The second generation Kawasaki ZX-10R was released in 2006. It's job was to replace the best superbike on the planet
- the 2005 10R.
The first generation 10R was good, but it wasn't perfect. At the 2006 introduction, Kawasaki's Vice President of
Planning and Marketing, Barry Beehler, said the 2004 ZX-10's designers made too many engineering tradeoffs. They
succeeded in building the lightest, fastest, baddest sportbike on the planet, but it wasn't a competitive race
platform. On top of that, it was hard to ride at speed. Most superbike owners don't ride on racetracks. However,
every superbike buyer wants the lightest liter bike, that posts the quickest lap times, biggest dyno numbers, lowest ET,
and highest top speed. Whether they as an owner can use that performance is irrelevant. It's an ego thing - mine is
Kawasaki's goal was to address the first-gen's problems, while retaining buyers whose loyalties lie with owning
the best, rather than a particular brand. The motorcycle world was paying strict attention when Kawasaki rolled out the
new 10R. Hachette Filipacchi Médias is the world's largest magazine publisher. According to their publications, the
2006 10R "crushed" it's competition. A competing publication, Sport Rider magazine, said the new 10R had a
lower ET and a higher trap speed than the 2006 R1, GSXR-1000, and 1000 CBR. On top of that, the second generation 10R
won the annual Master Bike competition both years of production. Kawasaki was able to pull off what many manufacturers
have trouble with; improving upon a successful product.
One area that needed work was the first generation's transmission. Missed shifts plagued the first generation 10R.
On the second gen, Kawasaki strengthened the crankcase and tightened the shift mechanism tolerances. Internally, all of
the transmission splines were barrel ground to remove burrs and other defects. Externally, a larger shifter and linkage
assembly were used. Somewhere along the line, the shift issue was eliminated .
Another problem with the first gen was head shake. Kawasaki addressed that issue by adding a steering damper. Rather
than going cheap, they worked with Öhlins and developed a "ZX-10R specific" damper. The new adjustable
steering damper was a twin-tube design with a relief valve. The second tube acts like a reservoir tank, and the damper
internals ensured stable damping performance even under race conditions. Even if the damping fluid within the cylinder
gets hot, it will not froth. Rather than hiding an inferior friction stick below the steering stem, Kawasaki put this
high end unit right on top of the triple clamp.
The previous generation's "hard to read instrument cluster" was also replaced. The new instrument cluster
features an analog tach and redesigned TFT LCD. Both the tach and gauges are illuminated from behind with LEDs. The
illumination is adjustable for four levels of brightness. The previous lap timer and clock functions were retained. The
new gauge also uses technology that projects it's image. This gives the illusion that the display is further away.
Doing so allows the rider's eyes to re-focus faster when going from the road, to the gauges, and back.
There were also a number of chassis changes based around improved roll response and rear grip. The engine was moved 20mm
higher in the frame. Also, the cylinder head was tilted up 3 degrees (from 20 to 23 degrees). These changes resulted in
more centralized mass and aided high speed stability. The steering head was moved forward 15mm, and the rake was moved
out to 24.5 degrees. This increased caster and shifted the chassis weight bias rearward. Speaking of rearward, the
swingarm is new. From the pivot to the axle, the new swingarm is slightly shorter. It was also designed to have enough
room for larger, race-spec tires. The new swingarm pivot was lowered 10mm to reduce he chain's torque effect and
improve traction. It has massive bracing at the bottom and is engineered to be torsionally very stiff, yet offer nominal
The engine's bore and stroke remained the same, but there were a number of other changes. One of the more obvious
changes was the enlarged ram air duct. What's not so obvious is the entire rest of the intake tract was revised. The
air-box, throttle bodies (dual valve 43 mm units), intake port, and intake valves were all changed. Optimizing the
intake tract allowed for a 1mm reduction in the intake valve diameter (30mm versus 31mm). The smaller valve size
increased intake velocity, creating more efficient cylinder fill. The fuel side of the equation was assisted with a
remapped ECU and a more aggressive throttle pulley. The injectors were upgraded to ultra-fine-atomizing units that spray
minute, 50-micron droplets. This is opposed to the first gen injectors, which sprayed 70 micron droplets. These new
injectors were re-angled, and moved closer to the intake valves.
A new and slightly heavier crank was employed. The heavier crankshaft came with a bigger flywheel. This extra mass
allows the motor to rev in a more linear fashion. That improved off-corner acceleration and helped tame the first
gen's tendency to wheelie under hard acceleration. The second gen continued to use a slipper clutch. This made
corner entries more controllable. The slipper clutch also makes it easier to maintain steady lever pressure during
braking, because there's no need to rev match during downshifting. Coupling the new clutch with the heavier crank
increased predictability and engine braking consistency on downshifts, regardless as to where they're made within
the rev range.
The aforementioned raising of the engine also allowed the generator to be relocated from behind the cylinders, to the
left end of the crankshaft. Along with not giving up any cornering clearance, this change eliminated the friction
related power loss of the old gear-driven system. All these changes resulted in an engine with the same peak horsepower
numbers, a more linear power delivery, and able to meet the increased smog requirements from both the US and abroad. The
new 10R also featured dual under-tail exhaust canisters. The new canisters added some weight, but allowed the 10R to
meet noise restrictions and breathe.
Aesthetic changes also proved beneficial. The new front cowl design is very aerodynamically efficient at higher speeds.
The sculpted fuel tank conforms to the rider's legs. It's narrow at the rear, allowing riders to hug the tank
with their knees and stay out of the air flow. Both front and rear turn signals were integrated with the bodywork to
reduce wind resistance. The reshaped tail section improved rear airflow, reducing drag inducing turbulence.
The first generation did weigh less, but the second generation 10R had a lot of additional features.
- Reduced mechanical loss
- Improved combustion efficiency
- Meeting Euro-III emissions regulations while maintaining the HP output of the 2005 model
- More linear power delivery
- Improved cornering performance
- Improved rear traction
- Revised suspension geometry
- A high-quality steering damper
In many ways, the second generation is better than the first. The second generation 10R has tons of torque. Kawasaki has
smoothed power delivery so that it pulls cleanly out of corners. It's stable, has fantastic brakes, and the previous
generation's headshake has been cured. Unfortunately for me, there is still one problem. It still has too much
engine. Kawasaki has cured the previous generation's thermonuclear all-on throttle, but this bike will still stand
up in any gear. For me personally, a bike that runs nines in the quarter at 150 and tops out at 190 MPH is a little too
much. If I lived in an area where the roads were flat and straight, maybe. I'm surrounded by canyons. That's
strictly "gas, brake, turn, gas, brake, turn" territory. That, and maybe I'm a little too old.