We discover secret info about the baddest Ninja ever!
If you’ve been paying attention lately, you’ll have seen evidence of a new teaser marketing campaign in advance of Kawasaki’s upcoming 2011 ZX-10R literbike. A trickling of info, photos and an all-too-brief video have been served up at Kawasaki-Challenge.com since the site launched on June 21.
The site’s latest dollop of 10R news came last week when a race version of the 2011 ZX-10R took part in track testing at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan on July 7 and 8. The non-stock Ninja was ridden on the first day by test rider Hidemichi Takahashi, followed up on day two by Kawasaki’s former World Superbike star rider, Akira Yanagawa.
Precious little details about the bike have been officially released, but based on information we’ve recently gleaned, we’re able to shed some light on what we will see from Kawasaki this fall when the production bike is officially unveiled.
This is a race-prepped 2011 ZX-10R, but the general shape and silhouette is what we’ll see from Team Green’s literbike this fall.
First off, let’s dispel two wild rumors. The new 10R has neither a big-bang firing order nor a horizontal placement of its cylinders, despite fanciful speculation in lesser publications. Rumors of variable valve timing are also likely unfounded. Instead, we find an evolutionary literbike design of a traditional inline-Four engine wrapped in a perimeter-beam aluminum frame.
And yet, despite the apparent lack of visible innovation, we’re told to expect a seriously competitive liter-sized sportbike. It’s a total ground-up redesign. Rumors suggest a production version of the new 10R can lap Kawi’s Autopolis test track seconds quicker than the 2010 model.
Perhaps the headlining news is that Kawi’s lawyers have allowed engineers to develop what might turn out to be a class-leading electronic rider-aid package, including multi-adjustable traction control. We’re told to expect a TC system that is better than the BMW package on the S1000RR, able to be toggled through more customizable settings. A performance-based anti-lock braking system will be optional, but a BMW-like quick-shifter won’t be part of the package. The new Ninja will have comprehensive instrumentation, including the ability to switch between street and track displays.
Speaking of the S1000RR, that’s the stunning new target Kawasaki has to aim for in this revitalized market segment. The current ZX-10R is the lowest-revving literbike (aside from the Aprilia RSV4), so we’re expecting a modest increase in max revs from 13,000 to maybe 13,500 rpm. That’s still short of the S1000’s lofty 14K rev limit, suggesting the Ninja engine’s bore is less than the massive 80mm slugs in the BMW.
From what we’ve been able to gather, the newest Ninja is expected to produce peak horsepower numbers near or in excess of 170 ponies at the rear tire. The S1000 pumps out a minimum of 170 hp.
In terms of styling, it seems like the 2011 ZX-10 has the design bones that should produce the most attractive 10R yet. The shape of its bodywork is chiseled yet sleek, wrapping tightly around the mechanical bits. Large side cut-outs in the fairing add to the perception of lightness and expose the engine. A diminutive tailsection helps aid the impression of lightness.
Speaking of weight, it will be interesting to see how many ounces can be whittled away. The current 10R weighs in at 458 pounds with its tank filled, and that’s 5 more than the S1000RR and a whopping 21 pounds heavier than Honda’s CBR1000RR. The 2011 ZX will surely be lighter than the BMW, and it might even approach the CBR’s astonishingly low (437-lb) weight. Keep in mind that 20-some pounds were shed from the ZX-6R in its last redesign.
The 10R’s nose is particularly interesting. A huge centrally located ram-air duct is impossible to ignore, and it funnels cool air into a pressurized airbox via channels in the aluminum frame’s steering head. Expect some form of cat-eye headlights on either side of that gaping maw. Its sloped nose implies slippery aerodynamics, underlined by its beak that extends many inches past the front axle. A faired front fender includes leading-edge extensions for smoother flow through 180-plus mph winds.
The aluminum-beam perimeter frame appears to have abandoned Kawasaki’s over-the-engine design, looking quite conventional. This change seems to have had the side benefit of a lower fuel tank, perhaps augmented by a sub-tank partially located under the seat.
A race-spec version of the 2011 ZX-10R was tested last week at Suzuka.
As has become typical for modern sportbikes, the ZX-10’s exhaust system will be another variation of an under-engine collector box and a stylized side-mount shorty muffler.
Also of note is the Ninja’s braced aluminum swingarm. It looks like Kawi has tightened up the dimensions of the main frame to allow for a longer swingarm inside of a similar wheelbase, which is known to aid traction. The suspension is also all new, with the front end using a Showa Big Piston fork like that first seen on the 2009 ZX-6R.
The left-side profile shows a longer swingarm that has a beefy-looking brace. Note how the nose fairing stretches forward to punch a cleaner hole in the wind.
Unlike the race-prepped ZX-10R seen testing at Suzuka, Brembo brakes are doubtful to make it to the production version of the new ZX. The streetbike will be blessed with adjustable footpegs to better accommodate riders of different sizes.
Although many details remain unknown or in sketch form, a new sportbike like the 10R must already be in its near-final status, with final development currently ironing out any last-minute wrinkles. Complete information will be available when Kawasaki makes its official announcement in early October.
By Kevin Duke, photography by Kawasaki