2016 Kawasaki ZX-106

I spent the last weekend in Alicante, Spain with a group of friends on a stag do with the intention of re-enacting a watered down version of the Hangover Franchise.
As we emerged from the beach on a gloriously sunny afternoon, the brother of the groom-to-be who was slightly ahead of us went into a frenzy and began uttering loudly in Spanish, it did not take long to identify what the commotion was about : the Kawasaki ZX-10R 2016  at the traffic lights with the red-amber sequence lining up.
For anyone who might be asking “what’s the fuss?” I will expand; labelled as potentially the fastest street legal Japanese bike – the Kawasaki ZX-10R is a high tech, 207 Bhp, world class speedster on 2 Wheels.

Compared to its predecessor, alterations have been made to the engine, chassis, suspension, fairings, electronics, brakes, and exhaust systems. To stay in the league of extraordinary race bikes, Kawasaki have tried to improve the ZX-10R’s low end power (its 998cc inline internal combustion four-cylinder has never been as low as Ducati’s v-twin) with a focus on increasing peak power gains in acceleration and deceleration is achieved by the reduction in engine inertia that allows the motor to spin up or down faster. The reduction in engine inertia is achieved in the Zx-10R with the introduction of a new, lightweight cylinder head and crankshaft with the latter inheriting a new, lighter balancer where the connecting rods experience reduced friction at high RPMs all thanks to a spanking new coating. The bike now changes direction more quickly as crank inertia is known to dampen steering speed as power is frivolously dissipated.

The new cylinder head boasts of straighter, broader and polished intake and exhaust ports with the introduction of new, lighter weight titanium valves. With this deadly combination you get an increased flow in the air/fuel mixture into the combustion chamber. It is noted that the cam profiles have also been revised to improve valve overlap; the pistons are lighter, shorter with altered crowns to aid power output at higher RPM. For a glorious crescendo the pistons are wrapped in cylinders with thickened walls giving you the engine rigidity and reliability you come to expect from Japanese engines. It must be known that Kawasaki have introduced an air-box that is 25 percent larger and a filter with a 60 percent increase in its surface area. They claim it has made an admirable difference in the engine response thus improving acceleration out of a corner aggressively – the closer ratio transmission also plays a huge a huge role here as the 2nd to the 6th transmission factors have been shortened tremendously and throw in the slipper clutch (which how comes with a leaner, meaner primary gear and taking off an additional 130g) and Kawasaki confidently claim that the closer ratios give more stable downshift adding to the ideal track riding experience. Kawasaki have also thrown in a new standard Kawasaki Quick Shifter (KQS).

In true Japanese custom – a myriad of electronics have been thrown at this bike with Bosch’s renowned magic Inertia Measurement Unit at the helm of operations. It measures five degrees of movement  and computes a 6th. This incredible organism measures and evaluates acceleration and breaking, cross and lateral forces while cornering, vertical acceleration, lean angle and pitch (when executing a wheelie for example) and uses these to calculate yaw. Measurement taking fortunately does not stop there as it takes wheel-speed, brake pressure, engine rpm, throttle position and opening into consideration leading to Kawasaki’s acclaimed super high level of chassis awareness and adaption changes in tire performance and road camber. The system is driven by Kawasaki’s own proprietary software – built around the ingenuity of their WSBK team rather the out of the box Bosch system adding to the magic of the organism. Kawasaki further claim that with the data and software enhancements they can deliver extremely high accurate and nifty electronic intervention systems including traction control (S-KTRC), abs (KIBS), launch control (KLCM), brake control, corner management, and simple efficient power modes.

Other notable features Kawaski have introduced to the ZX-10R include the Showa Balanced Free Fork with independently adjustable leg providing improved feedback and braking stability. The improved positioning of the headstock at 7.5 mm closer to the rider and a 15.8mm lengthened swingarm that place extra needed weight over the front tire to help with stability and turn-in giving that extra traction. A brilliant idea was to make the top of the fairing larger to help improve aerodynamics and to reinforce the windscreen so it won’t vibrate at high speeds. Kawasaki engineering identified the need for intakes at the sides of the windscreen to reduce negative air pressure to effectively reduce helmet buffeting.  The brakes got attention too. The front calipers are Brembo’s M50 aluminium monoblocs with the 330mm Brembo rotors fine-tuned to drive an increase surface area and heat dissipation. The rear sports a 220mm disk and two-piston Nissin Caliper with both front and back brakes getting steel braided lines.

At this point you can sense the underlying theme; lighter, tighter, more durable engine parts with fine-tuned engineering designs and electronic enhancements governed by an over-arching performance goal as Kawasaki had no intention of making the ZX-10R 2016 prettier than its predecessors. So you get a claimed Power output of approx. 210hp at 13,000 RPM and 84 foot-pounds of torque at 11,500 rpm ready to shoot off at the traffic lights at Alicante and we were anticipating this with great delight. This came to a great anti-climax when a police cruiser pulled out from the opposing lane – sirens flashing on an emergency call and our friend on the Zx-10R meekly changed his body shape and c-c-c-crawled away from the lights. He must have learned a thing or two from the bike’s Inertia Measurement Unit (IMU) – Boooo! Fortunately the rest of my time in Alicante wasn’t so subdued.

Now here’s why we love the ZX-10R and so should you. It is an improvement of its predecessor; not cosmetically (as they look very identical indeed) but in its spirit and essence – a brand new bike with souped-up performance and handling, fitted with new camshafts, crankshaft, pistons, cylinder head, primary gear, electronic valves, air-box, a new cassette type transmission, the IMU and so on thundering together to a tantalising racer’s delight “thrilling power and reduced inertia”. Double Thumbs up!

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