Review of KAWASAKI ZX10R SE

I’m an owner of a 2015 ZX10R, I have not ridden any newer ZX10R model after having one of my own as I wasn’t the type that change bikes like how you would change your pants, neither was it compelling to even test ride the newer models.  This was compounded by me not being a track junkie. “Upgrading” to a newer model hasn’t been in my radar. But I do crave going around corners and windy roads, with utmost care that is.

I’ve at least tried once most of the Malaysian Peninsular so called famous corner-filled roads. To name a few, Bukit Tinggi, Genting Sempah, Semenyih-Kuala Klawang and Fraser’s Hill (the most demanding route). The road is single lane and are typically filled with cars on the weekends so you have to plod around really slow speed to get to the top of Fraser’s Hill.

Totally won’t recommend to anybody riding there with a manual transmission, unless you’re a masochist which a friend once told me. But when the chance came rolling for a test ride of the SE version of the ZX10R, I pounced on it. I’m actually curious as how much improvement of the new bike against my ye ol’ faithful.

The main improvement of the 2018 Kawasaki ZX10R SE version is towards power delivery, Kawasaki has increased the power up to 203PS, with rather wide powerband for riders to tap to. Kawasaki also claimed that power can be augmented with RAM air system, which should improve the max power up to a noticeable 213PS.

The throttle control is now fully electronic or as they say “ride-by-wire”. This provides much more precise fuel control to the engine, while delivering smoother engine response. Thus, improving the fuel efficiency and power.

The Showa Balanced Free Fork (BFF) and rear shocks are now semi-active with electronics that adjusts the amount of damping after calculating the vehicle’s speed and modulation every millisecond.

The tappet-style valve actuation is replaced with a more lightweight finger-follower style. It’s was claimed that about 20% of reciprocating mass was reduced with this change. This also includes a more aggressive cam profile which adds about 3PS to the max power.

In the effort to reach the feature parity of Continental bikes of the same tier, Kawasaki has introduced KQS (Kawasaki Quick Shifter). A feature that’s seems as standard for bikes of the same tier. Which a much welcomed inclusion especially by track enthusiast. It’s dual-direction and requires a minimum 2500 RPM in order to work.

A special paint is also introduced to the SE version. This highly durable paint is designed to self healed in case of minor scratches. Although heavier scuff such as zip scratches cannot be fend off by this new paint. The scuff or wear that the paint can recovers from, can take up to a week to fully heal. This paint is applied to areas of the bikes that have high risk of such harm. The coating looks like a satin coat to the uninitiated.

Now, onwards to the riding experience. For the ride, I chose the route I typical took for my travel to my home town. It’s a mixed of highways and rural paved roads. Unfortunately, when we picked up the bike, it had suffered a flat, although patched, due to safety concerns, “spirited riding” is toned way down.

Riding on the highway felt slightly comfortable (as per superbikes could ever provide). It’s a noticeable improvement from my 2015 bike. The acceleration is much improved. The semi-active suspensions seems to soak all the road imperfections while maintaining the good road feel. Never once does it feel as it is floating. This also contributes to the reduction of ride fatigue as less vibration transmitted to the handle. Although this does not auto-magically transforms this true-breed sports bike into a touring bike. However, it does help for those once in a blue-moon long rides.

During the highway section, a pebble was kicked up from the back of a lorry. Although it was not really big, it has enough momentum to put a scratch on the paint. Thankfully, the scratch was relatively minor, although it is still visible if you were about ½ foot away. After a week, the scratch seems to fade and be less noticeable. So the paint actually healed itself as claimed.

Rural roads riding became more fun with the new suspension. As rural roads are not usually maintained or built to the quality of highways, bumps/undulations and craters are prevalent on these roads. This where the semi-active suspensions really shined, not once I faced tank slapper situation when unwittingly riding fast on top of highly undulating stretches of the road. In addition of the steering damper, the bike would quickly keep the front wheel under control, saving me from even feeling a smidgen of the front being shaken after coming back into contact with the road. Even the twisties, which I rode every time I rode back, felt much more exciting. The bike seems to be telepathic linked to me as it seems to moves and turns as exactly as I wanted. However, the gearing seems to be a bit off for my taste. For the twisties, I would usually use 3rd gear on my 2015 bike, as it provide just the right kind of grip and acceleration at speed I typically ride. However, on this bike, the 2nd gear is the compromise that I have to take for this type of roads, unfortunately. The gearing still feels lacking in this kind of situation.

At the end of the ride, I felt the SE has so much improvement from the 2015 model, especially the suspension. The ride it provides would make longer rides became much more bearable than the old model which could be probably be equated to an exercise of masochism.

The more track focus nature of the engine makes seems a downgrade for riders that were used to the old model as its sporty character are more prevalent. However, for riders that spends a lot of time on the track, the new bike rewards rider inputs and thought significantly.

Reviewed by Rashid.

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