2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R- Kawasaki ZX10R Riding Impression- Cycle World

17 Jun 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R- Kawasaki ZX10R Riding Impression- Cycle World
Kawasaki ZX 7 R

2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R – Riding Impression Riding the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R at Road Atlanta.


A great deal has changed in the 20 years since my motojournalism career was launched, quite literally, following a 160-mph highside crash at Road Atlanta during a WERA Formula USA national. The 2.54-mile road course has undergone multiple safety-related revisions, beginning with the addition of a left/right chicane at the very scene of my frightening get-off, a crash that provided the subject matter for my first published article. Back in the day, a competitive rider held his breath and the throttle pinned in top gear while plunging through the deep ravine near the end of the long back straight—a section we called Gravity Cavity.

Fast forward to the press introduction for the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R staged at the storied Southern circuit. I found myself breathing easy, confidence bolstered by the all-new 10R’s incredible composure at speed as I rounded the flat-out bend following the long back stretch with the dash’s liquid-crystal display indicating 185 mph.

Lap after lap, applying the brakes at the crest of the downhill approach to the second-gear chicane delivered remarkable consistency in braking feel and chassis poise. Clicking down through the revised six-speed cassette transmission proved effortless; the top three ratios are more closely spaced than before. This, along with a reduction in engine braking (attributed to revised cam-timing overlap), assists the slipper clutch in keeping the wheels in line during hard braking.

Further easing the rider’s workload is the new Showa Big Piston Fork, which handles extreme forward weight shift with absolute aplomb. As much as the track has been transformed—an additional chicane leading into the Esses and an alternate final corner, all put in place for motorcycles—more impressive has been the technological evolution of performance and safety on two wheels, as evidenced by the latest ZX-10R.

Multiple power and traction-control modes are meant to soothe the savage beast, although even in “raw” form, with the rider aids switched off, the 998cc engine offers smooth, predictable delivery. It’s very powerful without being savage at all.

Kawasaki is the first of the Japanese Big Four to offer traction control on a production repli-racer, and the Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC) system implemented on the 10R uses technology derived from the company’s MotoGP program. When Kawasaki withdrew from GP racing at the end of the 2009 season, its brightest engineering minds from the race program were reassigned to development of the new ZX-10R. So, while the new dohc, 16-valve, 998cc inline-Four has reportedly produced more than 170 rear-wheel horsepower on an independent dyno, its real strength lies in the uncanny way in which it delivers those ponies to the ground.

I’ve experienced TC-equipped liter-class Ducatis and BMWs, but a day aboard the 10R left me with a new favorite in the electronic rider-aid arena. Kawasaki claims the proactive nature of its TC strategy offers a distinct advantage over its competitors’ reactive systems. S-KTRC is able to predict traction loss before it occurs. Toggling between the three levels of S-KTRC interaction can be done on-the-fly via a bar-mounted rocker switch, thereby allowing easy experimentation with its effects.

The dash has a segmented bar-graph display for a real-time visual cue to the degree of system intervention currently being applied.

The 10R also features three power modes—Full, Medium and Low—any one of which can be selected on the run at any time. I eased up to the bike’s full performance potential, spending the first of five 20-minute riding sessions sampling the Low and Medium power modes. Tailored for wet and street conditions, these settings are fairly typical in that they offer greatly reduced peak output in Low and more-forgiving throttle response in Medium.

I was particularly pleased to discover that throttle response in Full is not abrupt like with some competitors’ multi-mode schemes. In fact, lapping the circuit in F-mode with S-KTRC disabled (the bike must be stationary to turn off TC) left me highly impressed with the engine’s linear delivery and degree of tractable control.Though the engine fuels impeccably and responds predictably to throttle inputs, there’s not much logic in riding “naked”—at least not once I’d experienced the confidence brought about by having S-KTRC cover my ass.

Kawasaki ZX 7 R
Kawasaki ZX 7 R

Similar to the power modes, traction-control settings 2 and 3 are tuned for dry street and wet street/track conditions. Grabbing a handful of midcorner throttle in setting 3 promptly filled the bar-graph display and allowed zero wheel slip as well as neutering any wheelie tendency. Repeating the same move in setting 2 prepared me to take the plunge in setting 1 and twist ’er open Casey Stoner-style, pinning the throttle at deep lean and trusting the ECU to work its magic.

Amazing corner exits ensued, and although there was an occasional step-’n’-hook slide, more often the result was moderate wheelspin and a fluid, controlled drift off corners. Better yet, the wheelie-control aspect of the system is also reduced in this mode, which allowed the front of the machine to elevate as I finished corners. As I drove hard out of Turn 5—an uphill, second-gear left at the end of the Esses—the front wheel lifted while the bike was still at a significant lean angle.

But unlike during my past experience on the BMW S1000RR, the Kawi system never suddenly slammed the front back to Earth. Overall, S-KTRC strikes me as being the most-effective yet least-obtrusive TC I’ve experienced to date.

At the Road Atlanta press launch, Bridgestone Battlax BT-003 race-compound tires were used in place of the OE-fitment BT-016s. The chassis was tuned to suit, which included increasing rear ride height through the use of 6mm shims. The shock offers high- and low-speed compression damping, plus rebound adjustment. One benefit of the new over-swingarm shock placement is easy access to the spring preload-adjustment collars.

Kit slip-on NASSERT-BEET pipe and ECU are said to add 18 horses.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: The new 10R’s power, handling and brakes are far superior in every way to the juiced NOS-equipped Suzuki GSX-R 7/11 superbike that spit me off so long ago. This road-legal Ninja would have easily dominated the entire F-USA field, its refined balance of power and control delivering an unfair advantage over even the then-overdog Yamaha YZR500 Grand Prix machines that Team Marlboro Roberts campaigned in the series.

At $13,799 for the standard model (with a Street-ABS version soon to follow for $1000 more), this Kawasaki appears to have jumped to the front of the electronic rider-aid revolution. Even more impressive is the performance quality of the “raw” bike, from the superb composure of the new chassis to the predictable-yet-powerful engine. But most impressive of all is the fact that Kawasaki has accomplished all this for a lot less green than its peers.

Kawasaki ZX 7 R
Kawasaki ZX 7 R
Kawasaki ZX 7 R
Kawasaki ZX 7 R

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