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Three hot thousands for 2011

Thanks to the global economic mess, the literbike war has been in detente for the last few years.  During this period, BMW rewrote the big-bore class rulebook with their futuristic S1000RR at a time when few consumers had money to spend and the Japanese were minding their budgets with carryover models.  For 2011, Kawasaki has renewed the conflict with a vengeance.

1000cc sportbikes are the top of the food chain.  If you want to win at this level, both at the track and on the showroom floor, you’ll need a seriously powerful engine.  This has always been Kawasaki’s strong point but sheer brute strength alone simply isn’t enough these days, your machine must also handle like a 600 and be bestowed with all manner of electronic trickery as well.  As their sporting flagship, Kawasaki’s new ZX-10R is all new from the ground up and the company claims that it is the best, fastest and smartest motorcycle that they’ve ever built.

Smartest?  According to Kawasaki, their new ZX-10R offers the most advanced traction control system in all of production motorcycling.  The system is called Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control, or S-KTRC.  According to their press release, “The MotoGP-derived S-KTRC system works by crunching numbers from a variety of parameters and sensors – wheel speed and slip, engine rpm, throttle position, acceleration, etc. There’s more data gathering and analysis going on here than on any other Kawasaki in history, and it’s all in the name of helping racers inch closer to the elusive “edge” of maximum traction than ever before.”

The S-KTRC system can be set to one of three modes, with Level 1 providing maximum grip at a very aggressive pace, Level 2 for intermediate use and Level 3 for slippery conditions.  Kawasaki refers to this as “Electronic Intervention.”  In addition, the rider will be able to choose just how angry that thousand cc monster can become by choosing one of three power delivery modes; Full Power, Medium or Low.  Any of the three traction control levels can be applied to whichever power mode you choose.  These setting are adjustable on the fly via a handlebar-mounted switch pod.  Juts the thing for those who get bored down long straightaways…

All this electronic intervention is intended to help you ride one extremely potent motorcycle.  This bike is all-new for 2011 and has been redesigned with the objectives of mass-centralization, light weight and superb handling in a more controllable package.  The engine’s peak torque delivery has been moved higher in the rev range to give the rider more controllable acceleration off-apex.  This more flexible engine has allowed more radical chassis geometry, which should bestow the ZX-10 with crisper handling than its predecessor.  The new machine is 22 pounds lighter than before.  43mm big-piston forks hold dual four-piston radial calipers that squeeze 310mm petal rotors via a radial pump master cylinder.  Kawasaki claims that their titanium header setup is nearly the equal of a full-race system, meaning that the owner need only buy a slip-on for improved racetrack performance.

Obviously, Kawasaki is tired of hearing the AMA and WSB commentators tell the world over and over how the ZX-10R is heavy and won’t turn.  This new model appears to have been improved in all the right places and should really be a dream to ride at the racetrack, even if said track is more than a quarter mile long and has lots of twisty bits!  As tasty as this new machine sounds, it’s not even Kawasaki’s best offering.  If you want even more, um, intervention, step up to the ZX-10R ABS.  Here’s what Kawasaki has to say about their smart-braking literbike.  “Think of it: You’re charging into a hairpin during a track day. It’s late in the afternoon, you’re tired, and your front tire is shagged from a day of hard-core knee-dragging. But instead of tucking as you squeeze the front brake lever, your front tire chirps briefly and the KIBS system intervenes until traction returns – allowing you to arc gracefully into the corner, a little wiser and a lot more intact physically that you might have been riding a non-ABS motorcycle. On the street, anti-lock’s benefits are even easier to realize.”   Since we here at TrackdayMag.com haven’t tried this bike yet, we can’t comment on its racetrack behavior.  One thing that does impress us is Kawasaki’s claim that the entire ABS system adds a mere seven pounds over the non-ABS model.

So what if the cutting-edge ZX-10R, with or without ABS, seems like a bit too much commitment and contortion for your old bones?  What you need, sir is the 2011 Ninja 1000.  Built around the basic package of the popular Z1000R, (In our opinion, one of the prettiest bikes ever.) the new 1000 Ninja combines race-inspired full bodywork with an ergonomics package that can be enjoyed by those over the age of 25.  If you’re looking for a bike that you’ll enjoy as much on the street as at the track, this baby just might be your answer.

Should BMW be worried?  History would tell us yes.  Kawasaki has long been known for its fire-breathing engines so that part is a no-brainer.  If the chassis and electronic wizardry of the ZX-10R and ZX-10R ABS live up to their hype, the German rocket scientists may have to head back to the lab.

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