Kawasaki has just unveiled their brand new superbike weapon, the 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. Kawasaki has been somewhat quiet in the lead-up to the bikes official unveiling but what they’ve delivered looks very impressive – at least on paper. According to Kawasaki, the 2016 Ninja ZX-10R ABS is the highest performing, most track-focused sportbike available today for homologated racing use.
Looking at what Kawasaki has done, this bike has undergone a pretty major overhaul due to many small (and not so small) refinements and changes. The end result isn’t as big a leap from say the new R1 compared to the previous model but there still seems to be a lot of enhancements that accumulate to create what we now have.
One of the bigger changes relates to suspension and the use of what is called the Showa Balance Free Fork (BFF) – a first for a mass produced motorcycle. The main feature of the Showa BFF is that the design of the hydraulic system eliminates the pressure balance fluctuations typically found in conventional forks. With the BFF, the damping valves are located in one place – outside the fork legs in the damping force chamber. This allows the entire surface of the fork pistons to push the hydraulic fluid toward the valves in the damping force chamber, with nitrogen gas in the compression chamber pushing back against the oil, helping to maintain the balanced pressure inside the fork tube.
Compression and rebound damping are generated (and adjusted) completely independently from one another by the compression and rebound adjuster screws on the damping force chamber at the bottom of each leg. Locating the adjustment in this single place has resulted in a more focused design that greatly improves responsiveness. Spring preload adjustment is located on the top of each fork leg.
The rear shock absorber is a Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion (BFRC) unit that also resulted from joint development in World Superbike competition. Just like the forks, the rear shock has a separate damping force chamber that houses the compression and rebound damping adjusters. By separating them, it again allows the entire damping piston to focus on hydraulic fluid movement. There is also external spring preload adjustment. The result is increased traction and superior shock absorption.
The use of this new Showa system will probably have an immense impact on handling and we can’t wait to experience it. Adjustability with this new system is supposed to be second to none as well.
The other bit ticket item for the new Ninja ZX-10R is in the electronics department. Unlike Ducati, BMW and Yamaha who have pretty much adopted systems directly from Bosch, Kawasaki has worked in conjunction with Bosch to create proprietary algorithms that optimizes the electronic stability systems. The Kawasaki system uses a Bosch five-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) with software developed in-house, drawing on the experience of the Kawasaki Race Team’s World Superbike experience, making this application unique. For example, it takes the pitch and roll rate data measured by the IMU, and the ECU calculates the yaw rate, resulting in six-axis operation.
Kawasaki’s traction control system now has five modes instead of the previous three. Modes one and two are designed for a racer on the track. Mode three is designed for a dry circuit with high-grip tires. Mode four is intended for dry canyon roads or commuting, while mode five is programmed to suit wet circuit or street use.
A new addition with all the electronic aids is a cornering management function. It helps distribute optimum hydraulic pressure to the calipers based on the motorcycle’s lean/pitch angle. The result is reduction of the motorcycle’s tendency to stand up when applying the brakes in a turn on the track. Instead, the Ninja ZX-10R is better able to follow the rider’s intended line while slowing down for a difficult turn, rather than having the tendency to run wide.
There’s also launch control, engine braking control, engine power modes, an intillegent braking system that in conjunction with ABS helps to modulate brake pressure during sport riding and more.
The changes to the engine aren’t as big but they still will make an impact. Kawasaki hasn’t divulged officially the output of the bike but we’re hearing 207 hp. A lighter crankshaft, which allows quicker revving for improved throttle response and acceleration has been fitted. The benefit of that is also increased low and mid-range power output, which is appreciated when exiting a corner on the racetrack or on a favorite stretch of blacktop.
The crankshaft also has a new balancer, which is lighter and damps vibrations just as effectively. The crankshaft’s connecting rod journals have a new coating for reduced friction at high RPM.
The cylinder head has revised intake and exhaust ports. These have a straighter cross-section to allow better gas flow, contributing to the increased power output. Only the intake ports were polished on previous models, but the 2016 model also has polished exhaust ports to further increase power.
We could go on about all the changes but we’d be writing for hours. Below you can see a list of all the new additions along with our gallery.
- More powerful 998cc in-line four-cylinder 16-valve engine
- Lighter crankshaft allows quicker revving and increased low-mid-range power
- Pistons, head design, camshaft profiles and air box for better response and power
- Computer-controlled electronic throttle valve delivers precise control
- Lightweight titanium exhaust system
- Close-ratio, cassette-type transmission is ideally suited to racing and gives strong corner exit acceleration
- Chassis with new steering head position, swingarm rigidity and length, longer wheelbase creates balanced handling
- Front cowl provides better aerodynamics, improves high-speed handling, reduces rider buffeting
- Showa Balance Free Fork (BFF) and Balance Free Rear Cushion (BFRC) derived directly from World Superbike racing, first-time used on a mass-production motorcycle
- Brembo M50 monobloc front calipers, 330mm Brembo rotors and master cylinder provide increased braking power, feel and heat dissipation
- Electronics suite utilizes a Bosch five-axis IMU for KEBC Kawasaki Engine Braking Control, KLCM Kawasaki Launch Control Mode, KIBS Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Braking System, Corner Management Function, S-KTRC Sport Kawasaki TRaction Control and KQS Kawasaki Quick Shifter
- Kawasaki Racing Team-inspired KRT Edition color scheme combining Lime Green and Ebony paint