Being born in the early 80’s I missed the hype of the Z1, the original Kawasaki Z900RS. I think that’s a good thing, as I came into this review without any preconceived notions of what to expect, allowing me to judge the Z900RS on its own merits.
This doesn’t mean that I haven’t trawled the interwebs since, researching the origins of Z900RS dating back to the early 1970’s. Whilst I’ve come at this review focusing on the very modern bike before me, to ignore its history would be a damn shame.
Kawasaki’s Z900RS is a neo-retro sports naked bike that has real pedigree. Unlike a number of other bikes in the segment, the Z900RS isn’t designed to merely mimic sports naked bikes from yesterday. Instead, the bike draws on its heritage to produce a thrilling motorcycle that is equal parts style and performance.
We took the bike through its paces over a number of different environments. From busy city streets, to empty country roads and everything in between. So what did we think?
Despite the relatively hefty 214kg (wet) curb weight, the 948cc in-line 4 in the Z900RS provides plenty of shove. Around town, you’re never left wanting for performance, with plenty of punch to get you off the line and ahead of traffic. It’s not until you get out onto some empty country roads that you start to hit the bike’s limits – but trust us when we say you’ll still do it with a huge smile on your face.
One of the clever things about the Z900RS is that despite the curb weight, the bike never feels heavy. Incredibly flickable, the Z900RS holds a corner beautifully and does a good job of keeping its weight low. The gearbox is also sound, with up and downshifts clean and accompanied by an audible ‘click’ that we just couldn’t get enough of.
Overall, the gearing is pretty spot on, although the fueling in 1st feels a tad off, leading to a snatchy throttle that can catch you out if you’re not paying attention. But that’s splitting hairs; the overall performance from Kawasaki’s Z900RS was well above expectation. With 82kW of power peaking at 8500 RPM, the bike also revs a lot harder than you might anticipate. The torque curve is very linear, peaking at 98.5 Nm (6500 RPM), and whilst this does provide great pulling power early, there is a noticeable flat spot up high.
As you would expect from a naked retro, the seating position on the Z900RS is upright and incredibly comfortable. Plenty of padding and comfort is also provided from the saddle, even on longer rides.
The front forks and rear suspension provide a decent ride, straddling the line between comfort and performance fairly well. From time to time, however, we did find that larger potholes and poorer road surfaces stretched the suspension’s capabilities, causing a slight drop in comfort and cornering performance.
Braking was also highly capable, with the twin 300mm discs and monobloc 4-piston calipers up front providing plenty of stopping power. The rear 250mm disc with single-piston caliper also provided enough bite to keep you stationary when stopped at lights.
Kawasaki have done an incredible job with the styling of the Z900RS. Not only is the overall package an impeccable homage to the 70’s original, the quality and attention to detail on this motorcycle is thoroughly modern and of exceptional quality.
The tank itself is a thing of beauty, as is the colour matched tail section. The colour schemes for the entire Z900RS range have all been borrowed from their 70’s progeny, and the Candytone Green we had on loan is an exercise in how to do things properly.
True to its roots, the new Z900RS is a minimalist naked retro through and through. Yet where it does add some flair, as with the metallic paintwork, the execution is spot on. The chrome silencers, brushed aluminium tank badges and guards, and the obligatory round retro headlight are all of exceptional quality and provide a high-end aesthetic to a moderately priced motorcycle.
- An incredibly easy bike to ride
- Overall finish is exceptional
- Flat torque curve means the Z900RS has plenty of punch down low
- Fueling off at low revs, leading to a snatchy throttle
- Retro styling might not be for everyone
The Z900RS from Kawasaki is a great motorcycle. Aesthetically pleasing, with exhilarating performance, this is one bike that holds its own in and outside its segment. Interested? Head to your nearest Kawasaki dealer today and check one out.
Kawasaki Z900RS Specs/Features:
- Engine displacement: 948cc
- Power: 110 hp (82 kW) at 8500 RPM
- Torque: 98.5 Nm at (6500 RPM)
- Engine type: liquid-cooled, in-line 4, DOHC, 16 valves
- Clutch: wet, multi-disc (assist and slipper)
- Gearbox: 6-speed, return
- Final drive: chain
- Fork: 41mm inverted fork with compression and rebound damping and spring preload adjustability, 120mm travel
- Suspension: horizontal back-link, gas-charged shock with rebound damping and spring preload adjustability, 140mm travel
- Front brake: dual semi-floating 300mm discs with monobloc 4-piston calipers
- Rear brake: single 250mm with single-piston caliper
- Weight: 214kgs (wet)
- ABS (standard)
- Kawasaki Traction Control (3 levels), 2, 1, and off
- Full LED lighting