Used Bike

Buyer Guide: Kawasaki ZX-10R

The ultimate guide to Kawasaki’s big bore bad boy, the ZX-10R Ninja, written by the people who own the bike...

Click to view: Kawasaki ZX-10R owners reviews, specs and image galleries.

Modern bikes are fast. Stupid fast. That goes without saying. But a lot of them are a little bit bland too. There’s not that many machines with edge, with bite like the TL1000s and KX500s of the past. But we do still have Kawasaki’s ZX-10R. Yes, it’s outrageously fast but it’s also raw and very much alive - definitely not for the inexperienced or feint hearted. As well as blitzing race tracks it’ll hoik the front wheel up at 130mph in third. In a sanitized world it’s a portion of savage fun and that makes it something very special.

The 10R was one of the first bikes Kawasaki launched after their big internal shake up and it fitted their new mission statement to make exciting machines for experts perfectly. While low down power is slightly lacking for a large engine, the midrange and top end rush more than make up for it. It was the most powerful in its class when it appeared and the latest model retains that crown at the time of writing.

Then there’s the handling. There’s been talk of making 1,000cc bikes which feel and handle like 600s but the ZX-10R was the first to really achieve it. It’s more nimble than competitors yet manages to remain very composed too – that’s a sign of a beautifully designed frame mated to excellent suspension. It led the class technology war by being the first with a slipper clutch – something only of real benefit to quick track riders.

The models evolved from the original form and have become ever more capable but some purists think it’s lost a little personality too. Even one of Kawasaki UK’s high up staff we regularly speak to calls that first C-model the ‘original bad boy’ and ‘my favourite’. Don’t be put off the later models. They’re quicker on a race track and that’s where the 10R belongs.

Sure you can commute on it and some people even tour one up but this is about as pure a sports bike as you can buy for the road. It’s a brilliant machine, it’s 100% Kawasaki and we love it. Here’s what you lot had to say on the matter...

Kawaski ZX-10R Specifications

2004 Kawasaki ZX-10R

Engine L/C, injected, inline four, 998cc Power 181bhp @ 11,700rpm Torque @ 9,500rpm
Dry weight 170kg Seat height 825mm Fuel capacity 17 litres Top speed 180mph

2006 Kawasaki ZX-10R

Engine L/C, 16V, injected, inline four, 998cc Power 171bhp @ 11,700rpm Torque @ 9,500rpm
Dry weight 175kg Seat height 825mm Fuel capacity 17 litres Top speed 180mph

2008 Kawasaki ZX-10R

Engine L/C, 16V, injected, inline four, 998cc Power 185bhp @ 12,500rpm Torque @ 8,700rpm
Dry weight 179kg Seat height 830mm Fuel capacity 17 litres Top speed 180mph

Running costs
Fuel consumption is not that good. The overall average in the survey is exactly 35mpg. Tony Oliver says his C model averages around 35mpg but can manage 47mpg if he’s taking it very steady which seems typical – people don’t buy these bikes to save money on petrol. Liam Murtagh races his and gets just 12mpg.
Servicing’s not too expensive for such a rapid machine. A minor check is scheduled at 4,000 miles but it’s little more than an inspection. A service is due at 7,500 miles, then another minor check at 12,000 and the big service with valve clearances is due at 15,000 miles.

Average prices paid by owners in our survey was £136 for the 4,000 mile check, £197 for the 7,500 mile service and £367 for the biggy. Prices varied from typically half to double each amount depending on where the servicing was done and what exactly was carried out.

The only significant difference between the models is the C series bikes need a new air filter every 12,000 miles while Ds and Es only need it every 30,000. That’s not a big deal anyway.
Very few owners have change the chain and sprockets – and several have done around 16,000 miles on the original which is respectable.

The most popular brake pads are the original ones with most owners are very happy with them.  Chris Jarvis says they’re especially good once you get some heat into them. The other popular pad is EBC HH and again, everyone’s happy with them although Derek Rein says you can find their limits on track.

As it’s a full on race rep, most owners fit sporty rubber. Metzelers Racetech are an excellent, grippy up to date tyre. They come in K3 form for track days and fast road as well as K1/K2 which are even sportier and not ideal for road use. Pirelli’s Diablo Corsa III is a more versatile if slightly less sporty choice. Both will provide more than enough grip. The Michelin Pilot Power 2CT’s an up to date tyre which can handle road and track use and should last reasonably for the grip level provided thanks to its dual compound.

Dragon Supercoras Pros are actually more road orientated than the Diablo Corsa IIIs. Michelin Pilot Power Race are race tyres and not suited to general road use, likewise Diablo Supercorsas. Bridgestone BT-014s are a good all round tyre which will handle road use and track days too. They’ve been superceeded by the BT-015 and that by the BT-016. Gary Leach has used 014s and 016s and says the 016s not only feel better, they last twice as long.

Some owners change their tyres as often as every track day but on the road the minimum mileage is more like 2,000 front, 1,000 rear. Average tyre life is 3,771 miles from a front and 2,274 from a rear. Ali Heath gets 8,000 miles from a front Michelin Pilot Power 2CT and 4,000 from a rear which is impressive considering they’re quite soft rubber and it’s a fast bike.

The C models came with 120/70-17 front and 190/50-17 rear. The later D and E models got a taller 190/55-17 rear instead. Some owners fit this size on the early bikes, such as Derek Rein, who says it improves the turn-in.

  • Top five tyres

=1st Metzeler Racetech (20%)
=1st Pirelli Diablo Corsa III (20%)
3rd Michelin Pilot Power 2CT (9%)
=4th  Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa Pro (4%)
=4th  Michelin Pilot Power Race (4%)
=4th Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa (4%)
=4th Bridgestone BT-014 (4%)

Owner Case Study: "I’ve spent about £12,000 modifying mine"

Mark Wilson has a 2007 D7F model and it’s far from standard. He’s had loads of bikes before including a blueprinted original R1 which made 164bhp at the wheel, a Foggy Rep Ducati with an ex John Reynolds engine and a big bore ZX-12R kicking out 280bhp...

“The ZX-10R’s the best of the bunch though. It’s an out and out beast. I do like to ride aggressively though.  I got it new, in the crate. It was run in on a dyno and made about 161bhp. I rode it a bit, then stripped it down to be modified.

"Dream Machine did the paint – it’s a replica of the 2007 PSG race colours. Engine wise it’s got velocity stacks, high lift cams, a Racefit Growler exhaust  and  Power Commander III. It makes 178bhp at the back wheel. It’s not for toddling on – at about 3,500rm there’s  bit of a cough but if you whack it open it howls – I’m not very popular with the police round here though.

"It’s got Öhlins springs in the forks, was going to put on Öhlins forks but I don’t think it’s worth it. I’ll be putting an Öhlins shock on the back this winter too. It’s got plenty more bits too – Pazzo levers, carbon everywhere, Gilles and more. I tested the ’08 version but I didn’t like it so much. The front looks like a squashed bug and I’m 6ft3in and my bike has a slightly bigger fairing which helps deflect the wind past me.”

What goes wrong
Not a lot. Out of 44 bikes only ten owners reported any problems and most were very minor. There’s no real pattern to them except two people had issues with the ignition switch where the key goes. If you’re checking any used bike over, make sure this is working fully and smoothly. The only major problem reported was ‘Fat Tony’ had the chain break at just over 9,000 miles on a C model, then the gearbox failed at 11,000.

Finish wise there’s a few complaints about corrosion on fasteners, fork legs and the brake callipers. Some people say the paint and panels mark a little too easily. It sounds like the plastics are pretty thin as Clay Smith had the tail unit and fairing side panels crack during normal use on his C model while Chris Jarvis says over tightening the fasteners which hold the plastics on can cause them
to crack (also a C model).

Like so many bikes there’s a wealth of mods available. Most are about making the bike faster or handle better, some make it a little more comfy and some are purely cosmetic.

Exhausts are almost compulsory – just two of 44 owners in the survey hadn’t gone aftermarket. Akrapovic are the most popular by far – but Kawasaki supplied some bikes with approved Akrapovic cans. There’s no complaints about them from anyone. Bart Harrington’s still on the original cans but says if he could get a divorce, he’d get an Akrapovic.

Brakes are one area which seems to get more attention than on most bikes. Brembo master cylinders are popular and owners say they improve braking as the original deteriorates rapidly. Tony Oliver’s fitted ZZ-R1400 calipers and 310mm discs on his C2H, Robert Hudson put the front callipers from a 2006 D-series bike on his 2004 C1H.

Double bubble screens are popular for extra wind protection and Gilles Variobars make the riding position a little more upright.

There’s almost no limit and you can take a ZX-10R as far as you want in modding terms, especially if you want to make it even faster, lighter and batter handling.

ZX-10R culture
Kawasaki have some of the most loyal fans of any brand. There’s plenty who’ve stuck by Kawasaki for years and wouldn’t consider any other make. There’s plenty of clubs and online groups such as the excellent crammed with useful information and banter.

Your Reviews

Find your Kawasaki ZX-10R model amongst the range of green bikes within our review section

Owner Case Study: "I’ve ridden to Italy and back on mine"

Chris Thompson has a 2005 ZX-10R C2H and he’d never ridden abroad before...

“A groups of ten of us all went on bikes in 2006. We went to see the Italian GP in Mugello. We covered 2,900 miles in ten days – it was the trip of a lifetime really. On the way back one lad had a bright idea and we went back through Swizerland on all the twisty roads then to the Nurburgring. I did four laps there and managed a nine minute lap.

“I found the bike pretty comfy really. I’ve heard the horror stories that it’s too cramped and stuff but I found it fine. I’ve got a double bubble screen which helped. I had soft panniers on the back and a tank bag but I found it was better if I bungeed the tank bag on the rear seat so I could tuck down out of the wind better. I did 560 miles in one day and it was fine. I’m 6ft and about 13 or 14 stone so I’m not exactly small.

“People said it might not be full power but it made 164bhp at the wheel on a dyno so it’s fine. It’s magma red which isn’t a UK colour ant that really helps it stand out. A mate just bought an ’08 and both bikes were parked up and everyone walked past his and looked at mine.

“I’ve owned it since new and I’ve done 26,000 miles on it now. Nothing’s gone wrong although I’ve replaced most of the fasteners with stainless steel ones as they rusted. You could say I’m happy with my Ninja.”

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