1989 ZX10R vs 2004 ZX10R... A review...

Many motorcyclist enthusiasts had anticipated the Kawasaki's re-entry into the liter bike class for years. Bikeland's ZX10BURNER has the pleasure of owning both the 1989 and 2004 versions of Kawasaki's famed ZX-10R. In today's submission, ZX10BURNER provides us with a first hand comprehensive comparison of the two machines...

For Bikeland.org by

Let me start by saying this is just my experience and opinion of both machines so at the end of this little write-up make your own conclusions...

The Bikes

1989 ZX-10B (modified)
Miles: 35,458
Engine CC: 1040
Rake/Trail: 26.5/3.9in
Wheel Base: 57.7
Weight: 532lb wet

2004 ZX-10R (stock)
Miles: 1352
Engine CC: 998
Rake/Trail: 24.0/4.0in
Wheel Base: 54.8
Weight: 433lb wet

For readability I'll refer the 1989 ZX-10 as the "ZedX", and the 2004 model as the "10R".

The ZedX places you in a semi up right position with the clip-ons above the triple clamps. There's a bit of body weight placed on your wrists but nothing to complain about. Legroom is plentiful and many miles can be put down without a problem. When riding the ZedX you feel like your sitting in the bike and with the position of the clip-ons makes for an over-all user-friendly package. With a wide fairing and tall windscreen weather protection is very good and you get very little buffeting from the wind. Passengers can do fairly well for a few hours anymore than that really depends on the person.

How to describe the 10R? Short and sweet. This is not a street bike but a race bike with lights and a horn. Make no bones about it, this bike puts you in a very tucked position. While it's not unbearable, this is not a bike you want to do hours of highway droning or touring on. With the clip-ons below the triple clamps and its high seat height you're put in a head down arse up position. Let me clarify there is room to move around and you're not in a torture rack but if you're not flexible don't plan on spending any real time in the saddle unless you live in some major twisites.

Weather protection is adequate. The windscreen is short and low and the front end is very narrow, so if you're over 6' you will get wind about chest level. If you're a big guy then getting in full tuck can be a bit of a challenge. Having a pillion is an exercise in futility. Your passenger is sitting high above you and about 80% of the body weight is forced on the rider. This doesn't make for a fun ride for either party. Honestly though, who buys this type of bike to carry a passenger or tour on??

Overall I give the nod to the ZedX in terms of overall comfort for rider/passenger. The 10R gets the job done in a very Spartan way, tour at your own risk.
5 stars to the ZedX 4 stars to the 10R.

The ZedX has your basic cluster, which includes speedo, tach, temp gauge, fuel gauge, odometer and trip meter. Front brake and clutch have a 4-position dial to adjust lever distance from the bars (nice little thing to have). Overall a nice basic package, fit/finish is good for a Kawi. The 10R steps it up a bit. You have a digital tachometer, speedo, trip meter, odometer, lap timer, clock, shift light and a fuel warning light (no gauge here). You have all this in a cluster the size of your fist. Very trick in my opinion! The brake lever has a 5 position dial for a bit more adjustability another nice touch. My biggest bitch about the cluster on the 10R was the digital tach, during initial break-in you spent more time watching the LED bar scanning for 4K and 6K then you did eyeing the road. Break-in over no worries!!!! Personally I've always gotten a giggle over watching a tach needle sweep past 10-11K but that's just me.

This area the 10R wins hands down, overall trick value and the fact that the cluster does so much with so little space.
5 stars to the 10R and 3 stars to the ZedX.

You have a 15 year old chassis design next to a modern GP derived chassis, honestly this one's a no brainer what do you guys think? With that now down to details.

My ZedX isn't quite stock. The front end has been re-valved and resprung. The rear is sporting an Ohlins 46ERS shock. That said, the bike is rock steady at triple digits or thru long high-speed sweepers. The chassis under hard use will move a bit underneath you but doesn't do anything to cause alarm. Adjustments are limited front/rear and once set up will pretty much stay that way. Turn in is quick which is surprising for the weight and length of this bike. I attribute this to 2 things; tyre profile (the Avon AV39/40s are very "peaked") and Dymag magnesium wheels the modified ZedX is running. There are 2 places you'll notice the heavy weight of the ZedX; in driveways and in slow turns and very tight corners where transitions are quick. You have to work to ride this bike fast.

What can be said about the 10R? This bike absolutely rails thru any corner. The chassis is stiff but offers a compliant ride overall. Make no mistake, this bike is for one thing only, and that's to go fast thru any and all corners. Initial turn-in requires only a small amount of muscle. You have full adjustments at both ends so set-up is limitless and can be done quickly once you know what you need for a particular area.

Mr. ZedX is a "carving knife". You get the job done but it's not always pretty. Hooligan 10R is a laser scalpel; you make cuts at will, almost telepathically... you think- you do.

5 stars to the 10R and 3.5 stars to the ZedX.
Honestly the 10R should have 10 stars!!!!

Here's where things get a bit confusing, you'd think that the latest and greatest radial brakes would wow me but that's just not quite the case. You have on the 10R radial 4 piston brakes with 1 pad per piston and trick petal rotors. Now this factory set-up is major league trick and works very well, I mean VERY well. My gripe is the 10R's lever travel is very progressive, you have about 3/8 to 1/2" travel before the brakes bite. You will stop quickly on this bike and if you don't pay attention you will find your face shield in touch with the instrument cluster.

To be fair to the 10R the ZedX isn't stock here. The modified ZedX sports Brembo Goldline calipers with Galfer Green pads clamping down on Galfer discs. Mix some Dymag wheels and you get the picture. Oh, and the obligatory steel braided lines to top it off. Lever travel is ½ of the 10R and when you stop you stop!!! If you don't pay attention and clamp down on the lever prepare to get your pilots license cause you're about to fly! Not everyone would like this set-up but it's my bike and that's what I prefer.

This rating is biased so 5 stars to the ZedX and 4.5 stars to the 10R.

Honestly I can't find fault with either bike. Both shift butter smooth and any missed shifts are due to rider not bike. Initially the 10R was notchy and was a bit of a pain to slip in neutral. As the miles piled up the action turned butter smooth. The big ZedX has a few miles on the box and still shifts smooth and feels good.

5 stars to both bikes.

This is the category that most want to read first but I put it here just so you had to go thru everything else! Again you have 15 years of engine advancement in favor of the 10R so keep that in mind. As I said earlier the ZedX isn't stock so it doesn't lag as far behind as it would stock.

Lets get started with the ZedX. As with all ZX motors (i.e. ZX-11/10/9/7) there is a fair amount of valve train noise. Heck, if you want quiet go buy Singer, or a Honda! Personally this just adds to the character of the bike. From idle to 4000rpm the ZedX is a bit lazy, but once past 4K it runs up to redline quickly.

The ZedX has 2 distinct areas in the power band. The first, at 5K, the motor tells you that things are about to get very interesting so be ready, then at 7K the bike wants to pull your arms out! On/off throttle response is smooth with out any sudden jerks but still requires smooth inputs. If you're easy on the throttle the motor is very user friendly and every day usable. Start whacking the throttle and you induce tyre spinning front wheel lifting antics! This is old school technology here but the ZedX will still put you license in peril if not used with restraint. If you haven't been spoiled by the power delivery of the current crop of liter bikes then riding a 150hp Zed will put a stupid grin on your face!

Mr. Hyper bike himself the ZX-10R, what can be said that the mags haven't? This motor flat out RIPS!! Compact, light, small this damn thing puts down some serious power. Power delivery is very smooth and deceptive... you'll end up going much faster than you think. There isn't any sudden rush of power, just pulling and major speed. Throttle response is spot on, no surprises here, just easy smooth power. While the 10R doesn't have the character noise of the ZX motors it still has a nice growl and once WFO makes the sweetest noise you could hear. Stock exhaust note is absolute music from a factory system you won't find a better sound out of the showroom floor from any other bike.

How do the 2 compare directly? The 10R revs very much like a 600 all the way to redline while the ZedX is a little slower in comparison. The biggest difference in riding is low/mid range power the ZedX has it up to 9K. To get major torque out of the 10R you have to spin the motor up to about 9K to really feel the pull. This actually makes the ZedX easier to ride around town. With the ZedX you'll work the gearbox a bit more, but hey that's part of the fun.

Big question is which bike makes more power? I haven't dyno'd them back-to-back but the butt dyno says the 10R has more power up top. How much more remains to be seen. Torque goes to the ZedX but this is by the butt dyno here so it's more opinion then fact. The ZedX makes a good showing against the 10R but overall I have to say that the 10R will walk away from the ZedX once things reach about 9.5-10Krpms.

5 stars to the 10R and 4 stars to the ZedX.


1989 ZX-10B (modified)
Ergonomics 5
Instruments 3
Chassis 3.5
Braking 5
Transmission 5
Engine 4

Total: 25.5

2004 ZX-10R (stock)
Ergonomics 4
Instruments 5
Chassis 5
Braking 4.5
Transmission 5
Engine 5

Total: 28.5

As you can see by the numbers it goes to the 10R, but numbers aren't everything. If you can only have one bike that needs to do a bit of everything then the ZedX would be the bike of choice. You want a ripping corner carving 9-13K demon that can be ridden every day, then the 10R is for you. Make no mistake, neither bike is for the beginner or weak hearted. Both will land you in a world of hurt if not treated with respect.

What's your choice? You can have the super model that will take you places in a hurry and looks damn good doing it, or you have the curvy girl next door than when handled the right way will give you a ride to remember; your choice!

For me I'm spoiled it comes down to which one I want to flog first. Man, I love choices!

Ride well!


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