Dave Gregory`s Kawasaki ZX-10R
You see a fair variety of asphalt-assaulting motorbikes on the average UK trackday, ranging from two-stroke oil spillers to the ex-Superbike, laptop-powered money pits of machines. By far and wide though, one of the most common 1000cc weapons we see out and about has to be the ZX-10R, irrelevant of its generation. Kawasaki is synonymous with racing, and with Mr Rea (Jonny, not Chris) showing the rest of the thoroughbred WSBK field his Irish derriere almost every weekend.
There must be a blend within the ZX-10R on track that the rest of the manufacturers haven’t yet quite caught up to and perfected. We know that although being a very competent contender overall, for the average road rider the ZX-10R struggles to keep pace in terms of performance, delivery, comfort and feel compared with its rival manufacturers’ offerings. But what makes it such a popular trackday choice? In reality, everything that seems to let the Kwacker down on the road is a strong point when you take the green machine to the circuit, and it becomes abundantly clear why they’re successful at high level. Strong mid- to high-end power, a planted chassis and usability are all weapons in its arsenal. With a good value purchase price to start with and parts not being terribly expensive if it all goes wrong, the Kawasaki is a tough choice to look past and results in filling a lot of trackday riders’ garages. We caught up with Dave Gregory, a No Limits Trackdays instructor, ex-BSB Tri-Options racer, and ninja automotive window fitter to see what he’s done to his 2020 gen 5ZX-10 R to get it ready for track attacks. In asking Dave why he went for the ZX-10R, his response wasn’t quite what you’d expect to hear but makes total sense: “I chose the ZX-10R because I love the raw feel of it, it’s not as sanitised as the current crop of R1s, BMWs etc. It’s still one of those bikes that you don’t know whether it’s going to kill you or give you your best lap time! To get the best out of the ZX-10R you have to make it scream and although you might not actually be going quicker, it feels like you are because the engine note is such a howler, very similar to a 600.” As with most motorcycle journeys to the track, Dave’s bike started off life as a road bike, which saw a handful of upgrades before getting involved in a crash with the previous owner, where Dave took it off his hands with a view to stretching the throttle cables on circuits rather than streets. He’d landed a bit of a deal, because along with the bike came a selection of various parts, and included in the package was a factory Mupo shock, pre-fitted which saved him a bit of coin!
The next sensible choice was to send the forks off to Dave Croft at Mupo UK to get a set of CSP30 gas cartridges fitted. “The ZX-10Rsare well known for being a very frontend biased bike, so it’s important to ensure you can control the pitch and weight transfer properly to get the best set-up, hence the need for the aftermarket suspension with additional control,” Dave tells me. The next step was to remove the ABS unit which is a bit of a faff, but achieved through using a blanking module from I2M. “You can leave it on but if you want to race it or have the comfort of knowing it won’t kick in as you develop your braking pressure, like any ABS system, it’s best to get it removed when putting it on the track.” Next on the shopping list was a visit to reactiveparts.com for a set of CRC fairings. “There are loads of options for fairing kits on the market, and I’ve tried most. The CRC brand always delivers a slightly superior fit compared to most which takes a lot of hassle out of fitting them, which can be a massive pain in the arse of a job! ”The next thing you want to do when taking a ZX-10R or any bike to the track is replace the rearsets. Standard pegs as a general rule (unless it’s the new ’Blade!) don’t give you enough ground clearance to be able to ride at a decent enough pace. But primarily, they don’t have the ease of replacement built in. So if you are unfortunate enough to slip off, you can just replace the broken item on a set of aftermarket rearsets, as opposed to replacing the whole unit as standard. Dave’s gone for Lightech rearsets, alongside a specific conversion kit just for the ZX-10R which is £105 from reactiveparts to enable you to use race shift which again, on track, is a relatively vital choice. “Other systems are available but they run too close to the frame,” Dave tells me. The fanciest bit of kit Dave’s thrown at the ZX-10R has to be the AIM MXK10 dash purchased from Parkitt Racing: “It’s the dash the ZX-10R should have come with instead of the disappointing 1970s one you get as standard. I think Aim have done it almost to demonstrate what could and should have been done, so here’s hoping the future models incorporate something similar.” Other than being a nice bit of bling, the functionality and visual aid is the main reason to go for the Aim, it allows you to choose what to display while riding and log almost every aspect, while utilising the stock switchgear. It was fitted at Parkitt Racing, where the bike was also run on their dyno and mapped to a healthy 195bhp. They also flashed in Woolich race tools, which enable an auto warm-up function (which sounds very MotoGP-esque), pit lane limiter and launch control for when Dave decides to start riding competitively again! Add-on extras-wise, the ZX-10R has an Akropovic de-cat link pipe and end can fitted, lithium battery, ASV levers and lever guards, Samco hoses, Lightech rear wheel adjusters and a Diamond quick-release fuel cap. Another essential modification to any track bike is a 520 chain and sprocket conversion, and the common solution is Renthal Ultralight with a Tsubaki Pro Race chain. The main thing to ensure when changing the chain is that what you’re replacing it with is capable of providing enough tensile strength to cope with the bhp of the bike you’re putting it on; the Pro-Race is rated to near 230bhp, so more than capable of coping with a Superstock bike. The only thing Dave’s currently waiting for is a Mupo steering damper to replace the standard electronic one, which is another element he struggles to get on with. Apparently, the standard damper gives inconsistent feel and at times, not enough damping power to control the peaky, raughty engine! One of the main advantages of choosing the ZX10R though in any trackday or racing sense is the fact it has a cassette gearbox, which essentially means if there’s an issue you can remove it out of the side casing without the need for stripping the engine, which saves time and money. Gearbox issues are relatively common with any track or race bike, purely by the nature of the fact you’re pushing the bike harder and working the gearbox more, so that’s a real advantage for the ZX-10R over its rivals. Sure, it’s not the fastest, lightest or the easiest-handling bike on the market. But it is a great all-round package, and one you shouldn’t look past if you’re in the market for a litre track toy!