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2009 Kawasaki ZX-10R Comparison Street

Monday, May 11, 2009
2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R - 3rd Place
2009 Kawasaki ZX-10R Street Comparo
MSRP: $11,799
Curb Weight: 459 lbs.
Horsepower: 155.85 @ 12,200 rpm
Torque: 72.72 lb-ft @ 9000 rpm
Quarter Mile: 10.05 @ 141.5 mph
60 to 100 mph Roll On (fourth gear): 4.61 seconds
Top Speed: 186 mph
Average MPG: 31.89
A street-legal roadracing motorcycle complete with working headlight, taillight, turn signals and mirrors; That’s the best way to describe the Kawasaki ZX-10R on the street. And it all starts as soon as you lay eyes on it. Just fit racing bodywork painted in Team Green colors and a tucked-away shorty exhaust muffler and you would think this motorcycle was pulled out of last year’s MotoGP paddock. Looks wise, next to Ducati’s ultra-exculsive Desmosedici D16RR, the Ninja ZX-10R is the closest thing to an unobtainable pure-bred prototype racing motorcycle as it gets.
Hop into the Zed-X-10’s thin, flat saddle and you can’t help but notice its unique seating position. Its narrow feel is attributed to the way the frame spars wrap over instead of around the engine. Its fuel tank is also shaped to accentuate that slender sensation which in turn makes the bike unusually thin between your knees. It also feels light too, with it weighing in at 459 lbs fully fueled and ready to ride which makes it third-lightest in this test.
Grasp the handlebars and your torso is immediately thrust into an aggressive track-oriented riding stance. The placement of the footpegs only exacerbates the pose. Next to the Ducati, the ZX-10R’s ergos are by far the most-racy and the pegs don’t offer any range adjustability like they do on the R1 and GSX-R. Next to the Suzuki, the front brake has the widest range of adjustment for different size hands, and the levers, pegs and frame have an outstanding detail to attention with the black finish making each part appear high-end.
“When you’re sitting on the Kawasaki, it just feels like an aggressive bike,” comments our test rider Joe Wallace. “I think it would be better suited to the track. The ergos are more bent over and it seems like it’s dropped in the front. It just feels very track oriented.”
2009 Kawasaki ZX-10R Street Comparo
Next to the Ducati the Kawasaki has the most racy ergonomics on the street.
Thumb the starter and the Ninja’s engine fires to life with a less than racebike-like purr. Next to the Honda, this is easily the most quiet and smoothest engine of the bunch – though it does show some personality as the revs build. Like the R1, a bit of clutch slippage is required from a stand-still for the Kawasaki’s tall first gear, which is good for almost 100 mph before you even need to think about grabbing second.
If you’re new to literbike ownership, accelerating hard from a stop is truly an eye opening process. However, when compared to the other four bikes, the Kawi is noticeably more tame down low and the Kawasaki was toward the back of the time sheets during 60-100 mph acceleration tests. 
“Every time we did an impromptu roll-on race during the street ride the ZX was near the back of the pack,” confirms MCUSA Editorial Director Ken Hutchison. “If you go apples to apples, gear to gear the ZX brings up the rear. Now, put it head to head in a drag race and it holds its own, but the gearing is too tall to get the jump on the rest of the pack in this scenario.”

Keep the throttle pinned, however, and even with its taller final-drive gearing the Kawi’s 998cc Inline-Four spools up quickly. Around 9000 revs things really start getting fun and from there until its 13,000 redline the engine zings to life. In fact the ZX mill pumps out so much power that its standard
2009 Kawasaki ZX-10R Street Comparo
The Kawasaki uses a pair of Tokico radial-mount calipers that latch down on 310mm petal-style brake discs. We couldn't imagine any more powerful of a set-up.
Ohlins steering damper can’t keep the handlebars from slapping back and forth as the front tire creeps to the sky. The snarl emitting from under the fuel tank only deepens the sensation.

And this experience isn’t limited to just first gear, because the same thing happens in second and even third gear. If you don’t think this type of hooliganism is fun, maybe you should pick up a different sport. It isn’t until fourth gear that the Kawasaki’s front wheel stays on the ground, by which time you’re exceeding more than double the posted speed limit.

“The ZX doesn’t pull very hard off the bottom,” agrees Wallace. “But once the tach needle reaches around 10,000 rpm the bike just takes off. It’s a smooth hit though, so it doesn’t really catch you off guard. The handlebars can get a little flighty though, although not as bad as the Ducati.”

The Kawasaki ZX10 quarter-mile time of 10.05 seconds at a speed of 140.5 mph is third-best behind the Honda and Suzuki. Its trap speed, however, is the second fastest and only bested by the GSX-R1000 - another top-end horsepower-biased bike.

2009 Kawasaki ZX-10R Street Comparo
When it comes down to outright horsepower the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R continues to be the power king delivering 156 horsepower to the rear tire.

The Ninja’s superb throttle response might be too precise for some folks, as it delivers instantaneous acceleration whenever the throttle is twisted. The well-sorted fuel-injection system helps make the power delivery smooth but the Kawi goes through gas quicker than every bike but the R1 with a 31.9 mpg average. And with its 4.5-gallon fuel capacity that gives you a range of roughly of 140 miles based on how aggressive you wick the throttle.

While the Ninja isn’t the most stable, especially during hard acceleration on the bumpy pavement we experienced during our Nor-Cal street ride, it sure does turn sharply through the really tight stuff - you know, the ones that are better suited for a go-kart than a motorcycle. Here, with a slight tug of the bars and bit of lean, the Ninja carves right into the turn smoothly and predictably. There’s no question that the ZX-10R is a sharp handling motorcycle and almost as agile as the CBR.

In the transmission department the Kawasaki Zed-X-10 cuts through its six-speed gearbox with precision. Although the bike employs a slipper-clutch, you either have to not know what you’re doing or unleash some serious rear tire sliding hi-jinx to feel it working on the street.

Instrumentation is comprised of a large, brightly back-lit swept analog tachometer housing a medium-sized LCD multi-function display that includes speedometer and gear position read-outs, amongst other things. Unlike the other bikes, however, there isn’t a shift light and only one trip meter. Although it might not be the easiest to read, especially at warp speed, it gets the job done and looks high-tech enough for use in NASA’s new space orbitor.

When it comes time to slow down, the Ninja’s front brakes are so proficient that someone without delicate right-hand control could easily find themselves on their heads. The brakes are so good there will never be an instance where you’ll wish for more braking performance aboard the ZX10.
2009 Kawasaki ZX-10R Street Comparo
While the Ninja ZX-10R's instruments aren't the easiest to read at a glance they sure do look cool.

I n terms of fit and finish and overall build quality, we’ve really got to hand it to Kawasaki, as this motorcycle is a quality looking piece of equipment. Not only are unsightly fasteners kept to a minimum, the motorcycle looks and feels solid. Check out how thick and burly the swingarm looks, along with the frame, triple clamps, shock linkage and suspension components. Everything on the Kawasaki looks like it’s heavy-duty and built for speed.

Perhaps more impressive thing about the ZX-10R is that you get all of that performance wrapped in genuine racetrack-inspired plastics. And they’re able to produce it for the least amount of money. Ringing in at $11,799, the Ninja is the least expensive motorcycle in this comparison.

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2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Specs
2009 Kawasaki ZX-10R Street Comparo
Engine: Liquid-cooled 998cc Inline-Four, 16-valves
Bore and Stroke: 76 x 55.0mm
Compression Ratio: 12.9:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel-injection
Clutch: Wet multi-plate slipper clutch; Cable actuation
Transmission: Six-speed; chain final drive
Frame: Twin spar aluminum
Front Suspension: 43mm inverted Kayaba fork; 3-way adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound; 4.7 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Uni-Trak equipped Kayaba gas-charged shock; 4-way adjustable for spring preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound; 4.9 in. travel
Front Brakes: 310mm discs with radial-mount Tokico four-piston calipers
Rear Brake: 220mm disc with dual-piston caliper
Tires: Bridgestone BT-016; 120/70R17, 190/55R17
Curb Weight: 459 lbs.
Wheelbase: 55.7 in.
Rake: 25.5 deg. Trail: 4.3 in.
Seat Height: 32.7 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons Average MPG: 31.89
MSRP: $11,799; Special Edition $11,999

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John Dang -2009 ZX10 Low Oil Pressure Light when doing oil changes caused me to sell it  December 3, 2010 06:28 PM
Well everything about this bike I loved until that is, I did my first oil change and "Low oil pressure" warning light stayed on for 3 minutes. Did a search and found several others who had same issue. Kawasaki Consumer Services were callous and nasty. I ended up selling this bike losing 1800 dollars with only 600 miles on it! Yes burping the oil filter will help but light still stays on for a good 15 to 20 seconds. Been told that other ZX6, ZX10's, Vulcans also do the same. Will never buy another Kawasaki again. My 08 Blade never did this in all 13 oil changes done.
Alex -damper  March 19, 2010 05:10 AM
Ohlins standard damper is crap, but love this bike , owned own both the 08 and now the 09 09
Kruz -10r has major mojo!  March 11, 2010 08:31 AM
The ZX-10R was the bike for me, out of this group anyway. I waffled back and forth between the 10R and the CBR for months before making my decision. I already have an '07 CBR 1000RR and the '08/'09 models have a bad reputation for burning oil like a tramp steamer plus the new CBR is a butt ugly bike, except in Repsol scheme! In my opinion, the '07 model was drop dead gorgeous...what happened Honda???? So it was the 10R for me in Diablo Black and I love it. It feels even smoother and more refined than my CBR and that's saying something and the topend power and handling are other worldly. Good job Kawasaki!!
conrman -gearing  January 5, 2010 01:08 PM
manufactures don't gear to keep the bike from looping, or restrict exhaust to reduce too much power for the inexperienced. Tall gearing lowers rpm at given speeds, where the bikes must pass sound tests. Lots of DOT and EPA regs to satisfy. Exhaust must reduce noise to a certain level.
Jean-Jacques Guiounet -Suspension setting for (1) sport and (2) duo use / ZX10R 2009  November 6, 2009 02:43 AM

Could you please help me on this 2 different matters ?

Thank you and best regards.

bush -r1  October 25, 2009 12:17 AM
R1 no 1
Andy -2009 ZX10  July 31, 2009 03:57 PM
My first Kawasaki, wow, buidl quality is as good as my R1, oh my word does this bike pull in the first two gears !!!!, Rear suspension is a bit soft. A bike like this should really come with BT 003 as standard. Instrument display is brilliant, clear and precise, I fitted full Akropovic system.... value for money !!!!
Seth -Awesome  July 8, 2009 04:13 PM
Yeah I love this bike. I just got it and a painstakingly keeping the RPM's low till break in is complete. totaly confidence inspiring and comfiterable around town. I dont think the racy styling causes any over exagerated discomfort. this bike kiks some serios tail and the difference between all of the bike reviewed is so miniscule other that price I had to go Kawi! I would recomend this to almost anyone. Candy Burnt orange is unique and looks great. I swapped out the fender for a Comp werkes and it looks awesome. this bike is hot and gets tons of looks. if you wana be the center of attention get it. if you dont also want the police to notice you, pick another.
neal -zx10  June 3, 2009 05:46 AM
sad to see you guys get paid to review bikes and features and dont even know the zx10r has a shift light.
cloud9 -thanks derrick  May 19, 2009 10:45 PM
You helped clear some fog when it came down to understanding gearing. Understanding the different sprockets and chain combos can really confuse a rider.
Derrick -ZX10R  May 17, 2009 07:56 PM
Yes some liter bikes have a 100+ mph first gear. My 2004 ZX-10R will do it. They gear it tall to prevent people from looping the bike. Especially when on the ZX-10R. You just feel kind of like a hooligan or an invincible dude, or both, when riding it. hahaha Taller gearing gives you some more top speed, at the sacrifice of initial acceleration. It does help with keeping the front end down, but regardless of gearing all liter bikes will do first, second, and third gear power wheelies. Taller gearing also lets the engine run at a lower rpm at speed...increasing fuel economy.
Stuart -ZX10R  May 13, 2009 02:18 PM
I own one of these bikes and agree with most of the comments made. Build quality is very good and there are a lot of neat touches plus I like the edgy looks, especially in black. I had a choice of any of the bikes tested here and decided to buy the ZX10R because it appealed to me aesthetically most out of the whole group. The Suzuki is just a bit ubiquitous, the Ducati too (potentially) temperamental and costly to run, the R1 too expensive (£10 999 in the uk) and those cans, yeuch..... the Fireblade, great bike but I couldn't get on with the looks, it didn't scream BUY ME and I like a gear indicator too. The actual performance of all of the LITRE bikes is phenomenal, way too much to be ridden to their full potential on the road, so the miniscule differences in performance figures are largely irrelevant for road use. On a track things would be different I guess. Various magazines have tested bikes showing a variation in peak power outputs between the same model of bike which could easily turn the results around. There is a programmable shift light with choice of, flash, bright, dim and off too. Maybe yours was off? Also the instrument display is easily dimmable in three levels for night riding. Great test by the way, keep up the good work. PS: If anyone disagrees with me, that's fine, these are only my opinions.
cloud9 -100mph in 1st gear??  May 13, 2009 01:49 PM
Wow nearly 100 in first gear alone. I did'nt know literbikes were capable of doing that. Why's the gearing so tall though?? Does this type of gearing improve mpg, help meet emissions, keep the front end down? When it comes to gearing on motorcycles I'm always confused on how it works.
Jordan -Damper  May 13, 2009 10:00 AM
You've got to hand it to the Kwak for being the overall cheapest liter (or is it litre?) bike and coming standard with the Ohlins damper.