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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

2015 Kawasaki Ninja® ZX™-10R ABS  


World Championship Winning Performance with Rider Friendly Electronics

With scintillating engine performance, a world-championship level chassis and a suite of onboard electronic rider aids, the ZX-10R ABS is not only the most sophisticated production superbike Kawasaki has ever produced, it’s also the most tunable, the most confidence inspiring, and the most rider-friendly. By any measure, Kawasaki’s “Forever Fearless” mantra is perfectly suited to the ZX-10R, thanks to its extraordinary performance envelope. Today, that much is expected in the one-liter superbike class. And so it is above and beyond these credentials that the ZX-10R ABS defines itself, including such premium standard features as Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC), Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS) and an Öhlins electronic steering damper. Now celebrating Ninja’s 30th Anniversary, for 2015 the ZX-10R ABS is also available in a special anniversary edition that makes its bold credentials even more alluring.

What’s New For 2015

  • A special 30th Anniversary Ninja ZX-10R ABS model features Lime Green/Pearl Stardust White paint and 30th Anniversary badges on each side of the fairing
  • The standard Ninja ZX-10R model is now painted in Metallic Matte Carbon Gray/Flat Ebony

Engine & Transmission

The World Superbike Championship proven ZX-10R engine is a 16-valve, DOHC, liquid-cooled inline-four displacing 998cc through oversquare 76 x 55mm bore and stroke dimensions. Tuned for optimal power delivery on the street or track, the engine is also designed for a low center of gravity and ideal placement within the chassis, leading to more responsive handling.

Linear power delivery and engine manageability assist the rider through every element of cornering, beginning with a closed throttle at corner entry, resuming a neutral throttle position at mid-corner, and strong, controllable acceleration at corner exit. Placing the torque peak at a relatively high rpm level – closer to the engine’s horsepower peak – eliminates the power peaks and valleys, found in some engines, that make it difficult for racers and track-day riders to open the throttle with confidence.

Large intake valves are complemented by wide, polished intake ports for controllable power delivery and engine braking, just right for smoothing out racetrack corner entries and exits. Manufactured from chromoly steel, the dual overhead camshafts further contribute to optimized engine braking and more controllable power delivery. Lightweight pistons mount to light and strong connecting rods, and yield a full 13.1:1 compression ratio.

Like the ZX-6R, the ZX-10R has a race-style cassette transmission that allows simple trackside ratio changes. An adjustable back-torque limiting clutch assembly is fitted, which helps improve smoothness and rider confidence during quick downshifts and corner entry.

Delivering fuel and air into the engine is a ram-air assisted fuel injection system featuring an enormous nine-liter capacity airbox, large 47mm throttle bodies and sub-throttle valves, and secondary injectors that improve top-end power characteristics. A huge ram-air intake is positioned close to the front of the bike for efficient airbox filling and peak power.

The final piece of the ZX-10R’s power-production formula is an exhaust system featuring a race-spec titanium header assembly, hydroformed collectors, a large-volume pre-chamber containing two catalyzers, and a highly compact silencer. The header pipe diameter and length are very similar to race–use headers. This makes it easy to increase circuit performance just by adding a competition-use only slip-on muffler.

Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC)

Motorcyclists are continually challenged by traction-related issues – whether on the street, track or off road. This is especially true for riders of open-class sportbikes, whose power and dynamic capabilities exceed the performance of top-shelf race bikes from just a few years ago. Given the huge performance envelope of the 2015 ZX-10R, consistent traction and enhanced confidence are major assets.

The ZX-10R’s racing-derived Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC) system works by analyzing data from a variety of sensors including front and rear wheel speed, engine rpm, throttle position, acceleration and more. Conditions are confirmed every 5 milliseconds, at which time the system looks at each of the parameters as well as how much they are changing. This unique Kawasaki method makes it possible to interpolate and predict how the bike will behave in the next instant. In fact, the ZX-10R data acquisition and analysis is greater than any other Kawasaki in history – and it’s all to help track riders inch closer to the elusive “edge” of maximum traction than ever before. The S-KTRC system relies on complex software embedded in the ZX-10R’s Electronic Control Unit (ECU), with lightweight speed sensors on each wheel as the only additional hardware.

Unlike the KTRC system on Kawasaki’s Concours® 14 ABS sport tourer, which primarily minimizes wheel slip on slick or broken surfaces as a rider aid, the S-KTRC system is designed to maximize performance by using sophisticated computer analysis to predict when traction conditions are about to become unfavorable. By quickly but subtly reducing power just before the amount of slippage exceeds the optimal traction zone, the system – which processes every data point 200 times per second – maintains the optimum level of tire grip to maximize forward motion with a minimum of intrusion felt by the rider. The result is significantly better lap times and enhanced confidence – exactly what riders need when piloting a machine of this caliber.

The S-KTRC system offers three different modes of operation, which riders can select according to surface conditions, personal preference and skill level: Level 1 for maximum grip on the track; Level 2 for intermediate use; and Level 3 for slippery conditions. An LCD graph in the multi-function instrument display shows how much electronic intervention is occurring in real time, and a thumb switch on the left handlebar pod allows simple, on-the-go mode changes to suit the rider’s style. Riders may also turn the system completely off for total manual throttle control.

Chassis & Suspension

With the engine producing a massive quantity of usable and controllable power, engineers focused on refining the handling and overall road/track competency of the chassis. The cast-aluminum twin-spar frame is created from just seven pieces and features optimized flex characteristics for ideal rider feedback, cornering performance and light weight. The swingarm is also cast-aluminum, with rigidity engineered to match the frame.

Chassis geometry offers excellent handling and stability. The front-end geometry – 25 degrees of rake and 107mm (4.21 in.) of trail – allows light, quick handling along with reassuring stability at speed, perfectly complementing the engine’s controllable power and the frame and swingarm’s flex characteristics.

Highly advanced suspension helps the ZX-10R excel in all types of riding. Up front is a 43mm open-class version of Kawasaki’s highly acclaimed Big Piston Fork (BPF). Featuring a piston design nearly twice the size of a conventional cartridge fork’s, the BPF offers smooth action, less stiction, light weight and enhanced damping performance on both compression and rebound circuits. This compliance results in more control and better feedback – just what riders need when carving through a bumpy sweeper at the track or negotiating a decreasing-radius corner on their favorite backroad.

Rear suspension duties on the ZX-10R are handled by a Horizontal Back-Link design that positions the shock and linkage above the swingarm. Benefits include improved mass centralization, excellent road holding, compliance and stability, smooth action in the mid-stroke and good overall feedback. The fully adjustable shock features a piggyback reservoir and dual-range (low- and high-speed) compression damping.

Lightweight, gravity-cast three-spoke wheels complement the ZX-10R’s 17-inch radial supersport tires. Up front, Tokico radial-mount calipers squeeze 310mm petal rotors, while a lightweight single-piston caliper grabs a 220mm petal rotor in back. The result is powerful stopping with plenty of rider feedback and confidence.

Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS)

At first, anti-lock braking might seem out of place on a purebred sportbike, but the ZX-10R ABS system was specifically designed to maximize performance on the street and track. As a result, the high-performance Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS) really is intelligent, as it utilizes a small and lightweight ABS unit designed by Bosch specifically with sportbikes in mind. The entire system only adds about 7 pounds of weight compared to the non-ABS equipped 2015 ZX-10R, with a full pound of that weight accounted for by the ABS model’s larger battery.

KIBS is a multi-sensing system that collects and monitors a wide range of information from wheel sensors (the same ones collecting data on the standard ZX-10R for its S-KTRC traction control system) and the bike’s ECU. This data set includes wheel speed, brake-caliper hydraulic pressure, engine rpm, throttle position, clutch actuation and gear position. The ABS ECU compares data continually with the 10R’s powertrain ECU. When the system determines a potential wheel lock-up situation is occurring, it tells the Bosch ABS unit to temporarily reduce brake-line hydraulic pressure for that wheel, allowing the wheel to regain traction. It all happens automatically and nearly instantaneously, in many cases interpreting and correcting traction loss before the rider is even aware of it.

Besides its ultra-quick response time, KIBS offers a number of additional sport-riding benefits, including rear-end lift suppression during hard braking, minimal lever kickback during ABS intervention, and increased rear-brake control during downshifts. Of great benefit to track riders, highly precise pressure control allows the system to maintain excellent braking performance and proper lever feel while also minimizing ABS pulses.

Öhlins Twin-Tube Steering Damper

Kawasaki developed the ZX-10R’s electronic steering damper in joint cooperation with Öhlins. Controlled by a dedicated ECU located under the gas-tank cover, this damper reacts to the rate of acceleration or deceleration, along with rear-wheel speed, to help provide the ideal damping-force level across a wide range of riding scenarios. Its variable damping capability provides optimum rider feedback by permitting softer damping for normal operation and firm damping for high-speed stability. The result is a light and nimble steering feel at low speed, and superior stability at higher speeds and during extreme acceleration or deceleration. The anodized damper unit incorporates Öhlins’ twin-tube design to help ensure stable damping performance and superior kickback absorption. It is mounted horizontally at the front of the fuel tank, requires very few additional components, and adds almost no weight compared to previous-generation steering dampers.

Bodywork, Lighting & Instrumentation

Kawasaki engineers wrapped the ZX-10R’s formidable technology in bodywork as advanced and stylish as anything this side of a World Superbike Championship grid. Curvy edges and contrasting colored and black parts create a sharp, aggressive image, while distinctive line-beam headlights permit using a more compact front fairing. LED turn signals integrate smoothly into the mirror assemblies, and convenient turn-signal couplers allow easy mirror removal for track days. The rear fender assembly holding the rear signal stalks and license plate frame is also designed to be easily removable for track use. High-visibility LED lamps are additionally used for the taillight and position marker.

Instrumentation is highlighted by an LED-backlit bar-graph tachometer set above a multi-function LCD display providing numerous sections and data panels. A wide range of information is available, including speed, odometer, dual trip meters, fuel consumption, Power Mode and S-KTRC level, low fuel warning, coolant temperature and much more. For track use, the LCD display can be set to “race” mode, which moves the gear-position function to the center of the display.

Rider Interface

The ZX-10R’s ergonomics are designed for an optimum blend of comfort and control. A realistic 32-inch seat height, adjustable footpegs and handlebars make the 10R a hard-core sportbike you can actually take on an extended sport ride, with reasonable comfort en route. Adding these creature comforts together with the ZX-10R’s formidable engine and running gear, its championship-grade electronics arsenal, and the unique appeal of an available 30th Anniversary model, means the 2015 ZX-10R ABS is not just a superb ride. It’s the ride of your life.

A complete line of Genuine Kawasaki Accessories, specifically designed and engineered for the Ninja ZX-10R motorcycle, is available through authorized Kawasaki dealers.