Kawasaki bounces back

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KAWASAKI’S ZX-10R is the most eagerly awaited superbike in an age. With 181bhp, a 170kg dry weight and chassis dimensions to rival the best 600s, not since the GSX-R1000 arrived have so many expected so much.

It looks fantastic. It’s got the specs to get your credit-agreement-signing-hand twitching, and it has the performance to take your breath, shatter your mind and change the way you think about road-going superbikes.

Kawasaki unapologetically presents the ZX-10R as the ultimate track bike and the ZX-10R’s riding position is certainly race-style. The short reach to the bars and tall seat places the rider high and forward mimicking its little brother, the ZX-6R – although if anything, it feels even smaller.

Comfort doesn’t look much, but there’s a lot of room behind the bars in which to move around and the pegs are positioned just right for six-footers. The tank is low and the area to the rear of the tank is almost impossibly narrow so the bike just disappears between your knees.

The ZX-10R pulls hard from as low as 4000rpm yet doesn’t have quite the raw bottom-end grunt of a GSX-R1000. Instead the real excitement begins above 6000rpm, and beyond 8000 to the power peak at 11,500rpm.

Eager, instantaneous and slightly hair-raising are also good ways to describe the ZX-10R’s handling. The new Kawasaki steers more like a 600 than any other big-bore sports machine ever built. But if you’re not smooth and assertive the 10R can be a touch nervous, it’s not quite ‘experts-only’, but it is nowhere near as forgiving as the GSX-R or FireBlade.

And in true Kawasaki style the ZX-10R has a sublime front end where Tarmac info comes at you thick and fast. It gives you fair warning when the bike is going to buck or shake.

There are no faults with the drilled and wavy pattern front disc, Tokico radial-mounted caliper and sintered pad set-up. They offer excellent initial bite and solid, fade-free performance.

The 10R’s superb braking is aided by its slipper clutch – or ‘back-torque limiter’, as Kawasaki calls it. By spring-loading the clutch to slip if engine speed exceeds rear wheel speed during high rpm downshifts, the rear wheel shouldn’t lock up – and it doesn’t. The bike remains untroubled, perfectly stable and slows as if shutting the throttle at 4000rpm.

The only real annoyance was the use of the same crowded instrument cluster as the ZX-6R and RR, including ‘perimeter’ LCD tachometer, which proved next to useless. It requires a lengthy glance and at the speeds the 10R is capable of, that is too much of a distraction. Fortunately, an easily visible gear-shift light is provided.

MCN Staff

By MCN Staff