The 2006 Kawasaki ZX-10R
September 21, 2005 Kawasaki built the first 1000cc sports motorcycle of the modern era and it has a proud heritage of building great road bikes. But along the way, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki got very good at building them too, and nowadays with the World Superbike and European SuperStock Championships becoming so important, the competition between the manufacturers in the 1000cc supersport category has never been this strong – indeed, it’s downright carnivorous.
Last year all the manufacturers completely redesigned their machines, and this year, all but one will be doing the same again. This is an insight into the Kawasaki ZX1000D6F- next year’s Kawasaki 1000. The Yamaha and Honda machines have been covered here, and Suzuki has elected to continue with the same machine which will win the 2006 world and US superbike championship, albeit with a new coat of paint. The Kawasaki will be a completely new machine, with a brand new engine, chassis and aerodynamic makeover, a repositioned CG, revised stiffness, balance, new motor mounts, more centralised mass, and relocated swingarm pivot. Read on for the full story
When it comes to the Ninjas, Kawasaki has a simple goal: to ensure that every bike bearing the Ninja name is the number one racetrack performer in its category. As they do for all the Ninjas, Kawasaki engineers drew heavily from the latest technology, know-how from many years of developing supersport machines and there’s even a few hints from the factory’s MotoGP effort, though you wouldn’t expect the company to boast about its GP effort as it has been largely a lacklustre affair with a handful of podiums amongst a sea of Honda RC211V and Yamaha M1 machines. Nonetheless, the new Ninja ZX-10R is the latest expression of Kawasaki’s commitment to building the most exciting supersport bikes in the world and knowing the competition would be extremely tough, the ZX-10R is built to take Kawasaki back to the top of the supersport 1000cc class of 2006.
Accordingly, the Ninja 10R is getting a complete engine, chassis and aerodynamic makeover to ensure it remains competitive on the street and becomes competitive on the track.
Kawasaki’s men in white coats have found ways to unleash more power from the 10R’s engine. A thorough package of upgrades to reduce mechanical loss and improve combustion efficiency results in more power across the rev range (enough, in fact, to comfortably meet Euro-III emissions regulations while maintaining the awesome output of the ’05 model), with smoother, more linear delivery.
One of the most significant things Kawasaki has learned over the years is that on the racetrack, maximum power is important – but it isn’t everything. To go quickly on the track, the rider has to get into the turns smoothly, even under hard braking, he must be able to hold or even adjust his line mid-turn, and then be able to get the gas on early to make a strong corner exit – because it is this corner exit speed which ultimately decides how fast the rider can go down the straight.
To achieve these goals Kawasaki engineers and test riders took the tricks they learned from years of racing and developing supersport machines and applied them to the 10R’s chassis, thoroughly investigating both static and kinetic centres of gravity. They also redesigned the 10R’s power curve for more power in the mid range and more linear power delivery across the rpm range.
Cornering performance has also been uprated, as has rear wheel traction. The chassis runs a new frame with revised geometry, more centralised mass, a relocated swingarm pivot, revised stiffness balance, retuned suspension units and a host of other upgrades that most riders won’t even notice until they check their lap times. And as befits its track orientation, the new 10R comes fitted with a race-quality Ohlins steering damper as standard equipment.
Like the ZX-RR, the 10R chassis minimises the distance between the steering stem and swingarm pivot to create a compact, responsive package.
A new massive, braced swingarm delivers the rigidity needed for a machine with the ZX-10R’s horsepower. The long swingarm design reduces the engine’s leverage on the rear suspension, for excellent suspension action and superb road holding qualities. Specially configured for high torsional rigidity and more flexible lateral rigidity, this “balanced flex” contributes significantly to the 10R’s brilliant handling qualities. Amazingly lightweight, the swingarm weighs about the same as the ZX-6R swingarm.Race-oriented Performance
The combination of a short wheelbase with a long swingarm gives the Ninja ZX-10R incredibly nimble yet stable handling performance. The concave tank top and an idealised relationship between pegs, handlebars and seat, creates an aggressive, compact riding position. Close-ratio transmission, slipper clutch, radial mount calipers, petal disc brakes and fully adjustable suspension are also all designed to make the 10R unbeatable on the track.
Centre of Gravity
The engine has been repositioned to locate the crankshaft higher, which, together with the frame modifications, results in a higher CG and improved mass centralisation. The higher CG improves the bike’s roll response. This is particularly noticeable when flipping the bike from side to side through a series of high-speed esses, or when returning the bike to vertical on corner exit.
The decision to raise the centre of gravity resulted in a host of changes to the engine. The modified engine layout sees the cylinder bank angle been increased from 20o to 23o, the ACG moved from behind the cylinders to the crankshaft end, and the starter clutch moved from the left side to the right side cover. The starter is located behind the cylinders. This relocation prevented an increase in engine width, helping to maintain the superb 52o bank angle.
Although the steering head has been moved forward and the frame geometry has been changed, the wheelbase remains unchanged.
The new frame uses new castings in the steering head area and uses rigid engine mounts, both of which change the frame’s stiffness balance.
A race-quality steering damper has been fitted with track use in mind, however, it is quite all right to remove the damper for street riding.
This comprehensive package of chassis upgrades makes the 10R a track tool of unsurpassed potential. Likewise, it offers supersport enthusiasts the brilliant handling performance for track or street that they demand.Engine
A new fuel injection system and toolbox full of friction reducing tricks allow the liquidcooled, DOHC, 16-valve, power unit to churn out the same mind-altering horsepower and still meet Euro-III emissions standards. The fuel injection system, with its 43 mm throttle bodies and dual throttle valves gets new, ultra-fine-atomising injectors. Especially notable is a big boost in mid-range power. Power delivery is more linear, and off-corner acceleration is simply mind-boggling. Additionally, improvements to the shift linkage result in slicker shifting.
With the 10R churning out the same torque in 1st, 2nd and 3rd gears as the GP bike (and consequently the same back-torque), controlled power delivery is becoming more and more important. To offer greater stability on corner entry, the crankshaft’s flywheel mass was increased. The increased mass helps prevent the rear wheel from locking when shutting off the gas, and helps the slipper clutch better prevent wheel hop. Off-corner acceleration is also improved, thanks to a greater resistance to wheeling in 1st, 2nd and 3rd gears. Throttle control is simply superb.
Corner exit performance is indirectly improved by the more linear power characteristics of the new engine and the stronger mid-range performance, both of which significantly improve off-corner acceleration.New, round throttle pulley reduces throttle load and revised ECU mapping results in smoother transitional power characteristics when getting back on the gas exiting a turn. It also makes for smoother throttle work when getting on and off the gas during city riding or in the twisties.
Engine Features Maintained from the 2005 Ninja ZX-10R
- Idealised dimensions for the intake and exhaust ports, determined using flow analysis, ensure efficient cylinder filling and high power output. Titanium exhaust valves reduce reciprocating weight for incredible high-rpm performance.Hot-sparking iridium plugs and high-voltage coils ensure high combustion efficiency.Camshaft lobes and tappet surfaces feature soft-nitriding surface treatment for long wear and high-rpm reliability.Sintered aluminium valve spring retainers reduce reciprocating weight for reliable valve control at high-rpm.Forged pistons are lightweight and very tough, for low reciprocating weight and high heat resistance. Their flat tops enable a compact combustion chamber with improved combustion efficiency.Plated cylinders are long wearing and offer excellent heat dispersion. Passageways in cylinders ensure efficient crankcase breathing and reduce pumping loss.Intake air is routed via the central Ram Air duct and through the frame tubes to the airbox. A duct between the frame and the air cleaner prevents ingress of water.Compact air cleaner fits snugly between the frame rails, allowing use of a seamless, highcapacity, flat-bottomed fuel tank. Flow analysis was also used to ensure efficient air flow inside the airbox.One-piece cylinder/crankcase design, compact cylinder head and “stacked” tri-axis transmission/crankshaft layout allows an amazingly compact and lightweight engine. The engine is short enough to fit below the twin beams of the frame, allowing the 10R to have the narrow compactness of a 600-class machine.Single valve springs use oval-section wire to realise short springs and a compact cylinder head design.Camshafts are machined from forged billets of SCM420K steel for light weight and high strength.Lightweight magnesium engine covers contribute to the engine’s low weight.Liquid-cooled oil cooler with internal aluminium fins is lightweight and keeps oil temperatures under control.
What would a new engine and chassis be without new bodywork to show it off? Yep, the 10R gets an all-new aerodynamics package that lets it rip through the air more efficiently than ever before. The new fairing significantly improves the 10R’s aerodynamic efficiency at high speeds. Aerodynamic performance and looks are further improved by the new dual under-seat muffler.
One way to make a bike quicker is to increase its power; the other is reduce wind resistance. The new fairing, seat cowl and dual under-seat exhaust system deliver significantly improved aerodynamics, especially in the upper speed ranges. Kawasaki calculates that the slippery aerodynamics package is worth 7.5 kW of power at 280 km/h.