The problem with hype is that more often than not, the expectations don’t live up to the billing. However, try telling that to Kawasaki.
The Japanese motorcycle brand’s new Ninja ZX-10R sportbike clearly has lofty expectations, but where others have fallen flat, this particular bike stands tall as one of the fastest, lightest, and most innovative production bikes in the market today. No such credibility gap, going several steps beyond newer, faster, lighter and better by offering the most advanced traction-control system in all of production motorcycling.
Yes, in all of production motorcycling.
More than the complete redesign of the bike’s engine, frame, suspension, bodywork, instrumentation, and wheels, the ZX-10R offers a highly advanced and customizable electronic system that helps riders harness and capitalize on its amazing blend of power and responsive handling. The system is called Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control, or S-KTRC, and it represents a whole new dimension in motorcycle performance, one that vaults this bike into a class all its own.
Motorcyclists have forever been challenged by traction-related issues, whether on dirt, street, or track. Riders that can keep a rear tire from spinning excessively or sliding unpredictably are both faster and safer, a tough combination to beat on the racetrack.
And when talking about the absolute leading edge of open-class sport bike technology, where production street bikes are actually more capable than full-on race bikes from just a couple years ago, more consistent traction and enhanced confidence is a major plus.
That’s precisely what the new ZX-10R offers.
Read more about the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Supersport Motorcycle after the jump.
Kawasaki paid careful attention to designing a bike that drips in excess of new technology, including the bodywork. The design is sharper and more aggressive than anything you’ll find outside the world of MotoGP. The line-beam headlights enable the fairing to be made shorter, whereas the LED turn signals have been added into the mirror assemblies, which can be easily detached whenever the bike is ready to romp a race track. This convenience can also be found on the rear fender assembly, which holds the rear signal stalks and license plate frame and can likewise be removed for track-day purposes.
The ZX-10R’s wheel set features new gravity-cast three-spoke wheels that come with Tokico radial-mount calipers grasp 310mm petal discs in the front and a 220mm disc is squeezed by a lightweight single-piston caliper in the back.
As for the bike’s instrumentation, there’s an LED-backlit bar-graph tachometer that combines with a multi-featured LCD info screen with numerous sections and data panels. When the bike is set to be used for racing, the LCD display can be set to “race” mode, enabling the bike’s gear display to move to the center of the screen.
For the ZX-10R, Kawasaki paid careful attention to its chassis geometry, juggling it to offer the best possible stability and handling quickness. The rake is angled at 25 degrees, half-a-degree steeper than its predecessor while trail has been reduced from 110 to 107mm. This slightly more radical front end geometry was made possible largely because of the new engine’s more controllable power, engine placement, and the CG differences it generated.
Highly advanced suspension at both ends of the bike helped as well. Up front, you can find a 43mm open-class version of the Big Piston Fork (BPF) found on last year’s comparo-dominating Ninja ZX-6R. This particular piston has been designed to be almost twice the size of a conventional cartridge fork while offering smoother action, less friction, lighter overall weight, and enhanced damping performance on the compression and rebound circuits. The result is a bike that responds better to the driver’s whims, a necessary tool to maximize the ZX-10R’s true potential.
Out back, the bike now carries a Horizontal Back-Link suspension design, which replaces the Uni-Trak system from the 2010 model. The former offers plenty of benefits to the rider, including better mass centralization, improved road holding, compliance and stability, smoother action in the mid-stroke (even with firmer settings), better overall feedback, and cooler running. This new design also saves a lot of the space that is now occupied by the exhaust’s pre-chamber, allowing for a shorter muffler and, at the same time, better mass centralization.
The MotoGP-sourced S-KTRC system crunches the numbers from a variety of parameters and sensors integral to making the bike run smoothly. From wheel speed and slip, engine RPM, throttle position, and acceleration, the S-KTRC allows for more data gathering and analysis than any other bike Kawasaki has ever produced. The S-KTRC system also relies on complex software that can be found within the new ZX-10R’s Electronic Control Unit (ECU).
The system has also been designed to squeeze the most out of the bike’s performance through the careful use of complex analysis that predicts traction conditions - and when things become a little too tricky. All it does is process all the needed data to maintain tire grip, which then leads to faster lap times.
Whenever in use, the S-KTRC system comes in three different modes that the rider can pre-select based not just on his preference, but also on the surface conditions. Level 1 offers max-grip track use while Level 2 is for intermediate use. Meanwhile, Level 3 can be used specifically for slippery conditions.
On top of that, the system also has an advanced Power Mode system that gives the rider free reign to determine how much power he or she wants from the engine. Full-power mode allows the bike to tap into all of its ponies, whereas Medium mode varies depending on the throttle position and engine rpm. Anything less than 50 percent throttle opening, the bike is effectively in Low mode.
Powering the ZX-10R is an all-new inline-four engine that features the same 16-valve, DOHC, liquid-cooled inline-four displacing 998cc via 76 x 55mm bore and stroke dimensions powerplant from the 2010 model.
The new ZX-10R also features a new transmission shaft layout that offers a higher center of mass and improved handling by locating the crankshaft approximately 10 degrees higher relative to the output shaft. New to this model is a secondary engine balancer assembly that allows a number of vibration-damping parts to be simplified as is a race-style cassette transmission that brings trackside ratio changes. There’s also an adjustable back-torque limiting clutch assembly that has been fitted to allow worry-free downshifts and an even higher level of corner-entry calmness. The ZX-10R also has its own race-spec exhaust system that includes a titanium header assembly, hydroformed collectors, a large-volume pre-chamber containing two catalyzers, and a highly compact silencer.
|Engine||Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four|
|Bore x stroke||76.0 x 55.0mm|
|Fuel system||DFI® with four 47mm Keihin throttle bodies with oval sub-throttles, two injectors per cylinder|
|Ignition||TCBI with digital advance and Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC)|
|Rake / trail||25.0 degrees / 4.33 in.|
|Front tire||120/70 ZR17|
|Rear tire||190/55 ZR17|
|Front suspension / wheel travel||43mm inverted Big Piston Fork (BPF) with DLC coating, adjustable rebound and compression damping, spring preload adjustability / 4.7 in.|
|Rear suspension / wheel travel||Horizontal Back-link with gas-charged shock and top-out spring, stepless, dual-range (low-/high-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||81.7 in.|
|Overall width||28.2 in.|
|Overall height||43.9 in.|
|Seat height||32.0 in.|
|Curb weight||436.6 lbs.|
|Fuel capacity||4.5 gal.|
|Color choices||Lime Green / Ebony, Ebony / Flat Ebony|