“We want to bring a new level of excitement to the hearts and minds of Kawasaki riders,” said Kohei Yamada, Kawasaki’s general manger for R&D in motorcycles before unveiling the all new 2011 ZX-10R. And he wasn’t joking. The new Ninja is a bike very much built around excitement, coupled with a small degree of fear. For the first time since its initial launch in 2004, Kawasaki has completely revised its flagship sportsbike – from the ground up.
The new ZX-10R has a claimed 200bhp (209bhp with Ram Air) thanks to an all-new motor that should make it the most powerful litre bike, eclipsing even BMW’s S1000RR if Kawasaki’s figures are to be believed. According to Kawasaki the new motor offers a very linear power delivery with maximum torque moved up the rev range to eliminate the peaks and dips in torque delivery that make it difficult for racers to get on the throttle mid turn and when exiting a corner. The crank/transmission shaft layout has been redesigned with the input shaft now located above the other two to give the bike a higher centre of gravity while larger 31mm intake valves and wider intake ports combine with new lightened high-lift cams to increase power. This beast of an engine is fed air by a 1-litre bigger 9-litre airbox with improved Ram Air and huge 47mm throttle valves (up 4mm) with oval intake funnels while the exhaust is made from titanium alloy. A slipper clutch and close ratio gearbox are standard equipment.
On the chassis front the aluminum twin-spar frame is completely new with a more direct line from the headstock to the swingarm pivot for maximum strength while the swingarm is an all-cast three piece construction. As well as reducing the weight of the chassis, Kawasaki has decreased the head angle from 25.5 to 25-degrees with the trail also reduced by 3mm to 107mm. Happily, and probably essentially, an Ohlins steering damper comes as standard!
Unlike the previous model of ZX-10R the 2011 bike runs the current must-have accessory of fully adjustable Big Piston Forks with a horizontal shock that has high and low speed damping adjustment. Overall the 2011 ZX-10R is 10kg lighter than the 2010 model, tipping the scales at a claimed 198kg, and it doesn’t stop there.
Kawasaki has become the first of the Japanese manufacturers to go to town when it comes to electronics on its sportsbike. As well as optional active ABS, the ZX-10R has traction control (S-KTRC) that was developed while the firm was racing in MotoGP and it is claimed to be so clever it can to distinguish between torque wheelies and sudden wheelies as well as predicting the grip of the tyre. As with other systems it can be set in one of three modes depending on conditions as well as being turned off all together. Add to this a revised riding position, new fairing, lightweight wheels, radial brakes with petal discs and a very funky new instrument cluster (reminiscent of an SP-2) and you can see that Kawasaki means business. Make no mistake, this is one seriously hardcore bike and is a return to what makes Kawasaki so popular with a certain section of riders - completely bonkers machines!!!