207 horsepower at 13,000rpm and 206 kilograms ringing wet and raring to go. Kawasaki is back in the superbike game and they’ve brought out the big guns. While the current ZX-10R couldn’t be accused of lacking in performance, it is getting long in the tooth, with its rudimentary electronics package now a few generations behind its European counterparts and Yamaha’s recently refreshed R1.
While next year’s ZX looks vaguely similar to the current bike Kawasaki says that they have left no bolt unturned in their quest for superbike supremacy. The revisions range from a cylinder head that is 20 per cent lighter yet able to flow more air/fuel, to a pair of serious looking Showa Balanced Free Forks (BFF) which feature individual nitrogen canisters that keep internal pressures more consistent allowing improved feel, comfort and braking stability. While the mechanical changes are numerous, it’s the electronics package where Kawasaki has really let loose. Starting with German electronic giant Bosch’s Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), Kawasaki has added its own software developed by their WSBK team rather than running off-the-shelf programming like the competition. The IMU measures cornering loads, acceleration and braking forces and uses information like the bike’s lean angle, and pitch to manage power delivery through traction control (S-KTRC) and braking forces thanks to ABS (KIBS). The new bike will also come with a quick-shifter from the factory (KQS) and will even allow the rider to select the amount of engine braking desired via Kawasaki’s Engine Brake Control (KEBS) a system that was previously reserved for the firm’s supercharged H2 range.
Speaking of braking, Kawasaki hasn’t forgot to update the hardware from what was already a pretty impressive package. The 2016 model gets Brembo’s aluminium monobloc calipers and 20mm larger discs that are now 33omm. Interestingly the discs no longer look to feature Kawasaki’s petal design which was supposed to lower unsprung weight. The front master cylinder also comes from Brembo and what must be a first for a Japanese production bike, both front and rear fluid lines are braided steel, giving the rider more consistent lever and pedal feel than traditional rubber lines. The revised bike’s headers are all new and are made from hydroformed titanium and have almost the same length and diameter as their WSKB counterparts. The stock muffler is also made from titanium, a strange move considering most bikes won’t make it past the showroom door without the stock item being binned for an aftermarket muffler.
The ZX-10R’s project leader told press at the bike’s launch in Barcelona that “a fast bike on track is an easy bike to ride” and that may be why a lot of track developed tech’ is trickling down to road users like you and I. Kawasaki has laid down the gauntlet (along with Yamaha) and now the other Japanese superbikes bikes need to step-up. Honda’s Fireblade and Suzuki’s GSXR-1000 aren’t getting any younger and Kawasaki’s new ZX-10R isn’t making life easier for them. Check out Kawasaki’s website for more details here.