In 2004 the Kawasaki ZX-10R threatened to steal the Suzuki GSX-R1000's bad boy thunder, and reintroduced Kawasaki as a contender in Superbike racing. From 2000 until 2004, if you were a motorcycle hooligan you bought a GSX-R1000. But the Kawasaki ZX-10R became the new hooligan motorcycle, and if your first ever ride on a 1000cc motorcycle was one of these, how's your sanity doing these days?
Time is flying by, and we first saw the Kawasaki ZX-10R way back in 2003, when we were excited by its MotoGP-aping looks and impressive specifications. No kidding, it really resembles the early MotoGP race machines and it carries an attitude to match.
Buying a used Kawasaki is far easier these days thanks to improved build quality, and most secondhand models we found still sparkled. Check the front wheel recall was done though for early models. So, what do you get for your money?
Firstly, you get speed – and a lot of it. You won't be left behind by your friends on a more modern motorcycle. Next, you get great steering. A early 2004 Kawasaki ZX-10R is almost as fast as a new Yamaha YZF-R6. The brakes far well, with new pads and hoses all that's needed to keep them tip-top. It's also ergonomically suited to tall riders, and benefit from terrific ground clearance. It's not all roses though. Kawasaki took pleas for a steering damper so seriously they put an Ohlins unit on the 2006 model. Without one this ZX-10R becomes a handful very quickly. The rear shock can often feel oversprung, requiring more damping, which can result in a choppier ride. A professional set-up can work wonders, and there are enough examples how awesome one could be with these problems properly addressed.
Several Kawasaki ZX-10Rs we saw had thoughtful owners, meaning some have dampers, better tires and you'll find the odd with a quality replacement shock too. True, it's not as polished a road motorcycle as a similarly aged Yamaha YZF-R1, but for the most butt-clenching excitement, look no further than a Kawasaki ZX-10R.