If you think of the words big-head you’ll certainly direct your tiny/large brain towards an arrogant show-off, right? Well, in the world of motorcycling, there’re not many bikes that show-off more than a big, bright green Kawasaki superbike. The extra-green ZX-10 is instantly recognizable from any distance and adored, for many years, by fanatical brand-loyal Kawasaki enthusiasts. All well and good but my specific title has another meaning because the 2019 ZX-10R has ‘stolen’ the WSBK cylinder head from Jonathan Rea’s Kawasaki race bike. Oh yes, the Japanese engineers have bolted on their race winning cylinder head in a quest for more power and torque. You can instantly see the new heads on all three models by its ‘Ferrari-like’ red cam cover, very flash. I say three models because there’s an RR and SE version that might arrive in SA in the near future, but that’s up to Kawasaki SA. Check out those two options and why they’re different on the Internet.
This new cylinder head has finger-follower valve activation to improve and keep safe high-end rpm, with new high-lift and longer duration camshafts. You can see how the finger followers work in the head diagram here, which resemble ‘old car’ rocker arms a little, which is odd because I’d thought they’d all gone to the history books, obviously not.So, is the 2019 ZX-10R all about its new head? Well yes and no, because the suspension is heavily updated to Showa race spec with the BFF forks and BFRC rear shock, all to do with ‘Balance Free’ components, which are a bit difficult to understand but they are better than the ones found on the 2017 bike, so there. There’s also a bag full of new electronic intervention devices, like the WSBK derived cornering ABS, engine braking control, launch control, traction control, electronic Ohlins steering damper, and the best part is the new KQS quick-shifter, which like bisexual football players, goes both ways. All of which can be adjusted and reviewed off their dated monochrome clocks with old style LED rev-counter. Personally, I’d have installed something a bit more modern and exciting…But what IS dramatically exciting is the big-head 2019 engine, which is claimed to make 200hp, so of course a dyno visit was in order to see if it was a pointless exercise and a waste of high-grade aluminum casting, and the answer is a resounding NO! The 2019 ZX-10R engine is now and officially the most powerful 1,000cc (998cc) superbike we’ve ever run on our dyno. 175hp is a huge 10hp more than the 2017 bike. Kawasaki also says it makes more torque and indeed it does peeking out at 101Nm, or five more of them. But look at the dyno graph and you’ll notice a substantial 15Nm hike around 6,000rpm and more power and torque everywhere, so Mr. Rae’s big-head works and by some margin. The engine also revs 200rpm higher with the help of its new titanium connecting rods and new anti-friction coating adhered to the cylinder sleeves.Considering all these new WSBK derived additives you’ll probably think the new ZX-10R has become more hard-core on the road, after all it is primarily a road bike with lights and indicators. Well you’d be wrong. The suspension is fantastic on all counts and follows the contours of the road without the usual ‘fierce’ damping found on this type of motorbike. Obviously, the riding position is a little extreme, but it is aimed towards track racing/riding and you have to endure those dated instruments. But it all disappears, in a blur, as you wind open the new 47mm throttle bodies and accept the wealth of performance under your right glove.Shocking is an understatement but in a strange way you feel very secure. Now two things are very apparent here as the revs rise; the noise from the new engine and silencer is surprisingly loud for stupid Euro road rules. A deep bass note emits once started and then turns into a possessed banshee scream towards the top end. And now to the quick-shifter, which is one of the best I’ve ever come across. Super-precise and if you’re using half throttle it rewards the rider with a violent ‘crack’ as the ignition cuts. Quite addictive that and it makes you sound like you’re ‘on-it’, even though you probably aren’t. Even when you close the throttle approaching a turn the silencer emits a crackling audible delight as it tells you this engine is rather special, very cool and I’m not even sure I’d replace the exhaust for a performance offering.With all this new performance you’d have thought the styling might have been fiddled with, because the 2019 ZX-10R is really an update and refinement rather than a new bike. Well they haven’t besides this fetching KRT (Kawasaki Race Team) Edition with its little red logo to say so at the bottom of the fairing. Oh, they have made the screen higher, which now gives a clearer view to those clocks, which is much better for road use with better wind deflection. Brakes remain the same too, with the 330mm semi-floating discs and hyper-powerful Brembo M50 calipers still more than capable for any rider, so why change such a proven set up?After reading all this you’ll be thinking the 2019 ZX-10R KRT Edition is going to be very expensive, well it isn’t, relatively that is. R259,000 will buy you all of this WSBK team technology and refinement, and more importantly the best ZX-10R ever made by the Kawasaki factory. So, if you already have a big-head, are a big-head and want a big-head this bike will provide you with one of the best, off the floor, track missiles to ever come from Japan. I think that’s enough said!
Now go to www.kawasaki.co.zafor dealer location and more technical information.