Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-10R has been one of the top bikes performance-wise in the Superbike class. There were only a few things that held it back from a higher ranking during its last Superbike Smackdown IX appearance so we aimed at addressing those gripes with some affordable tweaks from the aftermarket.
While great for fuel economy and reduced engine vibration at freeway speeds, at the track the Ninja’s super tall final drive gearing masks the potency of its 998cc Inline Four engine. So we swapped the 17-tooth front sprocket for a one-tooth smaller 525 Front Countershaft Sprocket ($22.99) from Sunstar. After removing the four bolts that hold the plastic sprocket cover, installation is straightforward and requires a 27mm socket and an impact gun to remove the nut. Slip the new cog on and reverse the process. The drive chain will need to be tightened slightly to accommodate for the extra length.
Though quickshifters are becoming increasingly popular on European-built Superbikes, the Japanese brands have taken longer to accept the technology as an OE component. So we complemented the gearing change with a Dynojet Ignition Quickshifter ($289). The set-up allows for clutch-less, full-throttle upshifts that further aiding acceleration performance. Installation is more technical than the sprocket swap, requiring the removal of the fuel tank and airbox to access the spark plug coil connectors that the quickshifter plugs into. The supplied instructions are easy to follow and the task takes about 30-minutes to an hour to accomplish.
To give our white Ninja an even more racy feel, we switched from the standard one-down, five-up shift pattern to a ‘GP’ configuration (one up, five down). This further reduces the time it takes to initiate an upshift since you’re pressing down on the shift lever rather than lifting up on it. To do this we purchased an axle shift knuckle ($41.56) from a 2008-2010 generation ZX-10R (you can use the 2014 OE part if you leave the countershaft cover off). We also had to source a pull-type shift sensor from Dynojet ($219.99) and an shorter 145mm shift rod ($12.00, also from Dynojet) since the standard rod is too long to accommodate the shift sensor.
Preload: 5 (Turns in)
Compression: 3.5 (Turns out)
Ride Height: 10mm shims
Preload: Three turns in from stock (14mm)
L/S Compression: 0
H/S Compression: 0
As soon as we turned a wheel at Northern California’s Thunderhill Raceway, the difference between a stock ZX-10R and our mod version was night and day. The gearing change quite literally changes the entire dynamic of the motorcycle. Not only does it pull harder through each of its six gears, it keeps the engine spinning in the meat of its powerband through a wider variety of turns. Sure you have to work the gearbox more than a stocker, but the increased acceleration is well worth it. The function of the quickshifter was seamless with only a light touch of the gear shifter for an upshift. If Kawasaki would fit a similar set-up on a future production ZX-10R.