Kawasaki Ninja ZX10R India Road-Test
Living with a superbike in India needs you to put in a lot of dedication

A superbike’s performance is so near to escape velocity, it can scare you silly.

All of us dream of owning a superbike some day. These temptations are more highlighted by reviews and videos of these mean machines. Thanks to the homologation rule (no homologation required for bikes above 800cc displacement), many manufacturers are storming into the Indian market with their litre class alternatives as they are brought in via the CBU route. The Japanese biggies are offering the best from their stable which render super exciting performance you will never tire off. However Indian roads aren’t really meant for go-fast machines. Or are they? We spent a few days with the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R to analyse how it is to live with a superbike in India.

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Not all superbikes are as compact as Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-10R

The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is by far the easiest superbike to live with. There are two reasons why someone buys a superbike. Either he wants to attract attention, which isn’t an unfair requirement considering the money he has spent while the other is to have fun. The Ninja ZX-10R is a very compact machine and it’s styling is very sleeper. Thus with the Ninja 300 already on our roads, not many turn to glance at the ZX-10R, which is both a good and bad thing. Good thing if you want the peace of mind when you park the bike in public areas and bad thing if you want to draw eye-pops. However you always have the option of blipping the throttle and let those in-line 4s make your presence felt, people do indeed turn and gawk.

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There are very few roads which help you exploit even 50% of a superbike’s power

If your agenda is to ride fast, then you will have to buy a frugal diesel hatchback first. This is so you can go hunting for a good stretch of tarmac which is devoid of surprises (unseen bumps, popping out of no where speedbreakers, etc). The problem with riding a superbike in India is the lack of road discipline. Forget fellow motorists, the bigger issue are pedestrians who usually cross roads at their whims and fancies. This persists not only on your daily city roads but also on national highways, which means extreme caution and an extra eye out on either side of the road.

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Keep away from top-end and performance from superbikes is in sane territory

Coming to the bike itself, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is extremely easy to ride and you will be pleasantly surprised by how the motorcycle handles in city conditions. Seldom do you feel there is such a dearth of power under your right wrist. With your riding gear on, you won’t feel the heat either and credit also goes to Kawasaki for the fantastic engine heat dissipation. Compact dimensions make manoeuvring easy, as long as you don’t have to take a u-turn because that can be a real pain. Neither can you take a superbike even on the slightest of off-road as the exhaust is placed very low and can get damaged.

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Long distance riding can make your body pain, so superbikes aren’t for touring

You have bought a superbike not to ride in the city but to zoom on the highways. The Ninja ZX-10R is the most powerful litre class motorcycle in the world, producing a mammoth 210 PS of power at a stratospheric 13,000 RPM. Torque output is equally incredible with 112 Nm of twisting force arriving at a high 11,500 RPM. Redline comes in at 14,000 RPM and all this sounds cool on paper but can make you freak out in the real world. That is because neither do we have the roads in India to put all that power down, nor do we have many race tracks.

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You need to mentally prepare yourself before opening throttle completely

However putting all that power on the road is very easy. Kawasaki offers three power modes on the ZX-10R along with a 3-step traction control system. With the traction set to high and power mode set to the lowest, there is still too much power for those graduating from under 500cc. The Ninja ZX-10R is all cool under 8000 RPM but still insanely quick. However it’s post 8000 RPM that the real madness starts, the Kwacker becoming a rocket ignited machine on afterburner. Smack open the throttle and you will hold on for dear life because the immediacy with which a superbike like the ZX-10R gathers momentum is bound to make you leave the throttle even before the real action has started.

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The faster you corner, the better the bike feels around turns

If you do decide to keep the throttle pinned all the way to the redline, you either have balls of steel or you have lost your senses. If you have bought a superbike, you actually have both, because 0-100 km/hr in 2.8 seconds, 0-160 km/hr in 5.5 seconds, 0-240 km/hr in 10 seconds and 0-290 km/hr in 18 seconds are not plain numbers when you are piloting a machine which is accelerating like a jet propelled javelin. So in the case you do plan to keep the throttle pinned to the redline, you will see the bike’s front wheel lifting off at around 11,000 RPM which will tempt you to back off but you don’t have to, the traction control takes control of things and keeps you safe on your locomotive journey. You do have to hold on for dear life as the ferocity of the acceleration makes the bike want to throw you off the saddle (best is to grip the left handle and up-shift without the clutch).

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The sight most people see of you and your superbike, this is literally gone in 2 seconds

How fast is a superbike? Well to put it into perspective, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R does close to 160 km/hr in first gear! Yes, that’s faster than what all made in India motorcycles do in top gear. That’s not fast, that’s time travel. If you don’t plan to enjoy the redline, there is no point getting such a high-revving machine because all the action lies at the top. Top speed is academic, what’s more important is which gear you achieved it in. Lower the gear, bigger the balls but there isn’t any competition here, all you want for a fast bike is to make you smile, a superbike makes you cry in happiness.

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A quick ride will make you want to meditate to balance the speeds in your life

With your go-fast antiques, you are bound to heat the machine a lot (100-degrees or so) and that is going to eat coolant faster than you blink. Braking from high speeds often will lead to brake pads wearing out quickly. Another issue with superbikes is the servicing. Yes, there is official support but outside the top four cities, there are very few superbike retailers and service centres. When you shell out so much money, you will have to keep shelling out more dough on the maintenance (tyres seldom last even 10,000 kms) as well as fuel. But the thing you really should spend a good amount of money on is riding gear. Because with the speeds a superbike is capable off, you need very good riding gear to protect yourself from all sorts of elements; wind, birds, you know the drift.

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Forget riding with a pillion, superbike’s rear seat best to dry gloves

So our time spent with a superbike was filled with lots of excitement. Time seemed to have freezed somehow as we were reaching our destination much quicker. There is so much power that there is no way you are going to use even half of it, which beats the point of buying a superbike. Sure, a superbike looks the part and can beat supercars in outright acceleration but remember, it’s more fun to ride a bike at its limit, then to only exploit part of the machine’s capability. That’s the reason why we feel the 400-800cc class is the real need of Indian bike enthusiast’s hour. A superbike is just too fast for our tarmac and honestly a middle-weight motorcycle is best enjoyed on Indian roads, sadly the options here are too few.

Riding a superbike is a whole lot of fun but there is absolutely no way you are going to use all that power. It’s best to get a middle-weight machine which has all the power you need for speed therapy in India.