Kawasaki have been building seriously high-performance sportsbikes since the early 1970s. Witness the 1972 Z1, which could do the quarter-mile in 12.8 seconds and hit a top speed of 210km/h. Or the 1978 Z1300, which packed a six-cylinder engine and weighed in at close to 300 kilos. And the 1984 GPZ900R, which boasted of 100 horsepower and 240km/h top speed.
But Kawasaki’s first proper rocketship was the 1988 ZX-10, which used a 997cc inline-four (based on the GPZ900R motor) that made 110 horsepower, and which could push the bike to a top speed of nearly 260km/h! The bike also had a proper alloy beam chassis, highly optimized aerodynamics, and proper wheels, tyres, brakes, and suspension to go with all that speed. The 1988 ZX-10 was probably Kawasaki’s first superbike as we know them now.
Twenty years on, the ZX-10R continues the legacy of the original ZX-10. And this 2004 ZX-10R is, in some ways, even better than its current, more toned-down sibling...
Compare the old ZX-10 with the all-new ZX-10R which Kawasaki launched in 2004, and you see just how far superbikes have come, and how they’ve evolved. The first ZX-10R had around 150bhp (40 horses up on the old ZX-10) from its 998cc inline-four, and came with high-spec, race-bred chassis, suspension and brakes that are as much at home on the track as they are on the street.
In fact, the 2004 ZX-10R was such a wild beast, that over the last three years, Kawasaki have been spending time taming its behaviour and trying to make more of its mind-boggling performance accessible to normal, ordinary riders. But we sure would love to ride the 1988 and 2004 ZX-10s back to back – what a trip that would be!
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Update (12th September 2007): 2008 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R: First pics and details!