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Testing the 2006 Kawasaki ZX-10R ‘A Quarter Mile At A Time’

Traffic throughout the infamous ‘OC’ (Orange County, California) having been snarled by the road-closing affects of a large wildfire, I found myself sitting in traffic for several hours yesterday after picking up our 2006 ZX-10R testbike from Kawasaki’s headquarters in Irvine. As usual in traffic, my mind wandered across a variety of diverse subjects, before finally coming to rest on the topic of my article last month, The Sensation of Speed – An Analysis of Our Obsession With Liter-class Sportbikes.

Producing somewhere in excess of 160whp (estimated for now, until we get it to the dyno), the new ZX-10R is certainly one of the best examples of the consumer’s obsession with accelerative velocity (as discussed in my previous article). With this in mind, I decided that rather than heading home, I would truck the 10R up to the Wednesday night test-n-tune at Los Angeles County Raceway in Palmdale, California.

While I have done a fair amount of drag racing in cars, my experience with hustling a two-wheeler down the quarter mile is limited to a few passes on modified Yamaha Road Stars, and I hadn’t been down the drag strip on a bike even once in the two years since I tested those Yamahas. So it was with much trepidation that I unloaded the beastly ZX-10R from the back of my truck in the parking lot of LACR. It didn’t help that I was about to drag race a motorcycle that I had yet to even ride down my driveway – the bike rolled out the big bay doors of Kawasaki’s shop and right into the bed of my truck, heading straight to Palmdale.

After unloading the Ten I cruised around the parking lot a bit, attempting to get comfortable with the ‘feel’ of the machine, particularly the clutch and shifter. After a few minutes I pulled back up to the truck, dropped the rear tire pressure to 22psi and turned the sweet-looking Ohlins steering damper (new for 06) to full stiff, then pulled into line to run.

My main goal for the night was to be careful and take ‘baby steps’, as I knew the editor wouldn’t be too happy if I tossed a brand-new testbike down the rough pavement of LACR sans rider (neither would Kawasaki, for that mattter). I eased the bike out of the hole while trying not to use too much clutch slip, which resulted in a huge bog and the sight of my competitor (aboard a 2004 ZX-10R) rocketing off into the distance while I tried in vain to catch up.

Once I got the launch technique figured out, though, I was able to do pretty well, although if I hadn’t been constrained by my efforts to preserve both the clutch and rear tire (necessary for us to do a full test, right?), I could have been much more aggressive off the line. Still, the new 10R definitely feels like your own personal rocket ship, and even when straight up and down will still spin up the rear tire in third (better be paying attention when that happens)!

End result? I met a couple of cool drag racers, saw some neat cars, and left the track with a little slip of paper that says I went 11.45@130mph. Nowhere close to the bike’s full potential of course (I think it might trap in the 140mph range on a good pass – the bike should do mid-to-low 10s pretty easily with an experienced drag racer aboard), but lots of fun for the rider. Oh, and I brought the bike (and myself) back to the office in one piece. Now if I can just get 5 or 6 more passes, I can get that 10….