Kawasaki ZX-10R SE
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