There’s always this discussion I’ve found myself a part of, where except me, almost everyone agrees that a liter class motorcycle is overkill for the streets. More like a Mig 29 for the road with clipped wings and a double decker spoiler to keep things grounded. Although never did this banter help me shake off my silly belief that power can be enjoyed, unless you mindlessly wish to exploit the machine between your knees, ride it beyond your own capabilities and what the conditions allow. That way, you’re only going to end up wrapped around a pole and then six feet inside a hole.
Anyways, an exciting new 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX 10R was waiting for us to be ridden in the middle of peak summer in India, and let me tell you, when the temperature shoots beyond 40 degrees, it isn’t the right time to ride a motorcycle with an angry Sun baking your helmet. Eventually though, there I was, under the shade of a tree in a lifeless landscape, beautifully dehydrated and gracefully throwing up all the couple liters of aqua I’d gulped a few corners ago.
Images: Chirag Mondal
Helmet: SOL SL 68S II Full Face Helmet
Jacket: Rynox Tornado Pro
I was still smiling though, because like an ally, these modern day electronics were seemingly working towards concretizing that belief I talked about. That, along with some seriously brilliant engineering had turned this 200 PS volcano into a controlled flame you could cook gourmet upon. More like the Eurofighter Typhoon, which on its own is so aerodynamically unstable, it just cannot be flown manually. But with about 70 computers lending it their brilliance, it turns into one of the most potent fighters there is.
This 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX 10R is an entirely different animal compared to the super sharp previous gen bike we rode last year. Don’t get us wrong, this one too is just as savage, has sharpened its vampire teeth and is lightning quick. But this new bike is such a virtuoso. It might have been developed with learnings from the track and is a natural habitant there. However, it is spectacularly slick on the streets, effortlessly controllable and amusingly easy to ride fast. Allow us to explain.
You don’t take things for granted when you’ve got a 200 PS machine between your limbs. But as I climbed aboard the 10R, things felt suspicious. It almost felt like Kawasaki was pulling a fast one and had given us a 10R lookalike powered by a half a liter engine. The bike felt spookily limber for a liter class machine. So to confirm, we fired it up and that orchestrated in-line four resonance laughed at our ignorance. For the feathery intent the ZX-10R was beaming towards us, never before had I felt this instant conviviality in the company of a 1000cc machine.
Cutting through city traffic, it felt spookily docile in the lower rev range and was making its way through with commuterish bearing even in relatively higher gears. Comfortable, yet perky, and ready to light up when called for. Out of the city, the traffic started to grow sparse and then the 10R rolled its sleeves, lifted its skirt and made us aware about its lust for massive revs.
First ratio is tall and some serious poke starts building only at 7000 clicks, post which, the front hovers, and the 10r turns psychic after 9000 rpm. It then bawls its way till the 14000 rpm limiter, leaving behind a loud, shrieky, inline four symphony. The bike is meant to register a lofty 167 kph on the electronic speedometer. My twitchy toe couldn’t wait to order what is one of the sweetest quickshifters in business to keep shifting up. If you find a controlled enough environment, you’d nudge the double ton mark with only the second cog engaged. But does the fun stop there? No sir!
The third cog is good to barrel you and the bike till a serious velocity of 233 kph, after which, we assume, you’d stop looking at the speedometer, try to see what you can through the windscreen and by the time you brake, things would have harpooned well past the 270 kph mark.
It isn’t about getting to these silly speeds though, it is the way how the 10R gets there with consummate ease. Your senses grasp the brutal velocity and how the bike turns the whole world around you into a blur. Yet, as a package this big Ninja feels so de-stressed and self-possessed. It fools your body parts controlling the various levers that everything’s comfortably ginger and never does it behave like you’ve got to get yourself into a panicked rush to make progress.
An electronic throttle, linked to the Bosch six axis IMU (more on that later) feels slightly abrupt lower down the revs. Especially if you’re going off-on-off-on around slow uphill corners, but then things smoothen out once you up the pace and feed the bike’s appetite for big revs.
The all new 16 valver 998cc motor breathes better due to a bigger airbox that is 25% larger than the one on the previous model, and the new design reduces air resistance by as much as 40%. Since the crankshaft and balancers have shed weight, the motor feels sprightlier at the bottom of the rev range. For numbers, it cranks out 200 PS (210 with Ram air) at a peaky 13,000 revolutions, while maximum twist of 113.5 Nm rings in at 11,500 clicks. The new motor is efficient too and returned an economy figure of 16 kpl during our 200 km ride, more than half of which was ridden like we were being chased by a ghost.
Ergonomically, you sit in the bike rather than on it, which is just the way we like it. The pegs now sit higher and have been moved further back, while the handlebars have moved closer to the rider, which shifts more of your weight towards the super agile front and helps on the confidence front. There is ample room to shift your bottom around, more so towards the rear when you’re shifting to tuck yourself behind the screen. Taller riders will have nothing to complain, however, everyone has their individual preferences. Accelerating in a straight line, the new bigger windscreen aids in a neat, comfortable tuck behind the deflector. I remember ducking behind it during our high speed runs and making a mistake of raising my head. Which is when i realized how brilliantly that little piece of plastic was working to fight against the brute force of strong gusts.
The engine has been moved further, sits higher up in the frame and has been fitted with a new, lighter crankshaft that promises 20 % lesser inertia than the one on the outgoing bike. What does all this translate to? Agility and front end balance is over the top, whether you’re accelerating in a straight line, bringing things to a halt, dipping into bends or tackling and S. The difference is more pronounced whilst attacking corners, as the battle against centrifugal force is fought with more dexterity.
The 2016 Ninja ZX 10R gets a revamped, new twin spar frame which is beefier, yet compact than the one on the outgoing bike and has been designed to be more flexible. It is paired to a new heavier, more rigid, longer swingarm, which has also extended the overall wheelbase, half an inch longer than the old bike.
Piping the engine-chassis combo’s brilliance to the wheels is a new system that Showa’s proudly showing off. Adjustable, the 43 mm, USD, balance free front fork setup comes fitted with nitrogen filled canisters acting as external compression chambers. In simple terms, the pressurized nitrogen inside pushes the oil within the fork through a circuit fitted with a one way valve during rebound, whereas oil compressed by the fork travelling downwards is routed through the same circuit to push the nitrogen against the wall. This helps smoothen oil flow and optimizes piston movement inside the fork.
At the rear too, an adjustable back-link spring gets a gas charged piggyback reservoir that works on almost similar principles. Now, let me tell you what all this engineering blah-blah translates to on the road.
Although it weighs in at 206 kilos, the 2016 Ninja ZX10R feels compact and light as a fly, at standstill and on the move. In a straight line, no matter what speed, it remains as composed as a TGV. Even when you encounter sudden crests, all you need to do is lift your bottom and the 10R hops over and settles down unruffled. That extended swingarm does work in lending this bike with exceptional stability at high speeds. The innovative suspension system is deft at adapting to variable surface conditions and works wonderfully to make that front end feel swift and communicative.
Then there’s an Ohlins sourced electronic damper which is connected to the ECU and does a stellar job of ironing lateral movements on the steering system. Thanks to that, we were as carefree as an inconsiderate pilot with our front end landings.
Show this machine a few bends and it elevates the idea of fun on a motorcycle to an all-new level. The entire package feels so well balanced and lightweight, add to that a super prompt steering system that sends all of what it feels, back to your palms in Braille. Get the drift? We were all born blind anyways. The funny part is, even when you’ve overshot the optimum point of entry, you can maneuver and pull the motorcycle towards the apex with ease like it’s your toy and pick and choose your point of exit. Important if you’re riding on the streets and there’s slow moving traffic where the ideal exit should be.
Talking about missing the ideal point of entry, the 10R instills the confidence in you to brake late and is so predictable with its manners, you feel so much more skilled than you actually are. When plummeting down through S’, the bike is so easy to flick from side-to-side and the inherent chassis grip allows a lot of buffer when transferring weight – all this while you’re carrying massive momentum.
Over long sweepers, as you must’ve guessed it by now, the 10R stays promisingly glued, not even a hint of wallow at the rear. There were times when our throttle openings were slightly enthusiastic coming out of corners and we saw the traction control lettering flashing on the screen. Since we didn’t fiddle with the electronic settings after picking up the bike, it was only by the end of the ride that we realized we were riding with the TC mode set to 1 all day. The system for obvious reasons then, never felt intrusive, but is such a lifesaver in any conditions.
Like on the 14R and the H2, the Ninja 10R now gets Brembo sourced twin 330 mm discs at the front, bitten into by four piston M50 monobloc calipers. The system is wired to a Kawasaki Intelligent Braking System that reduces the pulsing, normally observed on conventional ABS systems and allows for maximum braking pressure before the anti-lock system kicks in. It sure works, as during the few instances when we had to brake hard, all we felt was absolute braking force coming into play, where usually it is ABS chatter that surfaces its head. Although for serious braking power to come into effect, we had to grab quite a lot of that lever, and for some reason you never feel like you’ve got more brakes than you need.
The Bridgestone rubber at both ends is stubbornly sticky as gum on your expensive shoes, but that 3-spoke wheel design it wraps itself around doesn’t really cut it for us.
The 2016 Ninja ZX-10R is loaded to the gills with technology and plays a vital role in the transformation of what the Ninja ZX-10R is now. So you get a 5 stage traction control system that is wired to the Bosch sourced Inertial Measurement Unit. The system talks to the IMU every 5 milliseconds to determine the amount of available traction and unlike conventional systems which have been preset with information, it predicts and adapts to real time riding conditions. The IMU by itself measures five parameters: longitudinal acceleration, transverse acceleration, vertical acceleration, roll and pitch rate. The sixth being rate of yaw, which measures angular movement around a vertical axis.
The quickshifter can be turned On/Off, then there’s an engine brake control system which lets you decide if you want more or less engine braking and can also be turned off. There are three power modes to pick from: Full (100%), Mid (80%) and Low (60%) and also a 3-stage launch control system.
This particular KRT edition Ninja 10-R we had on test wears bold WSBK style livery and comes splattered in Neon green, with patches of metallic black. The 2016 edition retains a silhouette, similar to the older bike, but has subtle design changes which makes it look fresh.
So the windscreen is now integrated in the front cowl, the dual headlight setup has been graced with some curves, the front fender and fairing has been rehashed and the exhaust is now more upswept and has undergone a design change.
At the rear, the tail-light now gets a triangular design, while integrated blinkers on the older model have now moved to an independent position on the rear fender. What hasn’t changed even after these soft changes though, is that the big Ninja still retains that aggressive and fast at standstill demeanour.
The 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R turned an unassuming, ordinary but hot day into an epic experience. It opened a gateway into a different world of motorcycling where the going is phenomenally fast, yet easy on the body and soul. It has been engineered with the focal point being, to go fast, a motorcycle must work with you, and not against you, and the 10R sticks true to that. At the price for which it is being offered in India, it allows for the fast fruits of technology to hang low. Yours to pluck at Rs 16.4 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi), it is a lot of pulp for your money, when you consider that all of its competition is way pricier and not worlds apart. The big Ninja might even trump them for all you know. But since we haven’t ridden the competition, we’d reserve our opinions for some other day.
For me, my nights are longer and days are spent being lost. I’ve been told I’m reeling under some fever and it makes the mercury in the thermometer turn green. I wish I could write this bike a poem, but I’m no poet and reviews I’ve been warned have to be objective.
|Type||Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke In-Line Four|
|Bore and Stroke||76.0 mm x 55.0 mm|
|Valve system||DOHC, 16 valves|
|Fuel system||Fuel injection: ø47 mm x 4 with dual injection|
|Fuel Type||Unleaded petrol / RON95|
|Lubrication||Forced lubrication, wet sump with oil cooler|
|Maximum power||147.1 kW [200 PS] / 13,000 rpm|
|Maximum Power with RAM Air||154.4 kW [210 PS] / 13,000 rpm|
|Maximum torque||113.5 N.m [11.6 kgf.m] / 11,500 rpm|
|Frame Type||Twin spar, cast aluminium|
|Wheel travel||Front: 120 mm|
|Tyre||Front: 120/70ZR17M/C (58W)|
|Rear: 190/55ZR17M/C (75W)|
|Steering angle (left / right)||27° / 27° degrees|
|Ground clearance||145 mm|
|Seat height||835 mm|
|Fuel capacity||17 Litres|
|Kerb Weight||ZX-1000R – 204Kg|
|ZX-1000S – 206Kg|
|Overall Dimensions (L x W x H)||2,090 mm x 745 mm x 1,145 mm|
|Front||ø43 mm inverted Balance Free Front Fork with external compression chamber, compression and rebound damping and spring preload adjustability, and top-out springs|
|Rear||Horizontal Back-link with BFRC lite gascharged shock, piggyback reservoir, compression and rebound damping and spring preload adjustability, and top-out spring|
|Front||Brembo based dual, massive semi-floating 330mm discs with dual radial mounted monobloc 4-piston calipers|
|Rear||Single 220 mm semi-floating petal disc with single bore aluminium piston based caliper.|
|Price (ex-showroom Delhi)||Rs 16.4 lakh|