“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!!!
After the success of the remarkably good 2010 Z1000, Kawasaki has followed it up with the Z1000SX, a fully-faired version of the naked bike. As well as a sculpted full fairing the SX gets a larger 19-litre petrol tank, adjustable screen and a more relaxed riding position. Strange types will appreciate the larger under seat storage area. Kawasaki is aiming this bike at the touring market and a full range of accessories are available including panniers, a top box and heated grips. Don’t write this bike off as just a Z1000 with a fairing, it could well prove the sales success of 2011 as it looks very cool in the flesh and will appeal to loads of riders.
To be fair this is little more than a tarted up Z750, but the R is certain to appeal to people looking for a slightly racier middleweight but don’t like the idea of a Z1000. The frame and engine are Z750 but Kawasaki has upgraded the suspension with fully adjustable 41mm inverted forks from the 2009 Z1000 complete with radial brakes, steel braided lines and a radial master cylinder. At the back end a new aluminum swingarm and piggyback reservoir shock improve the sporty handling while a re-design front cowl makes it look more aggressive. There are other subtler changes such as a new 6-spoke front wheel, rubber-less pegs and sticky tyres that should set the R aside from the stock Z750 and make it one of the best handling middleweights.
Unlikely to bring quite the same levels of excitement as the ZX-10R is Kawasaki’s new W800. Harking back to the W1 of 1966 the W800 uses a simple bevel-gear-driven cam parallel twin air-cooled engine with fuel injection and a whole heap of retro-cool. Kawasaki really has done a top job of styling the W800, even going as far as to disguise the fuel injection system to keep the bike looking old-school. The chrome is excessive, touches such as the rubber fork gaiters and tank pads neat and you just have to love the attention to detail that has gone into this bike, right down to its steel mudguards. The W800 could give Triumph’s Bonneville a serious run for its money and fans of the generally underrated W650 are sure to snap them up.
GSX-R600 & GSX-R750
The GSX-R600, and to a lesser degree the 750, could well prove the dark horses of 2011. On the face of it there seems little difference between the new models and their predecessors, but dig a little deeper and it all starts to get interesting… A re-designed (very slightly) fairing that uses fewer and thinner (oh dear, snap…) panels hides a lighter and more compact chassis and an engine that has been completely over-hauled to not only make it faster, but also more fuel-efficient. Overall both bikes have a 15mm shorter wheelbase (1385mm on the 600, 1390mm on the 750) than last year thanks to a new frame that sees the engine tilted forward 3-degrees around the countershaft sprocket to reduce the distance from the front axel to the swingarm pivot without the front wheel bashing hell out of the radiator under hard braking. The frame itself is 1.35kg lighter with new main spars and as well as being narrower has improved weight distribution for sharper handling. The swingarm has a simplified design which sheds another 0.9kg while the forks are now Big Piston (as per the GSX-R1000) and the radial four piston brakes are now supplied by Brembo. Inside the motor’s of both bikes Suzuki has improved the flow of oil and ventilation to reduce losses due to mechanical resistance as well as adding new pistons and a close ratio gearbox. While there was no talk of bhp figures it is fair to expect significant power gains. On the electronics side the GSX-Rs both get electronic steering dampers as well as two ignition modes and a dash with a built in gear indictor, lap timer and a programmable rev light warning display with a huge analogue rev-counter. Suzuki are claiming the GSX-R600 now weighs 9kg less than last year at 187kg with the 750 8kg lighter than before at 190kg, which is a very significant number. The biggest struggle Suzuki face will be persuading customers that the bikes are really that different to last year as they look so similar, but the group test against the other 600s should show up the hard work Suzuki has put into these bikes.
Everyone seems to be following suit and abandoning the traditional middleweight capacity of 600cc and now, snapping at the heels of the Yamaha FZ8 and Kawasaki Z750, Suzuki has unveiled the GSR750. Using a re-tuned 2010 GSX-R750 engine with modified camshafts and intake and exhaust tracts, the GSR is aimed at urban riders who want a sporty and distinctive machine. As with the GSX-Rs there is no power figures claimed, but expect the 750cc engine to make around 110bhp with a generous helping of mid-range. To cut costs and keep the naked bike looking good the GSR comes with a black chassis that combines D-section and round section steel tubes while the inverted KYB forks have a gold-anodised finish and are adjustable for pre-load only. The KYB shock has seven-stage spring pre-load adjustment. Despite being aimed at the budget side of things (no radial brakes here) the GSR has neat touches such as a dash that includes a gear indicator and fuel gauge and a stylish and clean look that is sure to win it some fans. And as with all Suzukis you can expect it to be slightly cheaper than the opposition, which is always a bonus.
In probably the bravest move of the whole show, Triumph unveiled an updated Speed Triple with, wait for it, non-round headlights!!! One of the Triumph chaps we spoke to was predicting a barrage of complaints from Speed Triple purists at this update, but pointed out that the company had to look to the future, which is a fair point. Get over the light situation and despite looking quite similar the 2011 Speed Triple is a radical departure from the old model. To cure the old bike’s slightly lazy steering the Speed Triple’s weight distribution has been altered thanks to a new chassis that runs a more front weight-bias (around 51% on the nose) with the engine moved forward in the chassis and a new lighter swingarm and repositioned battery. To go with the changes is a new more aggressive riding position, again increasing weight on the front end. The new 43mm forks are fully adjustable, as is the shock, while slight engine tweaks have released around 8% more torque with a claimed figure of 111Nm and 5bhp more power with a peak of 135bhp. Shorties will appreciate the lower 820mm seat height while those of a nervous disposition will take comfort in the fact ABS is now an optional extra. And don’t worry , according to a chap in a Triumph jacket the round headlights from the Street Triple will actually fit the new bike if you are really offended by the new ones, or just need to get a life…
In another move that will certainly upset Harley-Davidson, Triumph has launch a tweaked version of its excellent Thunderbird for 2011. The Thunderbird Storm is aimed at the power cruiser market and uses a big-bore 1700cc version (up 100cc) of its T-16 Thunderbird engine. Producing 98bhp and 156Nm of torque the Storm runs twin headlights (so that’s where the Speed Triple’s lights went) and an all-black look with drag bars and a low 700mm seat height. ABS is an optional extra and pictures don’t do this bike justice, in the flesh it looks awesome in a mean and moody way.
Ducati opted to keep its powder dry at the Cologne show, keeping back its most significant models for the Milan show at the start of November, but it did unveil a few updated and one new-ish model. Traction control will be rolled out throughout the whole 1198 range for 2011, including the base 1198 model, and all 1198 models will now feature a quick shifter as standard, adding a bit of value to your purchase. Following on the traditions of old Ducati also unveiled an 1198SP. Basically an exercise in cosmetic adjustments and bolt-ons from the performance catalogue the 1198SP is effectively an 1198S with a few extra goodies thrown at it. The most significant addition is the aluminum tank from the previous Corse models, which increases the bike’s fuel capacity by 2.5 liters as well as reducing its weight by 1kg, and is shown off through a stripe of unpainted metal that runs over the tank. On the performance front an Ohlins TTX shock from the R sits in the back while a slipper clutch is added to the motor. No word on price but expect a slight premium over the 1198S. The rest of the news is limited to announcements that the Monster range of bike will get Marzocchi forks and the Monster 696 will receive the subframe and 20mm higher bars from the Monster 796. Expect the news from Milan to be significantly more exciting…
We have known they were coming for a while now, but here they are in the flesh. BMW’s new 1600cc inline six tourers were officially unveiled at Cologne and if covering huge mileages in total comfort is your thing these bikes are certain to prove superb. With a claimed power of 160bhp and 175Nm of torque the GTs are anything but lacking in grunt, especially as BMW claim that 70% of the maximum torque is produced at just 1,500rpm. Despite tipping the scales at 319kg (348kg for the GTL) BMW has made every effort to keep these bike agile and a lot of hard work directed to improving the handling as well as the engine’s performance. As you would expect each bike comes with a huge range of electronic gizmos, some standard and some as optional extras ranging from traction control, three engine modes, electronic suspension, adaptive headlights, ABS, heated grips, cruise control and GPS listed. The GT is aimed at the sportier market while the GTL is a luxury tourer with a more relaxed riding position. Does anyone else think that a tourer is a bit of a waste of an inline six? Where is the naked bike BMW, last year’s concept bike rocked!
RSV4 R Special Edition
With a World Superbike Championship under its belt, as well as the manufacturer’s title, Aprilia can be forgiven for wanting to get a return on its investment. With a price tag of 22,500 Euros the new RSV4R Special Edition may look remarkably similar to a Factory, but this bike is dripping in WSB technology. The Special Edition runs Aprilia’s first traction control system, developed by Mr Happy, Max Biaggi himself. Called APRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) the system is remarkably clever and as well as being able to self adjust to suit different widths of tyres it has wheelie control (boo!), launch control (yeah!) and a quick shifter. The traction control has eight settings, the anti-wheelie three and if this isn’t enough to keep you techno-nerds happy there are even three modes of launch control – presumably Pedrosa (rocket), Stoner (not quite as fast) and Yamaha WSB (unable to get off the line). Also new on the SE is a dash that can swap between road and race displays, a lighter exhaust, close ratio gearbox and a whopping 200/55 rear tyre! Oh, it also has a neat Italian flag on its belly pan. Miserable, oddly bearded rider not included.
Still caught up in all the excitement of a WSB title win, Aprilia glossed over the introduction of the new Dorsoduro, which was a shame because on specs alone this looks like a belting bike. The all-new 1200cc V-twin big supermoto is basically a Dorsoduro 750 on steroids with a 130bhp kick in its pants. Aprilia describes the engine as ‘boisterous’ which generally translates as ‘bloody mental’ if past models are anything to go by. Going some way to controlling this power is Aprilia’s new traction control system (not as advanced as the one on the SE) and ABS while fully-adjustable suspension and Brembo radial brakes should help curb the bike’s enthusiastic nature. Don’t think of this bike as a touring style machine such as KTM’s SMT, the Dorsoduro comes with just a 15-litre tank and Aprilia claim it has ‘the soul of a supermotard racer.’ It’s extreme and with 115Nm of torque will probably spend most of its time on one wheel. We like it!
Likely to send younger riders into the kind of excited frenzy that usually results in bed sheets that need to be broken with a hammer is KTM’s new 125 Duke. You have to hand it to KTM, they know how to make a 125 look sexy. The Duke is learner legal with a water-cooled four-stroke 125 engine making 15bhp/11kW, but as it weighs just 125kg, so adding a mental teenager should make it fly! Unlike some 125s the Duke comes with components developed by big names such as WP and Brembo for added pose value as well as access to a whole host of after market extras from KTM’s Power Parts catalogue, including LED tank lights! KTM keep stating the bike offers fun at a reasonable price, so expect it to be competitively priced with the Japanese alternatives and be a huge sales success.
RC8 R Track
Less exciting but still quite cool is KTM’s new RC8 R Track. Essentially a stripped down RC8 R the Track is little more than the name suggests, a track ready KTM. Compatible with the FIM’s Superstock homologation rules the Track comes with 180bhp, an Akrapovic exhaust, increased compression, WP’s race suspension and a bunch of performance additions including a quick shifter and slicks. The only problem seems to be the lack of KTM’s track success, would you race one in Superstock when the BMW S1000RR is available…
Yamaha made quite frankly a pathetic attempt at disguising the fact it had no new models in Cologne by rolling out two ‘concept’ bikes. One was a Super Tenere with a load of bolt on bits thrown at it that Yamaha called a ‘World Cruiser 1200’ and the other was the VMAX Hermes (isn’t that a sexual disease?), basically a VMAX with a set of cans and a new seat cover. Anyone would think that they were struggling for cash…
Err, even worse than Yamaha, Honda didn’t even bother rolling out a dodgy concept model, instead Big H simply hid away at the far end of the show with some new colours on their bikes. Rumors are circulating that Honda will have some big news at Milan and there is talk of an 800cc V4 in the style of Ducati’s Multistrada. Let’s hope this isn’t just idle gossip.