For reasons other than green, Kawasaki has always been my favourite: among the Jappo 4 and overall. They have the perfect recipe to make absolute ripper bikes. Yeah, Ducati could also make the same claim, but then their premium car like prices, and the eternal clutch problems (which they seem to be getting over of late).
Coming back to Kawasaki, post the H2 R frenzy, this time they have spiced up their flagship literbike, the Ninja ZX10 R. Nay, they haven’t just spiced it, they have rather marinated it with all the right juices. The entire essence has changed; from aesthetics, to performance, to ride control.
The very first look of the amazing sportbike gave me goosebumps. The flat jackal like look is gone. The new 2016 has got more sexy curves to it. The front is broader and looks sturdy with a tight fixed windscreen, with a wider RAM induction nose. The rear has gone up a bit, with well defined triangular dimensions, opposed to the previous gen’s flat squarish features. The seating position too is sportier, with closer handle bars and lower seating position.
Kawasaki claims they made the new ZX10 ‘Easier to ride fast’. And to make their claim sound true, they have loaded the bike with all the electronics available out there and then added some more.
This includes a completely revamped Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC), newly added engine-brake control, a launch-control mode, quick shifter, and smarter KIBS (Kawasaki Intelligent Braking System) cornering ABS.
Firing up the ZX, the first thing that catches your attention is the deep growl escaping the stock pipe: much louder than all the other stock literbikes. This being in total contrast to the fact that the 2016 ZX10 R is the first open-class superbike to meet ever-growing stricter Euro 4 emissions standards.
Kawasaki achieved this cleverly by employing a titanium-alloy header having pipe diameters and length very similar to race-use headers. I wonder what aural ecstasy this devil would create once it wears the aftermarket slip-on.
Shift into first, give it a healthy dose of gas, and the bike instantly launches into a speed vortex. Though the engine specs are almost identical to the previous gen on paper, still the bike feels considerably faster. Perhaps the tweaked air intake has got to do with this phenomenon; the new Ninja employing a 25% larger, 10-litreRAM airbox incorporated to a less restrictive air filter, offering 1.6 times the surface area than its predecessor. The race-developed lighter crankshaft, also contributes to quicker acceleration while enhancing the chassis agility.
Handling is awesome, and as promised, the 2016 ZX-10R is supremely easy to ride. The balance of stability, and positive feedback lends loads of confidence while negotiating the fast and flowing lanes in speed.
The engine sits higher and more forward in the frame, and the rider sits lower. The steering head is 7.5mm closer to the rider for more weight on the front, resulting in increased stability. The raised centre of gravity in combination with the reduced inertia, gives the bike highly intuitive, light feeling, and very precise handling.
If the bike’s insane craving for speed proves too much for you, it could be curbed by engaging the three power modes. Throttle pickup in High Power Mode (Med provides 80-per cent and Low 60-per cent) is quite edgy. However I wished the bike had more midrange. The increased 4 kilo weight (due to heavier exhaust and added electronics) has played down the bike a bit on this quarter.
However, once beyond 9,000rpm, I was grateful for S-KTRC’s traction/wheelie control safety net.
The way the Ninja’s revvy engine is tamed by the advanced, race-developed traction control system is just awesome.
The new system combines Bosch’s sensor unit with Kawasaki’s own software, gives even more refined control as the rear tyre approaches the limit of adhesion while exiting corners at extreme angles, and also prevents excessive front-wheel lift under hard acceleration.
The wheelie buffs might not come to love the new traction system though as it works towards cancelling the front wheel lift as well.
The ZX also features a racer-friendly cassette-style gearbox allowing quicker smoother shifts, and back-torque limiting clutch. The factory installed quick-shifter further makes shifting an easy game.
Chassis changes include cast-aluminium twin-spar frame is said to be lighter, using fewer welds and less complexity in its construction, resulting in improved front grip and feel, more consistent feedback and handling agility.
The most visual of chassis updates are the 43mm Showa Balance Free Fork (a production sportbike first) derived from the similar design found on Kawasaki’s factory WSBK machine. The new fork provides exceptional support and feel under hard braking and an overall degree of ride compliance and feel, allowing you to push harder.
Braking on the bike is exceptional too with top-spec stainless Brembo M50 cast monobloc calipers, same as those on the H2R. The intelligent Öhlins electronic steering damper (uses the rear-wheel-speed sensor) securely keeps the tank-slap and other evils at bay, even when the front wheel is lofted while still leaned over.
Another clever detail taken directly from the WSBK (Superbike World Championship) team is the cooling system. Water is used to cool the oil cooler; the water then passes to the radiator instead of returning to the water pump.
The only thing that you would find common in the new ZX10 R and the previous one is the LED instrument panel, although it has added functions on display including the techno-aids and a better positioned shift indicator.
With two WSBK titles to its credit in the past three seasons, Team Green seems keen on keeping the momentum going. With the latest hurricane Jonathan Rea must be looking to extend the gap between him and the pack big time. Could be my next buy. My three Ninjas in three years, say so at least.
2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX10 R
Engine 998cc four-cylinder four-stroke
Gearbox 6 speed cassette type
Power/Torque 197bhp @ 13,000rpm
113Nm torque @ 11,000rpm
Top speed 299kph (electronically governed)
Wet Weight 204 kilo
Colours Green, Metallic Matte Carbon Grey
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