KAWASAKI'S 2008 NINJA® ZX™-10R SUPERBIKE IS POISED FOR COMPETITION
Factory superbike talent in a street savvy performer
For the 2008 NINJA® ZX™-10R, Kawasaki engineers aimed for an ideal superbike with engine and chassis performance capable of satisfying professional racers, combined with top-notch streetbike qualities for mainstream riders. It's a delicate balance, but these aren't your average engineers. They've been directly involved in the development of every 600 and 1000cc supersport machine since the 2003 Ninja ZX-6R, plus Kawasaki's factory Superbike racing efforts, so they have the know-how to deliver the goods.
The result is an exceptionally communicative machine that provides the clean two-way rider/machine dialog demanded by professional racers. Placing the ZX-10R in the racing crucible and applying lessons from that unforgiving environment resulted in an ideal balance to satisfy the most demanding of riders. Japanese Superbike racer Akira Yanagawa was the man pushing the engine and frame components to the limits of their performance in actual competition. Parts that met with Yanagawa's approval were then tried on the production test bike, tweaked, retested on the racer and adjusted again. This process was repeated throughout the development cycle for the all-new 2008 Ninja ZX-10R.
At the heart of this capable package is a new engine tuned for even greater high-rpm performance, without sacrificing the stellar mid-range performance of its predecessor. Refinements include installing secondary fuel injectors, changing to oval throttle bodies and reshaping the intake ports. Intake flow was further enhanced with reshaped ram air ducts and a larger airbox that feeds into the new oval shaped velocity stacks. Exhaust efficiency was boosted with a new system that not only flows better but generates less noise and emissions.
To suit the enhanced power delivery, the transmission features new gear ratios for 1st, 4th and 5th gears along with an extra tooth on the rear sprocket. Quick downshifts can be executed without risk of upsetting the fine-tuned ZX-10R chassis thanks to its easily adjustable slipper clutch. These changes make it essentially a race-ready engine with performance similar to Kawasaki's factory Superbikes.
Professional riders know it's useless to have the most power if you can't get it to the ground. The 2008 Ninja ZX-10R employs the new Kawasaki Ignition Management System (KIMS) to aid with that essential power delivery precision, thus ensuring smooth throttle response without sudden spikes in engine speed and protecting the engine and catalyzers from damage. It does this by monitoring the standard FI system input data (engine speed, throttle position, vehicle speed, gear position and feedback from intake air temperature, intake air pressure, engine temperature and O2 sensors), and checking every 0.02 seconds for any sudden changes in RPM. The KIMS doesn't interfere with normal operation and still allows the engine to rev freely under typical riding conditions.
A superb engine deserves a superb chassis, and this is where the new ZX-10R really shines. To achieve the best-possible handling, Kawasaki used the lessons learned at the track to build a list of refinements including: changing the length of the steering tube and moving it 10mm forward, alleviating stress concentrations through subtle changes to the frame stampings (switching concave parts to convex pieces), increasing the wall thickness around the relocated swingarm pivot, adding ribbing on the interior of the pivot plate, and mounting a narrower, two-piece sub-frame to the main frame's upper cross member.
With a fully-adjustable 43mm inverted fork and a new swingarm that uses pressed instead of cast beams, the ZX-10R's track orientated suspension endows the chassis with better feedback. Refinements include adding a Diamond Like Carbon (DLC) coating to the fork tubes for less stiction and enhanced feedback, relocating the springs to the bottom of the fork for reduced oil frothing, and new settings that are better-suited for racetrack use. Rear suspension changes include dual (low and high-speed) compression damping on the fully-adjustable rear shock for better fine-tuning, a new mounting spot for the Uni-Trak® linkage and a re-shaped swingarm with a top-mounted brace.
No part was left untouched on the ZX-10R, even the wheels are new. Produced using a squeeze-casting process instead of the earlier gravity casting method, the new wheels are lighter, stiffer and more precise, to perfectly match the new chassis. The lower unsprung weight of the wheels helps improve suspension action and their reduced rotational inertia provides quicker steering and acceleration.
Braking duties are handled by radial mounted Tokico brake calipers squeezing new 310mm petal discs which are 10mm larger for 2008, and feature reduced thickness from 6 to 5.5mm for better heat dispersion. The rear is a 220mm petal disc squeezed by a single-piston caliper.
The designers didn't rest when it came to styling either. Given great freedom with the 2008 ZX-10R, their efforts are illustrated in the clean design with superb fit and finish. While shaping the rear frame, tank and seat to offer improved ergonomics and increase the rider's contact with the bike, they also refined its aerodynamics from a new front cowling to the sharp, minimalist tail cowl. The result of these efforts is a slim and compact package with the presence befitting its Ninja name.