2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R vs. 2011 BMW S1000RR Shootout - Track

The new literbike contender takes on the reigning champ at the racetrack

The Details

The Details

Being a track test, riding both bikes back-to-back shed a lot of light on their handling characteristics. All testers agreed that the ZX-10R’s makeover has greatly enhanced its turning ability compared to last year’s bike. Pete noted that front end feel is “vastly improved,” which in turn gave him more confidence in the front end. The 43mm Showa Big Piston Fork deserves some of the credit. “Its path accuracy is excellent,” Duke comments.

The Kawi’s 25.0-degree rake is slightly steeper than last year, but it’s still not quite as aggressive as the BMW’s pointier 23.9-degree angle. The ZX’s 4.2 inches of trail (3.7 inches for the BMW) should give it more stability when on its side.

2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R vs. 2011 BMW S1000RR Shootout

These attributes, combined with the 10R’s lighter wheels compared to the outgoing model, should theoretically give it the leg up, but the jury is still out, however, on the 10R’s nimbleness. Side-to-side agility is much improved over last year, though not everyone agreed it was clearly better than the BMW.

That being said, the S1000RR handled equally as well, if not better, than its Japanese counterpart. Our testers were split between which one took less effort to maneuver. Nonetheless, each of our testers appreciated the S1000RR’s suspension and its simplicity when it comes to adjusting compression or rebound. With only 10 different “clicks” to choose from (which can be done with the ignition key if you forget a screwdriver), each individual number makes a noticeable difference in handling.

2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R vs. 2011 BMW S1000RR Shootout

Buttonwillow’s surface is anything but smooth, but both bikes absorbed the bumps well and were able to effectively communicate what it was doing.

When it comes to brakes, again, each machine employs an exemplary set of binders. The Kawasaki, with its 310mm, petal-type twin discs in the front are squeezed by four-piston Tokico calipers, radially mounted, and fed fluid through rubber lines. Despite the theoretical disadvantage of having rubber lines, none of us complained about the Kawasaki’s stopping power, feel or modulation.

“If these brakes are judged second-best, it won’t tell the whole story,” Duke says. “The ZX’s front brakes have a firm lever, tons of power and exemplary feel.” Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Kawasaki brakes – I’ll put them up against anything.

But when forced to split hairs (and trust us, we’re splitting gnat hairs here), the smallest of advantages lies with the BMW. Front discs are 320mm, gripped by radially mounted, four-piston Brembo calipers and mated to steel-braided lines. The Brembos are not of the monobloc variety, but still offer outstanding braking power. “The S1000RR has a tremendous brake system,” notes Kevin. “There is both big power and clear sensitivity from the Brembos.”

Pete goes on to gush, “The S1000RRs Brembo’s offered better sensitivity and more linear-feeling stopping power throughout the brake lever’s travel.” He went on to note that the difference between the two bikes is minuscule, however.

2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R vs. 2011 BMW S1000RR Shootout 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R vs. 2011 BMW S1000RR Shootout

On the transmission front, we’ve always been impressed by Kawasaki’s slick-shifting cog-box, and it seems that the latest iteration of the 10R’s slipper clutch is as seamless as ever. But it’s hard to compete with the BMW’s gear shift assist (that’s “quickshifter” in layman’s terms). Granted, it’s an option that our test bike came with, but it’s one definitely worth having.

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