You’d ex­pect the lat­est brake-by-wire ABS to be top notch – so why the lack of feel and bite?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Garage - MICHAEL NEEVES Long-time sports­bike lover who also races in the Thun­der­sport GP1 cham­pi­onship HEIGHT 6ft WEIGHT 7 2kg michael.neeves@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

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

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