2008 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R First Look

September 11, 2007
Ken Hutchison
Ken Hutchison
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The ulcers keep piling on for the warden of the MotoUSA asylum. With the inmates running rampant around the globe, Hutch has opted to get in on the madness more these days than in years past and is back in the saddle again.

2008 Kawasaki ZX-10R
The most interesting component revealed in the right side view of the 2008 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R has to be the funky flared exhaust canister. Is it a matter of form follows function or just a Photoshop fubar gone wild? Look closely and you will notice that the 5-spoke theme includes the wheels and the clutch cover. Overall it has a bit of a Japanese anime quality to it but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The first of the all new 2008 model open class sportbikes to officially be unveiled is the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R and as you can see it looks like its going to be a wild year.

Depending on whom you are, how long you’ve been riding and how green your blood is the latest version of the ZX-10R is the biggest news of the season from Kawasaki. Sure there is a long overdue redesign on the popular 250R Ninja and the ZX-14 has more power which should help counter whatever the new rival ‘Busa brings to the table, but you will have to wait until September 25th to get the scoop on those new toys. Rest assured the 250R is going to blow your socks off though.

Neither of ZX-14 or Ninja 250 will fly the Kawasaki banner publicly more often than the 10R will. Unfortunately this report is just a teaser, a gratuitous peek offered up by Kawasaki, so you will have to be content with these two nice images of the new bike and some wild speculation about what’s lurking beneath that lime green bodywork.

There’s no doubt that Kawasaki is ready to make a big push in the racing arena since it has a full-time GP effort and has returned to the factory fray in AMA Superbike. Although the 2007 ZX-10R has recently become a contender for podiums in the States, it has not had much success in World Superbike at this point. Kawasaki needs the latest Ninja ZX-10R to be a contender and it certainly looks the part – now we just have to wait and see if it can back up that flashy exterior with some serious muscle.

With the lack of concrete ZX-10R details, we have to rely on these two images for all of our information. The most obvious difference between ’08 and ’07 is a redesigned chassis, swingarm and spiffy bodywork that is both aggressive and distinctive.

This bike appears to be following the trend in this latest generation of open-class machines, as it abandons the underseat exhaust for a more traditional side canister. The new ZX-10 incorporates a stubby GP-style rear-end and some questionable styling aesthetics, including a peculiar front cowling and massive body panels devoid of insignias or any identifiable features. The new style appears to be a blend of the ZX-RR MotoGP racer’s angular bodywork with some smoothing street-going amenities to make it a streetbike.

Although the chassis looks different, it still retains the massive twin-beam frame spars that route over, rather than around, the Inline-Four powerplant. Whether it addresses the issues that the professional Superbike teams have had with setting the bike up, there is a new swingarm with bracing that goes over the top rather than below the main arms. The swingarm pivot point has a good chance of being relocated in an effort to address handling issues which were unable to be tuned-out of the previous chassis. Odds are the new ZX will be longer, but we’ll have to wait for official specs to be sure. It clearly has a steering damper between the top clamp and the fuel tank so it is likely to still accelerate like a wild beast at half throttle, which should be good news for 10R fans.

Suspension components in the picture are a KYB inverted fork with DLC coating on the inner tubes and a matching shock with remote reservoir. The previous model’s H-spoke wheels have been abandoned for 5-spoke hoops, which are wrapped in Pirelli Diablo rubber this year. Radial-mount Tokico calipers are stylized and the petal-type rotors, which have become a staple of Kawasaki’s sport motorcycles these days, are back for an encore.

The underseat exhaust has been replaced by a new system that is likely carrying the majority of its weight low and underneath the bike. An unsightly, aluminum-colored canister is hidden behind the right footpeg bracket, which likely contains the bulk of the catalytic system, flapper valves (if it has one) and so on. Its flared-out chrome canister is very Z1000-esque, but these peculiar looking designs have become standard issue the past couple years – starting with the triangular units on the GSX-R and, for anyone who has seen the bootleg images of the 2008 CBR1000RR, you know how off the wall designers can get. The only rationale we can speculate for this particular piece of…work, is as a necessity to keep the noise emissions under the regulatory control.

2008 Kawasaki ZX-10R
There are probably plenty of hidden tidbits in the left side view of the Ninja ZX-10R but we couldn’t find anything out of this world. It still has radial-mount brakes with rubber-lines, petal-style rotors and that is always a good start. There is no head-on view so we don’t know the shape of the ram-air intake or the headlights atthis stage. You can see the intake is big and the lights are not the same shape as those from last year.

Everyone knows that style goes a long way on the sales floor and at this point the jury is still out on the 2008 ZX-10R. The angular bodywork looks like it is built with a purpose, so it will be interesting to hear what Kawasaki has to say about it when official specs are released after the dealer show. Is it the most aerodynamically-efficient Ninja ever? Does it represent some historic value to the designers? Is it merely an attempt to the give the bike its own identity? Whatever it is, there’s no mistaking it for another brand of bike at this point.

Fit and finish look good from our photographic vantage point, with the exhaust hanger brackets, pegs and footpeg brackets all receiving a black finish. The seat looks like it has the potential to be comfortable and the rear of the bike appears as though the pillion seat cowling will have room for a storage compartment.

An integrated taillight assembly is housed in black plastic at the rear of the pillion area, while what appears to be an easily removed license plate bracket and turn signal set-up could win it a few style points with folks looking to clean-up their ride in a hurry. Blinkers are integrated into the mirror stalks, but the location isn’t traditional. It appears the lenses are in the stalk, not the mirror casing, so it will be interesting to see them in a detail shot.

The questions we do not know answers to include: Will it have a slipper clutch? What are the dimensions? How much does it weigh? What’s going to be different about the motor (Not much we hope)? What will the claimed power output be this time around? Will the public buy into this new look? Do you like it? The buzz on the 2008 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R starts right now.

Limited Specifications:
Engine: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four
Displacement: 998cc
Bore x stroke: 76.0 x 55.0mm
Maximum torque: TBD
Compression ratio: 12.7:1
Fuel injection: DFI with 43mm Keihin throttle bodies with oval sub-throttles, two injectors per cylinder
Ignition: TBD
Transmission: TBD
Final drive: TBD
Rake/trail: TBD
Front tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear tire: 190/55 ZR17
Wheelbase: TBD
Front suspension/travel: 43mm inverted fork with DLC coating, adjustable rebound and compression damping, spring preload adjustability and top-out springs/TBD
Rear suspension/travel: Bottom-Link Uni-Trak with top-out spring, stepless, dual-range (high/low-speed) compression damping, stepless rebound damping, fully adjustable spring preload/TBD
Front brakes: Dual semi-floating 310mm petal discs with dual four-piston radial-mount calipers
Rear brakes: Single 220mm petal disc with single-piston aluminum caliper
Overall length: TBD
Overall width: TBD
Overall height: TBD
Seat height: TBD
Dry weight: TBD
Fuel capacity: TBD
Color choices: TBD
MSRP standard/Special Edition: TBD/TBD
Warranty: TBD

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