“This is a pure racebike,” says Ken Hutchison (pictured) about the GSX-R. “Here, the minimalist cockpick and old-school fairing bracket make sense. You don’t need any flashy whirlygigs to go good on the track.”
We knew enough from our street experience on the Zixxer to come prepared for this confidence-sapping condition at Laguna. GPR Stabilizer sent us one of their slick-looking anodized aluminum dampers for the ZX, a small rotary design (similar in concept with Scotts but with a separate patent) that bolted onto the upper triple clamp in minutes. Compared to the Scotts damper, GPR’s is a lot simpler. It has just one moving part and, hence, needs less maintenance. It lacks the Scotts’ separate circuits for adjusting high-speed and low-speed damping, but GPR says there’s virtually no need for low-speed damping on a stabilizer because the movements that need control are all of the high-speed variety. Six numbers are on its adjustable damping dial, but GPR claims there’s 120 incremental setting over its sweep. And at $395, the GPR retails for a cheaper price than its rival.
With the GPR damper holding our hands almost literally, the ZX-10 was transformed from a wild mustang into an obedient thoroughbred, even when positioned in one of its lower settings. The difference was dramatic.
“I’m much more confident in this bike now,” Becklin noted after his ride. “The bike is more stable and less twitchy. It holds its line through mid-corner and exit much better because of the damper, but it still turns in super quick.”
Okay, we know we’re going to get a crapload of letters from CBR/R1/GSX-R owners decrying the addition of an aftermarket component as compared against their stock bikes. First off, whining is highly unflattering. Second, you’ve got a really good point. Third, we think anyone who can afford the ZX’s $11K price tag will have no trouble throwing down an extra $400.
And the ZX has a trick up its sleeve that can’t easily be duplicated on the other bikes: a slipper clutch. Also known by its more technical name, a back-torque-limiting clutch, a slipper-type clutch allows the clutch plates to “slip” slightly under compression braking. So instead of getting unsettling rear-wheel hop when downshifting for a corner, the ZX’s clutch lets the rear tire slowly catch up to the engine speed for greater stability entering turns. While we didn’t really take advantage of this on the street, it won its fans on the track. A rider can just bang down the gears with abandon, knowing that even a sloppy downshift will be accommodated by this technological advance. Those who didn’t test it out didn’t notice anything unusual; those who took advantage of it adored it.
It was on our second day at Laguna, this time with Pacific Track Time, that we got down to business. We swapped the Diablos for a set of race-compound Dragon Supercorsas, a “super soft” (SC1) front and a “soft” (SC2) rear.
- Super-accessible power
- Street-appropriate gearing
- Race-proven package
- Long in tooth
- Least pretty (but a good personality)
- Finish quality
While we enjoyed the Diablo Corsas, there’s nothing like the ultimate grip of race tires when you’re shaving tenths. The Supercorsas are not available in the 190/50 size that comes stock on this group so we had to run a slightly taller 190/55. In addition to wearing a hole through the Kawasaki’s rear fender, the larger-diameter rear tire has the effect of jacking up the rear slightly, resulting in slightly sharper steering geometry that turned out to be a plus on the track. Crevier said it best when he described the bite of the new front tire as “more convincing,” and grip levels held up throughout a day of abuse.
“These tires inspire confidence and allow you to push to your personal limit,” Becklin stated. “The rear stuck like glue I was able to get on the throttle earlier without any slips at all and I got a lot of feedback from the front tire.”