2013 Kawasakia ZX-10R0

Fast Bikes - - CORE TEST -

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.


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!

Sta­bil­ity per­son­i­fied!

The but­ton that helped to change every­thing... The ex­haust ain’t a looker... ...but then nei­ther is the dash!

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