Kawasaki Unveils Ninjas In All Sizes

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Kawasaki dealers will be selling an updated family of Ninja sportbikes in 2008, a lineup that'll include the radically redesigned 250R and ZX-10R, and an even stronger ZX-14.

The company increases its domination of the sub-599cc market with the release of the newly designed Ninja 250R, a bike that now comes with more super sport flair — a full fairing was sculpted after those of its larger siblings and the 249cc parallel twin powerplant has been retuned for more low- and midrange power with revisions to its dual overhead camshafts and a new 2-into-1 exhaust system.

While the '08 ZX-10R will again be powered by the company's 998cc inline four, with bore, stroke and compression unchanged, the powerplant has been further refined with secondary fuel injectors, a switch to oval throttle bodies, reshaping of the intake ports, a larger airbox, and an exhaust system designed to flow better but generate less noise and emissions. Still, perhaps the trickest of the updates comes in the form of a new ignition system that assists with torque management by monitoring throttle opening, gear position and rate of rpm change, then retarding ignition timing to reduce torque when sudden unwanted rpm spikes are detected.

Kawasaki's ZX-14 has been in stiff competition with Suzuki's flying Hayabusa since it was introduced in March 2006. Because close competition breeds rabid development, it's no surprise that both companies boosted the performance of their bikes for 2008. However, unlike the physically morphed Hayabusa, you won't actually see many of the changes made to the 2008 ZX-14. Kawasaki just wanted to make sure you'd feel them.

Updates to the engine and exhaust system were needed for the bike to comply with stricter Euro III emissions and tightening noise regulations. However, against expectations, the result wasn't a power loss but higher peak power, a stronger and smoother mid range and an increase in low-end torque. With the frame, Kawasaki switched to die casting instead of gravity casting for the cast aluminum sections, which resulted in lighter parts and an ultimately lighter total package.

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Guido Ebert