‘STOPPING POWER OF A TIRED MID-90S BIKE’
You’d expect the latest brake-by-wire ABS to be top notch – so why the lack of feel and bite?
KAWASAKI ZX-10R £13,799 FUEL 17 litres @ 45mpg = 168 miles WEIGHT 197kg Seat 813mm POWER 197bhp TORQUE 84ftlb
There’s something strange going on with the latest electronic ‘brake-by-wire’ ABS on Japanese superbikes – machines like the Kawasaki H2, Yamaha R1 and my ZX-10R.
Kawasaki uprated this year’s ZX-10R with four-piston Brembo monobloc calipers, a Brembo master cylinder and braided steel lines. You’d expect the brakes to be fantastic…but they’re not. They feel more like they’ve been lifted from a tired, mid-90s sportsbike.
When we tested all the superbikes during our annual group test earlier in the year the ZX-10R took three metres longer to stop from 70mph than a Panigale and there was a bigger difference when braking from higher speed. On track, stopping power is inconsistent at the limit, where the ABS kicks in far too early, especially when you’re trail braking.
My fellow MCN road tester Adam Child raved about the brakes at the Kawasaki’s launch in Sepang, but he was riding a non-abs machine.
So what’s the source of the problem? Here are my three steps to discovering the answer:
Step 1: Move the lever
Kawasaki suggested sliding the brake lever up the clip-on (by 3mm) for more leverage. Nothing really changed and pulling the brakes still felt like squeezing a squash ball.
Step 2: Disable the ABS
Kawasaki sell a dongle for less than a tenner, which plugs in under the seat and disconnects the ABS for racing. With it fitted the brakes are more consistent, but the deadness and lack of feel at the lever is still there. The ABS dash light flashes constantly with the dongle in place, but on the plus side the lack of ABS lets me back the ZX-10R into corners for the first time, which is fun.
Step 3: Fit different pads
I’ve tried two types of brake pad, both from SBS: road (Sinter) and racing (Dual Sinter). The Sinter pads are impressive and offer noticeably more feel and power on the road. They warm-up fast, too.
I used the Dual Sinter on my BMW S1000RR race bike. They’re not cheap, but they last three or four race meetings, soak you with feel, confidence and have planet-stopping power. They’re just as impressive on my ZX-10R, but that remote feeling at the lever remains.
The only thing left to try is to remove the ABS system in its entirety, but I don’t want to go down that route. I’m going to have to accept that the brakes are as good as they can be with the ABS. And that’s a shame because it spoils a great road bike.
Braking tests found the ZX-10R wanting