I have a thing for numbers and I have a thing for motorbikes. I also believe that you should always keep these two separate.
What a digit-nerd in me would read on paper, is hardly ever directly relatable to what a bike-junkie in me feels, whilst riding the bike. Soulless numbers, that my brain would read one way, come to life in a well balanced creation that triggers questions in my mind, immediately silenced by a whole lot of joy in my soul. Suddenly the numbers completely loose their meaning.
The new ZX10R is the epitome of just that.
Being a short, 5’4 rider, the very first thing I look at, before even attempting a ride on a new motorcycle, is seat height. The ZX-10R spec sheet tries to scare away all the vertically-challenged riders with a 32.9 inch (835mm) figure. But don’t you dare abort the mission just yet. What the spec sheet fails to show you, is that the seat is also narrow and accompanied by a tank shaped so well, the frightening 835mm in reality feels lower than my chunkier 820mm S1000RR. Yes, I was on my tippy-toes, but I was very comfortable and had no size-related confidence issues. Side stand was easy to reach and for the very first time I felt the foot pegs were high enough, which meant I wasn’t struggling to keep my foot on the peg, whilst leaning of the bike (common short-rider issue). This machine seems to be so well fitting for a petite rider, that it had me wondering just how uncomfortable a taller rider might find it.
Now the 206kg (wet) weight info is even harder to acknowledge. This bike does not feel heavy at all! It’s fairly easy to move around with the engine off, slow speed manoeuvres are even easier, and high speed handling is effortless. How can it be? Here’s how. Kawasaki have revised the geometry an decreased the crank weight by 20%. Whether you are approaching a roundabout at 15mph, or trail braking from three-digit speed, it tips in with precision and astonishing ease.
The 200hp engine could make less experienced rider feel a little apprehensive, but again, fear not! Yes, it is stonkingly fast and certainly doesn’t lack the grin factor, but the power delivery is smooth, gradual and there’s nothing intimidating about it. It’s also paired up with Brembo M50 cast aluminium mono block callipers, Brembo’s highest grade mass production brake system. There’s nothing more frustrating than brakes not matching the power, as it takes away from being able to really enjoy the machine, however, undeniably, this is not the case. Not once have I questioned these brakes. Such a confidence booster!
In terms of electronics, the Green Team without a doubt caught up with all the big boys. There’s launch control, wheelie control, electronic steering damper (Ohlins), Cornering ABS (the only aid you can’t turn off), a gorgeous and precise quick shifter (which you can turn off) and fully adjustable traction control and engine braking. It also benefits from the Bosh Inertia Measurement Unit, which very much like in the new R1, measures inertia along six axes and knows exactly what the bike is doing at all times, giving the various electronic systems the ability to instantly adapt to real-time conditions.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Kawasaki introduced gas charged forks, a WSBK technology, for the very first time available on a production supersport. It allows independent compression and damping which dramatically improves braking balance as well as front-end feel. We all know that from all the twitchy bike moments, front-end twitches are the twichitest of all, and any technology reducing the likelihood of these, deserves a warm welcome!
The stock, titanium exhaust surely deserves a mention too. Sounding deep and just noisy enough for drivers to hear you before they see you is wonderful, and increases the safety especially in a heavy traffic and whilst filtering. The overrun pop increases the smiles per miles ratio.
So what is all this technology is like to ride? Magnificent!
Bear in mind I am not a professional publication. I am a one-girl-show, a blogger with a very much biased opinion. I have no problem admitting that no Kawasaki has ever been on my radar before. I test rode this one, purely out of curiosity. I jumped on it, looking for flaws. All I could find, was the lack of down-blipper (available as an option), slight jerkiness and cheap and dated looking mirrors, which are impossible to adjust on the go (major flaw in a road bike, non existent in a track bike). That is it. I have no other complaints. The longer I rode it, the more I loved it.
With all the weight rearrangements, the new ZX10R truly feels like a 600cc body with a 1000cc heart. I would even go as far as suggesting that it feels slightly unstable and noticeably more agile compared to a heavy-feeling and therefore more planted S1000RR. This is neither a critique nor a compliment. It’s one of those’ whatever floats your boat’ kind-of-things.
I have no doubt even a very inexperienced rider would thoroughly enjoy this motorcycle. The only question on my mind is, how spoiled would one become with oh-so-many electronics interfering in a rather unnoticeable fashion. I believe there is a great risk of getting hurt, should someone experience quite a few miles on this state-of-the-art bike first, and later downgrade to an old generation machine with no rider aids. This bike is incredibly flattering and confidence inspiring and that is definitely something to be aware of, when riding this or any of the other new, technology-packed motorcycles. It’s not your riding that has suddenly improved. It’s the bike smoothing it out. And if you jump back on anything older, you will quickly realise that, so it’s important to be aware of that and remain humble. Just my two cents regarding all this technology sweeping us off our feet.
Now let me tell you why I suddenly have developed a soft spot for Kawasaki. They managed to catch up with the competition, technology wise, and yet, their price hasn’t. The 2016 ZX10R costs £13,799, which is far more affordable than considerably more expensive 1299, R1M or S1000RR.
Video review: here
Bike: Bournemouth Kawasaki
Photography: Matt Hardy