Going Kwakers

Comparing the Kawasaki ZX9R with the Kawasaki ZX10R


Today’s commute was not on the 2016 Kawasaki ZX10R, but on the tried and trusted 2003 Kawasaki ZX9R.

And oh the differences!

Yes, it has been just one week since the ZX10R arrived (I’ve put 400 miles on the clock in that time), but how quickly I have adapted to riding the newer bike.

The differences are so many, and so great, that I could take all day to list them.

Instead, I’ll just concentrate on the riding basics.

The ZX9R has a manual choke, and getting the lever in just the right position for the ambient temperature is a learning experience.

The ZX10R has an automatic choke.

The ZX9R operates at a higher engine temperature than the ZX10R (82c-84c vs 68c-72c in a normal range).

Neither bike has a fuel gauge, though the ZX10R has a warning that comes on when there are around three litres of fuel remaining. You have to reset the trip mileage on the ZX9R after every tank-up.

Pulling away from stationary, the ZX10R feels much more positive. This is probably down to the launch control (now that I’ve set it at a level I’m comfortable with).

And it may also be coupled to the traction control (which is also set to a non-standard but comfort-inducing level).

Both bikes have Road Pilot 4 tyres front and rear, so there shouldn’t be any difference in the way they feel on the road.

Except there is a huge difference.

The ZX10R feels as though it is part of the road; it has some kind of magnetic affinity, through the rubber, to the tarmac.

Again, much of this feeling comes from the traction control, which does a marvellous job of keeping the rear wheel bonded to the road, no matter how much power the bike throws down on to the surface.

Ergonomically the ZX9R and ZX10R are very different. The newer bike puts the rider in a lower, more assertive position, and the pilot’s footpegs are raised up and set slightly further back.

Contradictingly, though, The ZX10R doesn’t give the same kind of positive connection with the clutch and brake levers that the ZX9R does, but I’ll probably change these for shorties in a month or two, and look to reposition them slightly.

The mirrors on the ZX10R are, quite simply, the best I’ve ever used, whereas the ZX9Rs mirrors have always felt a little patchy with regard to total rearview coverage.

Even though the pedigree of the ZX10R is the World Superbike Championship track, it is surprisingly comfortable to sit on.

The ZX10R windscreen looks tiny, but offers a surprisingly large amount of wind shelter.

OK, I haven’t yet opened the loud switch on the ZX10R beyond 6,000rpm, but I’ve achieved fairly rapid acceleration to legal maximums, and still felt very comfortable behind the Perspex.

The Quickshifter took a little getting used to. I’ve mostly played with it, but on Saturday I used it to accelerate away from a tool in his souped-up Citroen Saxo who was edging up my backside at some lights.

The Quickshifter turns a fast bike in to a gear-changing demon, as the Saxo driver saw (as we disappeared towards his horizon).

I still need to sort out the ZX10Rs engine braking setting, which is currently set so high it’s like a third brake is being applied when you roll off the throttle.

Road-version superbikes have come a long way in the 16 years that separate my ZX9R and the ZX10R.

The ride, the comfort, and the handling have all improved so much, that the two bikes are very difficult to compare.

The ZX10R is a 100mph-in-first-gear, 200bhp machine. Yes, it is a near-clone of the same 200mph WSB racer.

But it is a stunning piece of engineering, and an absolute dream to ride.

But don’t take my word for it.

ps: For sale. 2003 Kawasaki Ninja ZX9R. Very reasonably priced.

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3 Responses to Going Kwakers

  1. Masher says:

    Traction Control, you say?
    Launch Control? Crikey!

    Our bikes are very similar, it seems, apart from those bits I’ve just mentioned and the 200bhp and the 200mph bits, because mine too has a little light that comes on when I’m getting low on fuel.