2008 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R

The engine benefits from secondary fuel injectors and reshaped throttle bodies and intake ports, with the intake system also getting reshaped ram air ducts and a bigger airbox. A new exhaust was added to be quieter and meet emissions, while revised gear ratios are promised to enhance power delivery. The ’08 ZX-10R also heralds a new ignition system, which reduces torque during unexpected RPM spikes by retarding ignition timing.

The latest Ninja Thou also sports a revised chassis and all-new swingarm. The ’08 wheels are also all-new, utilizing a different casting processs, and are adorned with 10mm larger 310mm rotors up front. Capping it all off is the revamped styling, with Kawasaki claiming the new bodywork improves aerodynamics and efficiency.

Stayed tuned for a more in depth analysis on the ’08 Kawasakis, including the new ZX-10R, from our Associate Editor, Adam Waheed, who is attending the Kawasaki dealer show in Vegas. Also, make sure to check out Kawasaki’s releases on the revamped 2008 Ninja 250R and the tweaked 2008 ZX-14.

For the 2008 NINJA ZX-10R, Kawasaki engineers aimed for an ideal superbike with engine and chassis performance capable of satisfying professional racers, combined with top-notch streetbike qualities for mainstream riders. It’s a delicate balance, but these aren’t your average engineers. They’ve been directly involved in the development of every 600 and 1000cc supersport machine since the 2003 Ninja ZX-6R, plus Kawasaki’s factory Superbike racing efforts, so they have the know-how to deliver the goods.

The result is an exceptionally communicative machine that provides the clean two-way rider/machine dialog demanded by professional racers. Placing the ZX-10R in the racing crucible and applying lessons from that unforgiving environment resulted in an ideal balance to satisfy the most demanding of riders. Japanese Superbike racer Akira Yanagawa was the man pushing the engine and frame components to the limits of their performance in actual competition. Parts that met with Yanagawa’s approval were then tried on the production test bike, tweaked, retested on the racer and adjusted again. This process was repeated throughout the development cycle for the all-new 2008 Ninja ZX-10R.

At the heart of this capable package is a new engine tuned for even greater high-rpm performance, without sacrificing the stellar mid-range performance of its predecessor. Refinements include installing secondary fuel injectors, changing to oval throttle bodies and reshaping the intake ports. Intake flow was further enhanced with reshaped ram air ducts and a larger airbox that feeds into the new oval shaped velocity stacks. Exhaust efficiency was boosted with a new system that not only flows better but generates less noise and emissions. And to suit the enhanced power delivery, the transmission features new gear ratios for 1st, 4th and 5th gears along with an extra tooth on the rear sprocket. These changes make it essentially a race-ready engine with performance similar to Kawasaki’s factory Superbikes.

Professional riders know it’s useless to have the most power if you can’t get it to the ground. The 2008 Ninja ZX-10R features a new ignition system that assists with torque management by monitoring throttle opening, gear position and rate of RPM change, then retarding ignition timing to reduce torque when sudden unwanted RPM spikes are detected. This system doesn’t interfere with normal operation and still allows the engine to rev freely under typical riding conditions.

A superb engine deserves a superb chassis, and this is where the new ZX-10R really shines. To achieve the best-possible handling, Kawasaki used the lessons learned at the track to build a list of refinements including: changing the length of the steering tube and moving it 10mm forward, alleviating stress concentrations through subtle changes to the frame stampings (switching concave parts to convex pieces), increasing the wall thickness around the relocated swingarm pivot, adding ribbing on the interior of the pivot plate, and mounting a narrower, two-piece sub-frame to the main frame’s upper cross member.

With a fully-adjustable 43mm inverted fork and a new swingarm that uses pressed instead of cast beams, the ZX-10R’s track orientated suspension endows the chassis with better feedback. Refinements include adding a Diamond Like Carbon (DLC) coating to the fork tubes for less stiction and enhanced feedback, relocating the springs to the bottom of the fork for reduced oil frothing, and new settings that are better-suited for racetrack use. Rear suspension changes include dual (low and high-speed) compression damping on the fully-adjustable rear shock for better fine-tuning, a new mounting spot for the Uni-Trak linkage and a re-shaped swingarm with a top-mounted brace.

No part was left untouched on the ZX-10R, even the wheels are new. Produced using a squeeze-casting process instead of the earlier gravity casting method, the new wheels are lighter, stiffer and more precise, to perfectly match the new chassis. The lower unsprung weight of the wheels helps improve suspension action and their reduced rotational inertia provides quicker steering and acceleration.

Braking duties are handled by radial mounted Tokico brake calipers squeezing new 310mm petal discs which are 10mm larger for 2008, and feature reduced thickness from 6 to 5.5mm for better heat dispersion. The rear is a 220mm petal disc squeezed by a single-piston caliper.

The designers didn’t rest when it came to styling either. Given great freedom with the 2008 ZX-10R, their efforts are illustrated in the clean design with superb fit and finish. While shaping the rear frame, tank and seat to offer improved ergonomics and increase the rider’s contact with the bike, they also refined its aerodynamics from a new front cowling to the sharp, minimalist tail cowl.

The result of these efforts is a slim and compact package with the presence befitting its Ninja name.

Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. (KMC) markets and distributes Kawasaki motorcycles, ATVs, personal watercraft and utility vehicles through a network of more than 1,500 independent retailers, with an additional 7,700 retailers specializing in power products and general purpose engines. KMC and its affiliates employ nearly 2,400 people in the United States, with 400 of them located at the Irvine, California headquarters.

The first of the all new 2008 model open class sportbikes to officially be unveiled is the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R and as you can see it looks like its going to be a wild year.

Depending on whom you are, how long you’ve been riding and how green your blood is the latest version of the ZX-10R is the biggest news of the season from Kawasaki. Sure there is a long overdue redesign on the popular 250R Ninja and the ZX-14 has more power which should help counter whatever the new rival ‘Busa brings to the table, but you will have to wait until September 25th to get the scoop on those new toys. Rest assured the 250R is going to blow your socks off though.

Neither of ZX-14 or Ninja 250 will fly the Kawasaki banner publicly more often than the 10R will. Unfortunately this report is just a teaser, a gratuitous peek offered up by Kawasaki, so you will have to be content with these two nice images of the new bike and some wild speculation about what’s lurking beneath that lime green bodywork.

There’s no doubt that Kawasaki is ready to make a big push in the racing arena since it has a full-time GP effort and has returned to the factory fray in AMA Superbike. Although the 2007 ZX-10R has recently become a contender for podiums in the States, it has not had much success in World Superbike at this point. Kawasaki needs the latest Ninja ZX-10R to be a contender and it certainly looks the part – now we just have to wait and see if it can back up that flashy exterior with some serious muscle.

With the lack of concrete ZX-10R details, we have to rely on these two images for all of our information. The most obvious difference between ’08 and ’07 is a redesigned chassis, swingarm and spiffy bodywork that is both aggressive and distinctive.

This bike appears to be following the trend in this latest generation of open-class machines, as it abandons the underseat exhaust for a more traditional side canister. The new ZX-10 incorporates a stubby GP-style rear-end and some questionable styling aesthetics, including a peculiar front cowling and massive body panels devoid of insignias or any identifiable features. The new style appears to be a blend of the ZX-RR MotoGP racer’s angular bodywork with some smoothing street-going amenities to make it a streetbike.

Although the chassis looks different, it still retains the massive twin-beam frame spars that route over, rather than around, the Inline-Four powerplant. Whether it addresses the issues that the professional Superbike teams have had with setting the bike up, there is a new swingarm with bracing that goes over the top rather than below the main arms. The swingarm pivot point has a good chance of being relocated in an effort to address handling issues which were unable to be tuned-out of the previous chassis. Odds are the new ZX will be longer, but we’ll have to wait for official specs to be sure. It clearly has a steering damper between the top clamp and the fuel tank so it is likely to still accelerate like a wild beast at half throttle, which should be good news for 10R fans.

Suspension components in the picture are a KYB inverted fork with DLC coating on the inner tubes and a matching shock with remote reservoir. The previous model’s H-spoke wheels have been abandoned for 5-spoke hoops, which are wrapped in Pirelli Diablo rubber this year. Radial-mount Tokico calipers are stylized and the petal-type rotors, which have become a staple of Kawasaki’s sport motorcycles these days, are back for an encore.

The underseat exhaust has been replaced by a new system that is likely carrying the majority of its weight low and underneath the bike. An unsightly, aluminum-colored canister is hidden behind the right footpeg bracket, which likely contains the bulk of the catalytic system, flapper valves (if it has one) and so on. Its flared-out chrome canister is very Z1000-esque, but these peculiar looking designs have become standard issue the past couple years – starting with the triangular units on the GSX-R and, for anyone who has seen the bootleg images of the 2008 CBR1000RR, you know how off the wall designers can get. The only rationale we can speculate for this particular piece of…work, is as a necessity to keep the noise emissions under the regulatory control.

Everyone knows that style goes a long way on the sales floor and at this point the jury is still out on the 2008 ZX-10R. The angular bodywork looks like it is built with a purpose, so it will be interesting to hear what Kawasaki has to say about it when official specs are released after the dealer show. Is it the most aerodynamically-efficient Ninja ever? Does it represent some historic value to the designers? Is it merely an attempt to the give the bike its own identity? Whatever it is, there’s no mistaking it for another brand of bike at this point.

Fit and finish look good from our photographic vantage point, with the exhaust hanger brackets, pegs and footpeg brackets all receiving a black finish. The seat looks like it has the potential to be comfortable and the rear of the bike appears as though the pillion seat cowling will have room for a storage compartment.

An integrated taillight assembly is housed in black plastic at the rear of the pillion area, while what appears to be an easily removed license plate bracket and turn signal set-up could win it a few style points with folks looking to clean-up their ride in a hurry. Blinkers are integrated into the mirror stalks, but the location isn’t traditional. It appears the lenses are in the stalk, not the mirror casing, so it will be interesting to see them in a detail shot.

The questions we do not know answers to include: Will it have a slipper clutch? What are the dimensions? How much does it weigh? What’s going to be different about the motor (Not much we hope)? What will the claimed power output be this time around? Will the public buy into this new look? Do you like it? The buzz on the 2008 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R starts right now.

Limited Specifications:
Engine: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four
Displacement: 998cc
Bore x stroke: 76.0 x 55.0mm
Maximum torque: TBD
Compression ratio: 12.7:1
Fuel injection: DFI with 43mm Keihin throttle bodies with oval sub-throttles, two injectors per cylinder
Ignition: TBD
Transmission: TBD
Final drive: TBD
Rake/trail: TBD
Front tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear tire: 190/55 ZR17

Wheelbase: TBD
Front suspension/travel: 43mm inverted fork with DLC coating, adjustable rebound and compression damping, spring preload adjustability and top-out springs/TBD
Rear suspension/travel: Bottom-Link Uni-Trak with top-out spring, stepless, dual-range (high/low-speed) compression damping, stepless rebound damping, fully adjustable spring preload/TBD
Front brakes: Dual semi-floating 310mm petal discs with dual four-piston radial-mount calipers
Rear brakes: Single 220mm petal disc with single-piston aluminum caliper
Overall length: TBD
Overall width: TBD
Overall height: TBD
Seat height: TBD
Dry weight: TBD
Fuel capacity: TBD
Color choices: TBD
MSRP standard/Special Edition: TBD/TBD
Warranty: TBD

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