Kawasaki ZX-10R SE

But does that re­ally make the new ZX-10R SE the best of all worlds?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Contents - By Michael Neeves MCN CHIEF ROAD TESTER

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

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