It's pretty obvious the technological era has begun with sportbikes. Electronic control or assistance is sprouting up on a motorcycle in every major manufacturer's lineup in some way, shape or form, and the sophistication of these systems continues to increase at a daunting rate.
First it was Ducati opening the door with its DTC (Ducati Traction Control) on the homologation model 1098R; its system used wheel speed sensors to measure any differences and react via eight levels of control. Then BMW took it a step further with its own DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) on the S 1000 RR, which uses gyro sensors to augment the wheel speed sensor data and further customize the system's degree of intervention. This allowed a much wider variation in how much and when the traction control would step in when the limit of tire grip was reached.
But with the new 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R, it appears a new threshold has been reached.
"Smart" Traction Control?
The current Ducati and BMW traction control setups are excellent systems with a wide range of adjustability. The only issue is that - although adjustable for the level of intervention - the systems are based on a set table of parameters once traction loss reaches a certain point. In other words, only when a set limit is reached does the system activate, and then it just pulls back power until traction (or a preset amount of tire slip) is restored.
This is where the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R and its new S-KTRC (Sport-Kawasaki TRaction Control) system distinguishes itself from previous TC software. Instead of only reacting to tire slip when it occurs, the ZX-10R's TC analyzes numerous factors including throttle position (plus the rate of opening), wheel speeds, engine rpm (plus rate of change), gear position and speed to actually sense and begin formulating a plan of various mapping scenarios before tire slip occurs. And then once tire slip does occur, the S-KTRC system continues analyzing all parameters every five milliseconds and adapting its mapping strategy in order to optimize acceleration (which often means a certain amount of tire slip is ideal) - making it a true racing-developed TC system that can actually predict traction loss and proactively adapt its maps according to conditions.
The S-KTRC system's flexibility means that not only can it adapt to different tires with their different circumferences and profiles, it can also change to meet the requirements of additional power brought on by engine modifications as well. Its software and the ECU are sophisticated enough that the S-KTRC system doesn't use gyros (lean angle sensors) or accelerometers. In fact, the system is equipped with an anti-wheelie program that is able to distinguish between a power wheelie (which it will restrict) and a rider-induced wheelie (which it will ignore).
Showa's BPF (Big Piston Fork)...
Showa's BPF (Big Piston Fork) provides superb control up front, and the radial-mount brake calipers now feature 30mm pistons all around instead of the previous 32/30mm staggered setup; braking performance was excellent. Note the slats on the leading edge of the fairing that help funnel airflow past the radiator opening and extract hot engine-bay air.
A larger under-engine collector...
A larger under-engine collector chamber houses two 300-cell catalyzers that not only clean up emissions but also allow better breathing, allowing the muffler to be smaller. The chamber must be replaced by a full exhaust for tire clearance if you take advantage of the chain blocks' extra adjustment range.
The Power Mode and S-KTRC...
The Power Mode and S-KTRC level are displayed on the right side of the dashboard's LCD. The LCD can be switched between street and track modes; in track mode, the large digital display becomes the gear indicator and the clock becomes a speedometer, with lap time displayed on the left side of the LCD.
Normally we loathe bar graph...
Normally we loathe bar graph tachometers, but we'll make an exception with the new ZX-10R. Instead of the usual poor contrast LCD, the Kawasaki uses a far brighter LED setup that compensates for ambient light as well. The tach can be programmed to flash the whole bar graph at the shift point, which is easily noticeable even in bright daylight.
The S-KTRC's wheel speed sensors also allowed Kawasaki to simultaneously develop its new KIBS (Kawasaki Intelligent Braking System), claimed to be the world's smallest and lightest ABS system at just six pounds - with 2.3 pounds of that weight coming from the larger battery required to power the ABS unit. The KIBS not only monitors wheel speeds, it also analyzes brake system hydraulic pressure, and in a first for a production motorcycle, receives data from the main ECU on throttle position, gear selection, engine rpm and clutch actuation to decide how much and when to intervene at each wheel. The system is claimed to be able to detect rear wheel lift under aggressive braking without the use of gyro sensors; and its cycling rate is much quicker than conventional ABS, leading to better brake feel and feedback when the system is active (unfortunately, Kawasaki had no ABS models available at press time, so a review will have to wait until we get our hands on one for a full test).