The previous Ninja ZX-10R model (2011-15) has 3 levels of K-TRC (Kawasaki TRaction Control), with minimal intrusion from Level 1, 50% on Level 2 and 100% for Level 3. K-TRC 1 is recommended for circuit and track day, Level 2 is for twisty roads with highways and Level 3 is for wet weather and city ride.

With the introduction of the 2016 (now 2017), the latest Ninja ZX-10R has 5 levels of K-TRC, of which Level 1 and 2 are meant exclusively for Race and Track Day, with Level 3 being recommended for Dry Circuit with High Performance Tyres and Highways. Level 4 is for twisty canyon/countryside roads (dry) and last but not least, Level 5 is meant for wet weather and city streets riding.

In practice, many riders would opt to just switch off the K-TRC and depend on their right hand throttle control for all kinds of riding condition including wet tarmac, or stay home if the weather remains wet or damp the whole day. This means, very few riders out there would be keen to try out any of the electronic aids that Kawasaki has put into the newer Ninja to make aggressive riding easier.

Part of the issue is the ego associated with riders. Yes, most of them want the best and the latest sports bike money could buy, with the most sophisticated riding aids built-in, but very few wanted to admit they actually use such electronics on their bikes, preferring to tell people they don’t depend on the aids, no matter how sophisticated.

That leaves me wondering why those riders even bother with the latest bikes when old favorites like the pre-2017 Honda CBR1000RR, older Ninja ZX-10R (pre-2011 models) Yamaha R1 and Suzuki GSX-R1000 come without any electronic aids except for ABS if the old-style right hand throttle precision is all one needs to go faster?

Nevertheless, having rode the 2015 ZX-10R longer than most of my peers in the media industry, both with its electronic aids switched ON and OFF, it is easier for me to feel the difference in the performance of the newer electronics in the 2016 Ninja ZX-10R.

The performance can only be described in ONE word – Fantastic!

While there’s never a doubt the new Ninja ZX-10R is faster, more agile and easier to ride than its predecessor, being a sportsbike gives the impression it has to be ridden extremely fast, with the rider in a crouching position on the bike. This is the normal perception but it is not necessary to have that at all. On my 3rd time having the Ninja ZX-10R courtesy from Kawasaki Malaysia Sdn Bhd (KMSB),  I decide to ride it on touring mode, rather than opting for an all-out high speed acceleration.

I already know what the ZX-10R is capable of unleashing so that’s not something I would want to share again for this review. If I can only choose 1 over 3 types of motorcycles – sports, naked or touring but wanted it to be able to do all in just one machine, I have to ensure the final choice is capable of performing them. In terms of 1,000cc models in the line-up, Kawasaki has 3 – Ninja 1000, Z1000 and the Ninja ZX-10R. Of course, I am leaving the Ninja H2 supercharged out of this as that’s in another level of performance.

The Ninja 1000 is heavier than both the Z1000 and ZX-10R but it is pretty much comfortable to ride, just not that agile in tight, twisty roads. The Z1000 is lighter, more agile but tends to suffer from higher speeds as the wind pressure increases from the lack of a windshield or full fairing. The best compromise among the trio is nevertheless the Ninja ZX-10R in this respect.

The new Ninja ZX-10R’s electronic aids are more advanced than the previous model, hence the afore-mentioned 5-level of K-TRC instead of 3. For this review, I am concentrating on the ZX-10R’s K-TRC Level 3, 4 and 5 only as Level 1 and 2 are not required. The routes I am doing (as shown in photo above) are consisting of highways, twisty old roads cutting thru several small towns and rural, long straights with few bends in-between. The weather was extremely fine throughout the entire ride, with not a single drop of rain. Despite Google Maps indicating a travelling time of more than 9 hours to complete the entire route, the Ninja ZX-10R and me actually completed the journey in just under 6 hours including stops for lunch and fuel top-up!

Upon fuel refill from the start at Petron Sg Besi Toll, the route was the PLUS Highway until the Dengkil exit, from where I headed to Route B48. This segment was done via K-TRC Level 3, and switched to Level 4 thereafter. The Ninja was left on Level 4 all the way past Lubok China, Alor Gajah and Nyalas towns in the state of Melaka. I had a 30 minutes lunch stopover at Nyalas before resuming my ride to Rompin, Bahau and Bandar Sri Jempol, which are all located in the state of Negeri Sembilan. These segments too were still on Level 4 as it is not necessary to warrant a switch to Level 5 of the K-TRC as the roads were not wet nor slippery.

Oh yes, like the older ZX-10R, the new model also has 3 Power modes – Full, Middle and Low, of which the latter two reduced the power to 80% and 60% respectively, making the bike behaving like an 800cc and 600cc supersports. Full Power is ideally suited for K-TRC Level 1 and 2 while Middle is recommended for Level 3 and 4. Low Power is ideally used when the traction control is set to Level 5. But these are just guidelines set by Kawasaki, it is up to the rider to follow or ignore the recommendations. I started off the journey with the Ninja ZX-10R set to Middle Power as I knew I would be riding the bike at its cruising speeds to stimulate a touring bike, and only switched to Low Power mode after lunch in Nyalas.

Riding the Ninja ZX-10R set on Middle or Low Power mode actually made the bike less aggressive and more rider-friendly to handle. This essentially translated into faster traveling time as I could navigate all those twisty old roads easier. This probably had an effect in the entire journey been completed under 6 hours. The segments (all along Route 10) after Nyalas in Melaka all the way to Bandar Sri Jempol were set to K-TRC Level 4.

These segments consisted of multiple S-Curves between Nyalas and Gemencheh, to long straights with few bends and uphill/downhill stretches as well as narrow, double lines trunk roads from Rompin town until Bandar Sri Jempol. After that, I had the Ninja ZX-10R reset to Middle Power at Level 4 to ride all the way until Kemayan, Teriang, Tasik Bera and Temerloh in the state of Pahang. This stopover (below) is in Temerloh town itself.

By not riding the Ninja ZX-10R in Full Power and K-TRC Level 1 or 2, the journey up to Temerloh town was very comfortable, and I wasn’t tired nor exhausted. Neither was I dehydrated since started the ride from Petron Sg Besi Toll. Speaking of fuel, the low fuel warning light came after I had passed thru Kemayan but I knew I could reach Temerloh for refuelling. Riding the Ninja ZX-10R at cruising speeds doesn’t consume a lot of petrol, and I managed to refuel as planned, with approximately 1.5 litres remaining.

With the Ninja ZX-10R fully fuelled in Temerloh, I reset the electronics to Low Power but still at K-TRC Level 4 for resuming the ride to Mentakab, Lanchang and old Karak town via Route 2. Route 2 is consisting of S-Curves, long straights with some bends and bumpy stretches after Lanchang and just before reaching Karak old town. There was a temptation of switching from Middle to Full Power on Route 2 and Level 3 of K-TRC but decided to just ride the Ninja ZX-10R at Middle mode and Level 3.

The final photo below is the final stop at BHP in Karak town, which is not for refuelling but to get myself some bottled water – I felt quite thirsty but not dehydrated after passing by Lanchang, just some 20 kilometres after Mentakab. After having quenched my thirst, I resumed the journey on its final stretch – into Karak Highway from its namesake town, and all the way until I reached the Gombak Toll Plaza. The total journey only used up 1-1/2 tank of fuel, meaning the refuelling at Temerloh was adequate for me to complete the ride without the Ninja hitting the reserve.

Posted by Philip Chong

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