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MD First Look: 2013 Kawasaki ZX-10R; New ZX-6R to Follow?

Another early salvo in the 2013 new-model wars—Kawasaki announced the return of its ZX-10R. It’s already a formidable opponent of other manufacturer’s open-class sportbikes, with colossal horsepower driving under 440 pounds of (claimed wet) mass, so don’t expect a major update. Instead, it gets a new steering damper. Maybe not the most exciting update, but it is a very interesting steering damper you should read about.

Developed in conjunction with Öhlins, this damper isn’t the simple set-and-forget kind of thing you might expect as OEM equipment. It’s controlled by a dedicated ECU under the plastic tank cover, where it reads acceleration, deceleration and even rear wheel-spin data to calculate the ideal amount of damping force. That means light damping at low speeds, and stronger forces when you really need it, aided by Öhlins’ distinctive twin-tube design for optimum performance. Combined with the optional ABS and standard S-KTRC traction-control and on-the-fly mapping adjustability, it should add another level of safety and performance for Kawasaki open-class sportbike fans. For 2013, the price gets a $300 bump, to $14,299 ($15,299 for ABS), and two color choices will be available, including Lime Green/Metallic Spark Black and Pearl Flat White/Metallic Spark Black (both pictured).

So how about something for those of us who believe a middlewight sportbike is the best way to get around a racetrack? Kawasaki’s press material included word that the KLR650, KLX250S and Ninja 650 (and 650 ABS) are returning for 2013 unchanged, but what about the ZX-6R? I may or may not have heard a little fly on the wall buzzing about a revamped ZX-6R for 2013, and to expect something remarkable and noteworthy. That’s good news—we found Kawi’s ZX-6R to be the best of the last crop of middleweight sportbikes and are eager to see how it’s improved.

45 Comments

  1. curtyD says:

    440lbs and probably close to 150hp at the rear wheel if not more, with all the electronic goods,..who cares what it looks like? but any bike in Kaw Green looks good, but then I go back to the “Lawson” days in Daytona history, if not before, Roberts, etc., you young critics probably don’t even have a clue who I’m talking about.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “with all the electronic goods,..who cares what it looks like?”

      99% of all buyers in this segment. just like car world and the rest of transportation, vehicles are no longer purchased for their “utility”. these are phallic symbols, extensions of our ego… only more so.

  2. Matt says:

    Without a doubt this is the ugliest Kawasaki I have seen in a while.
    It looks like the design team couldn’t decide how to finish it.
    (Sigh)

  3. Reinhart says:

    $15,000 is a lot to pay for a new sportbike that is surely going to be outdated the following year. Just read any test article from the major bike mags praising the newest offerings and then wait a year or two and read that your dream bike is now a POS back marker compared to the latest bike. That’s why it’s smart to buy a used but well maintained bike from a mature rider. You’ll save many thousands of dollars and have just as much fun.

    • MGNorge says:

      Very true, but there will always be those who want the latest and greatest. Among some groups you get less street cred, to use a well worn term, on something several years out of the limelight.To them that’s important.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “You’ll save many thousands of dollars and have just as much fun.”

      if your goal is to save money…? okay, i’ll do you one better. you’ll NEVER save as much money than if you SELL all your bikes, SELL all your kit, and exit the hobby of motorcycling altogether. do this and you won’t spend another dime. results gauranteed or your money back.

  4. AFW says:

    This ZX10 has all the bases covered, electric steering damper for an extra $300, bargain.
    The windscreen design is clever, must work great on street or track.

  5. Neil says:

    Beautiful bike. A guy who rides nearby bought last year’s model after owning the Ninja 1000 which he said was not exciting nor edgy enough for him since he had owned pure sportbikes before that. For the same money I may buy a Duc Streetfighter 848, but that is just me. More upright. More usable. Still great for the track. Or the CB1000R is fine as well. – The exhaust is hideous, but just take it off right away and put a nice one on it. I also think the Yamaha M1 MotoGP bike looks about perfect for a race bike. I like a completely flat tank. – Great electronics package on the ZX10. Fine for any mortal at the track. All the 1000R’s from each manufacturer are nice are they not?

  6. John says:

    Every body is griping about pricing. Remember when a KTM, Husky, or Maico was almost 2X the price of comparible motocross bikes? Look at KTM sales since the pricing converged. Ducati Panigale starts near $18000, so which would you buy when facing $15000 for a jap bike.

    We tend to forget what the final pricing of the original V-max was prior to the refresh if recieved a few years ago. Before the critics scream – I did not look up the exact info, but the following is darn close: V-max was essentially 1985 motorcycle with 2008 pricing at the last year of sale. Figure $300 per year bump for 23 years, and add it to the original price. lets say $4000 + $6900 = $10900. I for one felt the price should have stopped climbing 1/2 way through it’s life cycle. 2-3 years with a $300 per year bump is nothing until it turns into decades with no change. Kawi did it correctly with the original concours. The price was kept into check quite well.

    • Dave says:

      Inflation. Look at the airplane business. A 60 yr. old Cessna can sell used for many times what it cost new. What it costs to manufacture a motorcycle can not be frozen in place, especially on something lower volume. I wonder if the V-Max used market grew with the price of the new bikes continually climbing?

    • Bob Krzeszkiewiz says:

      These liter race reps are definitely worth the money. Compared to any other type of bike on the market, you get higher performance parts, higher power, lighter weight, better handling and braking by miles. There’s a ot of engineering and optimization that goes into these things, not to mention testing and racing. Without that effort to make the best performing type of bike on the planet, you would simply have a capable but mediocre performing motorcycle that costs $5000 less.

      If $10,000 is your budget, you should shop that budget instead of complain that a bike like this is too expensive. It’s only too expensive for you. It certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the asking MSRP.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “V-max was essentially 1985 motorcycle with 2008 pricing at the last year of sale. Figure $300 per year bump for 23 years, and add it to the original price. lets say $4000 + $6900 = $10900.

      here’s a crazy thought, maybe we should stop devaluing motorcycling and stop begrudging manufacturers the opportunity to make a profit.

      re: “I for one felt the price should have stopped climbing 1/2 way through it’s life cycle.”

      of course you would. those having a “free lunch mentality” always do.

  7. gdorta says:

    Eagerly awaiting the new ZX-6R as well. Moto Review mentions this may be it: http://www.motorevue.com/site/nouveaute-2013-kawasaki-zx-6r-67128.html

  8. Gutterslob says:

    3-spoke wheels in 2012? wtf Kawasaki!!

    Other than that, this is still my fave amongst the current crop of litrebikes. Meanest looks, plus I’m really liking that Black and Pearl scheme.

    Too bad I’m not skilled enough to ride a 1000 in anger on the roads. I mean, I could poodle around town in one for show or rip it in a straight line along a freeway, but what’s the point in that? Can’t justify owning one unless I do a lot of trackdays or live on the Isle of Man. Will be keeping my Speed Triple for now.

    Oh, if any of you plan to get one, I recommend you have some spare cash to change the seat. I’m only basing this on a 20 minute test ride, but it’s complete bollocks for commuting or even mild canyon-carving. Grab some supple aftermarket Kushitanis, or at least fit some gel pads (if possible).

  9. craig says:

    It was just a few years ago you could get a liter bike for just a bit over $10,000, cheaper than a car. Now they cost as much as a car.

    • Bob Krzeszkiewiz says:

      What cars would those be and is the performance equivalent (in the car world) to a ZX-10R?

    • Bob Krzeszkiewiz says:

      BTW, a 2004 ZX-10R MSRP’d fpr $10,999 as was the Honda. The R1 was $10,699. The Gixxer was $10,599.

    • Chris says:

      If by “just a few years ago”, you meant over a decade ago then you’d be correct.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “If by “just a few years ago”, you meant over a decade ago then you’d be correct.”

        LOL, my hat is off to you sir. :)

  10. kawzies says:

    Well the only good thing about the jacked up prices of new bikes is that your used bike will sell for a lot more. While I’m shocked at the prices of the current crop of Japanese superbikes-I’m even more shocked that people pay even more for Ducati’s and other Eurobikes that aren’t as dependable, require more maintenance, have tiny dealership networks, and perform no better or worse(the BMW “loss leader” prices on their BMW S1000RR notwithstanding-that bike will be 5 grand more within 3 years no doubt). I think a lot of people are going to buy Z1000’s and Ninja 1000’s for 4 grand less that are more sane bikes for the street anyway.

    • Vrooom says:

      Funny, the price doesn’t seem that outrageous given the performance you get. I’m a bit biased, but generally speaking I find the Italian bikes handle way better, though it’s true they really aren’t any faster. If you do your own work, dealership networks hardly matter. Don’t understand why more motorcyclists don’t. And really I don’t know that a $300 price increase will affect the used market much.

      • kawzies says:

        The 2013 is $14,299. In 2010 a ZX10 was $12,999. In 2008 $11549. I didn’t say $300 would make a big difference, it’s just another incremental jack-up. I said the prices of new bikes are jacked up-and if your 2008 has let’s say 7000 miles on it and you want to sell it for $10000 that might look pretty good to someone who doesn’t want to spend $14,299!!!! You’re kind of right about dealership networks not mattering-people try to avoid stealers like the plague for service. But what about warranty repairs or recalls??? Sure in Cali there’s a lot of Eurofix shops (in urban areas)-but not too many elsewhere.

      • Tom says:

        You obviously have not owned a newer bike bike with electronics that require Randolph,sulessamspecial manufacturer’s software for diagnostic purposes.

      • Tom says:

        You obviously have not owned a newer bike bike with electronics that require special manufacturer’s software for diagnostic purposes.

  11. 04zx10rUNRIVALLED!!! says:

    Very nice…BUT, I will take my ’04 zx10r untamed beast over this one any day :)

  12. Brian says:

    300 dollar increase in 1 year isn’t a lot, but over the past few years, these bikes go up by that much and we see bikes a couple thousand more expensive with minimal practical improvements. Kinda depressing, and they wonder why sales are down?
    I rode one of these at the IMS in San Mateo last year, and it was a nice ride though, not enough to replace my 2010 R1 though… (Yeah, I had to spend but wife agreeable to the Rossi addition, so how can I refuse?)

    • Provalogna says:

      Inflation is real. Blame central banking policies, AKA Ben Bernanke’s “CTRL-P” keys on his computer keyboard (control-print command for paper money). I can’t believe price increases in general, especially over the last calendar year. All considered, it makes Honda’s pricing just that much more impressive on the 2012 CBR250 and the 2013 dual sport version.

  13. Dave says:

    This is the highest performance motorcycle Kawasaki knows how to make. For what it is and what it is capable of, it’s cheap (check the price of a car capable of the same acceleration and top-speed numbers as this thing) and as reliable as a lawnmower. Why in the world would a potential buyer of a $15k, nearly 200mph motorcycle be worried about cracking the plastic? It’s not a practical bike and makes no attempt to be.

    What about that steering damper, eh?

    • Bud says:

      Agreed regarding the strong points of this bike, but clumsy Dan raises a valid point. The cost of replacement plastic has always been exorbitant. It’s painted molded plastic. At the manufacturing level it’s a commodity. My opinion is that since it’s the first thing damaged in any spill, it should be affordable to replace, priced like a loss leader to keep all of those sportbikes looking shiny and new.

      As far as the windshield, a few rough edges on a Kawasaki is ok with me. You want perfect “fit & finish”? That’s Honda’s specialty.

      • Dave says:

        Expensive plastic is a reality with faired sport bikes, no exceptions. When people use these on the track they replace all the plastic with affordable lighter weight race plastics. On the street, the goal is simply not to crash, ever (for your life, never mind the plastics). Comprehensive insurance covers you from KO’s in the parking lot.

        It’s still cheaper (and user replaceable) than sports car body work.

  14. 2wheelin says:

    @Dan, Nice point! All these fancy items mean is more expense when they need to be repaired. Lets not forget that the national speed limit is 55/65 and you can do that safely on a scooter. If you are racing the bike then fine, but riding 35mph on a busy highway 1 those items aren’t required.

    And, $15,000 for plastic and aluminum, no thanks.
    Asian manufacturing was supposed to result in less expensive items.
    At that price you could buy an Aprilia which is a far sweeter (still way expensive to repair/maintain)

    • Chris says:

      The “national speed limit” is higher than 55/65 in lots of places.

      The Aprilia is a sweeter bike. But it is also $17k for the “base” version and $23k for the “factory” version. Not quite the same price…

      I also find it funny that you won’t pay $15k for plastic and aluminum, but you would be willing to pay that (and more) for an Aprilia which is made of plastic and aluminum.

  15. dan says:

    So how much will it cost to repair one of these bikes if it tips over in your garage? Thousands? That’s what a Kawasaki dealer asked me for when I knocked over a Ninja1000 on their showroom floor, only damage I could see was a broken blinker, but they wanted $2200 “at cost” on the spot. It was a good lesson for me how these bikes are about as sturdy as eggshells and super-expensive to maintain. I appreciate the awesome performance, but too much stress keeping butterflies away from breaking them.

    • mcteague says:

      Hope you didn’t pay it. You are not responsible for that damage. Dealers how to insure themselves for this kind of thing. If they want to make sure damage does not happen they have to keep the goods out of reach.

      • dan says:

        I ended up paying a couple hundred dollars which they jumped at once they realized I was never going to hand over $2200. The bike fell over slowly with me on top trying to break the fall, no damage other than the blinker was apparent, so you can imagine the cost of a real tip-over assuming $2200 was the real dealer cost for this. They were extremely aggressive, held my driver’s license hostage, and started off by asking me to sign a document claiming responsibility for full cost before telling me what it would be. I called Kawasaki’s US HQ customer service line in SoCal to (politely) report what I thought was fishy dealings at one of their dealerships (Scottsdale AZ), they too were total jerks and didn’t even want to hear about it. Needless to say, although the favorite bike of any I’ve ever owned was a ZX6R and I was a huge Kawasaki fan (my dad and brother own Kawasakis and my next bike would have been a Ninja), I went home and cut up my Kawasaki hat into little pieces, and will never own a Kawasaki product again. My main issue other than their aggressive tactics was the fact there were no posted warnings or any indication from their sales folks in the shop that this kind of liability lurked for potential buyers sizing up their bikes. I’m also surprised at how the biker community casually accepts this kind of fragility and expense in modern bikes.

    • Reinhart says:

      I was on a group test ride at the local Triumph dealer when a kid on the bike next to me dropped his test bike in the parking lot and damaged the left side. When I saw him after the test ride he said that they were only going to charge him for “cost”. You do have to sign a release form for any possible damage that might occur prior to riding and that pretty much seals your fate. Knocking a bike over in the showroom might be handled differently since the dealer knows that not everyone (especially newbies sitting on bikes) that sits on a bike knows how to balance without falling over. It happens.

  16. Dave says:

    What about the Versys 1000 for the USA market?

  17. Adam says:

    I see they still havent fixed the windshield. Still bolted to the OUTSIDE of the bike. Other than that and the overly high price(outta my range) its a great bike.

    • blackcayman says:

      Yah, that windscreen was an afterthought…it should mount in a groove and be flush

      • eehhe says:

        The design idea is that the small gap between the fairing and the screen allows a smoother airflow and less turbulence overall. Its not a new idea but it works great. Kawasaki knows what they are doing.