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  • December 6, 2016
  • Dirck Edge and Alfonse Palaima
  • Kevin Wing
  • 129 Comments

2017 Kawasaki Z650 ABS: MD First Ride

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There seems to be a growing acceptance, appreciation even, for mid-displacement motorcycles here in the United States market. In the land where “bigger is better”, engine displacement inflation seemed like a never ending process until just a few years ago.

Indeed, now buyers are interested in, and purchasing, small displacement models such as the Kawasaki Ninja 300, Yamaha R3, etc. Is there a perfect engine displacement … something in between? We hereby nominate the 650cc twin (although, include Yamaha’s FZ-07 in that category).

Can you have an approachable machine (entry-level friendly) with big-bike power and have it priced right in the middle? Can you get a 6-speed, liquid-cooled, fuel injected engine with a low curb weight and excellent fuel economy?  Yes you can.

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For the 2017 model year, Kawasaki has added two new models to its naked “Z” line-up. Along with the eagerly anticipated Z900 (calling to mind the original 903cc 1972 Z1), the Z650 is the newest member of the family. Although Kawasaki has had 650cc parallel-twins in its lineup for years, the 2017 Z650 is no mere “refresh”.

An entirely new steel trellis frame (and an attached, attractive gull swingarm) plays a big role in the headline feature: a claimed weight loss of roughly 40 pounds compared to the similar, prior model. Claimed curb weight is 406 pounds (with the 4 gallon fuel tank full) or 410 pounds for the ABS model. Losing 40 pounds from a relatively modern design is almost unheard of, but Kawasaki found a way to do it. It hints at a completely changed character for a model that largely carries over the engine.

Speaking of that 649cc parallel-twin engine, it did receive several changes. You can read more details in our Z650 preview article, but revisions to the cams, intake ports, airbox and headers were all focused on increasing low-to-mid-range power. With a 180° crank, Kawasaki added a balancer shaft to smooth things out. An “assist and slipper clutch” combines light lever pull with strong engagement under acceleration and slip under deceleration to prevent wheel lock-up.

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Suspension is largely non-adjustable (only spring preload on the rear shock), but the shock now features a progressive linkage. Brakes include two 300 mm petal discs squeezed by two-piston calipers in front, and a single 220 mm disc out back.

Since I just stepped off a huge adventure motorcycle (BMW GS) finishing an 11,000 mile trip through South America, the Z650 was a shock to my system. What I mean is that it is quite small and light. Picking the bike up off the side stand in the parking lot it felt like a toy in comparison. The seat height is also quite low (30.9 inches), and the foot pegs a short reach (ideal for shorter riders). The tall bars create an upright rider triangle, and comfortably shaped and adjustable clutch and brake levers add a nice touch.

This bike feels narrow between your legs, and quite nimble as you toss it into corners. Despite some wet weather at the press launch, good feedback from the Dunlop tires made the little Z650 feel planted and stable, as well.

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Feedback and power from the brakes is not at sportbike levels, but it is plenty strong for such a light machine (bikes like this made due with a single front disc not so long ago). Initial bite is pretty strong,  so go easy on the first few pulls of the lever, as this little bike stops fast.  The clutch and six-speed transmission did their job well enough to fade into the background and let me concentrate on the limited traction offered by the wet roads.

Real world engine performance is impressive with very good low rpm and mid-range response. The bike also pulls well above 6,000 rpm. Very flexible … feeling almost like a larger displacement bike at most street rpm levels. You can feel vibration through the pegs and bars, but it wasn’t bothersome (and the rear-view mirrors generally exhibited little vibration or distortion). Kawasaki knows how to tune this engine — it sits in the flat tracker under Flyin’ Bryan Smith  that has earned plenty of wins and an AMA championship.

We couldn’t measure fuel economy (we will do so in a longer-term review — ed.), but previous iterations of this engine from Kawasaki easily earned mid-40 mpg’s.

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The new instrument panel is legible and offers all the usual information, as well as a prominent gear-position indicator. The digital tach has three read-out styles from which you can choose. Choose between a single “arm”, a sweeping “arm” with a solid trail between zero and “X”, and a third option that includes a ghostly “trailing” affect which follows the needle up and down the rev range.  A user-selectable shift-up indicator speaks to the riders ready to rip with the Z650.

Furthermore, the Kawasaki genuine accessory catalog helps to make your bike yours with frame sliders, a dark flyscreen, a radiator guard, saddle bags, a tank bag, scratch-preventing decals and a rear pillion seat cover to clean up the racing style.  Reportedly, the aftermarket exhausts for the sister Ninja 650 will also fit the Z650 for even more horsepower and style.

With an U.S. MSRP of $6,999 ($7,399 for the ABS model), the new Z650 offers some unique features and will clearly be competitive in a class that includes Yamaha’s FZ-07 and Suzuki’s SV650. MD already has a Z650 in the garage for a longer-term review (see Dirck’s first thoughts below). Two color choices include Pearl Flat Stardust White / Metallic Spark Black and Metallic Flat Spark Black / Metallic Spark Black.  Visit Kawasaki’s web site for additional details and specifications.

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Dirck’s First Thoughts:

After Fonz attended the press launch, Kawasaki loaned us a Z650 for a longer-term evaluation. I have already put roughly 50 miles on the bike, and have some fairly distinct first impressions, myself. The new steel-trellis frame and gull-style swingarm, together with the huge weight loss, make the Z650 feel very different from the last Ninja 650 we tested.

This bike feels smaller and quicker. Low-end and mid-range power surprised me, although the bike may be missing a little on top compared to the prior engine’s performance.  A good trade-off in my opinion.  This bike is faster in the real world. The other thing that immediately struck me is much improved feedback through the new steel frame.

I don’t want to say too much until I have ridden the bike more.  Stay tuned for a full MD Ride Review.

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129 Comments

  1. hipsabad says:

    And can you have said machine with decent passenger accommodation? No, not yet

  2. skytzo says:

    “Along with the eagerly anticipated Z900 (calling to mind the original 903cc 1972 Z1)”
    Eagerly anticipated by whom exactly? Unless you were referring to the rumoured retro Z900 which isn’t happening instead of the pumped up Z800 transformer-esque naked we’re actually getting.

    • Selecter says:

      I, for one, eagerly await ride reviews of the Z900. The Z800 was an extremely competent bike, Kawasaki just couldn’t market its way past the bike weighing a LOT for its category. The Z900 allegedly fixes the weight, and adds a much more highly-tuned engine in essentially the same type of package.

      There is rumored to be a pseudo-retro modeled after this model, as you say. But, it’s not here quite yet, and who knows that it will be. But, 100% of riders don’t hang on the shape of the headlight as an indicator of how good or appealing a machine it is.

  3. silver says:

    FZ07 all day long over this thing

    • mickey says:

      and why?

    • Mindspin says:

      I have one. The FZ-07 is by no means a perfect bike. It’s engine is strong, but everything else is budget and the styling is take it or leave it. The SV650 is a more balanced bike (also better looking) and I can see this Kawasaki being similar.

    • Mindspin says:

      FZ-07 isn’t that great. I have one. It’s good, but by no means perfect. I could see myself enjoying this Z650 or an SV650 more.

  4. Stratkat says:

    to all you cry babies with the vibration issues, let me tell you a little story…
    it was a dark rainy night, no wait – i bought a brand new KTM LC4 Supermoto. my first rides on it were fantastic but the vibration was so bad i would actually get nauseous, actually thought about bringing it back but i loved the bike. you know what?, as it broke in the vibration went away to a point where i never noticed it and i rode that bike hard for the next 10 years. it was one of the most fun bikes ive ever owned. thing is many of the bikes ive owned had reviews that would bring up vibration, tingles in the footpegs, vibration in the grips at certain RPMs, etc. i just rode the damn things and never really noticed anything much at all. they are motorcycles damnit, if you cant take a bit of vibration, stay home on you soft couch!!!

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Or we can just buy bikes that don’t vibrate that much.

      And having experience with the knobby tire version of your KTM, I would say that it didn’t break in… It broke you. But on the brightside, that irreparable nerve damage allows you to ride motorcycles with little thought to vibration. 🙂

    • Selecter says:

      As soon as I read “KTM LC4”, one of my fillings popped out. Thanks, Stratkat…

  5. Artem says:

    Vanguard at the article below is rather better.
    A kind of future.
    Do not drive bikes usually.

  6. ONE UPPER says:

    Guess evryone here has forgotten about the new Benelli 600!This Kaw has dated suspension and just a twin as the TNT has 4 cyl and inverted forks and better warranty.The exhaust is not a bucket of metal and easy on the eyes.Typical Kaw in cutting corners when they can

  7. Rusty Nail says:

    SO where will Kwakasucki find a 75 pound women with a tight butt to pose on this newest iteration of a failed twin concept ( 180 crank ) that will fool everybody into thinking it is an adult machine ? Nothing wrong with the displacement, until anybody over 5 ft 6in tall is displaced from the market. Don’t forget the Kwaka 5 inch rule for shift lever to foot peg dimension since the 1970s. Have a nice day.

    • Provologna says:

      Please, do make your next post more cryptic, and fill it w/more pointless hate.

      /sarc off

      • Rusty Nail says:

        Do not confuse pointless hate with contempt for style over function in design .

        • Provologna says:

          Let’s see: you’ve never even SEEN this bike in the flesh. You hate the bike.

          The road test author is a full time pro w/motoX race history. He liked the bike.

          You tell readers nothing about the bike, but you sure as hell tell us everything about yourself.

          • steve says:

            review basically hinted it was for small riders. I gather rusty nail is not short, I’m 6 3 and nearly half the bikes for sale today suck for tall people, but yes many of those bikes are still very good

          • mickey says:

            lol, I’m 5’6″ 27″ inseam… and can tell you the other half of bikes for sale today suck for short people

          • Grover says:

            I’m average height and they all work for me!

    • red says:

      “failed”, how so? selling well in multiple models for > 10 yrs now, good reputation for reliability, flat track successes. Sounds like a winner. Also I’ve had a couple, still have one. my experience is all good.

      • Rusty Nail says:

        Failed in the sense that smoothness, power and traction are all factors in good motorcycle engine design. The 270 crank has much less stress than a 180, and a pleasent thruming vibration, closer to your heartbeat than the buzzing vibration that is somewhere in the operating rpm range of a 180. More importantly the closer power pulses give a longer thrust time line per wheel revolution out back yonder where it counts. Yea I also like two pistons not comming to a stop or start at the same time. That is a thumper or a 360 crank.

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “The 270 crank has much less stress than a 180, and a pleasent thruming vibration”

          negative Ghost Rider.

          re: “the buzzing vibration that is somewhere in the operating rpm range of a 180.”

          Triumph Bonnie for the WIN…!!!

          • Rusty Nail says:

            Can not tell for sure what you are saying, but will take a shot. Fact – the 270 degree crankshaft does suffer much less torsional stress per revolution than a 180. Fact – A 180 crankshaft engine will have a buzzy vibration somewhere in the rpm range (excluding the action of a seperate balancer). The typical 4 cylinder inline does the same thing because it is two twins 180 degrees apart. Most of this can be mitigated by auxillary design to a point, but inherently buz vib is there.
            Notice that all the 2017 Triumph twins are 270 cranks. Nothing is perfect, but our personal choices with dollars.

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “A 180 crankshaft engine will have a buzzy vibration”

            see Wikipedia entry for the Beach Boy’s “Good Vibrations”. just because one cites the term “vibration” one should not automatically assume everyone (and their nana) interprets that in the negative. Harley Davidson riders and lonely housewives who can’t wait for their husbands to return from out town business trips know what i’m talking about.

            re: “Notice that all the 2017 Triumph twins are 270 cranks.”

            “notice” there’s nothing new about Triumph and the use of 270 cranks in their P-twins. if you recall they were running 90 degree offsets a DECADE ago in a now defunct cruiser model called (wait for it) the Speedmaster.

            what that means is, if 270 were inherently “desirable” and “beneficial” as you say…? there was NOTHING stopping them from rolling it out across the line up way back in ’07 as they were already incurring the cost of manufacturing (and stocking) 2 different crank configurations.

            no, what you are simply seeing is the decisions of manufacturing and marketing internal to Triumph intersecting with the undeveloped MotoIQ of the consumer, and the external marketing effects of Yamaha’s “Crossplane campaign”. Iwata’s returned to making a triple and it’s been very successful at stealing market share away from Hinckley, a market for awhile they had all to themselves (also ref the TDM850 circa ’91 vs ’96). no, the HT-900 and HT-1200 engines are nothing more than a “counter marketing strategy” as History begins repeating itself.

        • red says:

          the kwakker 180 twin is winning ama flat track titles galore. Is that yamaha 270 going to show up with it’s superior “smoothness, power and traction” any time soon?

          And as former XS650 guy.. the 180 crank motor is like relative buttah. I don’t have enough butt time on a 270 to compare.

          • Rusty Nail says:

            I don’t know. Fact – Racing is not riding day in and day out with street concerns. Try a Triumph Scrambler with carbs.

          • red says:

            Fact: Bears, Beets, Battlestar Gallactica

            Fact: your claim of failed Kwakker 650 due to 180 crank is a bunch of baloney. By any metric it’s a great motor and will be around racing and road riding for years.

          • Dave says:

            “Failed in the sense that smoothness, power and traction are all factors in good motorcycle engine design”

            “Fact – Racing is not riding day in and day out with street concerns.”

            This bike’s engine is winning on AMA flat track, against higher displacement v-twins, where just about the *only* important thing is drive traction off of the corners.

            There 1,000’s are owners of older versions of this bike that have loved them for thousands of road miles. Maybe listen to what they have to say instead of regurgitating stuff you’ve read on internet forums about engine configurations.

          • Mindspin says:

            Not saying I’m agreeing with Rusty Nail, but the FZ-07 engine is racing AMA flat-track now. Started in 2015 I’m pretty sure.

        • Dave says:

          Re: “More importantly the closer power pulses”

          Also not true..

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQuqkh3ZEo4

          • Rusty Nail says:

            Dave, After 54 years of motorcycling, which includes open desert, street, trials, rebuilding, and modification I am still learning, but some basics don’t change. Regugitation not required. Enjoy your racing values while they last. PS – When any machine vibrates it is wasted energy.

          • Dave says:

            All reciprocating enginnes vibrate. A 270 crank engine doesn’t vibrate any less than a 180, it just does so at a different frequency.

            You are being challenged for using the word “fact” just before statements that aren’t facts.

          • Chris says:

            Regugitation?

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “PS – When any machine vibrates it is wasted energy”

            OVERRULED…! i’m going to allow it. (cantankerous Judge voice)

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          I’d have to disagree with you there. Both 180° and 270° twins have to be effectively counterbalanced to be rideable, and the Kawasaki certainly is. I haven’t logged enough time on the FZ-07 to make a fair comparison, but it did seem to vibrate much more noticeably than the Kawasaki twin. Could also just be I’m more sensitive to the frequencies emphasized by the 270° though. I don’t know if you are right about stress levels on the two cranks, but Kawasaki isn’t breaking any. So I’d say the additional stress is irrelevant.

          As far as the thrust timeline at the rear wheel, the benefit of that is still largely theoretical. The Kawasaki has proven very effective in flat track racing, so I just don’t see that being very material, at least not at these power levels.

          • Mindspin says:

            I do notice a more constant vibration from the FZ-07 engine. It has a couple sweet spots to cruise with almost none or a pleasant frequency. It’s not like the 90 degree V-twin it’s trying to emulate which is inherently balanced. The Kawi 650 engine like most 180 twins and 4cyl engines is the opposite, mostly smooth with some points in the rev range that have a harmonic vibration or buzz. Switching to my friend’s Ninja 650 after a day on my FZ-07 instantly felt smoother and more comfortable, except for the higher footpegs. The first and largest difference I noticed was the lack of engine vibration. I thought the bike wasn’t running at some points.

            The rear wheel traction difference seems to only matter in dirt situations and high level racing like when MotoGP was two stroke with no traction control.

          • Norm G. says:

            for the record everyone I consider the 270 in Yam’s offering in the 1200 Adventure category “weak” and “uninspiring”. admittedly I have not ridden the FZ-07 but I suspect I would be equally “underwhelmed”.

            right then, Norm G officially flashes the Yamaha Tenere his best McKayla Maroney face, NOT IMPRESSED…

            http://tinyurl.com/hkpuyc2

        • Grover says:

          Compared to British twins of yore, these new twins are as smooth as silk, and that includes the modern twins produced by Triumph. We must be girly men to be complaining about vibes these days. A little remembrance back to the old days gives one a needed perspective that will redefine your opinions on viibbrraattiioonn.

          • mickey says:

            yes, we are spoiled these days. Funny enough the vibration was the least of your worries with an old British twin.. keep the oil inside, getting it started and keeping the lights on drew most of our attention back then. At least if it was vibrating it was still running.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      The 180 crank is a failed concept? How so?

    • Tim says:

      Sounds like the Versys is the bike for you, Rusty Nail. Plenty of seat height and leg room. I had one and it had more leg room from seat to pegs than my BMW K1600 GTL, and it was taller too. Or, they also make the KLR 650, which is even taller, with even more leg room (I can attest as I own one of those too).

      By the way, I loved the 650 twin’s motor. It was a wheelie fiend.

      • Rusty Nail says:

        I checked out a Versy several years ago, but the Freeway speed vibes were not my cup of tea. The direct action swing arm also felt a little less compliant than I wished for in a street dual purpose. Your right about the fit for a 34in inseam. The KLR 650 just did not feel like a British thumper bttom to mid range.

        • Mindspin says:

          2015+ Versys is a revised bike, new suspension, most vibes worked out. I’d buy. Remains to be seen if new 650 chassis will be used for future Versys.

      • Tim says:

        I rode the Versys from KC to California and back, KC to Yellowstone and back, KC to Mississippi and back, and on several trips to Colorado. The engine buzz at 80 to 85 mph really didn’t seem to be that noticeable to me at the time. Maybe it would be now that I’ve had the smooth 6 cylinder GTL for several years. Though, I did have a Triumph Sprint at the same time as the Versys, which has a smooth motor. I remember reading some complaints about it, at the time, but I never found it to be a problem.

        My first ride on the KLR (which I just bought this summer) had me thinking I had made a big mistake. At roughly 1/4 of the HP of the GTL, it really seemed underpowered (and it is). But I’ve actually grown to love it and I tend to ride it a lot more than the GTL. For one thing, it’s much lighter and it is just less of a pain to get out of the garage, making me more motivated to ride it. But, also, it is just more friendly in surburban stop and go traffic. The GTL wins the sound battle though. That 6 cylinder sound is intoxicating at higher RPM ranges.

  8. PatrickD says:

    40 lbs weight reduction is incredible and helps the bike regardless of what parameter you’re trying to improve. It’s entirely conceivable that Kawasaki recognized the importance of supertwin racing class (which Yamaha inexplicably sidestepped when specifying the FZ-07). That the rear shock is no longer offset (from what I can see) gives even more credence to the racing influence (Panigale, notwithstanding….).

    With a young family and less long distance running, I’ve ‘traded down’ to an SV650S for the last year and haven’t regretted it for a moment. Shifting gears is part of the fun of motorcycling, and I’m almost never north of 90mph on the road anyway. I do the odd trackday and get a holiday on the Isle of Man for the Classic TT, and I really don’t need anything bigger.
    OK – the no-speed-limit mountain section might swallow power, but I get scared plenty, thanks all the same.

  9. Cyclemotorist says:

    How tall is the rider in the picture? I’m 6’3″ and I want to know if I could fit this motorcycle.

    • Dave says:

      Cycle World’s writer who covered this bike is 6’3″, he said legroom was cramped for him.

      • Provologna says:

        I respectfully posit that inseam is ideal arbiter Re. seat to peg distance. The rider’s weight “bears” on the issue (no pun intended); the lighter the rider the less does foam compress, and the less is knee bend angle.

        A tailor determines proper pant size by measuring inseam, not overall height.

        I’m 6-3 w/34+” inseam. KTM’s Adventure 990 fits me like a glove.

  10. Benni says:

    If you are going to make a reasonable bike for the masses, use a belt drive and choose a frame and engine layout that makes servicing by the owner reasonable. This one looks like getting to the valves is going to be a bitch. And tell us what the service intervals are in the review.

    • jimmihaffa says:

      Kawasaki has a knack for this. I once owned a ZL900 Eliminator with frame rails passing about a half inch over the motor. Forget needle nose pliers, you needed surgical tools to attach some of the vacuum hoses and emission valves.

    • Vrooom says:

      While chain drive doesn’t bother me, that valve cover does look tough to get off with the frame nestled around it like that and the radiator up against the front side.

  11. Norm G. says:

    re: “There seems to be a growing acceptance, appreciation even, for mid-displacement motorcycles here in the United States market.”

    no love.

  12. Denny says:

    This new generation of 2 cylinders make lots of sense, in many ways. Z650 seem to be prime example of meaningful motorcycle. If they lowered weight, so much better.

  13. red says:

    Just a round headlight away from being the perfect little roadster.

    • mickey says:

      and a more reasonable passenger seat

      • red says:

        meh. don’t ugly it up, it’s not a 2-up bike

        Even with a decent seat your passenger will be only slightly less pissed off.

        • mgood3 says:

          I think a more passenger friendly seat would make the bike look better. Hate that ‘ass-in-the-air’ look, and my girlfriend hates it even more than me. Yes, this is definitely a ‘solo’ ride in factory config. So, is that a general use / all-rounder motorcycle when you can’t take a passenger with you?

  14. Auphliam says:

    I think you guys mean GullWing-style swingarm.

    Nice looking bike though. The small and mid displacement market is really filling up with some nice bikes from Japan and Europe. I think the recent trend could be attributed in part to engine technology evolving. Similar to the automotive industry. Years ago, if you wanted a 300+hp motor in your car, it had to be a V-8. Now they get that and more out of some 4 cylinders. I believe that same thinking may have driven the motorcycle industry too, but now small displacement engines perform at a much higher level than in the past.

    • Dave says:

      Re:”now small displacement engines perform at a much higher level than in the past.”

      While reliability and usability have improved, output is about the same. The Honda VF500 and Kawasaki EX500 both make about the same hp/cc as any of the latest recreational sport bikes do. The old air cooled CB450’s made as much hp as the current CB500 does.

      I like the direction the moto industry has been going. There’s less emphasis on hp/cc and this 650 is a great example of where they’ve improved performance for street riding.

      What we’re lacking compared to the automotive industry are things like VVT and direct-injection. With these we could see high performance engines yield much better low RPM drive-ability and fuel mileage.

      • Curly says:

        “The old air cooled CB450’s made as much hp as the current CB500 does.”
        No the old CB450 made just 44HP at the crank (37-38 at the rear wheel) and that went down to around 40HP at the crank for the later CB500T (“T Dog”). The dyno runs I’m seeing posted for the new CB500s are 43-45 at the rear wheel which means they are making 50 or better at the crank.

        The new gen twins make plenty of smooth power compared to the paint shakers of the 60s and 70s and they do it with much better fuel economy and driveability.

        • Dave says:

          Fair enough, I stand corrected, but 35-40 years, water cooling and +50cc has added ~6hp. Both the VF500r and the EX500 make more power than 20+ years newer Honda CB500, which speaks to my 2nd point.

          I agree, there’s no comparison in refinement from the old stuff to the new stuff.

  15. John Bryan says:

    Pretty nifty looking bike – though I can’t help but wish this had a real seat – sorry to sound like the old fogey that I am, but any bike that isn’t a dedicated sport bike, cruiser, or a dirt bike (and even some of those!) should have a seat that looks a lot like the seat on an 80s Suzuki GS850G. I guess that doesn’t work with styling by Optimus Prime…

    And wouldn’t that sour apple green frame look awesome with the black bodywork?

  16. azi says:

    Kawasaki’s 2017 street range is looking good to me. The Z650 sounds great on paper, and I’m interested in how flexible the motor feels around town. The basic suspension and brakes are a little disappointing, but it’s no different to the other brands in this class. (Has Showa Bending Valve tech made it into these budget bikes?)

    The Z900 is the one that has really got my attention as it’s nicer than the Z800 but not as over-the-top as the Z1000, GSX-S1000, or FZ10. Looks like a good honest street bike with a dealer support network that can’t be matched by Triumph and its Speed Triple. I’m very keen to check it out when it arrives.

  17. Jonny Blaze says:

    Hope the new chassis, engine and swing arm combination get incorporated into the next generation Versys 650, with 17/19 wheels.

  18. steveinsandiego says:

    i owned an 09 kawi 650 for six years and 56k miles. super fun, way more power than i needed, comfy; the only problem? needed a new stator at about 55k miles – boo. otherwise, allow me to opine that the z650 should be a winner.

  19. Butch says:

    As for the mid size market, I think Kawasaki hit the mark with this one.
    More power, with a 40 lb weight loss.
    I personally favor the 180 crank layout over the 270 that seems to be the current trend with vertical twins.
    Yes, they tend to be a little buzzy at speed but they seem to rev a bit more quickly over the 270.
    Looking forward to a test ride.

    • Mindspin says:

      Yeah the 270 crank sounds good, like a V-twin at low revs and an R1 at high revs, and has nice torque, but I’m kinda over it on the FZ. I miss the revvy nature of the 180 twin and 4cyl Japanese engines. I rode a Ninja 650 back to back with my FZ and the uncomfortable vibrations are far more noticeable on the Yamaha. The Ninja was pretty smooth. The Versys 650 has a nice induction noise from its airbox. I think I’d rather have the real V-twin of the SV650 (which is inherently balanced) or the Kawi twin at this point. BUT with a nice exhaust I know I’d rather have the 270 twin over the 180. I’ve never heard a 80 twin that had an appealing sound. I guess they all have their pluses and minuses.

      • Dave says:

        I wonder why would a 180 crank rev any faster than a 270? The 270 jas the benefit of inertial balance (“stopped piston@ tdc canceled out by other piston moving @ full speed).

        This bike is very appealing but it looks really small.

        • todd says:

          It wouldn’t create any more torque either since it’s the same displacement and same heads.

          • Mindspin says:

            The FZ-07 is a 690cc not 650 if that’s what you’re saying. Also, tuning has everything to do with power and torque figures. Displacement not as much. You can certainly have two of the same 650cc twin engines with different tuning and one can have much more power and torque, same head also.

      • Cyclemotorist says:

        The revvy nature isn’t a result of the 180° crank design. It’s more a result of the induction system, camshaft timing and duration and crank counterweight weight—flywheel effect.

        But I can understand why people ascribe characteristics to the various crank designs. It’s just a misunderstanding.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “I personally favor the 180 crank layout over the 270 that seems to be the current trend with vertical twins.”

      see, Butch Patrick gets it.

  20. todder says:

    Lets hope this smaller displacement engine trend means we actually see the 300ccc adventure bike from Kawsaki. Hopeful this pressures Suzki to update the DR650/DRZ400.

    • Mindspin says:

      The Vesys-X 300 will be available for 2017. It’s on their website. It’s on my list of potential purchases.

  21. Tom says:

    Excellent review of what appears to be an excellent, well-balanced bike. The Z650 is perhaps a response to the frequent complaint, “Why don’t they make real bikes for real riders anymore?”

  22. dt 175 says:

    Triple discs? Check. Moon Dust Silver paint? Check. Long, shiny, flowing dual exhaust and duck tail? Oh well..

  23. CrazyJoe says:

    Suzuki is calling something they did with the sv 650 a scrambler. Whatever it’s called it looks good. Can kawasaki be thinking the same here? Honda?

    It looks pretty good as is. I really liked it when I first saw it but the picture shows it’s pillion sticking up. cant it be can be lowered? Why do they do that? Does raising the brake light higher help prevent getting rear ended? I have to climb on the side stand to get on a bike but it’s ugly sticking up like that.

    • Froste says:

      I, too, am wondering why the rear fender needs to be as high as the handlebar. It ain’t a dirt bike. What’s the big idea? Hmmm?

      • Johnny ro says:

        Maybe back seat riders are mostly women about six-eight inches shorter than the rider? Can see better to the front while riding?

        Hmm, on second look, that tiny perch may be made for kids, with same effect. Helps them see being up high.

        OK looking bike, I am old school and like round chrome headlights and what goes with that. Oh well.

        • CrazyJoe says:

          That explains why so many back seats are no bigger than a FHP.

          I seen mostly girls riding behind and they usually texting.

        • mickey says:

          Of course they would have to have the flexibility of a ballerina to swing a leg over it and climb up there, and then be willing to sit on a 1″ thick 6×10″ pad.

          At 64 that isn’t happening with my wife.

          All these new bikes are made for solo riding or finding a very young, very light, very skinny very willing passenger

    • mickey says:

      The Suzuki SV 650 scrambler is the laziest attempt at cashing in on the scrambler kick that I have ever seen. It’s a standard SV 650 with a brown seat and a chopped front fender. Same engine, frame, suspension, exhaust. What a joke

  24. Jeremy in TX says:

    I’ve definitely grown tired of $15K+ motorcycles from the awe-inspiring capabilities of the latest 200hp sportbikes to the luxurious ADV bikes that are all the rage. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate them for what they are. I’m just tired of buying them. I don’t need or even miss the power and luxuries. For all that these amazing motorcycles now deliver, something is just missing. The thrill is definitely gone.

    The newest wave of middle weight bikes definitely call to me, especially now that the industry is finally seeing some value in reducing weight. These bikes make great track toys and all-around motorcycles.

    I’ve always liked the little Kawasaki twin – it made great power everywhere in the rev range, a feature that is apparently improved upon. I think the bike looks great, too. I look forward to the full review.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “$15K+ motorcycles from the awe-inspiring capabilities of the latest 200hp sportbikes to the luxurious ADV bikes that are all the rage.”

      much love.

    • Mindspin says:

      Agreed. Just as I have a hard time spending more than $25k for a new car I have hard time spending more than $10k for a new bike. It’s pretty impressive what you can buy in a motorcycle for less than $10k these days, and typically it will last, small or large. Some are more high strung and will wear out parts faster. Two bikes that continue to interest me for their known longevity are the V-Strom 650 and revived Bandit 1250S, both can be bought new for very reasonable prices. Not to mention the GSX-S1000F offering probably the best performance to dollar ratio currently available. Kudos to the perennial underdog that is Suzuki.

  25. RRocket says:

    I still rather the Duke 690…or the upcoming Duke 800.

  26. Neil says:

    I like it. Being that the CB500F is my daily ride, this bike fits right in with more power. The ergos look cramped but on my CB a Corbin seat helped. I also fitted a Peske shock to smooth out the ride. Great economical ride that can be used for more than just one season. I think more people should be tooling around on mid sized motors you can really get the throttle into. You can really throw a bike like this into a corner. Commuting. Canyon carving. A bike like this will get it done and looks nice now too. I rode the FZ07 and the throttle was not as nice as my CB.

    • Mindspin says:

      CB500F is a smooth bike that is well balanced overall, and generally underrated. The FZ-07 is more abrupt on/of throttle, the power is nice, suspension and brakes suck. I hope the footpegs on the Kawi are not as high as the outgoing Ninja 650, that would be such a mistake that would alienate many tall riders. Can’t wait for a comparison review of this, the Yamaha, Suzuki, and whatever else they throw in.

      • Neil says:

        Looks like they moved the pegs. They knew about that one. Bars up? Pegs down. Bars down? Pegs up. Gotta seesaw those babies.

  27. Mindspin says:

    Considering the FZ-07 has crap suspension, questionable ergonomics (including a horrible soft seat) and styling that never grew on me like I had hoped, this Z650 could be the answer. They dropped the weight by following the FZ-07 formula, and it looks better and seems more balanced. The Suzuki SV650 is a classic given new life, and it’s very good looking IMO, but it’s about 30lbs heavier than it should be, yet still rides and handles better than the FZ-07. The Yamaha’s engine is it’s showpiece, and nearly everything else falls short to hit that $6990 price point. Personally, if I got rid of my FZ I want a fairing this time so I’d probably go for the new Ninja 650 instead, but the SV650 still calls to me. Honestly, too many good choices for 2017.

    • Tom R says:

      “The Suzuki SV650 is a classic given new life, and it’s very good looking IMO, but it’s about 30lbs heavier than it should be, yet still rides and handles better than the FZ-07.”

      So apparently the fact that it is “about 30 lbs heavier” is irrelevant, OR actually contributes to the Suzuki riding and handling better than the Yamaha.

      Being lighter does not necessarily make a bike better.

      • Mindspin says:

        In most cases lighter is always better for handling and power:weight, but if you can properly balance the suspension with the chassis then handling is fine regardless. Suzuki accomplished this and Yamaha didn’t on their respective models. That said the Suzuki is only about 30% better at my estimation. Even the Honda 500 bikes feel better damped and sprung than the FZ.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “Being lighter does not necessarily make a bike better”

        the “GoldWing contingent” knows what you’re talking about.

    • todd says:

      If you want an FZ with a fairing, good suspension and excellent ergonomics, do yourself a favor and pick up a first-gen FZ6. The additional power is icing on the cake too.

      • Mindspin says:

        The FZ6R is still pretty underrated for being detuned from the FZ6, still a good all rounder. I had a 2007 FZ6 that I wish I never sold. Was my first and best bike, but of course didn’t appreciate it until it was long gone. I had kept it in excellent condition and sold it for probably less than I should, but they didn’t hold value or have any demand second hand. Higher mileage and worse condition R6 will always be worth more. I also have a lot of love for the second gen SV650S and wish I had bought one of those instead of the FZ6 in 2007. I do hope Suzuki sees fit to bring back an S or SF version of the new model.

  28. Provologna says:

    Dig.

    Re. bike/rider fit: in the mountain bike world, if/when the bike frame is not the hypothetically “perfect” size, we always desire the frame to be smaller than ideal, not larger.

  29. Tom R says:

    The bike looks a bit too small for the rider in the photos.

  30. Curly says:

    Benchmark the FZ07 much? Looks good though and they even dropped the signature Kawasaki ugly muffler.