2010 Kawasaki ZX-10R - First Ride

Not retired just yet.

2010 Kawasaki ZX-10R - First Ride

2010 Kawasaki ZX-10R - First Ride

With the highly anticipated debut of an all-new 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R looming on the horizon, it's easy to overlook the very green pasture of the present. While the next-generation liter-class Ninja promises to up the performance ante in response to BMW rewriting the rules this year in terms of peak power and advanced onboard electronics, the current machine remains a highly capable sporting platform in its own right.

As Editor-in-Chief Mark Hoyer was quick to point out, the ZX-10R was the "technical" winner in our 2008 Zero-180-mph shootout at NAS Lemoore, with the fastest time to 180 (17.21 sec.). Producing 161 ponies at the rear wheel on the CW dyno, our '10 testbike is as potent as ever, yet, offers an incredibly civil and usable spread of torque for everyday road use. The smooth-running character of this 998cc liquid-cooled, inline-Four makes it well-suited to city trolling and freeway cruising with only a modest level of vibes creeping through the grips. Fluid clutch engagement, slick six-speed shift action and seamless fueling via its oval-cross-section throttle bodies all reinforce the sense of high quality found throughout the bike.

2010 Kawasaki ZX-10R - First Ride

“For the brutal level of performance it offers, the ZX-10R is incredibly smooth and refined.”

Putting the Ninja’s Bridgestone BT016 Battlax sport radials and twin-spar aluminum frame to good use in the curves yields a degree of feedback and stability ideal for the trackday or canyon-carving-minded enthusiast. The supple DLC-coated, inverted fork and piggyback-reservoir shock are fully adjustable, offering a broad setting range to suit many riding situations. There is excellent power and feel through the radial-pump front master cylinder when applying the Tokico radial-mount brake calipers and trademark Kawi petal rotors. Bringing the 435-pound (dry) machine down from speed feels as consistent and controlled as it gets on a bike stretching 55.7 inches between its axles.

As a daily runner, the ZX provides few amenities, but it does have usable underseat storage and helmet hooks, both of which are often missing on many of today’s racer-replicas. Its compact dash includes an easy-to-read tachometer and digital speedometer, along with a lap-timer function for clocking spirited milk runs. The sport-focused riding position clearly indicates the Ninja’s Sunday ride intent while the front of its amply padded saddle isn’t too narrow to allow tank-hugging for a more upright posture.

For the brutal level of performance it offers, the ZX-10R is incredibly smooth and refined. Things certainly have changed a lot in the liter-bike class with the introduction of a certain BMW, but at $12,999, the Kawasaki remains an impressive performance value—as well as still being the second most powerful 1000cc Four offered in 2010.