Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R

The 2016 edi­tion of Kawasaki’s mean, green, litre-class track ma­chine is here

Bike India - - Contents - STORY: ANINDA SAR­DAR

IT’S DIF­FI­CULT not to re­spect a mo­tor­cy­cle like the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. Just last year, a sim­i­lar ma­chine had stormed to the top two lev­els of the World Su­per­bike Cham­pi­onship at the hands of the bril­liant Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes, tak­ing Kawasaki to the top of the Con­struc­tors’ Stand­ings with 421 points. That is nearly a full 100 points ahead of sec­ond-placed Ducati. And here I was star­ing at this beau­ti­ful (not just vis­ually) ma­chine, about to swing a leg over it. No, I sim­ply could not stop the thump­ing in­side my ribcage. The fact that the bike’s abil­ity to per­form was way be­yond my own only added to the thump­ing.

Vis­ually, the re­sem­blance to the old ZX-10R, which this new model re­places glob­ally, is ob­vi­ous while the changes are sub­tle. For in­stance, the wind­screen on this bike is slightly wider while sub­tle in­takes on the sides of the sig­na­ture lime-green-and-black fair­ing cre­ate smart chan­nels for the air so that rider fa­tigue from be­ing buf­feted by the wind is re­duced. The odd-look­ing chin at the base of the gap­ing air in­take sand­wiched be­tween the head­lamps is also new and im­proves aero ef­fi­ciency, ac­cord­ing to Kawasaki. The all-dig­i­tal in­stru­men­ta­tion with its char­ac­ter­is­tic colour chang­ing LED tachome­ter has been re­tained from the old bike but as I head to­wards the rear, the tail sec­tion seems dif­fer­ent. I can’t quite put my fin­ger on it un­til a bit of re­search in­forms me that the new Ninja ZX10R’s tail sec­tion is in­deed new and slim­mer than be­fore.

Gin­gerly, al­most too cau­tiously, I swing my leg over the seat and the rid­ing pos­ture im­me­di­ately com­mu­ni­cates the bike’s in­tent. With­out ever hav­ing raced bikes be­fore I find my­self in a proper race crouch with legs tucked in and out of the way and the head al­most too ready to duck down un­der that screen. The ZX-10R’s track-fo­cused in­tent is all too clear. This is not the kind of bike you want to take on a long ride to nowhere. On this bike you’d know ex­actly where you are headed (prob­a­bly a race­track) and you’ll be equally sure where you want to fin­ish your day: on the top step of the podium. In fact, the seat height on this bike is 22 mil­lime­tres taller than on the pre­vi­ous bike while the head­stock is closer by 7.5 mm.

Be­fore you get go­ing it is im­por­tant to fa­mil­iarise your­self with all the tech that you’re sur­rounded by, be­cause the 2016 model of the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R boasts of five lev­els of trac­tion con­trol (the out­go­ing ver­sion had three) and three lev­els of launch con­trol set­tings and one

that man­ages en­gine brak­ing. There are dif­fer­ent modes that can be se­lected by push­ing the tog­gle but­ton with your left thumb. The Full mode al­lows the rider to ac­cess 100 per cent of the en­gine’s power while the Mid­dle mode al­lows 80 per cent and a Low mode lim­its power avail­abil­ity to just 60 per cent, which, mind you, is still 120 PS! The afore­men­tioned launch con­trol set­tings al­low the rider to op­ti­mise launches by pre­vent­ing wheel-spin and unwanted time-con­sum­ing wheel­ies. Mean­while, the en­gine brak­ing con­trol sys­tem ac­tu­ally al­lows the rider to ac­cess just the de­sired amount of en­gine brak­ing. Not too much, not too lit­tle. There is a Quick Shifter as well so you can pretty much go through the slick six-speed gear­box with the throt­tle wound wide open. For down­shifts you have to re­sort to the clutch again. The five-level trac­tion con­trol en­sures op­ti­mum trac­tion from con­di­tions rang­ing from a dry race cir­cuit to wet city roads and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. Ad­di­tion­ally, there are other trick giz­mos such as an In­er­tia Mea­sure­ment Unit (IMU) de­vel­oped by Bosch that mea­sures in­er­tia along six dif­fer­ent axes, five of which are mea­sured and one is cal­cu­lated. Thanks to this cut­ting-edge piece of kit the bike has a bet­ter sense of the chas­sis’ ori­en­ta­tion and is, there­fore, bet­ter able to stay on the in­tended line. In com­par­i­son to all this space-age tech­nol­ogy, the hum­ble ABS and the Öh­lins elec­tronic steer­ing damper seem al­most pedes­trian.

I thumb the starter rev­er­en­tially and the liq­uid-cooled 998-cc straight four en­gine fires up in­stantly and set­tles into an un­in­tim­i­dat­ing hum. But don’t be fooled by this ap­par­ent docil­ity. The bike’s ferocious na­ture can be heard even at stand­still should you twist the throt­tle with the same gusto as an an­gry school­teacher’s wrist on an er­rant stu­dent’s ear. An an­gry howl leaves you in no doubt as to what this mo­tor­cy­cle might be ca­pa­ble of. The bore and stroke, the com­pres­sion ra­tio and the four 47-mm Kei­hin throt­tle bod­ies may be the same as that of the en­gine in the pre­vi­ous ver­sion, but a lot has been changed. For starters, the cylin­der-head is new, the valves are now of ti­ta­nium with the ex­haust valves be­ing one mm wider than be­fore, at 25.5 mm. The crankshaft is lighter and, as a re­sult, its mo­ment of in­er­tia is lower than be­fore, which, in turn, helps re­duce en­gine vi­bra­tions. The pis­tons, too, aren’t the same; they are lighter and made of a new ma­te­rial and the cylin­der walls are thicker. A lot of work has also been done by Kawasaki in im­prov­ing air­flow

with the air-box be­ing 25 per cent larger and the air-fil­ter it­self be­ing 60 per cent larger.

De­spite all that thump­ing in­side the chest, which I dare­say out­did the vi­bra­tions from the bike’s en­gine, which is ac­tu­ally rather re­fined, this Ninja is sur­pris­ingly easy to ride. There’s grunt avail­able from the bot­tom of the revrange and there is a cer­tain lin­ear­ity of de­liv­ery that al­most makes you for­get that this is a fo­cused su­per-sport mo­tor­cy­cle. In fact, be­low 7,500-8,000 RPM the bike feels rather man­age­able but get into the hot zone be­yond this rev range and sud­denly you’ll find your brain try­ing to catch up with the bike. The ac­cel­er­a­tion at this point is ferocious and you’ll find your­self reach­ing ev­ery­where much too quickly. It’s al­most scary and yet thrilling at the same time. In be­tween shots dur­ing our photo shoot I fre­quently found my­self scar­ing the wits out of my­self and fin­ish­ing the ac­cel­er­a­tion run with a wide grin pasted on my face. It’s ex­hil­a­rat­ing be­yond words.

On the dy­namic abil­i­ties as­pect, this Kawasaki is at its sub­lime best and there’s good rea­son for that. Thanks to in­puts from Rea and Sykes the swingarm is now 15.8 mm longer which has also re­sulted into a 15-mm (ap­prox) in­crease in the bike’s wheel­base. This, no doubt, im­proves straight line sta­bil­ity. Mean­while, that elec­tronic steer­ing damper keeps the front end sta­ble un­der harsh ac­cel­er­a­tion. What makes the big­gest im­pact on the bike’s han­dling abil­ity, how­ever, is that oh-so­pre­dictable front end. Even for a slightly­bet­ter-than-rookie rider like me, the afore­men­tioned pre­dictabil­ity gives so much con­fi­dence that de­spite my fears I found my­self push­ing harder and harder. This bike al­most makes it too easy. One of the rea­sons for this pre­dictabil­ity, ac­cord­ing to Kawasaki, is the Showa Bal­ance Free Forks (note the ni­tro­gen can­is­ter on each of the shocks). Mak­ing their début for the first time on a pro­duc­tion mo­tor­cy­cle on this Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, th­ese forks al­low the func­tions of the front sus­pen­sion to be iso­lated so that a tweak to damp­ing, which is con­trolled via the com­pressed ni­tro­gen, will not af­fect the com­pres­sion and re­bound, both of which are hy­drauli­cally man­aged. The other rea­son as­cribed to this won­der­ful front-end feel is the prox­im­ity of the head­stock, which is now 7.5 mm closer to the rider, thus putting more weight on the front. The rear sus­pen­sion is a fully ad­justable gascharged Öh­lins monoshock.

Al­though an as­pect like ride qual­ity is of lit­tle con­se­quence in such a track­fo­cused mo­tor­cy­cle, it would be wise to re­mem­ber that a ma­jor­ity of In­dian own­ers will end up rid­ing this bike on

our far from per­fect roads. And for th­ese roads, which can vary from be­ing su­per smooth to rough to com­pletely bro­ken, the ride qual­ity is def­i­nitely stiff. It won’t kill your back but it will shake things up quite a bit.

For stop­ping du­ties the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R gets a pair of 330-mm discs with Brembo M50 Monoblocs up front and a sin­gle 220-mm disc with an alu­minium sin­gle pis­ton cal­liper at the rear. Bite from th­ese stop­pers is ferocious (nec­es­sary, too, given the ra­pid­ity with which you need to shed speed if you’re thrash­ing it around a race­track) but pro­gres­sive and, there­fore, pre­dictable. In­deed, bar­ring the one in­stance when I had to haul on the stop­pers with some loose gravel un­der those grippy Bridge­stone Bat­t­lax RS10 tyres (120/70 ZR17 up front and 190/55 ZR17 at the rear), not once did the ABS or trac­tion con­trol feel the need to in­ter­vene.

To cut a long story (that has the pos­si­bil­ity to be longer still) short, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is a fan­tas­tic mo­tor­cy­cle. It is fast yet pre­dictable enough for the new­comer to get used to. It has bril­liant dy­nam­ics and plenty of stop­ping power and more than enough tech­nol­ogy to keep you out of harm’s way. Per­haps, its only neg­a­tive, so far as In­dia is con­cerned, is the stiff ride qual­ity. The only other ob­ser­va­tion I have about this mo­tor­cy­cle is that this is not ev­ery­one’s kind of bike. You can’t re­ally go on a tour with this. I mean, you can, but that is not this Ninja’s in­tended pur­pose. The pur­pose of this bike is to carve race­tracks with the sharp­ness of a Nin­jato (short sword used by nin­jas). So, if you’re look­ing for a pow­er­ful, big­ca­pac­ity sporty mo­tor­cy­cle to en­joy on a ran­dom Sun­day ride with your friends, then don’t even look here but if you have ac­cess to a race­track and en­joy wear­ing out your knee-slid­ers, then at less than Rs 17 lakh, ex-Pune, there’s no bet­ter bar­gain than the 2016 model of the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R.

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: SANJAY RAIKAR

Tail sec­tion is all-new and slim­mer than on the old bike. Seat height is taller too The liq­uid-cooled 998-cc in-line four pushes out 200 PS, 210 with ram air The wind­screen is now wider and the odd chin un­der the in­take is a new aero aid

Wider screen and dis­creet smart chan­nels re­duce wind buf­fet­ing

A host of changes to the ge­om­e­try and sus­pen­sion means ex­cel­lent pre­dictablity where dy­nam­ics are con­cerned Rider: Aninda Sar­dar Hel­met: Shiro R-15 Jacket: Spidi Gloves: Frank Thomas Boots: TCX Evo R-S2 Gearcheck

Tail lamp is an all-LED unit and its de­sign re­sem­bles an up­side down Bat­man sym­bol Ex­haust is all-new and helps the ZX-10R com­ply with tight­en­ing emis­sion norms The swingarm is now 15.8 mm longer than be­fore. Wheel­base is longer too

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