The Japs Are Fighting Back

After being given an almighty kicking in 2010, 2011 certainly looks a little brighter for Japan’s big four. The leader of next year’s pack is, somewhat surprisingly, Kawasaki. The drip feed of information on the new ZX-10R has now turned into a torrent, with Kawasaki releasing the final spec on what it hopes will be a shit-kicking superbike able to take on the might of the all-conquering BMW S 1000 RR, and Honda’s excellent Fireblade.

No power figures are claimed, but it’ll have enough to worry the Beemer, around 180bhp, and Kawasaki has gone all electric in trying to overturn the deficit on its European rival.

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It’s an acronym-fest, too. S-KTRC traction control (a significant revision on the GTR1400’s system), KIBS ABS system and a power mapping option (through the ride-by-wire throttle) all combine to ape BMW’s electronic package and make the ZX-10R Japan’s most technologically advanced, and powerful production machine ever – that’s progress for you.

Elsewhere, the aluminium frame is all new with the engine repositioned, the swingarm has been made lighter, a horizontally mounted shock is used and Showa’s Big Piston Fork makes a welcome appearance on the Ten. Brakes are the same as the current model, but they’ll have to stop around 10kg less than before (although this is only on par with the original ZX-10R).

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The bike will be green in more than one sense – there’s an ECO ride indicator to keep the tree huggers happy. No, really.

Say what you like about the styling, but this machine has got potential – massive potential. It’s expected to be launched in November, in the shops in the new year, and we really can’t wait.

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The big Ten isn’t the only green machine of note, because there will be a faired Z1000 and a few fruity upgrades will turn the Z750 from a poor man’s Street Triple into a serious contender in its burgeoning class.

Selling thousands of the lil’ Zeds in Europe and seeing them specced up to the hilt has prompted Kawasaki to trick-up the 750 in the chassis department. And hasn’t it done well.

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The Z750R looks the bomb thanks to some muscular styling, and with the 41mm forks off the 2009 Z1000, a new shock and swingarm and radial mounted four piston brakes replacing the old conventional ones the new R has certainly grown some balls to play with the big boys – sadly, the motor remains stock.

Suzuki may be in the doldrums at the track, but the new GSX-R600 and 750 should perk up the (soon to be a whole lot less) showrooms. It may look disappointingly similar to the current models, but with a new frame, engine, and 9kg weight reductions, the new models should shake up the middleweight classes.

The new GSX-R600 has an all-new chassis that has a 15mm shorter wheelbase, as well as a Showa Big Piston Fork.

The new engine sports lighter, more durable pistons designed with the same Finite Element Method (FEM) and fatigue analysis technology used to develop their MotoGP engines. Combined with thoroughly reworked cam profiles and narrow valve angles, they also have a new vertically staggered, close ratio gearbox with shorter ratios for more poke off the line.

Developed in parallel with its smaller sibling, the GSX-R750 benefits from similar weight advantages over its predecessor, with the same shorter wheelbase chassis as the 600. Both new GSX-Rs also now boast radial-mount Brembo Monoblock calipers with fully-floating 310mm discs.

The pair may look desperately out of date, but with power increases, 9kg of weigh loss, and the addition of massive anchors – they should be very competitive once you thumb the starter.

Also unveiled at Intermot was Suzuki’s all-new GSR750. What a massive disappointment it is too. It looks aggressive and purposeful at a distance, but a close look reveals a budget hack with sharp lines.

The 41mm KYB inverted front fork is nice enough, as is the styling, but the nasty box-section swingarm is straight out the 80s, and lazy design around the exhaust valve, lambda sensor and the messy proliferation of wiring and hoses is a real let down. The motor is detuned in a fairly unreverseable way (cams, inlet/outlet tracts), which is a massive shame – they should have left it as was, and just altered the gearing to suit. We hope it rides better than the soft cycle parts would suggest.

If you’re waiting for something sporty and new from Honda or Yamaha, don’t hold your breath. Aside from a rumoured Honda CBR600 (minus the RR, being a new take on the old all rounder), the best you’re going to get from both manufacturers is new paint.

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