Kawasaki ZX-10R SE

Performance Bikes (UK) - - KAWASAKI SHOOTOUT -

SO WAIT A minute, which one is this?” says Rutter. Granted he is eas­ily con­fused and mis­led (I’ve lost count of the amount of money I have won from him over the years via a va­ri­ety of al­co­hol-fu­elled gam­bling games), but on this oc­ca­sion, I’m sym­pa­thetic to his con­fu­sion. I have to dou­ble-take to make sure it’s the SE-spec ZX-10 that we’re look­ing at. Of course there are vis­ual dif­fer­ences be­tween the two ZX-10s, but even for an anorak like me, they are vis­ually so alike that it still takes me a mo­ment to check and to be sure.

The key things that de­fine the ZX-10 SE won’t smack you in the chops. Look very closely, and you can see a wire ap­pear­ing from the base of the forks. Then you can tell this is the fully loaded ZX-10. The ZX-10RR’s light­weight wheels are present, and both test bikes have the ‘Per­for­mance Edi­tion’ Akrapovic si­lencer, but the things that make the SE unique are tucked away un­der the fuel tank, and deep within the Showa Bal­ance Free forks. A seper­ate ECU for the forks and shock takes mea­sure­ments from stroke sen­sors on the forks and rear shock ev­ery 1000 times per sec­ond, and sends in­struc­tions to so­le­noid valves in the sus­pen­sion ev­ery mil­lisec­ond. It also mar­ries its read­ings with the out­put of the bike’s IMU, so lean an­gle, pitch, yaw, speed, throt­tle po­si­tion, brake, gear po­si­tion and rpm all get fac­tored into the al­go­rithms ev­ery 10m/s to pro­duce an end re­sult that is claimed to be ul­tra-re­fined and ul­tra-high-res­o­lu­tion. In fact, the rate and quan­tity of in­for­ma­tion on of­fer is such that Showa had to do away with the usual step­per mo­tors found within elec­tron­i­cally-as­sisted, semi-ac­tive sus­pen­sion sys­tems, in­stead us­ing a so­le­noid to con­trol the damp­ing at a rate fast enough to cope with the sheer quan­tity and speed of in­for­ma­tion be­ing gath­ered. This sets the Kawasaki’s semi-ac­tive sys­tem

‘The ZX-10R SE has joined a very ex­clu­sive club, lap­ping Don­ing­ton in less than 1min 37s’

apart from that of the Pani­gale V4, R1M and Fire­blade SP, so say Kawasaki. But Öh­lins have over a decade of de­vel­op­ment in their ERS; this is Showa’s ground zero. Gen­er­ally, Rutter isn’t con­vinced by the lat­est move by man­u­fac­tur­ers to­wards semi-ac­tive sus­pen­sion; he trusts his feel and set-up over a black box. How­ever, in the real world, the tech­ni­cal ge­nie is out of the bot­tle. It’s here to stay, and with the ex­is­tence of the ZX-10R and ZX-10RR, Kawasaki have catered for purists, scep­tics and di­nosaurs alike. It is there­fore a tes­ta­ment to the qual­ity of the Kawasaki sys­tem that, at one point, Rutter ac­tu­ally con­fuses the SE and RR when re­fer­ring to the sus­pen­sion be­hav­iour. He thought the SE was the RR, and was prais­ing the qual­ity of the sus­pen­sion’s ac­tion. Once he is cor­rected (again), Rutter has plenty to say about the SE. “It feels re­ally well sup­ported on the brakes, es­pe­cially when you let them off. The front stays down, and doesn’t ping back up. It’s re­ally nice, and gives tons of con­fi­dence dur­ing turn-in. Also, the bumps in Cop­pice at full lean are ably dealt with. It’s dead smooth through there. Gen­er­ally, though, it does feel like a safe set-up that’s prob­a­bly bet­ter suited to the road than the track. But that’s not to say it’s too soft or slow. It’s re­ally good; I’m strug­gling to tell it apart from the nor­mal set-up on the RR. They are both very high qual­ity. The ex­tra weight of the SE is no­tice­able, and maybe that’s what is just tak­ing the slight­est edge off it com­pared to the RR”.

It is quite telling then that the SE’s best lap time was just 0.46 sec­onds off the RR’s, which in all fair­ness is prob­a­bly what the ex­tra 2kg the SE is car­ry­ing is worth when you’re run­ning at Rutter’s pace. The SE joined a very ex­clu­sive club, by lap­ping Don­ing­ton un­der 1min 37 sec­onds, and in the process lapped faster than the BMW S1000RR and Yamaha R1M, both of which have semi-ac­tive sus­pen­sion. Only the Du­cati 1299 Pani­gale S pre­vents the ZX-10 SE claim­ing top hon­ours for an elec­tron­i­cally-sus­pended bike. For a bike that Kawasaki them­selves sug­gest would ben­e­fit more from the sys­tem on the road, it is hardly a slouch on track. In fact, it is prob­a­bly a re­lief to Kawasaki that the SE didn’t go faster than the RR. How do you ex­plain that the fully-loaded road ver­sion of your ZX-10 is ac­tu­ally bet­ter on track that your light­weight track

ver­sion? No need, but it is very, very close.

Rutter couldn’t tell the bikes apart. Green ac­cents tell us this IS the SE...

That wire is at­tached to a fork stroke sen­sor, Showa’s USP for their ’leccy sys­tem

Odd turn-in re­sponse is the only clue to the KECS sys­tem

Wire pro­tru­sion tells you this is the fully-loaded SE

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