History of the Kawasaki ZX-10R

Author: Phil West Posted: 15 Jan 2016

With the imminent arrival of the massively updated new ZX-10R there’s no better time to remind ourselves of one of the most exciting motorcycling dynasties ever.

The latest ZX-10R is the fifth version of the breed since originally launched in 2004 (we’re not concerning ourselves with the very different ZX-10 hyperbike of 1988 here). All have been ballistically fast and exciting; most have been among the very best superbikes Japan has ever produced; all have been quite different with fans and devotees of their own.

We'll have a full review of the 2016 model coming next week as our man heads to Sepang to the world riding launch.

Meanwhile, here’s our ZX-10R reminder… 

The original ZX-10R from 2004

2004-2005 ZX-10R (C1-C2)

Capacity    998cc   
Claimed peak power    175bhp @ 11,700rpm   
Frame Aluminium twin tube backbone   
Dry weight 170kg
What to pay today £3750 - 5000


Original ZX-10R is launched to the world press at Homestead, USA and is immediately pronounced a beast… but a glorious one. Short, stumpy, phenomenally powerful and a weapon in the right hands but a bit of a handful on the road, today it’s the real connoisseur’s choice, especially when well set up.

2006's ZX-10R makeover ended up being virtually a whole new machine

2006-2007 ZX-10R (D1-D2)

Capacity  9998cc
Claimed peak power     175bhp @ 11,700rpm   
Dry weight 174kg
What to pay today £3900 - 5700


Makeover intended to calm excesses of original results in virtually all new machine. Different injectors, heavier flywheels and 4:2 exhaust (in place of previous titanium 4:1) with high silencers boost midrange and smooths delivery (and results in ‘wheelbarrow’ jibes). Revised frame, weight distribution and swing arm calms handling while new looks receive mixed reaction – but some think Kawasaki have gone too far. The least desirable of all ZX-10Rs.

Sharper, more manoeuvrable and easier to ride version of the ZX-10R came in 2008

2008-2010 ZX-10R

Capacity  998cc
Claimed peak power     188bhp @ 12,500rpm (200 with ram air)   
Dry weight 179kg
What to pay today £4400 - 7800


Kawasaki gets back on track with another all-new version which feels sharper and more manouvrable and is also easier to ride and more road-orientated thanks to longer wheelbase and extended rake. Also gets black fork tubes, Ohlins steering damper and all-new bodywork once more.

Traction control and power modes featured on the 2011 version

2011-2015 ZX-10R

Capacity 998cc
Claimed peak power    199.8bhp @ 13,000rpm    
Wet weight 198kg
What to pay today £6700 - 12,000


After turning the ZX-10R into the best superbike for the road, in 2011 Kawasaki re-invent it fully again to become the best track bike out of Japan. Revised porting, higher lift cams and upped compression boost power. A new twin spar frame complete with novel horizontally-mounted shock sharpens handling while new, sophisticated electronics, for the first time, include KTRC traction control and power modes.

Do you have a favourite? Tell us about it.  or !