’16 Kawasaki ZX10R
This new ZX10R is all about going faster more easily.
Kawasaki has realized that going fast on a motorcycle means feeling comfortable and confident on a motorcycle. The 2016 ZX10R is almost completely new, with a vast amount of changes that make it easier and safer, which means you can ride a whole lot faster – On Track!
That said, and I found myself swinging a leg over this beast, courtesy of East Coast Motorcycles.
Leaving the dealership I decided to opt for the standard settings, nothing too much, just standard. Hitting the freeway, I found it extremely difficult to ride at 100km/h; even the suggested 120km/h seemed to hold this beast back from its true potential; so I changed to 3rd and went a little faster.
Like a purring animal, the ZX10R couldn’t thank me enough and promised not to disappoint through the rest of the gears. And he didn’t!
While this model might look a whole lot like the previous sibling, I can assure you Kawasaki is accurate in claiming almost everything on this bike is brand-spanking-new. And I’m not referring to cosmetics.
The Japanese manufacturer claims 197 horsepower, 227kg, 998cc super sportbike, defined as “more innovation, no compromise.”
The 998 cc inline four gets a new and lighter crankshaft, which helps the engine spin up faster and improves throttle response and acceleration. Additionally, it also reduces the reciprocating mass, which reduces inertia by 20 percent which makes for better corner turn in and better side-to-side transitions.
Kawasaki claims 197 horsepower or 207 horsepower with Ram Air, thanks in part to a redesigned combustion chamber shape, bigger exhaust valves, increased overlap in the intake and exhaust camshaft overlap, new camshaft chain tensioner, new pistons, and larger airbox.
The transmission has also received a host of updates, including more close-ratio gearing, new and lighter clutch primary, and a slipper clutch with a quick shifter.
Improved power is nice and all, but the real goal (and highlight) of the bike is the improved handling. The engine has been mounted higher, and more forward in the frame, which moves the center of gravity up. The steering head is now 7.5 mm closer to the rider, which puts the rider more over the front of the bike. The swingarm is 15.8 mm longer, which gives the bike a 12 mm longer wheelbase, which improves stability.
Then there’s that Showa Balance Free Fork, with its interesting little gas reservoir. While most forks allow for varied pressure balance, these move the damping valves to outside the fork legs in the damping force chamber. This means the entire surface of the fork piston can push hydraulic fluid towards the valves and the pressure inside the fork tube remains balanced.
This creates more front end feel, better stability, and better comfort – which are the sorts of things most riders will like when flying into “Mineshaft” at Kyalami GP Circuit.
The ZX-10R also gets a new Brembo braking system, which uses high spec M50 aluminium monobloc four-piston callipers and larger front rotors, up from 310 mm to 330 mm.
Finally, there is Kawasaki’s new electronics system. Like most companies, Kawa uses a Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), which it has paired to a proprietary ECU. As with everyone else’s system, the IMU measures five-axis of movement to help the electronics systems keep the bike in control but, unlike everyone else’s system, Kawasaki claims their ECU calculates the yaw which adds a sixth axis of measurement.
Kawasaki’s traction control system (S-KTRC) has added two modes, bringing it to five, and they claim it’s the most accurate and responsive offered on a production motorcycle. Using the IMU, Kawasaki claims they can even account for variables like tire conditions, surface conditions, and rider preference.
Yes, you read that correct. Kawasaki claims its system is “adaptive” and is fast enough/has the ability to sense your preferences and will allow for slip accordingly. Engineers say it does this by sensing throttle inputs in a slide and allowing for slightly more slip if the rider stays on or adds gas, or tightens the reins if the rider responds more tentatively.
Next is what Kawasaki calls the Intelligent Braking System (KIBS), which includes their corner management function. This system uses multiple sensors to help better modulate brake pressure and also paves the way for Kawasaki’s cornering management function, which helps keep the rider on-line while braking in a turn.
My overall impression of the bike is that I felt really comfortable, the ride was very predictable, and running a few tests on the Launch Control had me nervous at first. Sure, I don’t want to flip this bike, but this beast promised me from the start, that it will not disappoint. So I played a little more with the Launch Control until addiction started kicked in. I was hooked!
It’s truly encouraging to see a manufacturer focussing on people’s experience on the bikes rather than just lap times. In the end, it leads to more skilled riders achieving better lap times.
However, for you regular sport riders, being completely honest, buying this bike will leave you riding a beast packing the best tech money can buy straight off the dealership floor. You’ll be happy to learn that this machine is way better equipped than you’ll ever be, and more than capable of scaring the wits out of you or simply blasting you around a track at lightning speeds with a grin across your face so big that plastic surgery won’t be able to hide.
In closing, here are a few comments from the pros on the 2016 Kawasaki ZX10R:
- Redesigned fairing with wider windscreen, handlebars closer to rider: “I rode the 2015 version of the ZX-10R at the Isle of Man TT parade lap,” Rea said. “When I did the first laps, I noticed straight away that the riding position is much nicer, especially with the new front cowling. The Showa Balance Free Fork and Brembo brakes are more like my race bike.”
- Lighter crankshaft and primary gear: “We have a very well balanced bike,” Sykes said about the current-model ZX-10R, “but the inertia causes some problems that we aren’t quite able to get around in terms of setup. I think what you’ll see with less inertia is much better performance all around—straight-line acceleration, braking, corner entry, change of direction.”
- Steering head 7.5mm closer to rider, swingarm 15.8mm longer: “The keys to success were consistency,” Duinker said, “which is something I was taught in my MotoGP years for Kawasaki, and understanding and solving technical problems on the track and getting the maximum potential out of the bike. In racing, we push technology to its very limits, and Kawasaki is using this technology for its production bike.”
- Electronics suite includes launch/traction control, corner management, engine braking, and ABS: “I’ve never experienced electronics on a street bike,” Rea said. “Straight away, I was so impressed. In the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘When is ABS going to make it in top-level racing?’ I was having fun at the end trying to do big, rolling stoppies, and it seemed almost impossible to get the bike really out of shape. From a safety point of view, it’s really good.”
- Adjustable steering head and swing-arm pivot: “If you want to go fast on the track,” Riba said, “you have to make the bike really easy to ride—the rider cannot be fighting the bike. Working closely with the factory makes it much easier to understand the limitations of the bike. Step by step, we understand the best and weakest points of the bike. This is why we change the balance, the weight distribution, a little bit. Together with all the new parts inside, we make the package much stronger than the other bike.”