MasterBike 2010: Kawasaki ZX-10R

Our man Cernicky hops on the Kawasaki ZX-10R and mixes it up with fast company at Master Bike 2010.

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The Kawasaki ZX-10R felt almost as familiar as the CBR, so with a quick adjusting of levers, off I went. A lap later I started giving the green goblin a good go and quickly remembered how fast the 10R is, but at the same time I missed the old '05 model's meatier midrange; this bike felt "in between gears" in a couple spots and didn't seem to provide the same torque to pull it through. Pushing harder, I never found the nervousness I associate with the previous ZX-10R; on the contrary, the lazy-steering, top-heavy 10R was hard to pull down to the apex of tighter corners and required a fight to finish the exits.

Next step was to try some deeper trail braking and use more engine braking by running a lower gear going in than I really wanted to use for the exit. This took a lot of grunting effort and some extra eye-of-the-needle clutch work, and with that drawing my attention, I missed an upshift one lap; luckily, I didn't get rear-ended by the three riders who were tucked in behind me.

On race day, the Kawasaki's setup was still somewhat top-heavy-feeling and slow-steering to help stabilize things down that long back straight. Braking wasn't as impressive as that provided by the bikes with Brembos; if the 10R were my bike, I would experiment with pad compounds. I'd also like to change gearing to make better use of second and raise the engine rpm out of a torque lull that surely added more than a tick to the 10R's times. Still, my four laps were a good reminder of how fast the Kawi is. No transmission issues, and shifting my weight a bit more took full advantage of the green machine's speed by getting it mostly turned before picking it up off the deck and opening the throttle—fire in el hoyo! My 2:03.848 time surprised me by edging out my best on the Honda, which felt much easier to ride.