30th anniversary Ninja not just a track demon
RIDING A PURE SUPERBIKE IN TOWN MEANS PLENTY OF RAW POWER TO SPARE
Superbikes such as the ZX-10R are speed demons on the track, dominating racing series around the world.
But how does such a bike handle the everyday commute?
Answering that was the plan for my week-long ownership of the 30th anniversary edition of the 2015 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R.
On tap from the 998cc inline four is a slightly insane max power of 154.4kW (207hp) with 114.3 Nm of torque, enough to propel the ZX-10R to warp speed in less time than it takes to blink.
Transferring that astonishing amount of power to the rear wheel is Kawasaki’s fantastic cassette-style gearbox. While not matched with a quick shifter from the factory like newer bikes in the class, the 6-speed box is quick to shift. Clutchless shifts are incredibly smooth when gripping the clutch gets tiring after sitting in traffic too long.
Helping to control all that power and keep the rubber on the road are three power maps and Kawasaki’s brilliant K-TRC traction control.
Commuting up and down the motorway I selected the low power map to ensure that if I sneezed I wouldn’t accidentally shoot myself into somebody’s rear bumper. Throttle control becomes easier to modulate, while peak power is lowered to around 60 per cent — nothing to sniff at, as it is still well over the 100hp mark.
Also making sure the ZX-10R makes it around corners without flying off the edge is a host of updated parts. Starting with the aluminium twin-spar frame — which consists of only seven pieces for fewer welds and greater rigidity, Kawasaki has reconfigured geometry so the centre of gravity has been lowered 4mm. A steeper rake of 25 degrees and shorter trail contribute to more flickable handling.
Forks are 43mm Big Piston units supplied by Showa with rebound and compression damping, and spring preload adjustability. Out back, bumps are absorbed by a fully adjustable monoshock with external reservoir. There’s also an updated Ohlins electronic steering damper to prevent buttock-clenching tank-slappers on rough Kiwi roads.
In an effort to improve unsprung weight, Kawasaki has fitted the ZX-10R with lightweight 17-inch wheels and wrapped them in Bridgestone hypersport tyres. Combined with the well-sorted suspension and frame, this makes the ZX-10R an incredibly nimble machine to swing through corners.
Stopping the ZX-10 are four Tokiko pistons clamping down on huge 310mm petal discs up front, with a single piston unit gripping a 210mm disc at the rear. While the majority of bikes imported by Kawasaki NZ aren’t equipped with ABS, the ZX-10R can be optioned with it if desired.
Having sorted out the performance side of things, Kawasaki has also revised the bodywork of the ZX-10 Ninja, using curved rather than edged surfaces. Coloured and black pieces work together to create a sharp, aggressive image resembling a sleek fish rather than a blocky Michael Bay-inspired transformer like the competition.
While it may look like a hard as nails racer, perhaps the biggest surprise of the ZX-10R is how comfortable it is to ride for prolonged periods.
Swinging a leg over the ZX-10R, the first thing you notice is the size of the cockpit. While it appears wider than its 715mm and offers spacious proportions for an average-size rider such as me, the rider’s seat isn’t a painful place to find yourself.
In the immediate field of view is the compact yet feature-filled dash unit. Until now I’ve not been a huge fan of digital tachometers, preferring to watch a needle fly up and down the gauge. However the ZX-10R’s LED backlit bar-graph tachometer gives a brilliant light show to match revs reading from 1000rpm all the way to the screaming 14,000rpm red line.
The dash unit also has switchable display modes, with the speedo becoming the gear position indicator when the switch is made from standard to race modes.
To ensure you can read the digital readout at a glance, a light sensor built into the instrument panel adjusts the LED and LCD brightness automatically for best visibility.
The only real downside to using this track-bred beast on the daily commute is fuel economy, but there’s a healthy 17-litre fuel tank and a handy little economical riding indicator that appears on the LCD screen to indicate good fuel consumption.
After surviving the commute and weekend rides I’ve got to say the ZX-10R is more than the crazed track machine it appears. That said, for commuting I’d probably choose the new and much better suited Ninja 300 ABS. I do like my licence after all ...
PROS AND CONS
KAWASAKI NINJA ZX-10R 30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
ENGINE: 998cc 4-cylinder 154.4Kw @ 13,000rpm
PRICE: $20,995 +ORC
PROS: Easy to ride, plenty of torque, comfortable, Immobiliser standard
CONS: Just a twist of the throttle away from jail