‘Warp speed, engaged’ – A used 2005 Kawasaki ZX10R Review – The Curtis Files Part 6

Following the disappointment of the Cagiva, I decided it was time to get something half decent. After some groveling and flowery words I had convinced Mrs. OnTheBackWheel that it was high time to hit the track! I mean, life begins when you are coming out of a corner sideways, tyre struggling for grip then punting it down the straight at 270+km/h right? And what does one need to hit the track (well, and look the business too)? Why, a sports bike of course! Let the games begin.

Initially, I tried to swap the Raptor for a sports bike. Being in a money challenged situation this was my best option unless someone came along and decided to buy it. Surprisingly, I got some decent swap offers, but eventually I was able to sell the bike. This proved to be a much better option in the long run as it gave me the freedom to buy the bike I wanted.

I was going to get a 600. What better way to learn on the track then getting a 600? Plus there are so many modern super sports on the market for a good price you can’t go wrong. The only issue I found is if you really scour the inter webs you can find a 1000 in similar condition for the same $$$. And 1000’s are bullshit fun. So the hunt began and I read every shoot-out there was on what year models were the ones to get. There were a few nice ZX6R’s floating about for cheap. I went and looked at a couple of 2007 models, the first was terrible and the second was great. I found them both to be a little bit cramped and lacking low down torque though, which could be a problem since I commute on my bikes. For once I didn’t rush into things and decided to look at a couple more bikes. A couple here, one shite 2007 Fire Blade there and I found what looked to be a nice 2005 Kawasaki ZX10R.

When I went to look at the bike, alarm bells started ringing. The place was a dive; the owner looked straight out of jail and he was missing most of his teeth. But the bike was damn good. He had all the receipts from new, books, original keys, new tyres and fresh oil. The man may have looked like a carnie but his papers were in order. The only fault was a leaky fork seal, but that’s easy enough to fix. Everything checked out, I gave the man $4500 (bargain!) and rode that puppy home.DSC_0246

The only Kawasaki I had owned up to this point was Mrs. OnTheBackWheel’s KLX125 (not quite in the same league) so I didn’t know what to expect. The reviews on the 2004-05 ZX10R’s are overwhelmingly positive so I had my hopes up and I haven’t been disappointed.

The 10R is certainly a sexy beast. Even Mrs. OnTheBackWheel agrees, and she called the MV Agusta an old man’s bike! While the bike is now 10 years old, she still looks modern and I’m certainly not ashamed when turning up to the Mount Glorious café on it. The massive Akrapovic exhaust is a bit of an eyesore, but that’s an easy enough fix if you are so inclined.

While I thought my GSXR had a motor, the 10R puts it to the sword and rams that sword up its delicate ass! It doesn’t have the low down grunt; in fact it’s quite docile down in the lower revs making it easy to ride around town. But as the revs pick up there is a wild hit at about 8000rpm.

The mighty ZX10R can certainly lay it down at the track
The mighty ZX10R can certainly lay it down at the track

The front wheel goes skyward and you have a holy shit moment. Warp speed, engaged. While initially terrifying and making you scream for Mummy, when you get used to this you’ll be grinning like an idiot inside your helmet. Not only does the 10R have big power, but it’s made in such a way that is stupidly fun. It’s a shame they toned this down in subsequent models.

The accompanying engine note is fantastic. It starts off as a snarl and then you can actually hear the air box filling with air. As the revs increase the engine whines and howls. Fueling is also great overall and if you are lucky you get the odd pop on deceleration. The gearing is pretty bloody tall. I ended up adding 2 teeth to the rear sprocket which has helped around town and on the track.

Not only does the Kwakka have motor for days, it’s light and nimble like a 600. Combine this with the top end hit of the motor and it makes for an interesting ride. Handling overall is fantastic and I love the way it corners in general, but the ZX10R can, and will give you a scare on occasion if you aren’t careful. How? Headshake my friends, headshake. When you know what to expect and tweak the suspension settings accordingly, things aren’t too bad. I have softened the rear slightly and taken a couple of clicks out of the forks rebound but it will still bite once in a while. Ultimately this can be fixed by adding a steering dampener. Honestly, I think it just adds to the bikes charm of being a wild child but it can make you think twice about pinning it.

The brakes are good, but do fade at the track. It was a great experience coming down the back of QLD Raceway and having the brakes fade so much the lever come all the way back to the bars! This can be helped somewhat but making sure the brakes are bled but at the end of the day this is down to the stock calipers. The pistons cook the brake fluid and subsequently you get brake fade. After doing a little bit of research I discovered that later model ZX6R or ZX14 calipers bolt straight on and alleviate this issue (and give better braking performance). People have also had good experiences with Brembo master cylinders too.DSC_0265

Comfort levels are standard sports bike fare. Not to say things are uncomfortable, but don’t expect the world. The seat is pretty good though. The suspension is definitely on the firm side (great on the track) and can jar over sharp bumps. Mind you I just leave mine at track settings because I’m lazy. For my Phillip Island trip I will definitely try soften things up through the clickers but it is never going to be a tourer.

One of the pleasant surprises has been fuel economy. I have averaged roughly 5.7-7.2 litres/100km. That’s bloody good for a sports bike, especially when considering I don’t hang around. That gives you a realistic tank range of 300kms when touring.

One of the main complaints people have with this bike is the digital tachometer. Personally I don’t mind it. Sure it’s not great but how often do you stare at the tacho? It’s a bit funky looking but works well. Switch gear is basic, but high quality. Reliability has been great overall along with solid build quality.

So, what do I think of the 2005 ZX10R? I think it’s an absolute pearler and one of the best second hand bikes you can buy. At the track it keeps up with modern bikes and on the road she will have you grinning like buggery. Sure it’s a bit wild on the limit but that just adds to the fun that is the first gen ZX10R. Unfortunately I will be selling the bike at the end of the year to get my dream bike (Aprilia Tuono V4), but I’ll damn sure enjoy it till then.

Until next week, keep it OnTheBackWheel…

I also rode the ZX10 to Phillip Island and back, you can read about it here.


  1. I too have have 05 10R. The most exciting bike I’ve ever owned, wheelies galore, silly fast. Best upgrades, Nitron rear race shock, Brembo radial front brake lever and a set of Giles adjustable clipons with risers fitted (gives me a more upright position and is more comfortable than my Honda CBF 1000) on drawback is the damm thing tries to push me off the back when giving big hand fulls of throttle (makes for good tank slapped a too!) I got mine setup just he way I want it, I can’t see me ever parting with this bike, it’s just become part of me over the past 11 years and I respect it every time I ride it. It’s a dangerous motor cycle, but every time it leaves me with a stupid smile on my face. AWESOME!!!


  2. ive got the 04 zx10r , in nebula blue, fantastic bike, ive gone for revalving the suspension, and one spring softer on the back, I ride it pretty hard, and its never shaken its head, the ktec suspension guru has raced all the zx10r , and reckons its suspension set up is the key, not steering dampner, they were set up 2 hard from new, ive also gone for 1 inch risers on the bars, and its now my most comftorble bike for riding back country roads, I think in time these will become very collectible so will hang on to mine, cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are a great thing Bruce. Once I had mine dialed in it was fantastic. Yours would be perfect with those mods. I wouldn’t hesitate in getting one again (maybe next track bike?).


  3. Guess what I just purchased 3-days ago…2005 ZX10R. Only $4600(NZ) 25000km rides like new missing a few fairing pieces. had a low speed crash by previous owner hence the price damage -is confined to the fairings. This is one of the best articles Ive seen written about the 2005 model. thanks. The thing I love about it – is how light it is – and lightening fast it is. of course the handling and suspension. is also light years ahead of what I used to ride. 170kg for a 1000cc superbike lol.
    has great balance low speed and warp speed.

    as other people have commented I also won’t be parting – with this Kawasaki Classic either.


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