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Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R 30th Anniversary (2015) - Review

By BikeSocial

Bennetts BikeSocial was launched in autumn 2012



Standard OE exhaust isn't nearly as nice as the Akrapovic option

It would be fair to say that Kawasaki has stepped on its own shoes with a dose of self-inflicted Ninja H2 and H2R hype.  Standing at the back of the room jumping up and down looking for someone to glance in its direction while the world coos over the shiny new supercharged bikes is the ZX-10R.

The current version of Kawasaki’s litre sportsbike was launched in 2011 yet is the model on which so many race and championship winners throughout the World and British Superbike Championships are based.

Yet four years on and the current top two in both the 2015 BSB and WSB campaigns are, you’ve guessed it, Kawasaki ZX-10R’s at the hands of James Ellison, Shane Byrne, Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes respectively. Even last week Ian ‘Hutchy’ Hutchinson blasted his way to another TT victory in the Superstock race on the Isle of Man so the ZX-10R has lost none of its ability against more modern machinery. In fact 5 of the nine podium positions from the Superbike, Superstock and Senior races went to Kawasaki’s of Hutchinson and James Hillier.

Sykes (left) wins at Donington but Rea leads the Championship

The old adage of ‘Win on Sunday, Buy on Monday’ may no longer exist but there’s no denying the ZX-10R’s calibre as a seriously good race bike with exceptional handling, plenty of power and a smooth throttle.

The 998cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke offers a linear power delivery which makes it super usable for all types of rider in all types of situations. As a first-time new big bike it reassures because it doesn’t jump up in your face and slap you about. You certainly feel in full control over the claimed 197.4bhp which seems like plenty for the daily commute or Sunday blast yet with the three engine modes you’ll easily tame the engine to fit in with its surroundings. But. Get it on the track or closed road (of course) and aim to keep the revs well over 7,500rpm and man will it spring into life. Like a police attack dog on the scent of some scumbag. It weighs 201kg ready–to-go and feels perfectly balanced with a high-grade suspension and brake package giving the Ninja a very decent feel.

Four years ago the most notable electronic system on a motorcycle, particularly one with almost 200bhp on tap, was traction control and Kawasaki provided theirs as standard, known as Sport Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC). The three riding modes I mentioned are easy to toggle between and are controlled by the rocker switch on left handlebar, cunningly titled ‘Power’. Full, Low (which is 60% of Full) are fairly self-explanatory but the variable Middle option is the clever one which, depending on performance characteristics, recognises the engine speed v. throttle position and adjusts the amount of power on offer accordingly. Ideal for city riding or an easier paced ride.

2015 is the year of the new breed of super sports bikes. You won’t have failed to notice new and even more powerful models from Yamaha, Ducati, BMW, Aprilia and of course Kawasaki. Technically speaking they’ve also taken huge leaps forward with no end of sensors and gizmos monitoring your every move, fooling you into thinking you can be as fast as Rossi or Marquez. These bikes are seriously quick not only in a straight line yet the ZX-10R remains a classy yet fierce competitor despite being four years old. There’s a bag full of power in a rider-friendly motorcycle and compared to modern day standards it’s a get-on-and-ride machine with minimal fuss.

The seat and riding position is comfortable enough and adjustable foot pegs are a sensible optional extra to make the sports bike a degree more comfortable. Of course you don’t buy a bike like the ZX-10R primarily for its comfort but the Kawasaki was spot on for the 100 mile motorway journey from Bike Social HQ to Brands Hatch for the California Superbike School. That said, after a full day of riding on track the following day there was plenty of leg stretching and bum shuffling going on up the M11/A14 on the return journey. Incorporating that journey I saw a highly respectable 143 miles out of one tank with an mpg of 38.2.

I tested the 30th anniversary special edition model where the only difference was the paint scheme. It also came equipped with the glorious sounding Akrapovic exhaust, a £650 option which looks so much compact than the standard version, let alone sounding so raucous. It also offers a claimed extra 4-5bhp and slight reduction in weight.

Front end stability doesn’t face a much bigger test than rampaging into the first corner at Brands Hatch, Paddock Hill Bend, which is up-hill on the approach into a late apex and then falls off the edge of the world before your vital organs condense in the bottom of the following dip before clambering up-hill once again before braking late into the tight right at Druids. All of which happens as fast as you can read it. That tends to unsettle most two-wheeled machines but the ZX-10R held firm. Its Ohlins steering damper on the front aids the bikes’ stability while the BPF (Big Piston Front fork) keeps the front end composed under braking. My riding coach noticed some skittish behaviour from the bike when following me and I was quick to remove blame from my riding style but a quick adjustment aiming to help the bike settle earlier and my ability was enhanced as was corner speed thanks to a more predictable and confident front-end.

Standard-fit Bridgestone Battlax BT016R rubber does the business with no issue to report. The bike felt very steady with consistent grip both on road and track and these shoes are well suited to the ZX.

Worthy of mention is the instrument panel which is easy to read thanks to being a backlit LED display and easy to operate with two rubber buttons on its left side. The curved, yellow/orange/red rev counter is bright enough to catch in your peripheral vision while the speed and gear position are prominent. A race mode display is available with the lap timer being operated started and stopped by the main beam flash button

Overall the ZX-10R has displayed plenty of race-winning calibre over the years while on the road the older generation can still stick with the new kids thanks to the combination of usable bhp, chassis, brakes and suspension. Kawasaki created a top bike to last the distance but they’d better transfer some of the H2 technology into a new version soon because four years soon becomes five and with a brand new S1000RR available at less than £1,500 extra, competition is fierce.

2015 Kawasaki ZX-10R 30th Anniversary - Technical Specifications


998cc, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke In-Line Four, DOHC, 16 valves


Twin spar, cast aluminium


25°/ 107 mm

Maximum power

147.1kW /197.4bhp  @ 13,000 rpm

With RAM air: 154.4kW / 207bhp @ 13,000 rpm)

Maximum torque

112Nm / 82.6 ft-lbs @ 11,500 rpm


Front: Dual semi-floating 310 mm petal discs, 10-button aluminium rotor carrier Caliper: Dual radial-mount, opposed 4-(aluminium) piston

Rear: Single 220 mm petal disc Caliper: Single-bore pin-slide, aluminium piston


Front: 43 mm inverted fork with rebound and compression damping, spring preload adjustability and top-out springs. 120mm wheel travel

Rear: Horizontal Back-link with gas-charged shock and top-out spring Compression damping: Stepless, dual-range (high/low-speed) Rebound damping: Stepless Spring preload: Fully adjustable. 140mm wheel travel


Front: 120/70ZR17M/C (58W)

Rear: 190/55ZR17M/C (75W)


Length: 2,075mm

Width: 715mm

Height: 1,115mm



Seat height


Fuel capacity

17 litres

Weight (wet)

198kg / 201kg (ABS)


£ 12,349 / £ 13,349 (ABS)