Road test: Kawasaki ZX-10R review

Visordown’s Kane Dalton stretches the ZX-10R’s legs on the Isle of Man

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Kane Dalton's picture
Submitted by Kane Dalton on Thu, 11/08/2016 - 10:43

RIDING Kawasaki’s ZX-10R to the Isle of Man TT gave me the opportunity to do our first proper road test of it, following the launch on track in January.

I did 1,100 miles in total, ranging from London traffic to the Mountain, where I took the chance to stretch its legs on derestricted sections.

The engine’s really revvy. I was expecting an aggressive response but the power delivery is very smooth, the gears tall. It’s almost peaky, with a subtle power delivery low-down that makes it manageable on fast roads and mild-mannered when you need it to be, around town.  

Only over 6,000rpm does the beast really come alive – and does it come alive.

The red-line is at 12,500rpm, by which time you’re not looking at the clocks but at the rapidly approaching horizon, and the dash lights up red in the lower periphery of your vison.

Finally the limiter kicks in, but subtly, not like a wall at the top of the range. The power just levels off.

The throttle is quick-action so you can get to the stopper with ease, a nice touch on a stock bike.

The suspension is WSBK-derived ‘Showa Balance Free’ - which isn’t as unbalanced as that name suggests.

It conistst of a 43mm gas fork, which gives excellent feedback, and a shock allowing for adjustment of damping, compression and rebound.

I was comfortable leaving it on the default factory settings, and didn’t change anything when I carried a pillion and luggage either. Fully loaded up, it ironed out the bumps really well.

Yet riding solo at speed there was very little fork dive when I dabbed the front brake, and loads of stability and grip when I got on the power.

The geometry has been altered for 2016, with the intention of placing more weight over the front tyre and improving feedback.

The brakes work well but they are not what I hoped for when I saw all the shiny Brembo parts. The Brembo M50 calipers combined with the 330mm semi-floating discs (up from 310mm on the 2015 ZX10R) and braided hoses should offer the best in braking – but the master cylinders look more basic. I would probably upgrade to something like a 20mm RCS radial master cylinder for more power and precision. 

Obviously you get ABS as standard, but now it can’t be switched off at the dash. Road riders determined to deactivate it can still go on the hunt for a fuse (of course we wouldn’t recommend it), while track riders can fit a special ‘Race Kit’ dongle to remove ABS on the rear wheel or switch it off completely.

The new ZX-10R also has a ‘Corner Management’ system, which is Kawasaki’s version of cornering ABS.

An inertial measurement unit (IMU) measures conditions including lean angle and front and rear wheel speeds, 200 times a second, and makes adjustments on your behalf accordingly.

When I plucked up the courage to test it in a corner, I felt it working, because the bike slowed in a controlled way despite my aggression, but I couldn’t really be sure of the exact point at which it kicked in. It’s too subtle for that.

I’ve no doubt it reduced some of my braking pressure though.

Sensors also measure pitch, roll and yaw, factors which are used by the traction control system to stop you spitting yourself off the bike with too much power.

You can toggle the level of traction intervention on the move with a touch of a button.

The 10R is also equipped with launch control, helping to deliver optimum forward drive off the start line.

It’s got a lightweight clutch which is easy on the wrist, a big bonus around town.

And you get fully-adjustable clip-ons, a very attractive feature, letting you find your optimum riding position.

There’s an electronic Öhlins steering damper, which stiffens with speed. I found a couple of times when I was hard on the gas at slower speeds I could have done with more damping.

The quick-shifter adds to the seamless feel of the bike - there are no clunks or jerks [apart from the one riding - Ed] as you shift up through the box. You can change as quckly as you can move your foot.

At first I thought it might work on downshifts, and expected to hear an auto-blip, but this proved incorrect. What’s that saying? RTFM - read the ******* manual.

The functionality for auto-blipping clutch-less downshifts is built into the bike, but you need to fit the race kit to activate it.


Who?

The ZX-10R is a surprisingly versatile weapon, as capable in town, or carrying a pillion (mine had no complaints despite the small seat) as well as hitting 140mph on the Mountain.

I recommend it for all and any of those things, ideally in a single trip.

Model tested: Kawasaki ZX-10R

Price: £13,649 plus tax and registration

Engine: 998cc in-line-four

Power: 200hp @13,000rpm (210hp with ram air effect)

Torque: 83.7lbft @ 11,500rpm

Kerb weight: 206kg

Frame: Twin-spar, cast aluminium

Tank capacity: 17 litres

Seat height: 835mm

Ave fuel consumption on test: 37.9mpg

Colours: Black or Green KRT Replica (£13,749) or Winter Test Edition (with Akrapovič slip-on) £14,399

Availability: Now

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