Top 10 Features Of The 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

Taking a second to appreciate the new Ninja

While it may not have won our recent comparison test against the Aprilia RSV4 RR, that’s no reason to dismiss the bike. The completely revamped 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is an impressive motorcycle. Kawasaki’s engineering staff had a tough task on its hands when taking the previous generation ZX-10R – which had just finished capturing a World Superbike championship – and making it better, but it’s undeniable that Team Green has done just that. So, for this week’s Top 10, I’m going to highlight 10 of my favorite features of the new ZX-10R.

2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R First First-Ride Review + Video

2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R Review And Dyno Test

10. Looks

Nobody wants to ride an ugly motorcycle, and thankfully the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R owner won’t have to. The new bike doesn’t look drastically different from the 10R it replaces (which wasn’t bad looking either), but I happen to like it. The angular nose is attractive, the exhaust canister doesn’t look like an afterthought, and the trademark Kawi green color scheme looks better in person than it does in the photo. Swap the three-spoke wheels with something of the 10-spoke variety (like Honda’s CBR1000RR) and I’d be completely happy.

Looks are subjective, of course, and the new Kawasaki can’t hold a candle to the Ducati Panigale in the styling department, but I’d crack a smile each time I opened my garage door and found this staring back at me.

9. Titanium Headers

Speaking of eye candy, check out the gorgeous titanium headers! It’s hard to believe these come standard from the factory. Stock Ti headers on a production sportbike was simply unheard of in the not-too-distant past, and their inclusion here practically negates the need to purchase a full exhaust system from the aftermarket when a slip-on would be good enough. Personally, the blue and purple hue would be enough to convince me that a full exhaust system is unnecessary.

As for the engine itself, it’s certainly more stout than its predecessor, but it’s top-heavy nature means it’s actually not one of my favorite features of the new bike.

8. Angled Valve Stems

Of all the features the ZX-10R boasts, I’m hyping up some valve stems?! Yessir, I am. The devil is in the details, and the proliferation of huge front brake discs has made it more difficult to check tire pressures (you do check your tire pressure, right?). It’s obviously doable with the traditional straight stems, but the added simplicity and convenience afforded from the angled valve stem makes you wonder why more motorcycles don’t have them.

7. Usable Mirrors!

Sportbikes like the ZX-10R may be bred for the racetrack, where objects behind you aren’t important, but the truth of the matter is that most sportbikes will never turn a wheel in anger at the track. Instead, they’ll mainly be used on the street, which requires you to be aware of your surroundings on all sides, including what’s behind you. Thankfully, the 2016 Ninja’s mirrors not only look stylish, but actually provide a decent view behind as well. The same can’t be said for all sportbikes out there.

6. Thank You, Steering Damper

A steering damper is one of those things you don’t appreciate until it saves your butt, and the Öhlins electronic unit on the ZX-10R works like a charm. Since it’s in constant communication with the ECU to provide the correct amount of damping for the conditions, many times it’s difficult to know when it’s even working. However, during our track test at Auto Club Speedway, as I got hard on the gas the front hit a bump as I was cresting onto the long, banked NASCAR straight. A small wiggle came through the bars, which could have been a big wiggle had it not been for the damper.

5. Sticky Tires Right From the Factory

It wasn’t that long ago when us moto-journos wouldn’t even think about going to a trackday with the stock tires on a sportbike. However, with advancements in tire technology (and electronic rider aids on the bikes themselves), ripping laps on stock tires is entirely possible. Here, the Kawasaki is fitted with Bridgestone Battlax RS10 R rubber, the R denoting the tire as the street compound of B-Stone’s track tire, the Battlax RS10 (no R). We were very impressed with the RS10 R’s performance; the front stayed composed during a full day of lapping and the rear showed plenty of life left at the end of the day.

4. Factory Quickshifter

Like angled valve stems, factory quickshifters are another thing that should come on every sportbike. The fact Kawasaki has finally included it on the ZX-10R is a godsend. It’s a little notchy when shifting at street speeds, but its benefit is perfectly clear when track riding. Auto Club Speedway’s infield section includes a long, increasing radius left-hander that requires the rider to upshift, and balancing the dance of the right wrist quickly chopping the throttle and the left toe flicking the shift lever mere inches from the ground can get tricky without a quickshifter. With the QS, the wrist can stay pinned, which means the chassis can stay composed, and all you have to do is flick your toe upward. It’s beautiful. Though we didn’t get a chance to test it, with Kawasaki’s race ECU, clutchless downshifts are also possible.

3. Simple Switches

The advancement of electronic rider aids on today’s motorcycles has necessitated the need for more buttons on the bars to navigate the different options and menus. Some bikes out there can be downright confusing to sort through the various buttons (looking at you, Ducati and BMW). With the ZX-10R, the majority of its menus and options can be navigated via this one switch on the left clip-on.

2. An Excellent Front End

Brembo M50 calipers are the bees knees. Anyone who’s followed the MO crew for any length of time knows how much we love these brakes, so I won’t harp about them any more. The addition of steel-braided lines from the factory is a nice touch, too. We also dig the new Showa Balance Free Fork and the feel it transmits to the rider from the front end. That increased feel translates into confidence, and confidence translates into an enjoyable lapping experience.

1. Electronics

As much as I like the front end on the new ZX-10R, I’m more impressed by the electronic suite Kawasaki has stuffed into the new bike, mainly the traction control. The hybrid predictive/reactive algorithms programmed into the ECU, allowable thanks to the Inertial Measurement Unit, give an incredible amount of confidence to the rider to apply liberal amounts of throttle (assuming the TC settings are set to provide more intervention!) with less consequence. For the more experienced rider, turning the TC settings down (less intervention) means you get to decide how much drive is still possible instead of the ECU potentially cutting back more than you want. Of course, it also means you can still highside to the moon if you get too greedy. Nonetheless, the sophistication of the ZX-10R’s electronics suite now puts it on par with leaders in the class.

Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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  • 12er 12er on Mar 17, 2016

    Angled stems, my Duc has one on the rear, where I dont need it, and a normal one on the front where I do. Oh well, they tried...