Saturday, July 9, 2011

Kawasaki ZX

This was the detail overlooked or underappreciated by Kawasaki when they set out to build their FireBlade-beater. In building the first ZX-9R, Kawasaki combined their class-leading big-bore, the ZZ-R1100, with their class-leading 750, the ZXR750, rather than commit to an entirely-new design.

The result was a big motorcycle; despite weight-saving measures like magnesium engine covers, its quoted dry weight was 215 kg, almost 30 kg heavier than the FireBlade. It made around 125 hp (93 kW) at the rear wheel on the dyno, between 10 and 15 hp (11 kW) more than the FireBlade, but this advantage in power couldn't make up for its size, weight and reduced agility. Rather than be a direct competitor, the ZX-9R was a retained as a more stable and more comfortable alternative to the Honda, with more straight-line speed.

The all-new Kawasaki ZX-10R replaces the ZX-9 rather than the ZX12. This decision puzzles us a bit as the ZX-9 is, and was, a great bike. (MN Test) The ZX-10R eclipses the speed of the 12 and the ZX-9 has superior handling to that of the 12 – why is it the ZX-9 went away rather than the ZX-12? Any way you cut it, however, we’re glad Kawasaki built this new bike as it’s about the most exciting thing you can throw a leg over. The awesome power of Suzuki’s Hayabusa regularly comes to mind when you ride the new ZX-10R.

Kawasaki developed the ZX-10R beginning with a fresh slate, focusing on maximum horsepower, good handling and overall light weight. The powerplant is a compact liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 998cc inline four. The double overhead cams are machined from billet chromoly. The 4-valve topped cylinders and crankcase are one-piece, resulting in added strength with reduced weight. Kawasaki engineers used advanced flow analysis to optimize the machines intake tract, which begins up front with the ram air duct in the fairing. The fuel-injection features electronically controlled sub throttles to smooth power delivery. If this power is smoothed, we can't imagine the bike without this feature. Can anyone say “game on?”

The all-titanium four-into-one exhaust system features a butterfly valve to improve low-end power delivery and encloses a catalyst. One thing is certain about the ZX10, it just sounds awesome in stock trim. Between the engine and exhaust (mostly exhaust), the sound output is a riders dream. We’d never consider changing the stock exhaust system except the appearance of the stock can takes away from the overall beauty of the bike.

Talking about the ZX-10R is one thing, actually riding the bike is an entirely different and mind boggling experience. On inclined onramps you can easily loft the front wheel and carry it with the throttle - the ZX is certainly lightweight and making excellent power. Oh, did we fail to mention all of this wheelie stuff is when using only the engines mid-range power. This power wheelie stuff comes long before you ever experience any of the real power of the machine.

The powerplant doesn’t make superb power just off idle, rather it likes to spin up to 3,000 rpm. Roll-on power for the highway is excellent, even though the bike is geared to the moon. If you want to accelerate with optimum speed you’ll find yourself downshifting 4 to 5 gears to be in the healthiest part of the power curve. This isn’t needed on the street, however, as the ZX makes abundant power in the 4,000 - 5,000 RPM range, then kicks in with a new dose of power, kind of the sweet spot for street riding, from 7,000 – 8,000 RPM. Above this the non-linear power curve flattens a bit before coming back in like a rocket booster. The sweet spot in the power delivery is the most likely range you’ll use for most street riding, as it’s nearly impossible to use the top end power on the street with such high gearing. The engine is wonderfully strong, smooth, and boy does the exhaust note sound good! The growl from deep within the engine is a delight, the gurgling exhaust sounds awesome for a stock system and the overall package just stands out as race inspired.

No comments:

Post a Comment