves per cylinder. This delivers a strong mid-range rush mostly thanks to the fuel injection system with 43mm Keihin throttle bodies that is there also to provide an impressive maximum torque - 83.2 lb-ft at 8,700 rpm – and maximum output - 200 hp at 12,500 rpm – which is more than we’ve ever expected for a street legal motorcycle.
The top speed in excess of 180 mph is also due to the six-speed gearbox ensuring a constant power rush. All engine capabilities are properly valued so it’s just a matter of refining the incredible power delivery and that engine finesse that we’ve been talking about. Kawasaki’s system taking care of that is the Ignition Management System. This was created precisely to deal with brusque acceleration in order to ensure that smooth power delivery at all times, especially during races. It works by monitoring parameters such as the engine speed, throttle position, the bike’s speed as well as the gear position and different engine components temperatures in order to intervene only when necessary. Smart and effective!
From what concerns the chassis, we’re expecting proper front-rear balance while the race-ready suspensions and performance brakes indicate how the 2009 Ninja ZX-10R is destined to be ridden on the track. The twin-spar frame achieves a recommended balance between rigidity and resistance while the pressed beam swingarm featuring a top-mounted brace significantly contributes both at maintaining stability at fast speeds and rear end accuracy during sharp cornering.
Ninja’s fully-adjustable 43mm inverted fork features 4.7 inches of travel and stand out thanks to the DLC coating while the fully adjustable Uni-Trak rear suspension provides 4.9 inches of travel. At both ends, the wheels measure 17 inches in diameter, but the additional disc brakes diameters differ. So up front, we’ll be working with a pair of 310mm petal discs with dual four-piston radial-mount calipers and at the rear with a single 220mm petal disc with an aluminum single piston caliper because independently of a bike’s capabilities to go fast it will eventually have to stop and that’s as scary as high speed sometimes (hmm…for the passenger, of course).
Also, knowing that the weight needing to be stopped is as low as possible (so easy on the burgers you all) has the same advantage as when powerfully accelerating. In this case, curb weight is 458.6 lbs which is not bad for a bike that hasn’t been revamped as a 2009 model year.
Kawasaki first introduced the Ninja ZX-10 as a 2004 model year. The totally new addition to their supersport lineup had come to replace the ZX-9R which by that time had little statements left to make in the corresponsive class.
The all-new addition had been built and designed with a single purpose in mind: an ideal power-to-weight ratio. So the brand new 998cc inline four-cylinder engine crank axis, input shaft and output shaft were positioned in a triangular layout to reduce engine length, the high-speed generator was placed behind the cylinder bank to reduce engine width and the one-piece cylinder and crankcase assembly not only reduced weight, but increased rigidity as well. So Kawasaki started with the basics and achieved the maximum. Being fuel injected from the very first year, the Ninja ZX-10R developed 175 hp at 11,500 rpm and came with a dry weight of only 374. 8 lbs.
While 2006 saw the addition of the new DFI with Mikuni 44mm throttle bodies fuel injection system, 2008 marks the latest evolutionary step yet as the bike’s fuel injection system was again updated (now DFI 43mm Keihin throttle bodies with oval sub-throttles, two injectors per cylinder) and the TCBI ignition with digital advance and Kawasaki Ignition Management System (KIMS) was added and made all the difference compared to previous model years.
The strange part regarding ZX-10R’s evolution is that while performances were getting better and better, the looks went from excellent to not impressive. We expect for the bike’s design to be renewed next year and truly reflect the powerplant’s capabilities.
The Greens may not have upgraded their liter class in what concerns the 2009 model year, but the competition isn’t waiting anyone. As a result, we’ve witnessed the introduction of the most evolved Yamaha YZF-R1 ever made (crossplane crankshaft are the keywords you’ll be searching by in this case), the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR got smart ABS brakes while Suzuki achieves a better power-to-weight ratio for their 2009 GSX-R1000 model.
Ok, so we’ve mentioned how the bike kept on getting uglier and uglier during the years and such an affirmation needs to be sustained with facts. My recommendation is to take a close look at the Ninja ZX-10R and you’ll agree with us, but words shouldn’t be left unspoken so it’s worth mentioning the reason for the visual downturn affecting the Ninja ZX-10R.
Back in 2004 when first introduced, the bike looked impeccable and in need of no design changes or refinements whatsoever. Soon after, it became THE supersports bike to ride so Kawasaki designers found themselves in need of dealing with a great responsibility, the one of leading the class tendencies and because the bike looked so good, the only thing that they could possible do is make it less and less attractive from the visual point of view.
Now a 2009 model year, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R features a badly sculpted nose if it is to put it in nicer terms. The headlights look out of place while the signal light mounted on the mirror arms definitely have to go. The windscreen does look good, but the air scoop ruins everything raising some question marks related to Kawasaki’s abilities to show the best of them with a single sketch, not to mention the final product.
Apart from the bad front end, there isn’t much to complain about as the side fairing gets aggressive lines and all body elements blend perfectly in one with the other (see the gas tank and frame, exhaust, seats, everything). Also, the 2009 color schemes (Ebony, Candy Burnt Orange / Flat Super Black, Special Edition Lime Green / Metallic Diablo Black and White, but only for Europe) enhance the compact look and at least these make sure that the thing is distinguished as being new.
After being not that satisfied by the way the ZX-10R looks like, we figured that at least the way it rides should compensate and we sure weren’t wrong. Kawasaki’s top supersport model is extremely powerful and dependable, handles easily and responsively and the riding position is good despite the given category.
First things first, the engine provides loads of torque from the bottom of the powerband so the bike goes really fast from the start although the mid-range is where the inline four-cylinder engine feels best simply because it needs just a good twist of the throttle so that it would unveil the best of those almost 200 horses. We couldn’t worry about any jerks that might intervene in that process because of Kawi’s Ignition Management System which prevents both the rear wheel from spinning dangerously only when the situation requires it. Yet, we can’t call this a traction control system because there is no sensor in the rear tire. This system is of much help especially when going out of corners and when accelerating aggressively from a standstill.
Despite being a 1000cc supersport model, the bike actually feels confidence inspiring mostly because of the reassuring feel you get by knowing that technology is there to correct your mistakes. Now, we did role that throttle pretty hard and didn’t notice anything special…but we’re still alive so that’s the proof of the system’s good operating.
Compact and light, the rest of the bike is meant to properly value the engine’s enormous capabilities and it feels before, in and out of any corners. The brakes are highly effective and, with the right biker on the bike’s seat, make sure that all corners are approached with the ideal speed, but the ZX-10R is capable of going much faster around bends that we’d even dare trying. Still, the suit’s pads ended up pretty wear out so we can’t say we didn’t do our best yet.
The suspensions have much to do with the bike’s talent to handle sharply and yet remain stable around the corners so we’re pretty pleased with that. Just how it remains stable when rolling on the throttle, the rear end doesn’t go out of control when hitting the brakes either. This, we dedicate to the swingarm which features a top-mounted brace and to excellent mass centralization.
It’s really hard not to fall for the 2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R despite the stiff competition simply because the bike delivers just as much, sometimes even more, as those bikes do without even being upgraded. After riding the Ninja we like to say that in 2009 the competition has come up strong from behind and not that the green arrow has been neglected in any way. Just wait for the 2010 model year to come up.
Kawasaki sells their models for a fair buck and what bike’s best to reflect that than the 2009 Ninja ZX-10R? This model starts at $11,799 in the case of those simple color schemes while the special edition one’s MSRP begins at $11,999.
Although not a landmark as a 2009 model year, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R has had an impressive career so far and it promises more. After all, being the first manufacturer to get as much as 200 horsepower out of a 1000cc four-cylinder inline engine means a lot and people expect just as much. The only condition is not to do with the engine as they did with the bike’s nose and everything will be just fine.
Engine and Transmission
Engine: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four
Bore x stroke: 76.0 x 55.0mm
Maximum torque: 83.2 lb-ft @ 8,700 rpm
Compression ratio: 12.9:1
Fuel system: DFI with four 43mm Keihin throttle bodies with oval sub-throttles, two injectors per cylinder
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance and Kawasaki Ignition Management System (KIMS)
Transmission: Six speed
Final drive: Chain
Chassis and Dimensions
Rake / trail: 25.5deg / 4.3 in.
Front tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear tire: 190/55 ZR17
Wheelbase: 55.7 in.
Front suspension / wheel travel: 43mm inverted fork with DLC coating, adjustable rebound and compression damping, spring preload adjustability and top-out springs / 4.7 in.
Rear suspension / wheel travel: Uni-Trak® with top-out spring, stepless, dual-range (high/low-speed) compression damping, stepless rebound damping, fully adjustable spring preload / 4.9 in.
Front brakes: Dual semi-floating 310mm petal discs with dual four-piston radial-mount calipers
Rear brakes: Single 220mm petal disc with aluminum single piston caliper
Overall length: 83.1 in.
Overall width: 28.0 in.
Overall height: 44.7 in.
Seat height: 32.7 in.
Curb weight: 458.6 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gal.
Four-Cylinder, DOHC 998cc Engine
Race-quality steering damper
Advanced Electronic Instrumentation