2008 Kawasaki ZX-10R - First Ride - Enter The Warrior

Packing Almost 180 Horsepower, This Is The Fiercest Ninja Yet

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Kawasaki

Handling is generally outstanding; we didn't even notice the claimed 8-lb. weight increase (now 399 lbs. dry). Our only substantial critique is a slight tendency to stand up under heavy braking. This is unfortunate because the Tokico four-piston, radial front stoppers incorporate a new pad configuration that provides more positive initial bite and improved feel, inviting you to brake deeply into corners. The other itch was prominent headshake under acceleration, especially when leaned over. The hlins adjustable steering damper looks sexy on the sales floor, but this OEM version offers significantly less damping ability than an aftermarket piece (no doubt a concession to liability concerns). Even at the stiffest setting it wasn't enough to completely calm such a fast and powerful bike.

The '08 ZX-10R is more powerful than before and, thanks to painstaking efforts to optimize the bike/rider interface, it's also easier to exploit and control. Whether thisn nresults in more Superbike-class wins for Kawasaki remains to be seen, but focusing development on racetrack performance has already paid dividends for the stock bike at the track. A more relevant question now is how such an explicitly track-focused machine will satisfy us in the less-ideal environs of the street. Wanting the proverbial "Superbike with lights" is one thing. Living with one day-in and day-out is another thing entirely.

2008 Kawasaki Zx-10rHard Parts
Stronger, Faster, SmarterElectronics First off, the Kawasaki Ignition Management System (KIMS) that debuts on the ZX-10R is not traction control. While KIMS will negate unwanted wheelspin in extreme situations, such tendencies are incidental to its real purpose, which is to protect the catalytic converters from the increased exhaust-gas temperatures that accompany sudden spikes in engine rpm. Upcoming Euro 4 emissions standards reportedly will include an endurance test for catalytic converters; consider KIMS a preemptive strike. As for how it works, KIMS is a wildly complex electronic system that monitors engine speed, throttle position, vehicle speed, gear position, intake air temperature, intake air pressure, engine temperature, exhaust-gas oxygen content and more. Sampling occurs every .02 second and, when the ECU senses a change in engine speed that runs contrary to other factors (e.g., rpm rises without a corresponding change in throttle position), ignition timing is retarded according to one of 500 (!) pre-programmed ignition maps. Caveat: KIMS does have legitimate traction-control properties if paired with the factory race-kit ECU.

The twin-spar frame's stiffness balance has been revised to increase both the quantity and quality of feedback. Formerly concave pressed portions of the main spars are now convex, and a small tubular structure welded between them further increases rigidity. An enlarged ram-air duct straightens airflow and stiffens the head pipe. A two-piece, die-cast aluminum subframe allows the passenger portion to be removed for racing. This new subframe is narrower, more compact and lighter, and now mounts directly to the frame's upper crossmember-not to the spars-locating it closer to the rear shock mount to better transmit rear-end feedback. An increase in wall thickness and the addition of internal ribbing around the swingarm pivot further resist flex, and provide solid mounting points for the stiffer, pressed-beam swingarm. Minor geometry changes include moving the steering head forward 10mm to increase front-end weight bias and moving the swingarm

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