Kawasaki ZX-10R SE
But does that really make the new ZX-10R SE the best of all worlds?
Kawasaki may be late to the electronic semi-active suspension superbike party, but they reckon they’ve got a few tricks up their sleeve. This is the new £18,949 ZX-10R SE and it features Kawasaki’s (and Showa’s) first self-adjusting forks and shock. The range-topper also gets the lightweight Marchesini wheels and the autoblipper from the homologation special ZX-10RR.
The reason the Kawasaki Electronic Control Suspension (KECS) and its rival systems exist is because ‘normal’ mechanically adjustable forks and shocks are a compromise. There are no such problems with semi-active suspension. Producing the hardware is relatively simple ( just fit a means to automatically turn the adjusters inside the forks and shock), but the difficult bit is telling the suspension what to do and when.
Kawasaki claim KECS is a cut above the rest because of the speed it reacts, the amount of information it gathers to do it and the quality of the Showa units.
Unlike rival systems that use either stepper motors or indirect control solenoids, Kawasaki use a direct control solenoid, which can react at lightning speed (1000 times a second). The system also harvests data from the bike at a similarly mind-boggling rate of knots and uses it to fine-tune the damping.
It’s common for modern semi-active suspension to take readings from the ECU and Intertial Measurement Units to get everything from road and wheel speeds, lean angle, throttle position and brake pressure. Some also have a shock travel sensor, which lets the system know how much and fast its moving and whether its on its up (rebound) or down (compression) stroke.
The ZX-10R SE’S system ticks all these boxes and goes a stage further. It also has a stroke sensor in the left fork leg, for even more control, which is a road bike first ( you’ve probably seen them on the outside of one of the fork legs on racing bikes).
There are two main suspension modes to choose from when you ride: Road, which works in a soft range, and Track, which has a firmer set-up. There’s also a third, Manual mode where you can fine-tune the semi- active suspension parameters.
The new suspension is at its most impressive on the road. One of the ZX-10R’S most impressive traits in standard form is the plushness of its Showa forks and shock. That velvety ride quality is still there in Road mode, but it’s slightly tougher, as the magic damping control does its thing. It all adds up to a ZX-10R with a crisper feel. It’s lighter, more talkative in your hands and rock-solid stable.
You can feel just how much damping range there is (a sign on top drawer suspension) by experimenting with Track mode on the road. The extra damping support it gives actually helps the Kawasaki steer and change direction even easier, putting an even bigger grin on your face, but unsurprisingly it doesn’t handle road bumps as well.
A setting between Track and Road (easily done in Manual mode) would be perfect, but when you don’t feel like doing your Johnny Rea impression on your favourite stretch, the beauty of the KECS is you can click it into its soft setting and enjoy a comfortable ride.
You could even go a step further in Manual mode and set the SE really soft for motorway cruising and for riding in the wet.
Kawasaki’s electronic suspension doesn’t change the ZX-10R’S overall character or the way it performs, but at the touch of a button it lets you feel how differently it can ride and handle, without having to get on your hands and knees with a screwdriver.
‘Kawasaki use a direct control solenoid, which can react at lightning speed’
Clever electronics are constantly adjusting the suspension for the best ride