A Mix of 10R and 10RR, It’s Aggressive Ninja DNA For The Peg-Draggers Among Us

Most of the major players have a street-legal racebike replica on the market for relatively ordinary Joes/Janes, and for Kawasaki, that distinction falls to the 2018 Ninja ZX-10R Special Edition. The SE borrows its plant from the Kawasaki Racing Team’s WSBK liter-bike race program along with top-shelf electronic rider aids that add safety and value. Plus, this model comes stock with Kawi’s Electronic Control Suspension system that delivers three separate modes, each with their own performance profile for quick switchups. Best of all, the Ninja ZX-10R SE is priced with us mere mortals in mind, having a sticker in the lower five-digit range instead of the six figures a few manufacturers demand for their equivalent machine.

  • 2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-R10 SE
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Displacement:
    998 cc
  • Top Speed:
    185 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    21899
  • Price:

2018 Kawasaki ZX-10R SE Design

Aggressive Ninja DNA is evident from the get-go, but with a number of important upgrades.

Aggressive Ninja DNA is evident from the get-go, but with a number of important upgrades. Perhaps the most notable is the ram-air funnel that shunts air from the pressure wave ahead of the bike directly into the 10-liter airbox for a cheap boost in volumetric efficiency. Yeah, that’s a cool little selling point and all, but the truth is, the boost curve is rather flat until you get up around 100 mph, so you aren’t liable to be able to do it justice on public roads; not legally anyway.

Dual headlights are recessed on both sides of the inlet, and the front turn signals are integrated with the mirrors in a bid to minimize drag, and this, no doubt, makes it easy to strike both mirrors and blinkers for track days. Up top, a bubble screen lifts the air to form a minimal pocket for the pilot, but you’ve really got to tuck in tightly over the 4.5-gallon fuel tank to find it. Dead-short clip-on bars help out with that, but since they are short to the extreme, you can forget about pushing off to find a vertical riding posture; it just ain’t going to happen.

Below the headlights, the cowling opens up into that typical sportbike maw that guides air through the radiator where it then reintegrates with the slipstream through a series of vents in the engine shroud. The broad front end and wide tank flange create generous leg pocket so you can pull your stems in out of the draft and have plenty of room for body English. Yeah, the factory has pictures of a rider dragging his frikkin’ elbow on one of these, so this is not an all-show/no-go machine, not by a long shot.

A sculpted pilot’s seat is followed by an elevated pillion pad that comes complete with a grabstrap (that you’d better not trust implicitly) and fold-up footpegs for your passenger’s comfort. The taillight is recessed at the terminus of the tail section with a mudguard extension that mounts the blinkers ahead of the license plate holder using the tag itself for the final bit of coverage. Jockey-mount rider footpegs keep your Fred Flintstones clear of the tarmac, and they pair with the upswept titanium muffler to leave plenty of room for those deep corners.

2018 Kawasaki ZX-10R SE Chassis

2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-R10 SE
- image 828613
Kawi brought its WorldSBK experience to bear when it laid out the bones for this beast in a bid to keep frame weight low and maneuverability high.

Kawi brought its WorldSBK experience to bear when it laid out the bones for this beast. A perimeter-style frame suspends the engine as a stressed member in the ZX-10R SE in a bid to keep frame weight low and maneuverability high. The steering head establishes a rake angle of 25 degrees, and it comes with a fancy-schmancy Öhlins electronic steering damper that reads data from the Bosch inertial measurement unit and adjusts itself on the fly, in real time, to changes in the bike’s speed.

That electronic fandanglery continues into the suspension components, front and rear, with Kawi’s Damping Modes feature that comes with two preset suspension profiles and a rider-adjustable profile. The stems at both ends come with the full trinity of adjustments; electronic rebound/compression and manual spring preload.

Cast, 17-inch wheels round out the rolling chassis with a 120/70 hoop up front followed by a 190/55, and of course, the rubber rocks a ZR rating that means they can take anything you can dish out, and then some.

At 458.6 pounds soaking wet, this Ninja has the potential to generate a significant amount of energy, so the factory hooked the SE up with a pair of four-bore, opposed-piston Brembo calipers and huge 330 mm discs up front to do the bulk of the work. Out back, a single-piston anchor bites a 220 mm disc, mainly to keep your rear end where it belongs: behind you. Kawi’s proprietary Intelligent Brake System delivers race-style ABS protection, probably due to the IMU’s influence.

Frame: Aluminum perimeter
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 43 mm inverted Balance Free Fork, KECS controlled compression and rebound damping, manual spring preload adjustability/4.7 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Horizontal back-link with Balance Free gas-charged shock, controlled compression and rebound damping, manually adjustable spring preload/4.5 in
Rake/Trail: 25.0°/4.2 in
Front Tire: 120/70ZR17
Rear Tire: 190/55ZR17
Front Brakes: Intelligent Braking (KIBS), Brembo dual semi-floating 330 mm discs with dual radial mounted monobloc 4-piston calipers
Rear Brakes: KIBS-controlled, single 220 mm disc with aluminum single-piston caliper

2018 Kawasaki ZX-10R SE Drivetrain

2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-R10 SE
- image 828612
The beating heart is a liquid-cooled, inline-four engine that rolls with an impressive list of bells and whistles including a veritable alphabet soup of proprietary acronyms.

The beating heart is a liquid-cooled, inline-four engine that rolls with an impressive list of bells and whistles. First, the dual over-head cams time a total of four poppets per cylinder, and both the intake and exhaust valves come made of lightweight titanium in a bid to combat harmonic valve float at high rpm. Remember that pressurized intake tract? Well, it feeds a quartet of 47 mm Mikuni throttle bodies that run with dual injectors per cylinder and ECU-controlled subthrottles. Each cylinder comes with a dual-spark combustion chamber in the head for positive flame-front propagation. The bores measure out at 76 mm with a 55 mm stroke to give the mill its 998 cc total displacement, and at 13-to-1, the compression ratio is at the top of the scale and will require only the finest road champagne.

Power flows through a backtorque-limiting clutch and six-speed, cassette-style transmission with backup from the Kawasaki Quick Shifter that lets you work your way up and down the range sans clutch action. Then there’s the Engine Braking Control doing its bit to limit the effects of backtorque, the Sport Traction Control that also uses the IMU and the Kawasaki Launch Control to consider on top of Kawi’s Corner Management Function to keep you stable in the corners.

What does this get you? Well, the factory claims a total of 84.6 pound-feet of torque backed up by 200 ponies, and I’ve heard of someone hitting 185 mph on one, so I’m going with that figure as a solid ballpark for max speed.

Engine: 4-stroke, 4 cylinder, DOHC, 4-valve, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 998 cc
Bore x Stroke: 76.0 mm x 55.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 13.0:1
Fuel System: DFI® with 47 mm Mikuni throttle bodies (4) with oval sub-throttles, two injectors per cylinder
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance and Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC)
Transmission: 6-speed, return shift
Final Drive: Sealed chain

2018 Kawasaki ZX-10R SE Pricing

2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-R10 SE
- image 828611
At $21.9k, the ZX-10R SE is a lot of bike for the buck even though it's almost $7k more than the current base-model ZX-10R.

Price is definitely a selling point with this bike. At $21,899, the ’18 ZX-10R SE is a lot of bike for the buck even though it clocks in at almost 7 K more than the current base-model ZX-10R.

Electronic Rider Aids: Kawasaki Launch Control Mode (KLCM), Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS), Kawasaki Sport Traction Control (S-KTRC), Kawasaki Engine Braking Control, Kawasaki Quick Shifter (KQS) (upshift & downshift), Kawasaki Corner Management Function (KCMF)
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months
Color: Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Matte Graphite Gray
Price: $21,899

2018 Kawasaki ZX-10R SE Competitors

2018 - 2019 Yamaha YZF-R1 / R1M
- image 788819
2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-R10 SE
- image 828617
At the checkout, Yamaha comes off a little prouder with a $23k price tag, but that's really an insignificant offset at this price point.

One special edition deserves another, so for my head-to-head, I went straight to Yamaha for its version of a civilian racebike, the YZF-R1M. Yamaha’s superbike sports the same ram-air inlet, so you can tell right off the bat that the Tuning Fork Company approached the design with the same deadly seriousness. Also like the Ninja, the “R1M” carries its front blinkers in the aerodynamic mirror housings that are easily removed and the holes plugged for race day. The rest of the look is rather luxe, even if it toes the genre line. I guess that’s largely due to the carbon-fiber components that dominate the body covering, but in keeping with its race-worthy mien, the pillion pad is of the “I’d-rather-not” sort so it’s not going to be good to take the girlfriend for a ride — neither one, really.

Öhlins makes it onto the R1M as well with updated electronic racing stems up front and out back that automatically and instantaneously adjust damping values in response to changes in conditions and vehicle attitude/motion. Oh, and the rest of the electronic fandanglery matches the Ninja’s, as well.

Yamaha packs in a 998 cc four-banger with lightweight titanium connecting rods in a bid to reduce reciprocation weight in the engine and deliver quicker revs, not to mention how it gives the bearings in the bottom end a break. It delivers 200 ponies and 83 pounds o’ grunt for a painfully thin advantage over the Ninja that certainly won’t overcome a skill deficit between pilots. At the checkout, Yammie comes off a little prouder with a $22,999 price tag, but that’s really an insignificant offset at this price point.

He Said

“There really isn’t much to choose between the two at the end of the day, but that’s as it should be. It’s a game of inches at the top of the food chain, so it’s no surprise that Yamaha lands so close to Kawi with its second-tier racebike replica. As for the Ninja itself, it’s definitely a jammin’ ride, but I have to wonder why anyone would take it over the similarly priced, supercharged H2 line. Seriously...”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Yeah, okay, stupidfast. I get it, but the ZX-10R SE is more than that. The SE is a bit of a mix, taking elements from both the ZX-10R and the ZX-10RR. It took the Marchesini wheels and up/down quick shift from the RR, but not the race-ready engine. Add Showa suspension to the mix and you get a bike that handles like silk, though it doesn’t have much grunt down low, but once you get going, the bike falls right into its element. It’s a literbike, so it’s a big bike, but it really is nice to ride. I think it’s worth every penny of the $22k sticker.”

2018 Kawasaki ZX-10R SE Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 4-stroke, 4 cylinder, DOHC, 4-valve, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 998 cc
Bore x Stroke: 76.0 mm x 55.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 13.0:1
Fuel System: DFI® with 47 mm Mikuni throttle bodies (4) with oval sub-throttles, two injectors per cylinder
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance and Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC)
Transmission: 6-speed, return shift
Final Drive: Sealed chain
Chassis:
Frame: Aluminum perimeter
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 43 mm inverted Balance Free Fork, KECS controlled compression and rebound damping, manual spring preload adjustability/4.7 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Horizontal back-link with Balance Free gas-charged shock, controlled compression and rebound damping, manually adjustable spring preload/4.5 in
Rake/Trail: 25.0°/4.2 in
Front Tire: 120/70ZR17
Rear Tire: 190/55ZR17
Front Brakes: Intelligent Braking (KIBS), Brembo dual semi-floating 330 mm discs with dual radial mounted monobloc 4-piston calipers
Rear Brakes: KIBS-controlled, single 220 mm disc with aluminum single-piston caliper
Dimensions & Capacities:
Overall Length: 82.3 in
Overall Width: 29.1 in
Overall Height: 45.1 in
Ground Clearance: 5.7 in
Seat Height: 32.9 in
Curb Weight: 458.6 lb
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gal
Wheelbase: 56.7 in
Top Speed: 185 mph (est)
Details:
Electronic Rider Aids: Kawasaki Launch Control Mode (KLCM), Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS), Kawasaki Sport Traction Control (S-KTRC), Kawasaki Engine Braking Control, Kawasaki Quick Shifter (KQS) (upshift & downshift), Kawasaki Corner Management Function (KCMF)
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months
Color: Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Matte Graphite Gray
Price: $21,899

Further Reading

Yamaha YZF-R1M

2018 - 2019 Yamaha YZF-R1 / R1M
- image 799967

See our review of the Yamaha YZF-R1M.

Kawasaki Ninja H2/ H2 Carbon

2019 Kawasaki Ninja H2 / H2 Carbon
- image 814055

See our review of the Kawasaki Ninja H2 / H2 Carbon.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R

2019 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R
- image 812579

See our review of the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R.

1[Kawasaki ZX-10RR

Review pending

Kawasaki

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- image 795478

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All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: kawasaki.com, yamaha-motor.com

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