With a fourth world title freshly in the bag for Jonathan Rea over the weekend, you’d think Kawasaki might take a year off from tinkering with the ZX-10R – but you don’t keep winning if you don’t keep evolving. And racing success is absolutely at the core of Kawasaki’s endless tinkering with the ZX-10R model range.
Sales for the big thou may be as depressed as the rest of the litre superbike market, if not more, but you won’t be if you take one on track. And now Kawasaki have given the 2019 family of three even more power in a bid to retain the World Superbike title again in 2019 against increasingly stiff competition.
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Equipping it with a valvetrain that will allow it to rev harder, for longer, there’s no doubt that the headline upgrades are all aimed at track riders and race teams. Those who ride exclusively on-road are unlikely to ever spot the benefits.
There are three versions, the ZX-10R, the ZX-10RR and the SE, and all benefit from the adoption of finger-follower valve actuation, replacing tappet-style valves, reducing the mass of the system by 20%. This allows the motor to spin-up faster and cope with maximum revs more reliably. The design also enables a larger range of valve movement, allowing the use of more aggressive cam profiles. The bi-directional quickshifter previously on the RR and the SE is now also fitted to the R as standard equipment.
The 500-bike limited edition ZX-10RR homologation special also gets Pankl titanium rods that save more than 400g over the standard bike’s, decrease the crankshaft moment of inertia by 5% and increase the rev limit by 600rpm.
MCN Senior Road Tester Adam Child rode the new RR in Japan a few weeks ago, concluding that: "A 4bhp power gain, 600 extra rpm and the addition of titanium rods might not appear like much of a change, especially when the RR’s new price is expected to rise from £16,249 to over £21,000, but in the racing world a faster revving engine can make the difference between pole and 15th.
"However, for prospective ZX-RR owners who plan to ride on the road, the changes will be hard to detect, not least because the new bike looks virtually the same as the current RR."
Meanwhile, the SE retains its semi-active suspension, also gets the updated engine from the R model, and Kawasaki’s new anti-scratch paint. ‘Performance’ variants will be available of all three. Prices are yet to be confirmed.
First appearing on a superbike in BMW’s 2010 S1000RR, and most recently Suzuki’s GSX-R1000, finger-follower valve actuation is lighter, reducing the mass of the system by 20%.
This allows the motor to spin-up faster and sustain high rpm more reliably. The design also means the valves within a larger range of movement, enabling the use of more aggressive cams, have contributed to a 3bhp power gain for 2019.
The new valve train is common to all three models, while the 500-bike limited edition ZX-10RR gets new con-rods to aid high-rpm performance. The Pankl titanium rods save more than 400g compared to the standard bike’s, decrease the crankshaft moment of inertia by 5% and increase the rev limit by 600rpm.
The range-topping SE retains its semi-active suspension, boasts the updated engine from the base model, and Kawasaki’s new anti-scratch Highly Durable Paint.
The bi-directional quickshifter that was previously on the RR and the SE is now on all three bikes, and ‘Performance’ variants will be available of all three versions.
Base model gets engine upgrades that take power to 200bhp thanks to reduced inertia and more aggressive high-lift cams. It also gets the KQS bi-directional quickshifter and a new Lime Green / Ebony / Metallic Graphite Grey paintjob.
Track-focused single-seat model is limited to 500 bikes, gets titanium connecting rods, track-tuned suspension settings, a 600rpm higher rev limit, and a 1bhp advantage over the R, and lighter forged Marchesini wheels. Available in Lime Green only.
Based on the R model, the SE benefits from Kawasaki’s advanced electronic suspension (KECS), and forged Marchesini wheels, while areas susceptible to scuffing and high-wear are treated to a paint finish that self-heals (Metallic Carbon Grey / Neutron Silver / Lime Green).
See this bike debut in the UK at Motorcycle Live from 17-25 November at The NEC.