Kawasaki ZX10r

Kawasaki ZX10r
First look review

WRITTEN BY AARON TRAVELL

PUBLISHED: December 8, 2020

Kawasaki’s Zx10r is one of the most famous sportsbikes of all time, with riders all over the world loyal fans of Ninja power. 2021 sees the biggest revision to the model for a long time and it could be the biggest sportsbike release of next year!

It goes without saying that Kawasaki’s ZX10r is synonymous with the ultimate sportsbike, and certainly on the track day scene, they are everywhere! However, over the past few years, the 1000cc sportsbike sector has gone mad, v4r panigales, Honda’s CBR, BMWs new M1000rr, with more wings between them than a KFC Bargain bucket and more “r’s” heard than at a baby shower, the envelope is being well and truly pushed. It has to be said that in recent years and similar to the GSXR1000, the ZX10r has been pushed out of the limelight… well make way people, because the green just got mean!

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There are 2 models for 2021, the ZX10r is the volume product most of us will be buying and the ZX10rr homologation special is for the super serious and well healed trackday guys and race teams. A lot of the features are applied to both models so Ill mainly refer to the standard ZX10r and cover the extras on the ZX10rr.

The biggest change the 2021 ZX10r is its visual one… but we’re not just talking a simple makeover, inline with the Kawasaki Sygomi philosophy, the way the bike looks is intrinsically connected to its purpose, it’s an aerodynamic missile!

The new fairing package simultaneously reduces drag by 7% and yet increases downforce by 17%, an incredible feat. While it’s hard to see all the details from the official images, Kawasaki have clearly thrown the old design in the bin and started afresh, cleverly inserting downforce winglets into the front fairing via a big scoop where the lights are located. The front screen has been raised 40mm and even the bars have been adjusted to allow the rider to tuck in more. Similar to the R1 and Ducati, the rear seat fairing has also been cut out to allow extra airflow.

The makers of the bullet train in Japan, Kawasaki Heavy Industries know a thing or 2 about aerodynamics, and they’ve clearly been putting this knowledge into practice. The rear swingarm has also been lengthened slightly meaning that the bike is less likely to wheelie, allowing the rider to be head down, connected to the tarmac and stable.

On the styling front, while our Instagram survey said that only 70% of people liked the styling, which is abnormally low for such a survey, I think it looks really good. Not a criticism, but I sometimes think Kawasaki official photography doesn’t always do their bikes justice and similar to some of the other bikes in their range, look much better in the flesh.

Minimal changes have been made in the engine department and lets be honest, riding a 200hp motorcycle is bonkers enough thank you very much! The 1000cc inline 4 is now Euro 5 compliant, retaining all the power of the previous model without having an exhaust the size of the titanic strapped to the side of it which is fantastic. I personally love the power delivery and feel an inline 4 motor, but by nature they can feel a bit flat at lower rpms with all the power at the top, especially in comparison to v4’s and bikes like the s1000rr and GSXR1000 with variable valve timing boosting the low down torque.

The new zx10r has been given shorter gearing in 1-3 to counter that, and from experience, a gearing change can make a massive difference to how a bike spins up, and hopefully this should mean we’ll be able to experience the full power of the zx10r on the road without going double the speed limit before changing into 2nd gear.

The new ZX10r is fitted with a tft screen for the first time lifted from bikes such as the ZH2. This is a really nice unit, although on the ZH2, the menu system had me scratching my head more than Donald Trump after the US election. A full suite of electronics are on the bike, with a 6 axis IMU controlling all the interventions. Kawasaki’s electronics have really taken a step up with the latest incarnation featuring predictive measurements that work with the incoming data and then make assumptions on the immediate time in front, preventing slips and high sides before they even begin… clever stuff!

The ZX10r even now comes with an option for heated grips and cruise control, improving the road going functionality of the bike!

On the braking side, Brembo M50 callipers are fitted onto 330mm discs. This is a very premium set up. Although like all new braking systems, the ABS can be an Achilles heal no matter how good the components are. While ABS is fantastic on road and a real safety net, on track where speeds are much higher and braking is significantly harder, especially combined with a bit of rear wheel lift, it can be a horrible experience, constant chatter through the brake lever and it can knock your confidence. On the ZH2, braking hard from 150 the ABS was quite intrusive, so we’ll hope for a track setting on the ZX10r where it cuts in less, but the proof will be in the pudding on this. Failing that and for serious track riders, there should be an aftermarket ABS delete you can purchase.

Tyres fitted to the standard model are the Bridgestone RS11 and Pirelli Supercorsa SP on the RR version, a tyre that is super popular with track day riders.

Quickly covering the RR version, the major difference here is the engine internals. A full set of Pankl connecting rods, pistons and pins allowing the RR version to rev around 400rpm higher. To the layman this sounds underwhelming and the set up saves around 400g. However, this engine internal package is significant in high end racing. The rotational mass of that 400g saving at 13,000rpm is significant, making for a bike that feels lighter, turns apex to apex faster and spins up quicker. While these components are not going to shout very loud on a top trump card, the feeling to the racer should be significant.

Any followers of World SuperBikes know that Jonathan Rea is undeniably one of the greatest racers of all time, with unmatched speed, composure and consistency. Whether or not he could achieve the same results on another motorcycle, we’ll never know… Plus any bike that’s in the WSB paddock is far removed from the bikes we buy with everything within the technical regulations pushed to the limit, suspension, swingarms, wheels, engine tuning, brakes, weight, the lot, but of course some of the fundamentals they can’t change.

With the new ZX10r, the fact that both Rea and Alex Lowes have literally jumped on that brand new bike at the Jerez winter test and had such incredible results is outstanding. Finishing 1st and 3rd respectively. Rea was 1’38.324, less than 1/10th off his own lap record. When riders like Bautista are complaining and saying things like “they’re treating it like Motogp”, you know you’re on a good thing and I think we can expect very strong results next year from Kawasaki.

With the new ZX10r, the fact that both Rea and Alex Lowes have literally jumped on that brand new bike at the Jerez winter test and had such incredible results is outstanding. Finishing 1st and 3rd respectively. Rea was 1’38.324, less than 1/10th off his own lap record. When riders like Bautista are complaining and saying things like “they’re treating it like Motogp”, you know you’re on a good thing and I think we can expect very strong results next year from Kawasaki.

So final conclusions; will this ZX10r beat all the other superbikes in the sector and claim victory? could it be ½ a second quicker than all the others around a racetrack? Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, the problem is, most of us don’t need to save a second a lap, we need 10… and that’s got nothing to do with the motorcycle.

But the reality is, this new ZX10r will be amazing, unbelievably fast, great handling and featuring better road going creature comforts than any ZX10r before it and of course have that brilliant Kawasaki reliability owners know and love. Not only do I hope to get the chance to ride one, my wallet is seriously twitching!

Written by Aaron Travell

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