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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

199 Horses on a ZX-10R – Should or Shouldn’t I?

Riding a big capacity motorcycle is considered as one of the most absurdly absorbed activity that you can get yourself involved with, in this country. It’s not absurd because it’s actually absurd, or you think it’s absurd, it’s considered absurd because our mileage and safety obsessed janta thinks it’s absurd. By the way their mind-set changes when suddenly they themselves are able to own one, then everything is justified. On the other hand, talk to them about cars from BMW, Audi or Porsche and everything starts making sense.  In a country where a motorcycle has to be a work horse, is expected to carry a family of 6 at the same time with shopping bags hanging on either sides of the handle bar, with a must have saaree guard so that a saaree clad lady can sit sideways on a ;  how does it feel to ride 199 horses to places, where people won’t even dare to take their cycle through. Well, grab some garlic cheese toast and a Patiala glass of lassi and enjoy the interesting read.

The premise

At ThrottleQuest.com, we have always tried to break the cliché and not try and be stereotypical, because India is not your average stereotypical country – the food here is spicy, the weather here does a full monty, the traffic sense does not make sense and the thought process here is garnished with prejudice, so the question here is, how do we encourage people to end up doing things the right way like everyone across the globe does. 

We planned a photo shoot at the prestigious New Delhi Air Force Museum for three bikes – the Harley-Davidson FXSB Softail Breakout, a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R and a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. We did what we had to do at the Air Force museum and let me tell you this fair and straight, I am still having goose bumps from that experience, the planes, the environment, the officers – one has to experience this personally in order to feel my emotions here. 

So we had in our possession,  some of the fastest bohemian machines with us; there had to be something more which we needed to do with them!!

We had already experienced and seen the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R and ZX-10R in action but then, that was quite some time back and we totally loved what the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R is in itself. My ailment does not allow me to ride a Sports or Super-Sports to far off places or sit astride too long but the very fact that I had 199 ponies at my disposal was intimidating enough and I was eager to find out how a ZX-10R treats a person with a weak lower back, and who loves to take his bike to all sorts of places – commute, traffic, highways, crowded markets and bad, really bad roads.

The motorcycle and the setup

Well, everyone knows about the Kawasaki ZX-10R, so no point in wasting web space bytes here writing about it, but what I would write is that I started with Low Power and Level 3 Traction – stop winning about me being a wus here, I was trying to take it easy on my back and on myself overall!!
First impressions –, this is not everybody’s cup of tea and certainly not mine, because in matter of minutes, I was feeling major discomfort around my lower back area, and at that point of time, I was riding in bumper-to-bumper traffic and the engine heat was literally cooking me alive. Something was not right, something was really not right and that something was me (as I realized later on).

I managed to reach home with my skin still on me, took some time off, took a nice cold shower (I tell you, if you are stuck on a thought and not getting a solution, take a nice cold shower – trust me, you would thank me later for giving this suggestion for free). While having that shower, scratching my sorry butt which just got kicked by 199 horses, the realization finally happened and what followed next was nothing short of a wild one night stand!!

Geared up once again, popped a drink down that scorched throat (along with my protein shake), cranked that engine, with a smile on my face, baby this is going to be fun. First stop – A local market.

Through the Crevices

That’s one place where one would be trembling to take their 100cc motorcycles forget about taking a 1000cc behemoth. The one thing in my favor was – I was riding a nimble and agile sports bike, not joking eh, having a sports bike really does work in your favor. A local neighborhood market is one area which is literally under the influence of a super massive black hole. Everything moves so darn slow there, you would get the feeling that everything is past the event horizon and things are going to get slower from here on.

Moving through the tightest of the passes, all I needed to do is put the bike in 2nd cog and used my torso to support my weight and leave my forearms as free and relaxed as possible. Navigating through the crevices becomes a breeze. At those speeds, the engine does heat up pretty quick and that’s expected, but in this posture, where you’re supporting yourself using your torso and your forearms are relaxed, you are not stressed out as you would otherwise be as a result of which the engine heat is not that big an issue anymore. 2nd cog is the perfect place to be because you can not only manage the bike better at such super slow speeds, but a slight flick of the right wrist sees you out in the open in split seconds. In order to experiment with various gears in such situations, I put the bike in the 6th, but speeds below 26kmph saw the engine fluttering quite a bit and heat up pretty fast. The only advantage of having the bike up there on 6th is that, the throttle response on the 10R is quite smooth and consistent, but other than that, as per my experience, for speeds below 26kmph, 2nd gear is what you should choose to be at.

I personally didn’t check the compression and rebound settings of the suspension, but I neither had any issues negotiating the chocked traffic nor running over minor pot holes.
So, having struck that off my list of my list, the next thing was to test myself on this bike on something relatively long – the NH8 towards Jaipur.

Stretching her legs

It’s a 3 km journey from the non-friendly bustling market to NH8 and those 3 km are not easy, it has clean patches, it has some really nasty patches and some highly unpredictable traffic and the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R was a breeze negotiating through such conditions. I know riding such a bike makes more sense on the race track and people would appreciate it being compact and so on and so forth, but putting this bike through the harsh realities, makes one appreciate how well this motorcycle is engineered and thought after. Once again I would mention that I did not check the suspension compression and rebound settings, but boy was this bike handling everything being thrown at it or what!!

I hit NH8 and before continuing further, I thought that I would gas it up so that I concentrate more on the riding rather thinking about the blinking “Fuel” indicator on the dash. As I was fuelling the bike up, I noticed its riding mode – it was still on the low power setup. That’s it; it explains everything now, as to why it was behaving so well in such congested condition and at such low speeds. The bike did heat up a bit (115 degrees to be precise), but still it was quite manageable. I knew what was ahead, so I put the riding mode back to full power and traction level 2. Cranked on the bike and with the slightest throttle input, I was greeted by a different bike. This was certainly not the bike I was riding on for past 30-45 mins, no Sir. Everything about the bike had changed, the throttle response, the engine response everything. The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, from a manageable and docile motorcycle, transformed into something of a maniac in just one single click!!

It was becoming quite uncomfortable for me now as I was getting thrown left and right trying to handle the bike and my lower back started twitching with excruciating pain, so much so that after crossing the Manesar McD, I had to stop and I was seriously contemplating on returning back. I mean, what the heck just happened!! My body position was fine because it worked great in slow moving traffic, but that same body position has rendered my lower back numb. I grabbed a soda-pop from the nearby vendor and while cooling myself down, I “theoretically” figured out what might have happened.

While moving slowly, I was forward on my seat and kept my torso firm and straight in order to release pressure from my lower back and forearms. That worked great!! Out on the highway, I was consistently doing triple digit speeds and that same position resulted in me facing a lot of wind blast and putting the pressure back on my lower back. My forearms were relaxed still, as I was supporting my bodyweight with my torso. By now, my lower back had relaxed and i was ready to go at it again. . I hopped back on, but now, I slide back into the seat as much as I could (without actually sitting on the rear seat... that would have looked pretty darn stupid). Again, supported my body weight using my torso and off I went, and boy oh boy did that trick work!! I was comfortable and now I was relatively behind the wind screen of the bike, giving me more wind protection than before. My lower was totally relaxed now. In a matter of few seconds, I was in 4th and I saw myself doing speeds in excess of “bat out of hell” speeds (go figure what that means) and hurtling straight towards Jaipur.

I kept varying my speed between 150 kmph and 210 kmph during this time. After crossing the Shiva Oasis Resort on the Jaipur highway I thought of taking the first U-turn and head back home,. Just for statistics before I took the U turn, I had ridden exactly for 100 km, which took me close to an hr (a little less actually). From there, I headed straight to a friend’s place which was another 100 km (a little more actually) and this return journey took me a little more than an hour. To cut a long story short, I was doing an average speed of 100 kmph and my back, my arms were fine. Before entering the city, I changed back the riding mode to Low, just to keep things on the saner side of indulgence.
So, there I was, with my broken back, chatting with my friend and sharing my experience like an excited kid I still do not understand why people have such inhibitions about riding these bikes in city traffic? If I can ride this bike for 200+ km for close to 3 hrs, with a bad back what’s stopping others to do the same? Yes, I understand that getting one of these bikes in your garage is not something that everyone can even think about.  Just for the record I got an average of 18 kml out this bike in my close to 300 km ride, but suppose, just suppose, that you are able to manage all these factors like a breeze, then these modern monsters are so darn customizable, that you can tweak it to suite your needs, situation and riding style and you would be sorted out (and at the same time thanking me for writing this article and putting things to perspective).

The end note

Yes, I did ride this bike through clogged crevices, through pot holes, through highways at short high speed bursts of insanity and it’s me, who’s writing this article with a smile on my face ear to ear and saying my readers, if you can afford the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, buy it and don’t think you might not be able to ride this because of road condition. With the electronics package on this bad boy, the kind of engineering that has gone into this bike, the only limiting factor that would stop you from taking this bike anywhere would be YOU – dream on!

A BIG THANK YOU TO India Kawasaki Motors for providing ThrottleQuest.com with this amazing opportunity

Text by : Sajal Chakraborty
Images by : William Chang and Sajal Chakraborty

Can't end this note without showcasing the photographs from the Air Force Museum shoot which was only made possible because of the amazing co-operation provide by the Air Force Museum staff.

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Item Reviewed: 199 Horses on a ZX-10R – Should or Shouldn’t I? Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sajal
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