2013 Kawasakia ZX-10R0
Iliterally cannot believe how much these bikes are being sold for right now in the used market. You can find newer versions of the ZX-10R, with fewer miles, for less money than older Honda Fireblades. What? That is absolutely nuts, because as great as the Honda is, in the grand scheme of things when all factors are considered, it can’t hold a candle to the Kawasaki.
True, the green meanie is a funny old beast, especially the first time you ride one and most especially if that’s on a racetrack. The comparatively huge proportions, BPF forks, low(ish) rear, long gearing, seemingly breathless bottom end and mildly peculiar riding position all conspire to initially confound you. When you start getting up to speed on track and fly into a corner at pace for the first time, it’s almost like the Kawasaki completely refuses to go around it, and when it does, it feels all a bit weird. Erm…
Then something even odder occurs. You suddenly realise you’re ten laps in and, in actuality, going extremely fast on a bike seemingly connected to the proverbial rails, and you’re having a rather wonderful time – how the hell did that happen?
The truth is that once you’ ’re acclimatised to her bogey greenness, she’s a real weapo on on track. Just the fact that, fo or years, nearly eighty per cent of all Superstock grids the worldd over were populated by the ZX-10R should easily prove th his being the case. Make just a fe ew choice mods and it’s a potent tial Superstock champion, and fo or that to happen the base pack kage must be very good indeed, an nd that it is. Oh yes...
You just have to get past th he weirdness to find the excellen nt steed beneath you, which sta arts with the riding position. The bike is quite big and despite the skinny seat unit, roomy (andd comfortable) with an easy almost chopper-like reach to the ’bars. It doesn’t feel like there’s lots of weight going through them, but you’ll discover there’s more than enough when coupled with the bike’s geometry and handling manners. For taller pilots, and noticeably on road duty, the distance between footpeg and seat is quite minimal, making adjustable rear-sets a mod must.
Not on short journeys, nor track, but if you’re doing the long haul and are 6ft or over, you’ll eventually want those pegs lower and further back.
KAWASAKI HAVE LONG BEEN MASTERS OF FRONT ENDS, AND THERE’S NO CHANGE HERE...
The initial cornering weirdness I mentioned earlier emanates directly from the BPF Showa fork. You don’t notice it so much on other bikes with the same gear if they’re arse high/front low. But because the very nature of the BPF means less travel than usual, when going slow on track it seems to stunt the steering. More speed cures this easily, and then reveals just how epic a front end it truly is. Kawasaki have long been the masters of front ends and there’s no change here.
On corner entry you can load it up as softly or aggressively as you like, and it feels beautifully natural, peeling in perfectly and nailing your chosen apex point like a pro marksman. Likewise mid-corner there’s little, even now, that feels as planted as this does with the front buried into whatever turn you care to throw it at. The low rear end supplies oodles of grip for speedy corner exits, and damping wise feel is as good as anything else.
Quick changes of direction is where the ZX gets found out though. Now it does feel slightly barge-like, and it’s only those big, wide and high(ish) bars offering bags of leverage that offsets the mild awkwardness.
This quirk translates to a far lesser degree on the road, but the other benefits such as its indelible stability become even more palpable, as evidenced by sploshing around the deluged roads above Cheddar Gorge. The road holding skills the chassis displays in these conditions are tremendous, and unparalleled in this company. That lazy riding position also aids this feeling of steadfast security perfectly, as does the engine delivery.
It may make 175bhp and 102Nm of torque at the wheel, but really long gearing means this gets offered to you in one long, ever building surge of power with a manic top-end. It’s a surge that feels quite flat low down and rather lacking in the midrange. It isn’t actually that far off (the gearing makes it feel that way) but at least the pull towards the end of the rev range is wholesome, bonkers and rather satisfying all the way up to a tested top speed of 185mph.
Said gearing also means that on the road or track, you don’t need to chuck too many cogs at it to go fast. Which is good, as it’s sorely missing a quick-shifter. The gearbox is positive, but needs a positive foot action to engage meaningfully and can come across a little clunky, both up and down.
What isn’t clunky, however, is the traction-control which is su-bloody-perb especially on the lowest setting. It actually allows you to slightly circumvent the long gearing by being able to pile on the coals far earlier than the Honda. It’ll still spin-up if you get too giddy, but clever application of the excellent RBW throttle (with just as excellent throttle response, incidentally) working hand in hand with the TC makes scorching out of turns a real joy. There are lower power modes available, but with TC this good just leave it on full-beans, and go bananas!
The button that helped to change everything... The exhaust ain’t a looker... ...but then neither is the dash!