Kawasaki ZX-10R: Two-Time World Champion

A brief history of the Ninja 10R.

2004 Kawasaki ZX-10R
Printed sales brochures in 2004 featured this shot of the ZX1000-C1, or ZX-10R.©Motorcyclist

Foothill Ranch, CA – After carrying riders to two World Superbike championships, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R motorcycle has earned a place among the best supersport bikes ever created. It's been a long time coming. The Ninja ZX-10R's story actually began with the 903cc 1973 Z1, the world's first DOHC inline-four production motorcycle, then pushed dramatically ahead with the liquid-cooled 908cc GPz900R Ninja sportbike of 1984. Kawasaki launched its first full-liter superbike, the 997cc Ninja 1000R, for 1986, and followed up with the 998cc ZX-10 for 1998 and finally the ZX-10R (officially known as the ZX1000-C1) for the 2004 model year.

2008 Kawasaki ZX-10R
The 2008 model saw significant changes in the ZX-10R, both mechanically and aesthetically.©Motorcyclist

The rest, as they say, is a glorious blaze of Lime Green racing history. Upon its introduction, the Ninja ZX-10R immediately won a Best Superbike award from Cycle World magazine. Its compact 54.5-inch wheelbase and 24-degree steering rake made the handling of the new "10R" more akin to a 600cc supersport than any previous Kawasaki model. Also contributing to its extraordinary punch were slender physical dimensions, and innovations like pressed-aluminum frame rails and a titanium exhaust system that kept the weight down to 375 pounds dry.

2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R
The 2011 ZX-10R (ZX1000J).©Motorcyclist

But that was then. Since its launch, the Ninja ZX-10R superbike has pushed ahead technologically, incorporating significant redesigns for 2008, 2011 and 2016. The level of technology now available on the box-stock Ninja ZX-10R ABS KRT Edition would have blown the minds of factory race teams a decade ago, including Kawasaki Launch Control Mode (KLCM), five-mode Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC), a Kawasaki Quick Shifter (KQS), three power modes, a five-axis Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) for improved cornering management, an inverted Showa 43mm Balance Free Fork (BFF), an Öhlins electronic steering damper, Kawasaki Engine Brake Control, a Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS), and front Brembo brakes with monobloc calipers. And that’s just some of it.

Tom Sykes wins his first FIM Superbike World championship in 2013
2013: Tom Sykes wins his first FIM Superbike World championship.©Motorcyclist

So complete is the Ninja ZX-10R that Tom Sykes used it to grab his first FIM Superbike World championship in 2013, with teammate Jonathan Rea claiming a title of his own in 2015. At press time, Rea and Sykes were 1-2 in the 2016 standings. But it’s really no wonder, because while the Ninja ZX-10R is a streetbike, it also reflects decades of lessons hard-learned by the Kawasaki Racing Team on the world stage. All of which makes it the most incredible Ninja motorcycle yet, when 1st Street becomes Turn 1 at the track.

Boddy Fong Kawasaki
2016: A double victory at the MotoAmerica season finale at New Jersey Motorsports Park moved Bobby Fong of the Latus Motors Kawasaki Racing Team into second place in the Superstock Championship.©Motorcyclist