For the next model year, Kawasaki is giving a modest update to its flagship model, the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. Mostly touching up its work from 2011 with a dollop of new paint, the one intriguing feature of the 2013 Kawasaki ZX-10R is its new electronic steering damper, which adjusts the level of steering damping based on how fast the motorcycle is traveling.

Kawasaki developed the damper with the help of a little Swedish company named Öhlins, and is the first manufacturer to use the new suspension from the famed suspension brand, which is sure to be a standard item on the bikes of other OEMs in the coming years — just like the Honda Electronic Steering Damper (HESD) that Big Red debuted circa 2004.

Bringing the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R in-line with the 2004 Honda CBR1000RR, Kawasaki’s addition of the latest damper from Öhlins is still an impressive piece of tech, though it may not be as revolutionary as some are making it out to be in the press, as it appears to function in a very similar manner to its Honda counterpart.

Using a dedicated ECU under the fuel tank cover, the Öhlins electronic steering damper calculates the rate of acceleration/deceleration and rear-wheel speed, and then electronically and automatically adjusts the level of the ZX-10R’s steering damping to meet the measured conditions. In practice, this means at slower city speeds, the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R will get a lighter amount of damping, while at faster velocities, a firmer amount of damping will be applied to the bike’s front-end.

To its credit, Kawasaki’s Öhlins-made electronic steering damper is perhaps one the best applications of electronic suspension tech (though you would be hard-pressed to find a rider demanding a better steering damper), as the steering damper is the one piece of suspension that could actually benefit from being adjusted on-the-fly during a motorcycle’s operation.

Sure, active suspension for the front forks and rear shock sound tantalizingly awesome, but 90% of the time in practice a rider can preset these components for their proscribed uses, i.e. for a track day or for a long highway ride. However, the need for more or less steering damping can vary hundreds of times on even the shortest of rides.

OEMs like Kawasaki were bound at some point to address this issue on sport bikes, and frankly Honda’s HESD is a very clever way of doing just that. Usually a set-it-and-forget-it item on sport bikes (even on those models that offer adjustable damping units), now that there is an Öhlins version of the HESD design, electronic steering dampers are sure to become more commonplace in OEM packages, thus bringing this nearly decade-old technology to the masses. Lovely.

In other news, Kawasaki has two new color schemes for the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R: Lime Green/Metallic Spark Black and Pearl Flat White/Metallic Spark Black. For 2013, the Kawasaki ZX-10R also gets a price increase of $300, bringing the MSRP of the 2013 Kawasaki ZX-10R to $14,299 ($15,299 for the ABS model).

Engine: Liquid-cooled 998cc Inline-Four, 16-valves
Bore and Stroke: 76.0 x 55.0mm
Compression Ratio: 13.0:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel-injection
Clutch: Wet multi-plate slipper clutch; Cable actuation
Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive: Chain 17F/39R
Frame: Twin-spar aluminum
Front Suspension: 43mm inverted Showa BPF; 3-way adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.7 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Horizontal back-link Showa gas-charged shock; 4-way adjustable for spring preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound damping; 4.9 in. travel
Front Brakes: 310mm petal discs with radial-mount Tokico four-piston calipers
Rear Brake: 220mm disc with single-piston caliper
Tires: 120/70R17, 190/55R17
Curb Weight: 439 lbs.
Wheelbase: 56.1 in.
Seat Height: 32.0 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallon
MSRP: $14,299
Colors: Lime Green/Metallic Spark Black; Pearl Flat White/Metallic Spark Black
Warranty: 12-month, unlimted mileage

Source: Kawasaki