Road Test

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR real-world test (2019)

Visordown spends two-weeks with Kawasaki’s track-focused Ninja ZX-10RR to see how the motorcycle fares on the streets, and the picturesque roads of the Chilton Hills.

The Ninja is planted and makes you feel secure through the whole corner, particularly when you add gas after the apex - it’s completely under control.
Electronics are superb
Lime colour might not be everyone's cup of tea

For many moons litre bikes have been the ultimate Sunday hack, and since the mid-naughties manufacturers have been uping the ante year on year building faster, more powerful, more nimble pocket rockets. 

However, on the pothole-ridden roads of the UK are these stiff unforgiving speed machines still relevant? Buckle up because you are about to find out how the Kawasaki ZX-10RR fares against the rigours of daily life. 

Price: ZX-10RR £21,599

Coming in at over £6,000 more expensive than the standard ZX10-R, the premium is a touch eye-watering but the ZX-10RR delivers more in just about every area to justify the extra outlay. Upgrades include lighter Marchesini forged wheels, Akrapovic exhaust system (complete with gorgeous titanium headers), rear seat cowl and unique single-seat suspension optimization

At its heart is an engine with a lighter Pankl titanium connecting rods, which means a wider rev limit/faster revving - contributing to a further 1 PS gain in power and reduces inertia for better handling. 

As if the ZX-10RR wasn't special enough, Kawasaki is limiting its production run to 500 to ensure exclusivity and a hefty amount of bragging rights.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR

Engine

Kawasaki has stuck with the traditional 998cc inline-four design which has served the firm well for many years in WorldSBK and BSB where it has now accumulated a plethora of titles. The motor kicks out around 203hp at normal pace but at high-speed, with its special RAM air induction, that number swells to around 213hp. 

Max torque is 115.7 N•m {11.7 kgf•m} at 11,200 rpm.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR

They are certainly figures to linger on before throwing a leg over the ZX-10RR but once you are on the machine, the useability of the bike gives it a tame impression on initial impressions, a characteristic that on tight winding UK roads is very desirable. At 4000rpm the bike feels like a 600cc, at 7,000rpm you get a kick as the motor comes to life, and at 10,000rpm and above, it's as exhilarating as it is focusing! Indeed, the engine is a proper 'peaker', like ZX-10R’s of old and it reminds me of a classic two-stroke 500 where everything happens at the top of the rev range and the rush is real.

The power remains silky smooth and predictable in its delivery, but the ZX-10RR is for no beginner and any temptations to turn off the traction control should come with the warning it will stand up on the back wheel without much prompt. Trust me, as you climb the rev range, the ZX-10RR doesn't remain tame for long. 

Suspension

The Showa Balance Free WorldSBK-derived fully adjustable suspension helps to keep the Ninja composed. It has a trick Nitrogen canister on it which keeps the suspension cooler with more consistent damping under hard braking and acceleration as Nitrogen, unlike oxygen, doesn’t expand when heated up. At the rear, there’s a Horizontal Back-link Showa fully adjustable shock, which looks the bomb. 

Being the ZX-10RR model, the suspension is set up for one person only, and it’s on the race-bred side of firm. At slower urban speeds you feel most bumps, although it does an adequate job of not rattling your bones. At higher open roadspeeds the Showa suspension really comes into its own, the ZX-10RR literally feels like it’s on rails courtesy of its well-suited Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SPs, which work great with the suspension in dry conditions.

Handling

No surprises the ZX-10RR retains its sweet handling traits, with this being the sportiest, most track-focused Ninja you can buy. 

However, what amazed me most was how quickly the ZX-10RR flicked into corners, aided by those super-light forged rims. Although it was fast to turn, it didn’t feel unstable in the slightest. The Ninja is planted and makes you feel secure through the whole corner, particularly when you add gas after the apex - it’s completely under control. So composed in fact you don’t realise how fast you're going at times, a quick look at the dash can be a bit of a shock - which is the sign of a well set up motorcycle. 

I would love to say that on the road I was activating the lean-sensitive cornering ABS, but this is targeted primarily at the race track where the ZX-10RR was developed with a view to continuing its success on the WorldSBK stage. If you are feeling brave then the IMU should keep you upright if you overcook a bend. 

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR

Brakes

No expense has been spared on the front brake set-up, which includes: Brembo M50 4 piston calipers, Brembo master cylinder, and beefy 330mm Brembo disks. One finger braking for days son, and very confidence inspiring. 

The initial bite on the adjustable lever did take some getting used to, as there’s about two millimetres of travel before the brakes activate, but after about thirty minutes your brain figures it all out. The rear Tockico caliper leaves a little room for improvement, especially when compared to the Brembo suite on the front, but the single rear sliding caliper does an adequate job. Perhaps my vanity would have liked to see a Brembo on the rear too…

Equipment

This bike is a bit like a Casio watch, is does everything you need it to do, just without all the fuss. The RR has all the electronic aids you could desire, ranging from:

  • KIBS: KIBS (Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System) 

  • ABS: Anti Lock braking system

  • KLCM: Kawasaki Launch control mode

  • A Bosch IMU: Combined with Kawasaki’s proprietary dynamic modeling program, input from the IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) enables even more precise chassis orientation awareness

  • KQS (Kawasaki Quick Shifter) enables clutchless up- and downshifts.

  • Ohlins Electronic steering damper

  • Adjustable Kawasaki Engine Brake Control

  • KCMF (Kawasaki Cornering Management Function) monitors engine and chassis parameters throughout the corner.

  • 5 levels of S-KTRC: Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control

  • High and Low power mode settings 

  • And for the tree huggers an eco riding mode indicator (not that you’ll be seeing that much)

And what’s more, you can modify all the modes through three switches on the left handlebar, no overly complex menus, and menus within menus to navigate. It’s easy peasy and I love it. 

What is also quite simple is the LCD dash, which has been used for a good few years now, and it’s definitely showing its age. Luckily AIM sells a TFT replacement dash and it looks dope! 

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR

The redeeming feature about the Ninja’s electronics package is the effectiveness of the system as a whole, as it quietly calculates away in the background, allowing the pilot to hustle the hell out of the bike with no problematic  moments. The wheelie control is superb, according to those who have tested it on track.

Comfort 

Supersport and comfort probably shouldn't be in the same sentence, but the ZX-10RR cockpit is a surprisingly plush place to be. Anything over two hours and you’ll need a good stretch as your shoulders will stiffen up, as fairly standard, but it’s not too cramped and doesn’t cook your cheeks (unlike many exotic supersports). If you’re under 6 foot tall, you’ll be absolutely fine in the saddle, which Kawasaki nicely cushioned. 

Verdict

Don’t be fooled by the Ninja ZX-10RR’s lairy lime green exterior, this bike isn’t all bark and no bite. In fact, it’s a seriously awesome piece of kit. 

It’s composed, packed to the brim with electronic aids, properly rapid, and in the real world is usable. The ZX-10RR isn’t the kind of bike you're afraid to nip through town on, it can do this as refined as it is an animal when you crack the throttle on and unleash what it was born to do. Granted, the ZX-10RR is a bike that takes a wee while to grow into, but once it clicks, it clicks hard.

The price tag might dissuade some from taking the plunge, despite the 6.9% APR finance rate available. But there are two other ZX-10s to choose from with the KRT starting from £14,499 and the SE with its electronic suspension at £19,149. Both would make great useable road bikes and awesome track day hacks, it just depends if you want to be one of the special 500 RR crew.

More details here: https://bit.ly/2G3jcsD

Full specs

Engine

Engine type Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke In-Line Four

Displacement 998 cm³

Bore x stroke 76 x 55 mm

Compression ratio 13.0:1

Valve system DOHC, 16 valves

Fuel system Fuel injection: Ø 47 mm x 4 with dual injection

Starting System Electric

Lubrication Forced lubrication, wet sump with oil cooler

Performance and Transmission

Maximum power 150 kW {204 PS} / 13,500 rpm

Maximum power with RAM air 157.5 kW {214 PS} / 13,500 rpm

CO2 emission TBC g/km

Maximum torque 115.7 N•m {11.7 kgf•m} / 11,200 rpm

Transmission 6-speed, cassette

Final drive Sealed chain

Primary Reduction Ratio 1.681 (79/47)

Gear Ratios 1st 2.600 (39/15)

Gear Ratios 2nd 2.222 (40/18)

Gear Ratios 3rd 1.944 (35/18)

Gear Ratios 4th 1.722 (31/18)

Gear Ratios 5th 1.550 (31/20)

Gear Ratios 6th 1.391 (32/23)

Final reduction ratio 2.294 (39/17)

Clutch Wet multi-disc, manual

Brakes and Suspension

Brakes, front Dual semi-floating 330 mm Brembo discs. Caliper: Dual radial-mount, Brembo M50 monobloc, opposed 4-piston

Brakes, rear Single 220 mm disc. Caliper: Single-piston

Suspension, front 43 mm inverted Balance Free Front Fork with external compression chamber, compression and rebound damping and spring preload adjustability, and top-out springs

Suspension, rear Horizontal Back-link with BFRC lite gas-charged shock, piggyback reservoir, compression and rebound damping and spring preload adjustability, and top-out spring

Frame and Dimensions

Trail 107 mm

Wheel travel front 120 mm

Wheel travel rear 114 mm

Tyre, front 120/70ZR17M/C (58W)

Tyre, rear 190/55ZR17M/C (75W)

L x W x H 2,085 x 740 x 1,145 mm

Wheelbase 1,440 mm

Ground clearance 145 mm

Fuel capacity 17 litres

Seat height 835 mm

Curb mass 206 kg

 

Electronics are superb
Lime colour might not be everyone's cup of tea

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