Article and Photos: Brian Cheyne
In the world of motorcycle racing, MotoGP is the flagship series. Purpose built machines that are a far cry from what you can buy at your local dealer. For a more representative racing series, you need to look at WorldSBK. It features a few different classes, but the common denominator is the fact that all these machines are based on standard production bikes.
The top class allows some modifications but it does mean that any major changes to the bike need to be applied to the road-going version as well. Kawasaki has dominated the World Superbike Championship for the last few years. This year, the two Kawasaki pilots, Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes, obliterated the field. Their combined points meant that Kawasaki took the Constructors championship as well. Rea and Sykes finished first and second in the 2016 championship. So what is this beast that roams racetracks and devours all comers? It is called the ZX-10R. To all intents and purposes, the ZX-10R is a heavier version of what Sykes and Rea ride on a weekend. Heavier, because it actually has to have lights that work, indicators and wing mirrors and an exhaust that conforms to European standards.
Setting up the bike is like choosing a character in a Playstation game. Only, you do not simply respawn when you end up in a ditch. The 998cc engine’s output can be set to Full, Medium and Low. Traction control has 5 levels. The front calipers are from Brembo and have ABS, but at the rear sits a dinky Nissin caliper. It looks like an afterthought. The front SHOWA forks can be adjusted at both ends. All has to be set for mere mortals like me to ride it safely. After an eternity of fiddling, I was satisfied that the ZX would be as docile as a lapdog. I hit the go-button and the ZX settled into an uneasy idle.
As I set off, the poor ZX spluttered through the gears as it protested the restraints I labored it with. I realised soon enough that this beast does not want to be restrained and the only time you would do all that fiddling is when you are riding in a downpour. I stopped, fiddled some more and the freedom of movement was immediately evident. The throttle response was immediate and the engine note urged me, almost mocked me, to just let it fly. And flew it did. To make matters even easier for you, the ZX is fitted with a quickshifter which means you use the clutch to pull away and from there, you just click up a gear. The engine blips and the next gear is available. I wished it had a 17 speed gearbox, because the noise it makes is just glorious to behold. I can wax lyrical all day about how much fun this bike is to ride, and how addictive the acceleration can become.
At a smidgen over 200kg the ZX has roughly 1 horsepower for each kilogram of weight and it pulls smoothly from any revs at any speed. It is, however when the revs start to climb that the ZX rejoices and from 7000rpm the fun really kicks in. The Pirelli Rosso tyres plant it in the corners, which makes it a reassuring bike to ride. You are also safe in the knowledge that the electronics will be there to help, should things start to go wrong. The ZX is a class-leader and a worthy wearer of the liter crown. Next year Kawasaki will be releasing the RR so things can only get better!