In giving the Ninja ZX-10R its first complete redesign since its 2004 debut, Kawasaki has upped the litre bike power ante and overtaken BMW’s S1000RR. The 2011 ZX-10R’s 998cc, 16-valve, DOHC, liquid-cooled inline-four motor generates a claimed 197 hp (207 hp with ram air)—4hp more than the Beemer. At a svelte 198kg (wet), The ZX-10R is now also 6kg lighter than the BMW, meaning on paper the Kawi wins in the power to weight ratio category hands down. The version coming to North America though is limited to 178 hp (185 hp with ram air) to meet noise pollution standards, meaning the S1000RR is still king of the hill here in Canada.
Included on Kawasaki’s all-new litre bike are components that you’d normally only expect to see on higher priced european motorcycles. The ZX-10R’s 3-spoke gravity cast front wheel—now 330g lighter (rear wheel is 490g lighter, further reducing unsprung weight)—is suspended by a fully adjustable Showa big piston fork (BPF). Rear suspension is taken care of by a horizontal piggyback shock, claimed to not only improve mass centralization, but also overall damping performance. There’s a slipper clutch to prevent rear wheel lock up during radical downshifts and an Ohlins steering damper to help control the front end. A radial pump master cylinder operates Tokico four piston radial-mount dual calipers squeezing 310 mm petal discs up front, while the rear brake is a single piston caliper working on a 220 mm disc.
Advanced electronics are also a big part of the new ZX-10R package. Its MotoGP derived Sport Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC) is said to be more intelligent and faster acting than other traction control systems whose welcome, yet heavy handed, interventions often slow a bike down. S-KTRC, claims Kawasaki, reacts every 5 milliseconds, monitoring separate front and rear wheel speeds, engine RPM, throttle position, acceleration, as well as other factors, to determine the optimal level of intervention necessary to avoid disaster yet still deliver maximum performance. The system works in three rider-controlled modes, covering conditions from wet street to dry track, and is complemented by 3 switchable engine power settings.
While S-KTRC comes standard on the ZX-10R, Kawasaki’s intelligent anti-lock brake system (KIBS) is optional. Like the traction control, KIBS monitors a number of factors, including throttle position, engine speed, clutch actuation and the hydraulic pressure being applied to the calipers, to determine optimal brake application. According to Kawasaki, instead of the usual harsh grab, release, grab, release ABS cycle, KIBS is designed to deliver much smoother rapid deceleration.
The 2011 ZX-10R comes in black or green, $16,499 for the base model, $17,299 if you add ABS.