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Kawasaki’s 2008 Supersport Flagship ZX-10R

By: Jay Adair | Published 09 March 2008, 16:24 | Views: 4,314 | tags: bike reviews, kawasaki, zx-10r, sports bikes

For the 2008 Ninja ZX-10R, Kawasaki engineers wanted a highly communicative package that would enable the two-way dialog between rider and machine that professional racers require to ride at the highest level. A chassis that would deliver a high level of feedback while being highly responsive to rider input - and all this in stock form. A tall order. But, having worked on every litre- and mid-class supersport model since the 2003 Ninja ZX-6R/6RR, not to mention their direct involvement with Kawasaki’s factory superbike efforts, one the engineers were in a position to deliver.


In order to ensure the high level of engine and chassis performance necessary to satisfy professional riders, development of the 2008 Ninja ZX-10R started with creating the ideal superbike racer, which was then adapted into a high-level street-going model that could also be enjoyed by mid-level riders.

In a cyclical process, engine and frame components were tested first on one of our factory superbikes. Enlisting the assistance of a professional racer meant that the parts were tested at the limits of their performance. Checking compatibility with high-spec race-tuned suspension, slick tyres, etc was a given, but performance in actual races was also evaluated.

Parts that were deemed to have sufficient performance to satisfy the factory team were then tried in the mass-production test bike, tweaked, re-tested in the racer and tweaked again. The process was repeated with various components, slowly developing into a high-calibre machine with the potential to be competitive at the highest level.


Developed with superbike racing potential in mind, the engine maintains the low- and midrange performance of its predecessor and focuses on the high-rpm performance necessary for the circuit.

The 10R’s twin-tube backbone frame has matured over the years, finally ripening in the fiery cauldron of national-level racing. Through a rider interface that maximises contact between rider and machine, the chassis’ high level of feedback provides the rider with a wealth of information on road surface condition, tyre grip, suspension action, even frame flex – in short, everything the bike is doing – vital for ascertaining how close to the limit the bike is running.

Like all Kawasaki motorcycles, the Ninja ZX-10R puts the rider firmly in control. Rider input is rewarded with excellent handling and response. Even systems whose assistance facilitates riding faster require conscious direction from the rider.

When it came to styling, the designers were no less fastidious. The 10R’s no-nonsense styling is the result of their pursuit of the most compact package conceivable and instilling it with the presence befitting Kawasaki’s litre-bike class supersport flagship. Infused with tried and tested potential, the new Ninja ZX-10R will satisfy even factory racers, for whom the high-level base package will provide the interactive communication that is key to success when performing at the limit.

Chassis updates contribute to improved handling, but the biggest changes revolve around increased feedback to the rider, providing communication essential for riding at the highest level.

Ultra-high Feedback Chassis

Kawasaki’s unique Backbone Twin-tube frame * In addition to improving Ram Air efficiency, the new Ram Air passageway through the frame optimises rigidity around the head pipe.

The stiffness balance of Kawasaki’s unique backbone twin-tube frame has been further optimised and contributes to the superb rider feedback. This was achieved by reshaping the frame’s pressed parts, replacing concave pieces with convex pieces. Not really noticeable to the naked eye, the changes alleviate stress concentrations. Final fine-tuning was accomplished with a welding added to the side rails (behind the side covers).

The sub-frame is mounted to the frame’s upper cross member, allowing the rear suspension to transmit its loads more directly to the sub-frame, and thence to the rider.


The 10R’s swingarm uses pressed beams to deliver a level of feel and feedback unobtainable with a cast swingarm. Specially designed to match the optimised stiffness balance of the new frame, the new swingarm features a top-mounted stabiliser. This new design contributes to the superb high-speed stability of the new chassis. (The 2006-model 10R used a bottom-mounted stabiliser.)

Changes in the frame’s wall thickness around the swingarm pivot increase the frame’s rigidity in this area, contributing to the brilliant handling characteristics of the new 10R.

Ribbing has also been added on the interior of the pivot plate where it joins the frame’s upper cross member. This modification slightly slows down the feedback from the frame to the rider, giving the rider a more accurate feel for what the frame is doing.

The head pipe has been moved 10 mm forward, and its length has been changed. Other small but important changes include a relocated swingarm pivot, slightly changing the front-rear weight balance. Together, these modifications give the new frame superb stability.

The 2-piece sub-frame is an aluminium die-casting consisting of a front and rear section. This layout enables a very precise and very lightweight construction. The new sub-frame is also very narrow, allowing the rear of the bike to be very compact and slim.

Track-oriented suspension

The 43 mm inverted fork is fully adjustable and features bottom mounted springs. Mounting the springs at the bottom completely submerges them in oil, reducing frothing for improved damping performance, fork action and road-following ability.

DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) fork tube coating is also featured on the ’08 10R. Not only does this high-tech low-friction coating improve fork action, it improves friction control: the initial part of the stroke is slowed, smoothing action for stable braking; once compressed, the reduced friction allows the stroke to move quickly for superb road holding.

Improvements to the Uni-Trak rear suspension include a new mounting location for the linkage. The fully adjustable shock now features dual (low and high-speed) compression damping, enabling the fine-tuning needed for circuit riding. Ride feel is improved, and feedback and traction control are what riders expect of a competition-ready machine. The new system operates so well that even with the low-speed compression damping backed off, there is no “springy” feel, and road-following ability is excellent.


New Tokico radial mount brake calipers are fitted with dual pads (instead of 4 individual pads). While stopping performance is the same, the change offers superb initial bite characteristics and increased control care of progressive feel after the initial bite. New ø310 mm petal discs replace the earlier ø300 mm units, and the disc thickness has been reduced from t6 to t5.5 mm for efficient heat dispersion. Because these new brakes are less influenced by heat, brake feel remains more consistent and more responsive during extended periods of heavy use – such as during a race or a trackday.

The rotor carriers are now aluminium for reduced unsprung weight, and feature 10 buttons (previously 7), which more rigidly support the disc rotor and contribute to heat dissipation for stable braking performance. Slowing the rear is a ø220 mm disc gripped by a single-piston caliper. Both front and rear brake calipers use lightweight aluminium pistons.


The rear frame, tank and seat were all redesigned to offer the rider increased contact with the bike. These improved ergonomics give the rider very accurate feedback regarding chassis performance and road surface.

Completely redesigned, the new tank is 10 even more flared around its top, giving the bike a more elegant form. In practical terms, the new design makes it easier for the rider to rest the inside of his arm on the tank when leaning into a turn. The larger contact patch contributes to the increased feedback to the rider.

Front to back, the new seat is shorter, allowing the rider to rest his tailbone on the rear seat step. This improved “fit” also contributes to the excellent feedback the rider gets from the new chassis. The front of seat is narrower, contributing to the narrow riding position and offering a shorter reach to the pavement.

The new throttle grip has a special rib on its end (under the grip rubber), which improves grip and feel.

To optimise the 10R’s performance for the track, the new engine has been tuned for even greater high-rpm performance without reducing the engine’s impressive low and mid-range torque. In addition, throttle response was improved by installing secondary fuel injectors, using oval throttle bodies and reshaping the intake ports. These changes give the new engine a performance potential very similar to Kawasaki’s factory superbike racing machines, making it essentially a race-ready engine.

Race-ready Engine

Complementing the new secondary injectors are new oval cross-sectioned throttle bodies in place of the earlier round units. The new system allows very precise throttle control and also improves throttle response. Also new for ’08 is the flat-type fuel pump used on the ’07 ZX-6R. This highly compact unit takes up less space inside the fuel tank and permits increased air cleaner capacity.

While maintaining the same inertial moment, the crankshaft’s weight was reduced, resulting in an approximately 1 kg reduction in engine weight, contributing to the new Ninja ZX-10R’s light handling. Improvements to the oil pump’s reduction ratio have reduced its operating friction. The water pump uses the same type impeller as the ZZR1400. Pump rpm has been optimised for reduced frictional loss.

Dual injection / Oval sub-throttles

New secondary fuel injectors improve top- 11 end power output and power characteristics in the high-rpm range. While the lower injectors operate all the time, operation of the upstream injectors is determined by the degree of throttle opening and engine rpm. The new intake funnels (velocity stacks), also oval shaped, deliver improved flow efficiency.

The airbox and fuel tank are new. Thanks in part to the new flat-type fuel pump, airbox capacity was increased and fuel tank capacity could be maintained despite the additional space required for the secondary injectors. Air cleaner accessibility and ease of maintenance are also improved.

Ram Air / Airbox

The highly efficient, centrally mounted Ram Air intake duct was reshaped to reduce intake noise and further improve intake efficiency. A new passageway through the frame routes intake air from the Ram Air duct to either side of the steering head, giving the air a straight and very efficient path to the airbox.

Cylinder head

To improve the power characteristics at high rpm the intake ports were reshaped. To improve driveability and power characteristics the exhaust valves were reduced in diameter (ø25.5 >> ø24.5 mm). Exhaust ports were also reshaped and are now narrower at the midpoint and larger at the opening to improve flow efficiency. The combustion chambers were reshaped accordingly. These changes contribute to the improved top-end power of the new engine.

Both intake and exhaust valves are titanium, reducing reciprocating weight. The cam profiles have been reshaped to suit high-rpm operation. Featuring higher lift, they deliver more power at high rpm and make it easier to tune the engine for racing.

Exhaust system

The new exhaust system features a pre-chamber under the engine, which reduces exhaust noise, and helps minimise silencer volume. Palladium catalysers ensure the 10R meets Euro-III exhaust emissions standards.

A single orthogonal titanium right-side silencer replaces the earlier dual under-seat units. Along with the pre-chamber, this design lowers the bike’s centre of gravity and centralises mass, contributing to the bike’s flickable handling. Exhaust efficiency is also improved, contributing to the increased power output of the new engine.


Like its predecessor, the new 10R features an easily adjustable back-torque limiting clutch. The transmission ratios have also been modified to suit the new power characteristics. The 1st, 4th and 5th gear ratios are now lower, giving improved power feel in the low and high-rpm ranges. Complementing the new gear ratios is a change in rear sprocket size – final reduction ratio changes from 17/40 to 17/41 – for harder acceleration.

In order to offer riders precise control of its engine’s powerful output, the Ninja ZX-10R is equipped with an advanced ignition management system. Ensuring smooth, controlled power delivery, the system also effectively protects the engine and catalysers from damage. Kawasaki Ignition Management System

In addition to engine speed, throttle position, vehicle speed, gear position and feedback from intake air temperature, intake air pressure, engine temperature and O2 sensors, the new ignition management system now monitors rpm (change in engine speed).

The ECU’s complex programme was developed using feedback from extensive rider testing. Should a significant sudden change in engine speed be detected, the above factors are taken into account and, when deemed necessary, ignition timing is slowed, curtailing sudden spikes in engine speed and ensuring smooth throttle response.


The top of the front cowl is shorter and the screen is mounted flatter. Since the windscreen extends well forward, visibility is excellent.

Contributing to the sharp new image of the new 10R are redesigned mirrors with adjustable, Talbot-type reflecting surfaces. Slimmer than before and with a short-style tail, the new Ninja ZX-10R features a minimalist design that further contributes to its compact appearance. Designers were given greater freedom with this model, and their efforts show in presence that exudes from the 10R, as well as its superb fit and finish and the great attention to detail.

Compact Package. Massive Presence.

A racy new LED tail light makes the bike more visible to drivers and provides the final styling flourish to the latest iteration of the evocative Ninja design. The mirror stays with their integrated turn signals are easily removable, making it easy to prep the new 10R for track riding. And because the mounting position is high, rearward visibility is excellent. This mounting location also helps to minimise damage if the bike falls over. The license plate holder and rear turn signals are also quickly detachable for circuit riding.


The slight step at the edge of the front cowling reduces windblast on the rider’s shoulders while allowing a design with an aerodynamically efficient small frontal area. New front fender directs air toward the radiator, increasing cooling efficiency, and contributes to the Ninja’s sharp looks.

Redesigned fuel tank has a recess in its top to accommodate the helmet’s chin area, making it easier to tuck in behind the windscreen when riding on the circuit. This allowed the top of the screen to be lowered and enables more ideal aerodynamics when in a tucked position.

Sharp, minimalist tail cowl is further enhanced by the single side muffler – all of which gives the bike a more concentrated and condensed look and feel. The tail’s under cowl is now a flush-surface item which reduces turbulence at the rear of the bike and ensures laminar airflow around the seat.

The fairing’s sides are smaller in area, reducing the influence of side winds on the bike. A larger rear inner fender keeps the bike cleaner in the real world of street riding. The mud flap could consequently be made smaller and less obtrusive, improving aerodynamic qualities around the rear of the machine.

Race-quality steering damper

An adjustable Öhlins steering damper with relief valve and twin-tube design is fitted as standard equipment. The second tube, which acts like a reservoir tank, and the damper internals, ensure stable damping performance even under racing conditions. (Even if the damping fluid in the cylinder gets hot it will not froth.) This race-quality unit was developed in collaboration with Öhlins specially for the Ninja ZX-10R. The damper unit has an integral clamp so that piston motion is not hindered.


The 10R’s 2nd generation cluster instrument package features special UVblocking glass, making the LED displays brighter and easier to read.

Technical Specifications

Type Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke In-Line Four
Displacement 998 cm3
Bore and Stroke 76.0 x 55.0 mm
Compression ratio 12.9:1
Valve system DOHC, 16 valves
Fuel system Fuel injection: ø43 mm x 4 (Keihin) with oval sub-throttles, dual injection
Ignition Digital
Starting Electric
Lubrication Forced lubrication, wet sump with oil cooler


Final drive
Primary reduction ratio
Gear ratios: 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
Final reduction ratio

6-speed, return
Sealed chain
1.611 (87/54) 2.600 (39/15) 2.053 (39/19) 1.737 (33/19) 1.550 (31/20) 1.400 (28/20) 1.304 (30/23) 2.412 (41/17)
Wet multi-disc,
Type Backbone/Twin-tube, aluminium (Pressed/die-cast composite structure)
Wheel travel: front 120 mm
rear 125 mm
Tyre: front 120/70ZR17M/C (58W)
rear 190/55ZR17M/C (75W)
Caster (rake) 25.5o
Trail 110 mm
Steering angle (left/right) 27o / 27o

Front: Type
Rear: Type
Compression damping
Rebound damping
Spring preload

43 mm inverted fork with DLC coating, rebound and compression damping, spring preload adjustability and top-out springs
Bottom-Link Uni-Trak with gas-charged shock and top-out spring
Stepless, dual-range (high/low-speed)
Fully adjustable

Type Caliper
Type Caliper

Dual semi-floating 310 mm petal discs, 10-button aluminium rotor carrier
Dual radial-mount, opposed 4-(aluminium) piston
Single 220 mm petal disc
Single-bore pin-slide, aluminium piston

Overall length 2,110 mm
Overall width 710 mm
Overall height 1,135 mm
Wheelbase 1,415 mm
Ground clearance 125 mm
Seat height 830 mm
Dry weight 179 kg
Fuel capacity 17 litres
Maximum power 138.3 kW {188 PS} / 12,500 rpm (EUR/AUS)

132.8 kW {181 PS} / 11,500 rpm (USA/CAN)

119.2 kW {162 PS} / 10,000 rpm (MYS)

78.2 kW {106 PS} / 11,000 rpm (FRA)
Maximum power with Ram Air 147.1 kW {200 PS} / 12,500 rpm (EUR/AUS)

141.3 kW {192 PS} / 11,500 rpm (USA/CAN)

126.4 kW {172 PS} / 10,000 rpm (MYS)
Maximum torque 113 N·m {11.5 kgf·m} / 8,700 rpm (EUR/USA/CAN/AUS/MYS)

83 N·m {8.5 kgf·m} / 5,100 rpm (FRA)

Related Galleries:

The 2008 Kawasaki ZX-10R

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