Kawasaki ZX-10RR

Fast Bikes - - GROUP TEST -

I f the Panigale was os­ten­si­bly high on a party mix of co­caine and MDMA, then Kawasaki’s ZX-10RR ho­molo­ga­tion spe­cial would be chill­ing on Val­ium. Don’t be fooled by the RR suf­fix. If there was any­thing ap­proach­ing a nice su­per­bike, the Kawasaki takes this imag­i­nary award, com­bin­ing sure­footed sta­bil­ity with a straight­for­ward rid­ing pro­to­col which makes it easy to go fast – just not as fast as Jonathan and Tom. There are no quirks or idio­syn­cra­sies, no com­plex modes to per­plex. Turn key, press but­ton, twist throt­tle and re­joice. Then again, there’s noth­ing su­per spe­cial about the RR, either.

The ZX-10R, since its ma­jor up­date in 2011, has al­ways been good at Por­ti­mao but suf­fered when the tim­ing equip­ment made an ap­pear­ance. It was no dif­fer­ent in 2017, de­spite the Gucci wheels and au­to­blip­per bonuses of the RR and was two sec­onds adrift of the fast kids. Its long wheel­base is pal­pa­ble in the er­gonomics, sat back in the sad­dle and seem­ingly miles away from the front wheel. Its in­her­ent sta­bil­ity no doubt sac­ri­fices some dex­ter­ity and the RR lacks the dig­i­tal ac­cu­racy of the fron­trun­ners when it comes to chas­ing tenths.

As a pack­age, the Kawasaki’s brakes and cor­ner en­try in gen­eral is epic. Ex­cept cor­ner­ing ABS, that can suck my willy, which wrecks any trail brak­ing hero­ics and can­not be dis­abled: bizarre as the ABS isn’t trou­bled in a straight line. There’s plenty of power and, more im­por­tantly, pro­gres­sion and feel with a proper Brembo mas­ter cylin­der, work­ing de­li­ciously with those Showa BFF forks. You can be as ruth­less as you want un­der heavy brak­ing and the 10RR will re­main un­flus­tered, never back­ing-in or step­ping out of line, just get­ting on with it.

Ini­tial turn-in and steer­ing pace can’t be frowned upon, glid­ing to an apex with con­sum­mate ease. It’s the slight in­abil­ity to com­plete the cor­ner and lack of flu­id­ity against fresher ma­chin­ery that hin­ders the Kawasaki, and it strug­gles to join the dots with a stac­cato ex­e­cu­tion un­til the throt­tle is tapped – a ma­jor blem­ish in Por­tu­gal given Por­ti­mao’s in­tri­ca­cies. It’s just a bit cum­ber­some, re­ally.

It’s taken V4s, cross­plane cranks and Mo­toGP tech­nol­ogy to en­sure an in­line four packs char­ac­ter and ex­cite­ment these days. Ul­ti­mately, the Kawasaki lacks the en­thralling ec­centrics of its ri­vals, and the bot­tom

end and midrange to com­pete with the 200bhp play­ers. A lan­guid open­ing to pro­ceed­ings equates to ab­so­lutely no punch on cor­ner exit, repli­cat­ing a mid­dleweight in some re­spects be­fore the top-end is un­leashed at 10,000rpm and the (rather pony-look­ing) dash be­gins to il­lu­mi­nate like a cheap disco. Long gear­ing doesn’t help and first gear was just as es­sen­tial for the ZX-10RR as it was aboard the R6 in the slower bends.

With a tan­gi­bly low arse and plenty of feel seep­ing through the sad­dle, the short­age of power is reme­died with an abun­dance of me­chan­i­cal grip and the ca­pac­ity to use the en­tire arse­nal. De­spite the ar­chaic and crude na­ture, the elec­tron­ics are sub­lime on the track.

It’s su­per-easy to feel for grip and con­se­quent lim­its, and doesn’t in­hibit like other sys­tems; def­i­nitely a per­for­mance en­hancer rather than safety func­tion. While the quick­shifter and blip­per combo isn’t ex­actly dreamy on the road, it’s per­fect for track sor­ties when the revs are dras­ti­cally higher.

De­spite its short­falls and miss­ing X-fac­tor along­side more ca­pa­ble ma­chin­ery, you can’t ig­nore the RR’s price and ride­abil­ity. It was a per­sonal favourite among some of the un­fit testers thanks to its le­nient na­ture in 30º heat.

The brakes are su­perb!

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