The Öhlins Mechatronics electronically controlled shock for the Kawasaki ZX10-R is both a revolutionary yet evolutionary development. Öhlins have been playing with and have had various forms of electronically adjustable suspension for many years, as seen on bikes like the Ducati Multistrada and Ducati Panigale whilst race bikes have long bristled with various datalogging equipment. Back in 2008, Yamaha Motor Italia riders Noriyuki Haga and Troy Corser ran Öhlins electronic suspension on their YZF-R1's, in the World Superbike Championship...
Now the two have been combined together so the new EC shock absorber effectively reads the bike's 'brain' and adjusts accordingly. The shock is a top spec TTX36 MkII system fed by various inputs from a new ECU, which intercepts important info from the bike. The rider can affect how the system interprets the riding style in by choosing the different Kawasaki power modes.
The system uses all the information available based on many different parameters to figure out the desired damping force in each situation.
Stepper motors quickly work to firm or soften the suspension and make for a stiffer or plusher ride as the need arises. Less aggressive handling of the bike is rewarded with a softer suspension but it is adjusted to always provide a safe ride. Slow, non revving power characteristics are rewarded with one of a softer 'Comfort' setting but as you open up the power and the bike tries to 'squat'; the ECU interprets this to produce more damping, creating a 'Sports' ride and provide the rider with optimum grip and stability.
The system works over the shock's entire span of rebound and compression settings (30 clicks) in under 0.7 seconds, however in normal use the shock usually only has to make a smaller sudden change, which is typically carried out in less than 0.2 seconds. The electronically activated system works over the same span as the non EC TTX as it is essentially the same hardware.
The intelligent part of this Mechatronic suspension system are called Algorithms. These algorithms are basically a set of calculations which detects different riding conditions and calculates the desired damping force. This is where the classic Öhlins know-how about how to set up suspension has been replicated. The unique part with the mechatronic system is that you can use the optimal Öhlins setup for each situation detected. The information on exactly how this magic works is a well kept secret within the mechatronics department of Öhlins. The result is a shock absorber that is adjusted while riding to the pilot's riding style and chosen power modes.
Motorcycle Product Manager Peter Andersson explains, "We have been working on such systems for many years and had great experience with the Ducati Multistrada system. We also wanted to create an aftermarket system for a sports bike so we could help these riders who didn't want to sacrifice their road comfort for a track set-up and vice versa. Without a trained suspension technician it's very easy to go the wrong way on settings and this system takes away that uncertainty. You really can have the best of both worlds!"
But is the system 'semi-active' ? "Well yes, it is effectively 'Smart EC' " says Andersson, "Some testers and journalists have said they can't feel the shock adjusting- and that was the aim, smooth adjustment without any obvious change or movement to the rider, so he can concentrate on his riding. The more sport orientated the rider, the more he will be rewarded with a 'more racer' feel."
As well as the Multistrada and ZX-10R, there are aftermarket systems for the BMW R1200 GS, the awesome new Ducati Panigale comes with it as standard and there are many other applications in the pipeline.
So who would this shock be most appealing to? Trackday riders with limited set-up knowledge are the most obvious target- ride to and from the track in comfort, then go out in each session with a race prepared bike. Of course the same applies to road riders who don't want to compromise their normal riding comfort for the times when they want to attack the 'twisties' in those perfect weather and road conditions.
As one journalist put it on the World Launch "It's like having an Öhlins technician sitting pillion with a really long screwdriver!"