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2004 Kawasaki ZX-10R Comparison

Wednesday, May 19, 2004
2004 Superbike Smackdown Track Test - Laguna Seca
Crevier can pull more than 1.2G laterally going down the Laguna's famous Corkscrew. Brian Korfhage (pictured), a little less.
Despite Laguna's mostly flowing nature, there's no place to really stretch the legs of these greyhounds. There are three corners where speeds dip below 45 mph: turns 2, 11, and the corkscrew. A cursory look through the data shows that Crevier experienced a peak lateral G number in the banked Turn 6 of 1.44G, but the highest lateral load comes in the positive-camber Rainey Curve (Turn 9) where a peak of 1.56G was recorded. In terms of braking, the highest number we saw was when "Fuzzy" was braking into Turn 11: negative-1.21G! The rear wheel was either off the ground or on the way up.

As for the GSX-R1000, it proved to go about its business in a workmanlike manner. Its torquey nature gave it an excellent squirt coming off the medium-speed corners at Laguna. But that instant throttle response drew some flack from a couple of our testers.

"It was either off or on," said Korf, the least experienced of our six riders, about the Gixxer's throttle. "When I hit the throttle hard, it hit not smooth, but violently not in a good way."

Hutchison echoed those comments, and it was a factor contributing to the Suzuki being the most difficult to ride for him. Interestingly, the condition didn't seem to bother the other four riders, all of which have more track time under their belts. A very light throttle-return spring might be to blame.

Aside from the instant thrust provided by the Suzuki's long-stroke engine, there are few categories in which the GSX-R shines brighter than its fresh-faced competitors. It's stable, fast and has the most expansive cockpit, but its new rivals have upped the class ante and it shows.

Causing the most complaints about the Gixxer was its composure under braking. We were initially bothered by a front-end chatter during hard braking for Turn 11, although we were able to dial out most of it. But Hutchison said the Suzuki was abrupt when coming off the throttle, and BC had trouble with rear-wheel chatter when braking.

"I have a bad habit of dumping the clutch during downshifts and the Suzuki would remind me of this every time by hopping and chattering the rear wheel violently," Chamberlain explained. "Only after a very smooth clutch release, waiting to release the clutch much later in the braking process and blipping the throttle to redline, was I able to get the rear wheel to match speed and settle down."

2004 Kawasaki ZX-10R Highs & Lows
Highs
  • Dyno numbers and pulse rates!
  • Pint-size literbike
  • Scrappy personality
Lows
  • Too-tall gearing
  • Style points
  • Chances of keeping your license
It should be noted that BC was the only one to complain about this; it's possible the long-term vigorous abuse of his right hand has dulled its sensitivity. The graphics guru also grumbled about a slight headshake on the Suzi, once again a voice alone in the pits.

And speaking of stability, this was the only area (besides its hard-to-read LCD tach) in which the ZX drew criticism from us all. Well, all of us except wild-man Crevier, whose stones don't seem to have shrunk any in his 38 years. For those of us without national championships, the Kawi's dancing bars as its front tire skimmed the track surface from the hell-strong engine made us nervous. The headshake didn't necessarily slow us down, but it did cause several moments of mild terror. Why Kawisaki didn't see fit to equip the ZX-10R with a steering damper dumbfounds us.

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