MotorcycleDaily.com – Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Kawasaki Z900RS: MD First Ride

A “retro?” An “homage?” What do you call a bike with thoroughly modern performance … from the engine, suspension, wheels and tires … that incorporates (quite successfully) design elements from an iconic model introduced in the 1970s? What about a “beautiful modern motorcycle that makes you want to stare at it in the garage … that you can get on and ride the hell out of with no compromises?” Okay, that title is too long, but it might be the best we can come up with for the new Kawasaki Z900RS.

Yes, we have ridden the new Kawasaki Z900RS for a full day, beginning in West Los Angeles, passing through the canyons above Malibu (at a very quick pace) and ending by splitting traffic (this is California, after all) through rush-hour congestion (this is Los Angeles, after all) on our way back to the hotel. In the process, we sampled everything from straight-line cruising at highway speeds to negotiating some of the tightest, twistiest, well-paved roads available in this part of the state.

But first, let’s describe the technical details. The Z900RS is a bit of a dichotomy. Its chassis incorporates several performance upgrades from the rip-snorting Z900 we fell in love with during our testing of that model, including better brakes and suspension. At the same time, although it shares the same, basic 948cc in-line four cylinder engine, peak horsepower is down a bit compared to the Z900 in exchange for stronger low-mid rpm power in the Z900RS.

The engine (which we found to have strong, satisfying over-rev despite the re-tune from the Z900) gets revised CAM profiles, lower compression and heavier flywheel mass to smooth, and spread power in comparison to the Z900. The exhaust system compliments this with slimmer header pipes.

The transmission has a shorter first gear and taller sixth gear compared to the Z900. Highway rpm levels are low for better fuel economy and lower vibration. The “Assist & Slipper Clutch” found on several other Kawasaki models does its job on the Z900RS to substantially reduce clutch-pull effort, while squeezing the plates together during acceleration. It also proved to seamlessly avoid wheel-hop when hard on the brakes while descending a particularly tight canyon road above Malibu.

Adjustable traction control on the Z900RS includes a default Mode 1 that allows a small amount of wheel slip, but intervenes enough to prevent things from getting out of hand. Mode 2 is for low traction conditions (such as rain).

The frame is a steel trellis design like the Z900, but it was built from scratch to accommodate the beautiful teardrop fuel tank. It allows a much lower passenger seating area, and even incorporates an increased triple-clamp offset for quicker steering. Although rigidly mounted at five points, the engine is remarkably smooth thanks to balancing efforts by Kawasaki (including the incorporation of a secondary balancer driven off the crankshaft).

Light, cast aluminum wheels carry modern, tubeless 17-inch radial tires (including a 180 section rear) and are designed with thin, flat spokes as a bow to the traditional steel spokes found on the original Kawasaki Z1. Combined with a new, 8.5 pound aluminum swingarm, unsprung weight should be substantially lower than some competitors’ tubed-tire retro models.

The fully-adjustable KYB inverted front fork works with the horizontal back-link rear shock (adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping) and holds thoroughly modern disc brakes with ABS. The four-piston, radial-mount monobloc front calipers are a significant upgrade from the Z900, and grip two 300 mm discs.

Styling revolves around that iconic, teardrop tank, and includes plenty of interesting details. Some we have already discussed (such as the wheel design). The round headlight is extremely bright (yes, we could even tell this in daylight) and incorporates six LED chambers. The round mirrors recall the same design introduced on the 1973 Kawasaki Z1. The fully-exposed side view of the engine reveals finning (although liquid cooled), as well as head covers and a clutch cover reminiscent of those on the Z1, as well. The Candytone Brown model looks very similar to the paint job on a  Z1.

The seating position is very upright and relaxed compared to the Z900, with higher, closer bars and footpegs forward and lower in comparison. Looking down at the analog tach and speedo, you could be forgiven for thinking, just for a moment, that you are aboard a 30-year old Japanese standard. Just for a moment …

The engine is smooth and responsive with power that builds in a linear fashion just above idle. Throttle response is relatively smooth, although a bit more abrupt than on the Z900. By comparison, many modern fuel-injected, Euro 4 compliant motorcycles are much less smooth, but Kawasaki set a higher bar with last year’s Z900 in terms of the smooth transitions from closed to open throttle. As our right wrist became accustomed to the throttle response, the issue disappeared completely.

This motor is silky smooth, both in terms of vibration and power delivery. There are essentially no steps in the powerband, and a healthy low-to-mid is joined by a progressively stronger pull on top. All the while, the exhaust and intake noises (specifically engineered by Kawasaki) are intoxicating … particularly at higher rpm levels. For lack of a better, technical description, from the rumble at idle to the full-throated wail near redline, this bike sounds bitchin’!

Suspension tuning is softer than found on the Z900, although damping is quite good. You can cruise on the highway and carry a good pace through the twisties without touching the adjusters, but as the pace quickened in the canyons above Malibu, we dialed in a bit more compression and rebound damping to effectively tighten things up. We were surprised how well the suspension responded to these changes (in a positive way).

The relaxed ergonomics don’t lend themselves to canyon carving quite as well as the more aggressive Z900, but we aren’t sure we could have gone any faster through Malibu canyon on a different motorcycle. The Z900RS is very well balanced and responsive. Steering is light and direction changes relatively easy for such a big motorcycle. The brakes have outstanding power, and resisted fade on one of the most fade-inducing roads available in Southern California (a steep, fast, twisting descent that goes on for miles). Feedback from the front brake is good, but not quite as good as found on some of the latest sport bikes.

Ground clearance is generous, and we never touched a hard part despite big lean angles during the ride (although we did touch our boots on both sides). A good rider can surely run with a sport bike on the street aboard the Z900RS. The clutch is a big contributor to smooth corner entry, and we had no trouble picking up the throttle on corner exit. The Z900RS, once you calibrate yourself to the quick steering, holds its line very well through corners — including fast sweepers.

The gear spacing is excellent. The bike has plenty of torque to pull the taller sixth gear, and the low rpms are appreciated when cruising on the highway. Together with the suspension compliance, the Z900RS will work great for commuters, and riders out for a casual Sunday cruise, but remain ready to boogie when called.

Seat comfort was very good during our relatively short ride. We didn’t get a chance to receive feedback from a passenger, but we will remedy this when we get our long-term test unit.

As usual, we have a few, minor complaints. The shiny, polished instrument surrounds reflect sunlight a bit too much, the throttle response could be a tad smoother (as discussed), and the short muffler end-piece (although highly polished by Kawasaki) looks, to us, a bit out of proportion. None of these niggles, however, changed our overall impression of the Z900RS.

What Kawasaki has created here is a bike with thoroughly modern, exhilarating performance, both from the engine and chassis, together with design elements that faithfully recall the past. Those design elements, in our opinion, also serve to create a very attractive motorcycle of any vintage. They just work.

The 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS is available in either Metallic Flat Spark Black (priced at $10,999) or Candytone Brown/Candytone Orange ($11,199). Take a look at Kawasaki’s web site for additional details and specifications, as well as the accessories available for this model. The 2018 Z900RS is already arriving at U.S. dealers.


See more of MD’s great photography:

Instagram


214 Comments

  1. Paul says:

    Nice job, but I still prefer the Honda CB1100 over this bike.

  2. kjazz says:

    Great looking machine!! Congrats Kawasaki!!

    It is an homage not a copy of the original therefore latitude is given. And it’s done very nicely IMO. If I had to niggle one thing it would echo other’s comments regarding the aesthetics of the rear half of the bike. Too much space between the rear tire and the seat/frame/panels. I’m trying to see it with a fender eliminator installed and I think that will unfortunately negatively affect the look. I.e. It gives it a big blank spot. I think a deeper tail piece that extends forward to the side panel area would fix that issue of the space where twin shocks would have been.

    Otherwise, bravo!!!!

  3. GMTCM says:

    Will it pull a wheelie in a first gear roll-on?

  4. WSHart says:

    This Kawasaki, followed somewhat distantly by Honda’s CB1100, sets the bar for what a STANDARD should be.

    Paying homage to their own storied past while making it modern where it needs to be. To date Yamaha has failed at what should have been a simple task. That MT thing of theirs sucks big time, especially when put next to either the Kawasaki or Honda.

    Yeah, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but fugly is just out there for everyone to see.

    And Suzuki? Wes Cooley GS1000 anyone? They know what to do and how to go about it but will they?

    • Dave says:

      The MT thing has sold very well to many riders who love them. They are the benchmark for all of the new competitors in that space (many of which still don’t measure up). It is the very reason that the other makes have developed new sport standards. It cannot be argued that it sucks “bigtime”, or even a little bit.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Agreed. The FZ/MT-09 (and 07) are to their respective classes today what the SV650 was in 1999: the benchmark.

      • WSHart says:

        Never said it didn’t work well, I said it was fugly.

        ‘Cuz it is. Fugly. It’s all subjective and if you like it fine. There’s nothing to “argue” about. It’s looks suck.

        It is about as far from being a “retro” as can be. Yes, it’s a standard bike and it does that just fine but there are two sides to every coin and rarely, if ever, do they land on edge. The Yamaha fails in the looks department.

        And again, looks are subjective, not objective. Like I said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but fugly is just out there for everyone to see.

        The SV650 was far better looking that the MT-09. The latter looks like a large magnet dragged through a dumpster of rejected bodywork.

        • downgoesfraser says:

          +

        • VLJ says:

          The MT Yamahas were never positioned as retro standards. Not even slightly. Quite the opposite, in fact, as they are intended to be very futuristic designs. For you to compare their aesthetics to those of the Honda CB1100 and Kawasaki Z900RS is just plain ignorant.

          If you want to make the correct comparisons, the MT compares to the Z900/Z1000 in the Kawasaki line, to the CB1000R in the Honda line, and to the GSX-S1000 in the Suzuki line. Yamaha’s retro naked isn’t the MT-09, it’s the ’70s XS-inspired XSR900, which looks nothing like the MT-09. As with the Z900RS, which is merely an homage to the original Z1 from 1973, the XSR900 is an homage to the XS Yamahas from the ’70s. It’s not meant to be a faithful recreation, only with modern technology, like the CB1100; rather, it simply borrows a few key styling cues from those old XS models, just as this new Z900RS borrows styling cues from the Z1 while eschewing the basics of the original: air cooling, dual shocks, spoked rims, etc.

          Point being, if you’re going to continue to be this brayingly opinionated about everything, at least have your arguments in order.

  5. Rapier says:

    The long running Kawasaki 1100 displaced 1050cc and when they stretched it to a 1200 it was an 1150. Now they have gone the other way and the 900 is a 950. What’s the deal with that 50cc’s and Kawasaki? I mean is it like ‘oops, we missed’.

    • MGNorge says:

      It’s not just Kawasaki but to the point, I think companies look at a displacement class and their engineers then set about designing and engineering the characteristics they want from their engines. At other times engines are given larger displacement than originally designed and engineers must work within physical limitations for both bore and stroke to make engines fit into various categories, none of it by chance.

  6. Grover says:

    What’s not to like? Bike looks great from all angles and has the power, handling and brakes to put a smile on most riders faces. If you can justify the price you’ll have one sweet ride. I owned a 1982 GS750EZ which was a great bike, but this RS is better in every way.

  7. old timer says:

    I’m not in the market, but this bike almost makes me wish I was. I could be quite happy with it. If I were in the market, it would be nice to remove the chrome rings on the dials, and have a bit bigger fuel capacity, but that’s about it. Good job, Kawi!

  8. Randy says:

    I knew I should have bought one when when they were $1795

    • Provologna says:

      If you bought the original ’73 KZ900, and in lieu of riding it set it up for long term storage, it’s value would likely exceed one of these new beauties. I bet KHI would trade you straight up, maybe even 2 of the newbies.

      Back in the 70s there was an Asian guy on the Marin Sunday Morning Ride on a modified KZ900. On the faster section between Stinson and Pt. Reyes he past me like I was parked.

      Riders report the 900 frames never matched the motor. The ’79 KZ1000 Mk2 saw the first frame upgrade, then another frame upgrade in the ’81 KZ1000J, which matched the GS1000 frame three years earlier (’78). The first ELR1000 is based on the J. Damn, wish I bought one at clearance price (recession hit) at San Rafael Kawasaki. Fit me like the proverbial glove. The seat and overall bike was pure sex stern to bow.

      • NRHretro says:

        The first Z-1 900’s were notorious for speed wobbles at high speed. Mine once tried to throw me off at 120 mph. Back then Kawasaki was more interested in straight line performance than anything else. My H-2 was another example of this.

    • Jason says:

      $1795 in 1973 is equal to $9645 in 2017. Not a very good return on investment.

      $1795 in the S&P 500 would be $29,294 today.

  9. austin zzr 1200 says:

    Now that Kawi has priced the RS close to the THE 2018 CB1000R, its no contest. Put a top case on the CB and you have decent 2-up on a rolling work of art.

  10. Provologna says:

    Fantastic road test report, well done!

    This would have to be favorite retro-themed road bike, by good margin. Nit-picks: I would have extended the tail section about a half inch, I know, almost an insanely small nit pick, but just cause I can. Don’t care about the tank seam nor the “space above the rear wheel.” For cosmetic effect I’d prefer dual 18″ wheels, but the 17s are OK and the 18″ tire choices might degrade performance.

    I dislike the imbalanced look of the 4-1. I’d prefer 4-2 and am convinced it would add less than 2 lbs maximum penalty. The primary purpose of the tail section of the exhaust is to quell noise. Noise diminishes via magnitude of the metal mass comprising the outer shell + the volume and design of the internal damper/muffler. I presume, whether a fixed quantity of noise source is damped by one muffler or two, the difference in total exhaust weight is much smaller than the estimates others posted earlier. If one muffler comprised 4# for X noise damping, two mufflers properly designed for the same noise damping has little weight penalty, estimate 1#. I’m a sound expert but admittedly not a muffler design expert.

    Now the OEM pipe is too short anyway, but that’s a different matter v. adding a second pipe. I would also have just possibly decreased that rise on the exhaust, which would look more classic IMHO.

    Another advantage of 4-2 is increased vertical clearance for curb jumping, which is not a regular occurrence. But “seldom” is not never. I never really liked the pipe jumble of a 4-1. AFAIK, a crossover pipe on a 4-2 yields the same power curve as a 4-1, but please correct if that’s false.

    The way the cast wheels echo the look of the spokes is absolutely cool, very well done!

    Performance wise they seemed to have nailed it. I love the way they minimized plumbing and the faux air cooling fins are great.

  11. mickey says:

    Just read 2 more reports from writers that were on this same ride in Malibu (approx 80 miles incl stops for photos) and both complained about suspension compliance, and throttle response in first gear. One complained about the brakes being less than ideal and needing steel hoses. The other thought the brakes were great. One complained that he was dangerously close to needing fuel at under 100 miles and got 38 mpg (the other got 44 mpg). One thought the seat was too soft, one thought the oil filter placement was “insane”. One complained that the accessory center stand was $400.

    Neither complained about ergos, handling, power, fit and finish, gap between tire and fender or tank seams.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Did either of those riders take 5 minutes to adjust the rebound damping? Once the pace picked up, the suspension was too loose, but the rebound adjustments I made (courtesy of a Kawasaki employee with a screwdriver). dealt with that effectively. If you tell your readers adjustable suspension has problems, but you haven’t made any adjustments, you are misleading them. As I noted earlier, I also added more compression damping to the fork. All of my adjustments were a quarter turn or less.

      • mickey says:

        Dirck, neither admitted to doing so, although one said he was able to get the suspension on a Z900 dialed in, so assumed he could do the same on the RS.

        Apparently like you mentioned you were the only one to mess with the suspension, the others rode “as delivered”

        to be clear I am not slamming the RS, just reporting what others have said, good and bad. I think it’s a great looking bike and think it will do well in the retro market for those that want the retro look with up to date underpinnings.

        FWIW I bought a new KZ1000 in 77 and it was a great bike. Very much like my CB1100 DLX in size, weight, power and looks.

        • Dirck Edge says:

          Ok, this is a weird coincidence, but I also bought a 1977 KZ1000 new.

          • mickey says:

            you obviously have good taste.

            As an aside.. do you read reviews from other writers or subscribe to and read motorcycle magazines? If so care to say which ones?

      • mickey says:

        lol got to love it, my response went to outer space.

    • downgoesfraser says:

      Those complaining about oil filter should change the oil in a ’74.

  12. ROXX says:

    STUNNING!
    It’s a winner.

  13. downgoesfraser says:

    Perfect. I am no longer in the market for a new bike, so my opinion does not mean much, but would wait to see how much Honda is going to ask for CB1000R. As for all the criticism, did not see one complaint about dreaded tank seam.

    • TomG says:

      I agree. There isn’t much to really complain about but for $11,000 they should have gone with a tank with no visible seam or flange. I think Honda is doing that on a few bikes. Not sure about the new CB1000R. How much more could it cost to do this? I am sure my Z900 has tank flanges but it is hidden by the bodywork.

    • Doc says:

      Now you’ve gone and done it.

  14. paquo says:

    The bike looks cool. It reminds me of my buddies late 80s Yamaha Radian that i learned on.

  15. Cyclemotorist says:

    I’m glad Kawasaki didn’t go with four pipes. The bike looks great!

  16. motorhead says:

    If I were to lose 40 lbs, instead of the bike losing 40 lbs., would this bike perform at a higher level?

  17. Rapier says:

    It’s a shame that there are so many great bikes but not enough people to ride them.

    • jimjim says:

      Or enough money in my motorcycle savings account.

      • Rapier says:

        It’s more than money. Yes money is a factor but the population of people wanting to take on the risks and discomforts of motorcycling for the physical entertainment of it has always been limited.

        • MGNorge says:

          ..and I think the pie is shrinking. I don’t have stats to back that up, more of a gut feeling, that the youth of today are less mechanically interested. Instead of being a gearhead, maybe a transistor-head…if even that?
          Retro is going to appeal to those remembering a fond era or those “into it”. Those recalling the era are getting fewer and who knows who’s really into it these days?

          • KenHoward says:

            As far as the pie shrinking, which many feel is happening, I recently saw a chart of motorcycle sales in the U.S., and it appears that sales are actually reverting to the long-term trend line, which is still upward, though at a lower rate. ‘Hope it’s true.

    • Cyclemotorist says:

      You have identified the problem.

  18. Jon says:

    Looks a great bike. Some reviews have said the FI is very jerky in low speed turns though, hope this doesn’t turn out to be as bad in production issues.

  19. Sean says:

    I like it! But don’t think I could live with it as a single owned, daily bike. It’s a bit too niche and limited for that. As a second bike in the garage, sure!

    • Neal says:

      Niche? It’s a UJM street bike. What do you think it’s poorly suited for, other than dirt riding?

      • TimC says:

        Ha, these days UJM is niche

      • Selecter says:

        Agreed. I could do pretty much everything on this one. Might not be ideal for every single duty, but it’ll do the job! A small half-fairing or flyscreen would alleviate my one and only concern – just enough to take the edge off of some wind-blast fatigue on a 500-mile day. I’ve toured on a Speed Triple without any undue agony (750-mile days), so I would expect this Kawasaki to be somewhat similar to that.

        • mickey says:

          And bonus, it has enough of a back seat to strap a set of soft bags across. Got to love that.

          • Grover says:

            This bike and the Honda would both make great all-around machines. The Honda would look better, I believe with a windshield on it.
            I travel long distances and a pop on windshield would be a must. Also, like you say, that flat seat would be a great place to strap on a bag as that’s what I did with my Bandit 1200S which had a wide, flat seat and it worked out great. Right now I ride a 800# touring bike and I’m not getting any younger. If it comes to down sizing the this Kawi or the Honda with be in my sights.

  20. Vrooom says:

    It’s a great looking retro. One of the nicest I’ve seen in this style. Not appropriate for the Northwet, but still a beauty.

  21. Norm G. says:

    re: “the exhaust and intake noises (specifically engineered by Kawasaki) are intoxicating … particularly at higher rpm levels. For lack of a better, technical description, from the rumble at idle to the full-throated wail near redline, this bike sounds bitchin’!”

    BLOW IT OUT YOUR ASS BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLE…!!!

  22. DP says:

    I’d back off (if it looked I had reservation…) from that gap between seat and wheel – it is non issue. Actually it induces feel of comfy suspension and indeed, when you sit on it, it WILL go down quite a bit (assuming rider of 6ft/200lbs, such as myself).

    But you know what? Kawasaki will not change it anyway; they are done with it. Now is turn for sales departments.

    • Mick says:

      I don’t understand the gap complaints. Is it that the bike doesn’t have two shocks and therefore has a longer gap? Or that the bike has greater than cruiser suspension travel and therefore has a taller gap?

      I just see a motorcycle. The gap is there because it has to be there for the motorcycle to work properly. As a dirt biker. The gap doesn’t even look all that big.

      Then I hearken back to the first time I rode my first supermoto to work, made from a then new 2000 XR650R. A few guys asked me if that was my bike out there. “The one with the big gap between the wheel and the seat.” Um, yeah I guess so.

      • Martin B says:

        The “gap” is actually a sign of functioning suspension. There is a customising trend to create vehicles of all varieties that are “slammed” down to the pavement. “Slammed” describes how your back and neck will feel if you travel more than 10 mph and hit even the most insignificant pavement ripple or pothole, while piloting one of these malformed creations.

        Thus to the amateur car or bike enthusiast, any sign of a gap betwixt wheel and seat or chassis will arouse feelings of repugnance and distaste. These folk usually attend car or bike shows, and kick a few tires, but don’t actually drive or ride anything. They are too busy collecting welfare checks.

        Anyone who uses any vehicle as the (professional) designer intended, will appreciate the “gap” for allowing full performance to be used on the road or track. Customisers catering to ignoramuses will continue to make vehicles which drag parts over bumps or around corners. The hazard this implies escapes the imagination of the turds who buy them. This is a form of highway Darwinism, and hopefully this trend will die out along with the mugs who buy into it.

        • TomG says:

          Hilarious!! I love that post. I have been thinking the same thing since the first responses were made back when the bike was first introduced. People are retarded. The people that do the most complaining do the least riding.

          • mickey says:

            “Thus to the amateur car or bike enthusiast, any sign of a gap betwixt wheel and seat or chassis will arouse feelings of repugnance and distaste. These folk usually attend car or bike shows, and kick a few tires, but don’t actually drive or ride anything. They are too busy collecting welfare checks.”

            I agree the post is hilarious especially the part I highlighted above. Not sure I have read anything more absurd on this site.

        • Geoffrey Hill says:

          My 1942 Flathead had no gap in suspension. Original hardtail frame.Tank Shift. Loved it. Didn’t know it made me a Turd. Never collected Welfare. Collect Social Security now though. Darwin was wrong. I’m still alive, and not an overly opinionated prick.

      • Dave says:

        I think the “gap” aesthetic has arisen from the trend toward minimal subframe body work. These bikes don’t have any more travel than steet bikes used to, there just isn’t as voluminous and hollow piece of body work hiding the space the wheel would travel into as before.

        • Mick says:

          I guess it’s the anti-volume then? Because of no dual shocks. The total amount of open space has risen. Thus the complaints of “gap”.

          They could have made the sides of the tail section hide more of the vertical aspect of the gap. They certainly could have made more traditional “oil tank” looking side panels under the 900 badge. Maybe push that back a little into the area traditionally occupied by the shocks. All those tricks are in current use on dirt bikes. But retro rigs are careful work. They can only get away with so much. It seems that ditching the dual shocks was even too much for some.

          Poor guys. I would hate to live in a world where I was so easily stylistically offended.

        • mickey says:

          The bikes these are emulating didn’t have much body work, just plain metal fenders. Nobody bottomed their fenders on their wheels, even with a passenger and luggage. If the new ones don’t have more suspension travel, they don’t need more gap.

          Motocrossers have lots of rear wheel travel, they need the gap.

  23. Buzzard says:

    Z900RS CAFE I hope it comes to the US. I’ll buy one immediately…

  24. Buzzard says:

    Wow, Kawasaki has a beauty coming again. Can’t wait for the cafe version to get here!

  25. bmbktmracer says:

    I agree with the comments about the proportions being a bit off, but I’m sure this is because they took an origami bike and adapted the retro bodywork to fit. Yamaha tried the same with their MT-07 and 9 and failed miserably. Triumph and Honda built their retro models from scratch, so they look right. I definitely agree that the bike needs a second muffler on the left side. An aftermarket system will surely be very expensive because they’d have to redo the under-engine catalyzer, or eliminate it and put the catalyzers inside the mufflers. Or just forego them altogether…

    I do wish Honda had gone this route and used the CB1000R as their basis instead of using an antique, air-cooled engine. Even the Triumph T120 is a thoroughly modern motorcycle. Maybe some people truly want to ride a new motorcycle that uses old technology, but I think the majority just want a modern motorcycle that looks good and tips the hat to designs of their youth.

    • DP says:

      This bike is supposed to reflect 70s if I gather it right. As such it should have air-cooled engine just as Honda CB1100. In fact, water jacket (thicker than ribs), radiator, pump, hoses and clamps and mainly coolant do not reduce weight at all.

      • Dave says:

        The market will decide, but I think they got it right. People want a retro look, but do not want to give up the benefits of technology, hence things like tubeless tires, electronics, ABS, quality brakes & suspension, etc. While liquid cooling ads weight, there’s no arguing that it’s weight worth carrying. Besides, these bikes don’t weigh appreciably more than the old bikes they’re emulating.

        I think lots of people like the idea of old, simple bikes, until they ride them. That’s when they find out it isn’t very fun riding (and maintaining) an old bike.

        • mickey says:

          Dave the CB1100 is right in the weight class of the old bikes ( one of the things I like about it..I actually appreciate some heft… Gives it a solid well built feeling) at 550 pounds. This Kawasaki is probably close to 90 pounds lighter than the original Z-1 while making 25 more horsepower.

        • falcodoug says:

          Agreed.

    • larlok says:

      cb1100 not actually antique. The motor was designed for that bike.

  26. MacSpoone says:

    Spoke to the wife.
    She said yes.

  27. My2cents says:

    Pretty active feedback on this model probably more than necessary. I will ape other opinions by saying the gap between the seat and the rear tire is enormous, twin shocks and a luggage rail would have filled this but likely difficult to modify the donor platform for this purpose and cost. The 4 into 1 pipe is what would have been the first choice to personalize ones late 70’s early 80’s machine, but 4 into 2 would have been pretty, can,t please both camps I guess. Thanks for the base report I look forward to the detailed road test in the near future. Awesome site excellent reporting, always informative.

    • joe b says:

      I would worry more about the gap above the front tire. Now, thats enormous, deal breaker. 😉

    • VLJ says:

      +1 on this site’s excellent reporting and info. To that I would also add a mention of the always excellent photography, as well as the timeliness of the reports. On top of all those things, this is also one of the only sites in which the author listens to and responds to his readers.

      If anyone here thinks that last item isn’t really a big deal, I invite you to try that same trick with most of the other magazines and websites.

      Dirck is the difference. His efforts set this place apart from all the others.

      • Dino says:

        +11
        One of my top sites (main site, really). variety of reports on all fronts, just well done all around!
        I would change the name to Motorcycle ManyTimesDailyGoodToCheckInternetConnectionWithAndSeeIfAnythingIsNew

        .com

      • KenHoward says:

        I, too, am always thankful for Dirck’s thorough and sensible reviews, and beautiful + useful photos. The website design has remained user-friendly, as well, without the infuriating over-abundance of ads shoved in our faces.

  28. WSHart says:

    It’s nice to FINALLY see the Japanese paying true homage to their own fantastic and stylish history instead of ripping off Harley’s. It should sell well enough to warrant a good run of far more than a year or two and then what?

    A new ELR1000 tribute would be freakin’ FAB! I would hazard that a W800 with triple disc brakes and tubeless spoke wheels with a 5 gallon tank, fuel injection and that gorgeous motor (put the kicker back ON!) would sell quite well. Yamaha’s so-called “tribute” bikes look like freeze dried poo compared to the Z900RS.

    Classic styling with modern underpinnings is the way to go.

    Honda’s CB1000 is nice but it may not be nice enough. And here is a truth – Honda and the rest of the Japanese marques are completely ignoring their rich history of Scramblers and that is just plain ignorant on their part. Scramblers were the top sellers of their day for many a year and with good reason. They were FUN.

    And fun is why the gorgeous Z900RS should be a good seller for Kawasaki. And if they continue to mine their own rich history, then the good times will roll again for KHI. And deservedly so.

    And Dirck, do us all a favor and report back when you have done a thorough test of the Z900RS, including service intervals and fuel economy. I do not give a flying intercourse how this bike handles when ridden like a Weinstein ravaged simian out of Hades. I don’t ride on a track. I ride on public roads and in the real world riding like an idiot will ultimately get you killed.

    The Z900RS is a bike that reminds you of the past and if you are of an age where you lusted for a Z then you know exactly what I mean when I say the Z900RS looks like it can take you there and back again.

  29. Ozzie Mike says:

    I like this bike but there are a few things i dislike. The exhaust system should either be a 4-into-4 or a 4-into-2 configuation. I dont like the HUGE gap berween the rear tyre & mudguard. The blacked out version looks very ordinary & finally the fuel tank has a flange. That’s unforgiveable. Otnerwise i really do like the look. Well done Kawasaki

    • DP says:

      I am not fan of 4-to-1 exhaust either; it creates visual (and probably physical) imbalance. Why is it so popular among makers I do not know (first version of Honda CBR1100 was same). I would like to see mechanical justification for that; if any exists.

      • VLJ says:

        The mechanical justification for a 4-into-1 instead of a 4-into-4 or 4-into-2 is simple. A 4-into-1 weighs less, costs less, and takes up much less space while producing equal power. Kawi’s engineers weren’t willing to sacrifice performance for looks. It’s the same reason this bike doesn’t sport dual shocks and an air-cooled motor.

        • DP says:

          Once you are at 440lbs and plus, couple pounds here and there do not mean that much. I had once CB900 Hornet and it was very light given the class, with twin exhaust tucked nicely on sides of seat. The overall impression was well balanced, oh and that sound…..

          • VLJ says:

            When you’re talking about going from one exhaust pipe to two or even four, you aren’t merely adding a couple of pounds here and there. You’re adding ten to twenty pounds hanging off the tail end of the bike.

            Kawi’s engineers discussed your question in their press briefing. They have a “mechanical justification” for their decision not to go with four pipes, air cooling, and dual shocks: light weight, better performance.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Saves weight and typically makes more power.

  30. viktor92 says:

    I like the bike, but there is too much space between the tail and the rear wheel (a common trend nowaday in EVERY bike that I don’t understand), and the tank it’s a little behind the front fork, correcting these two things the retro look will be much better.

    • Shaunock says:

      Yeah the elbows are way too pointy as well.

    • DP says:

      I feel that way(gap between seat and wheel) too. I guess it is meant to look more racy this way. If seat is lower such as on Triumph Street-Twin it would be tad too sedate.

      Space between fork and tank is probably adequate; you need space for steer&lock; unless you mean it the other way. I do not see any major flaws when comes to overall proportion; in fact it seem to be fitting well to its purpose and is eye pleasing. It is dynamic looking bike without being over the top.

  31. Dave says:

    I want one

  32. Jeremy in TX says:

    I don’t like the chrome pipe and handlebar.

    There, that is about the only nit I could come up with to pick. Looks like a winner to me.

    • mickey says:

      lol I don’t think I’ve ever heard a complaint that the handlebar was chrome.. or the pipe either for that matter. You mean on the all black bike?

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Haha. Just not a fan of chrome accents. Looks a little dated, IMO, which obviously is the point on this bike. But yeah, hardly a deal breaker!

    • DP says:

      This is exactly what I like. You see how tastes can vary from person to person 🙂

  33. VLJ says:

    Heh. I just posted a very long response here, and it completely vanished. It didn’t go into moderation, like 90% of my original posts do. It simply vanished.

    Oh well, it’ll pop up eventually. They always do.

    Interesting thing about this process is that my original posts nearly always go into moderation, or they vanish completely before eventually showing up, while my response posts usually go straight through, with no delay.

    • mickey says:

      You are not alone in that boat VLJ I’m sure there are many of us. Mine usually disappear or go to moderation, even though I don’t believe I have ever said anything that required moderating.The longer the response or the more times you change it to make it sound better the more likely it is to disappear into outer space for some reason.

    • MGNorge says:

      On some websites that phenomenon is great enough that I have taken to quickly copying what I wrote, ready to paste it back into a new entry if needed. That’s saved me a few times.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Sorry about this. Wish our software didn’t send comments to moderation unnecessarily, but it does. Someday we will fix this (believe me, we have tried). Be patient, and your comments should get through without too much delay.

      • Jason says:

        How about updating your comment format so oldest are on the top so they can be read in a coherent and linear fashion?

    • DP says:

      They may and probably will show up. It happened to me too. Not to say that my remarks are important though; we are all guests here 🙂

  34. VLJ says:

    I am all over the map on this one. When we first saw the pics popping up all over the internet, I disliked nearly everything about the aesthetics of this bike. Now that I’ve seen a million more pics and ride reviews, and have basically grown used to how it looks, my negative opinion has lessened. Styling-wise, I still don’t think it’s in the same universe as the CB1100 EX or the Triumph Bonneville T120, which both look a million times better, as well as a million times more period-correct/authentic, but I’m mostly over it now. Decent retro looks and all day comfort, without giving up ALL performance, as one does when purchasing the Honda or Triumph?

    Not a bad trade-off. In fact, I will go on the record right now and predict that the 2018 MotY awards will be split between this Z900RS and the new Gold Wing. Perhaps there will be a smattering of picks for the new CB1000R, primarily because the magazines have been ragging on Honda for years and years now about Big Red’s dull Tupperwear styling and user-friendly but uninspiring performance, and I suspect that some quarters will vote for the CB1000R purely out of sheer guilt. Finally they have a hot, sexy new Honda, so they’ll vote for it simply for that reason.

    Regarding the Z900RS, this is about where I’m at now. First the dislikes…

    -Completely fake air-cooling fins on a bike that otherwise makes no effort to hide its giant radiator is just silly. This is the sort of cheap, tacky thing for which Japan, Inc. often receives snide dismissals from the Euro crowd, and even the Harley crowd. Fake air scoops on the MT-09, fake metal cladding on the MT-07 and Kawi Z650 and Z900, fake carbon fiber bits on countless bikes, etc. These things don’t exactly bespeak timeless design, which is why we rarely see the Japanese equivalent of the Ducati Monster lineup. At least with the Bonneville T120 its faux carburetors look perfect and match the appearance of the originals, and the fins supposedly are still functional, aiding in cooling the motor. That bike still receives criticisms from some quarters for those two items, but most people applaud Triumph’s design cues there, and rightfully so.

    -There was zero reason to detune the Z900 motor, which was already universally lauded as having a tremendously smooth, torquey, street-biased power curve. In doing so, the result seems to be that every Z900RS tester so far has mentioned a bit of jerky throttle response, compared to the remarkably smooth fueling of the Z900. The standard motor also didn’t need its torque peak shifted lower, nor did it benefit from a 10% reduction in horsepower.

    -To my eyes, Kawi didn’t do nearly as good of a job as Honda did in combining the dual analog clocks with the digital display screen. The Honda’s is simply gorgeous. The Kawi’s is, well, typical Kawi. It does the job, but isn’t particularly pleasing. It clearly lacks the Honda’s elegance.

    -$2,400 more than the Z900? Why? Traction control, a couple of meh riding modes, and radial calipers don’t cost Kawasaki anywhere near that much, especially once you factor in the step backwards they took in the fueling. The MT-09 has all the same electronics, suspension, and braking bits as this Z900RS, and significantly more performance, for the same money.

    -I’m still not thrilled overall with the looks of the thing. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually prefer the looks of the basic Z900, mainly because it does a better job of achieving its aesthetic goals. The Z900 was meant to look like a modern standard sportbike, with less obnoxious Sugomi styling. It looks mean, menacing, and youthful, and absolutely true to its design brief. The RS wants to look like the original Z1 from the ’70s, but with a monoshock, a modern 4-into-1 exhaust with a giant, exposed lump of a catalytic converter, cheapo fins accompanying an undisguised radiator, tiny LED-style turnsignals, and all those LEDs in the headlight, it just ain’t happening. Park it next to a CB1100 and the difference will jump out at you like crazy. One looks pure and authentic, the other looks like a tacky imitation.

    Now, the things I like about this Z900RS…

    -The very thing for which I just criticized the RS is also its most compelling selling point: its modern amenities. Kudos to Kawi for NOT going full retro, including ’70s-era performance, a la the CB1100. Yes, the bike’s looks do suffer by virtue of the absence of dual shocks and that iconic 4-into-4 exhaust, but the bike is still much better for it. Back in the day, many people ditched that heavy old exhaust for a much lighter, higher performing 4-into-1 affair anyway, and there is simply no way for dual shocks to perform as well as an equally well designed single shock. Ditto, regarding the RS’s modern headlight. It’s still round, which is great, but you know what? I want to be able to see during night rides, and I’d bet my last dollar that this new LEDs-equipped headlight works better than a basic single halogen. Motor-wise, it’s no contest. This new RS motor, while down on power to the Z900 mill, will surely rip the lungs out of the CB and T120 engines.

    Come to think of it, while everyone has been comparing this RS to the CB1100 EX, Honda’s “sportier” CB1100RS with its 17″ wheels is really the correct CB1100 comparison here, and the Kawi RS is going to smoke the Honda RS, at least in terms of sheer performance. Again, the Honda looks better and is very likely better built, which leads us right back to the 1970s, with the Honda being prettier and nicer and better made, and the Kawi being the clear performance champ.

    If one really wants to make the correct comparison, however, neither Honda is the right choice. Just as the Z900 is always pitched against the Yamaha MT-09, the most direct competitor for the RS is Yamaha’s neo-retro XSR900. Both are thoroughly modern, liquid-cooled, upright, standard sportbikes with nearly identical electronics/braking/suspension specs, and both shoot for a ’70s vibe. The Kawi has the XSR900 covered in terms of retro aesthetics for its (more) faithful Z1-inspired styling, while the sportier XSR900 will easily outperform the slower, softer RS.

    -Towards that same performance-oriented goal, additional kudos go to Kawasaki for coming up with wheels that sorta look like spokes while not requiring tubes. The standard sizing of those 17″ tires will make for a much more enjoyable experience as well, when it comes time to replace them.

    -Haven’t sat on one yet, but that seat looks to be in the same league as the Honda EX’s, in terms of thickness, flatness, and overall comfort. It also addresses one of the two main complaints (the other being the cheapo brakes and suspension) regarding the standard Z900, which is that its ultra-low seat makes for insufficient legroom for many people. Then again, mickey will likely find this RS’s seat height to be too tall, while the Z900 will fit him perfectly. Can’t please everyone.

    -Both the RS and Z900 sound really good right out of the box, which is no mean feat these days, in the Euro 4 era. The new Honda EX also sounds unusually good for a Euro 4-compliant I-4, but the last version of the CB1100 sounded like a sewing machine, as do most current I-4s. Neat trick, Kawi.

    -No, it’s not a 4-into-4 like most old-timers wanted, but the new exhaust looks pretty good. I wouldn’t even swap it out. Even the cat doesn’t look awful. Given the limitations imposed upon manufacturers these days, I’d say that Kawi did a great job with this exhaust.

    -Glad they added traction control and better brakes. If anything, the Z900 should have received those items, and I’m sure it will eventually, but at least the RS has them. The riding modes thing is a nonstarter. The Z900 doesn’t have them, and doesn’t need them. Neither does the RS. It just needs one good one, like the Z900’s.

    -Pride of ownership. Here, I’m torn. Yes, the RS will likely give its owner greater pride of ownership than will the standard Z900, but once the novelty wears off and 2018 rolls into 2019, and so on, I have my doubts that this new RS will continue to be anywhere near as appealing as it is right now. In that sense, I am nearly certain that it is no CB1100 EX, even if it is the “better” motorcycle. A ’70s-era tank shape and rootbeer paint scheme will only go so far. Eventually the honeymoon will be over, the Next Great Thing will have arrived, and reality will set in.

    The thing is, the reality here is absolutely fine. 100 rwhp with good torque driving a 463-lb fully fueled motorcycle that sits upright, turns and stops well, is all-day comfortable, and doesn’t look like some millennial’s latest Transformer toy?

    Nothing wrong with that.

    This bike will sell extremely well, and deserves to sell extremely well. Kawi is on a nice little roll here, and this one is their crown jewel. There is also no way its success won’t spawn a GS-1100 Wes Cooley-imitation replica from always-late-to-the-party Suzuki.

    You know it’s coming.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      You said “the sportier XSR900 will easily outperform the slower, softer RS.” Not true. The 847cc triple in the RS might have a small edge in peak horsepower, but the torque and horsepower curves of the Z900RS and its 948cc Four will ride well above the same of the Yamaha at street rpm levels. The stock suspension of the Kawasaki is better, as well IMHO.

      • Don says:

        The stock suspension should be better for $1500 more than the XSR. Nice looking bike and great article.

      • VLJ says:

        Dirck, there’s the dyno run, and there’s the real world. Out in the real world, the MT-09 always feels much punchier, lighter, and just plain more explosive than the dyno-superior Z900. The XSR900 has not been detuned from FZ-09 spec, and will surely feel that much more explosive than the detuned, softer Z900RS.

        In terms of suspension, I have no problem believing that the Z900RS’s shock is better than the MT-09’s, since the new MT-09 only received upgrades to the fork. The shock is still the same old limp, soggy affair it’s always been. The XSR900’s heavily upgraded shock is an entirely different matter. Combined with its much shorter wheelbase, the far more explosive power delivery from its Triple motor, and much lower curb weight—the difference in curb weight between the Yamahas and Kawis is roughly equivalent to the curb weight difference that you raved about between the Z900 and the old Z800—yeah, in terms of real-world performance the XSR900 will tear the RS apart.

        For sure, it will at least feel like it’s tearing the RS apart, simply because of the unique way in which that Triple delivers its power. The inch and half shorter wheelbase, much lower curb weight, and propensity for wheelying everywhere certainly give the XSR900 a feeling of greater speed and more sporty fun.

        • slipjoint says:

          It will outsell all of the retros combined, and that is why they make them.

          • VLJ says:

            That’s fine, and I agree, it will outsell all the other retros. It would have still done so with the same tune as the standard Z900 motor, and it would be a more enjoyable bike.

            Same aesthetics, same everything. Heck, they could have even added the stupid fake cooling fins. No one would have complained had they dropped the Z900 motor in there, with no changes. The bike would sell just as well, and there would be no criticisms of a jerky throttle.

          • mickey says:

            You think they are going to sell more of these than CB1100’s, V7 Guzzi’s, and Triumph Bonnevilles combined? You’re out of your mind.

          • VLJ says:

            Well, no, not if you include the Triumph retros. Not a chance. Maybe not even the BMWs, either, but certainly more than the CB1100s and Guzzis.

          • slipjoint says:

            watch

          • mickey says:

            slipjoint, how are you going to watch? The manufacturers don’t give out projection numbers or sales numbers. You won’t know how many were made, how many were sold. And you certainly can’t compare the numbers with other manufactures who also don’t give out their numbers. We don’t know how many Kawasaki hopes or expects to sell.

            If I don’t see one running around in my area or see a dealer discounting one, or see left overs sitting in dealer inventory say next September, does that mean it was a poor seller? Or is Kaw only going to bring in as few as they expect to sell? The CB1100 DLX sold completely out in 4 months, but is still considered a poor seller.Then again we figure only about 300 made it into this country (USA)

    • DP says:

      I believe Honda has styling studios in California an Milan. My guess is that other Japanese companies do not. I am talking about Honda motorcycle brand, not cars.

      My feel is that Japanese stylists managed to fit themselves into European and North American taste(s) quite well. They deserve respect for that.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “2,400 more than the Z900? Why?”

      People pay a premium for retro.

      I agree that some other companies are doing retro better aesthetically, but that doesn’t cut it when they think retro looks requires retro performance.

      Kawasaki’s main focus, as you concluded, was to make an awesome, modern motorcycle that resembles it’s ancestor. That works out much better for someone like me. I’m betting it works out better for a lot of people.

    • Lewis says:

      I did not know this until today, but apparently the frame is different from the Z900 to allow for the tank design, so that would add some cost.

    • Half Baked says:

      1500 + words not including all the other crap you you wrote. Sriously.

  35. Dino says:

    Link to the Kawasaki web site, bottom of the article. Sweet! click on accessories, and sure enough, small fly screen above the headlight for just a bit of wind protection and style… Chrome passenger grab rail (though it should have the back pad and luggage rack for the milk crate), and even the factory center stand..

    Please Santa, don’t listen to all the reports… I have been MOSTLY good this year!

  36. redbirds says:

    Kawasaki has done a superb job. I won’t call it “retro” but a modern bike with very good street performance, good ergos and classic style. I want one in the garage next to my CB1100.

  37. clasqm says:

    Lemme see … how many payments left on the Triumph? How to buy another motorcycle without ending up divorced?

  38. mechanicus says:

    dman says: “…this bike just seems to tick the right boxes!…”

    +1. A home run. They should sell well.

  39. Dave says:

    Kawasaki is on a roll as Yamaha has been the past few years. Great stuff coming from them lately.

  40. Bill says:

    Funny thing is-I’m old enough to remember the original Z-1 and appreciate this incarnation of the design but I’m so old that I only buy shaft or belt driven bikes now. JMHO

  41. mickey says:

    Nice looking bike. If it were mine I’d paint the air box covers satin black and have the radiator covers and heel plates for the ride powder coated satin black as well just to make them blend into the background and not stand out. I think Kawasaki did an excellent job of making this thoroughly modern bike “look” retro enough to be included in the retro class without really being retro. I think the CB 1100 DLX looks better even if it doesn’t perform as well. I also think the new Bonneville T-120 (in cranberry and silver) looks better even though it doesn’t perform as well as the Kaw or the CB. I see a 3 way shoot out in the future. It IS nice to see manufacturers going for “street level” performance more than all out HP, and certainly nice to see them making motorcycles that look like motorcycles once again. Kudos to all.

    Kudos to Kawasaki as well, for keeping this bike under 500 pounds.

    Interesting that when the CB1100 debuted people screamed that it needed 110-120 horsepower or it was a dog. This Z900RS will likely also dyno under 100 hp at the rear wheel (reported as 111 hp at the crank..so do the math..the “125 hp” Z900 it is derived from dynoed at 113 hp). It will likely dyno about the same rw horsepower as Suzuki’s Bandit 1200 which was also labeled a dog. Will be interesting to see if this bike will be labeled a dog as well. It will also dyno less hp than an XSR900 Yamaha, which Yamaha calls their retro. Of course it looks much better than the XSR IMO.

    Lastly other first ride reports (Cycle World) I have read recently, really criticized the suspension and the fueling saying the messed up throttle made it hard to enjoy and that the suspension ruined what should have been a very good ride (shades of Gen 1 FZ-09?). Wonder what was the difference between the one they rode and the one Dirck rode?

    Kawasaki should sell quite a few of these, but like the CB1100 will still be a niche bike for a certain age customer, that will sell in very limited numbers. Old guys hung up on the perceived higher performance will dig it, young guys not so much.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      I stiffened the suspension for part of the ride through the twisties. Went harder on both compression and rebound. Thought it worked well, but some others may not have thought so. Very few riders will adjust suspension at a press launch, but if I think I can improve things I will. The only other rider I saw adjust suspension in our group was Jon Ulrich of RoadRacing World, and he softened his suspension. He went the wrong way, for sure, and he couldn’t keep up with the faster riders in our group. Frankly, I think most journalists have no clue how to adjust suspension. I should add that the stock settings seemed to work fine until the pace was pushed on the canyon roads.

      • VLJ says:

        Dirck, given your praise for the standard Z900’s power curve, spot-on fuel delivery, and unusually smooth, vibration-free operation…

        “Along with the vibration characteristics of the steel frame, Kawasaki took additional efforts to quell vibration and, as a result, the Z900 is one of the smoothest inline-fours we can recall riding. Engine power has been spread from low rpm all the way to red line in a very linear fashion, giving the quick-revving Z900 superb flexibility and the existence of six gears almost overkill, at times. Tight spacing of the first five gears translates to outstanding acceleration, with sixth gear dropping revs to a comfortable level on the highway.

        “Throttle response (and fuel injection tuning) are excellent, with no undue surges when opening the throttle. The engine, quite frankly, is a highlight of the machine, and complimented by a glorious intake howl that adds to rider pleasure when hard on the gas.

        “Compared with the outgoing Z1000, the Z900 seems to rev quicker (lighter flywheel effect), and is dramatically smoother feeling.”

        …do you feel there was any real benefit to Kawasaki’s reworking of the RS’s power curve/engine mapping, or, like myself, would you have dropped the standard mill in untouched and left well enough alone?

        • Dirck Edge says:

          The Z900 motor would have worked fine in the RS, and might be preferred by a rider primarily concerned with high performance, but the RS is plenty fast while focusing on a rider that isn’t looking for the fastest naked bike around. I like the motor in the RS just the way it is. It is already faster than just about any “retro” you can name. Substantially faster.

          This isn’t targeting adrenaline junkies. There are plenty of other bikes that do that. I’ve ridden nearly every significant new motorcycle introduced in the last 25 years, and I didn’t get off the Z900RS thinking “this thing needs more horsepower.” By contrast, while I like the Honda CB1100, I did think “this thing needs more horsepower” while riding it. I think the Z900RS engine performance complements the whole package well, and most buyers will love the motor.

          • VLJ says:

            My concern with the RS-spec motor package isn’t so much the reduced power but rather the unnecessary step backwards that this new spec has apparently had on the throttle response. The Z900’s fueling is nigh-on-perfect, according to you and most other reports. This new one is decidedly less so, by all accounts.

            Seems counter-intuitive to me. Usually it’s the sportier engine spec that suffers from a snatchier throttle. I find it odd, then, and not a particularly good thing, that this reduction in power in the “gentleman’s express” RS version is also accompanied by more abrupt fueling.

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “This isn’t targeting adrenaline junkies.”

            aw man.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “The only other rider I saw adjust suspension in our group was Jon Ulrich of RoadRacing World, and he softened his suspension. He went the wrong way, for sure, and he couldn’t keep up with the faster riders in our group.”

        though he’s a fairly thin/lightweight guy, he should know better, i’m SOOO disappointed in John right now.

    • Brian says:

      I’m with you, Mickey. While I get that the CB1100 powerplant doesn’t have a very high specific output, I’ve never felt that the bike was underpowered for what it is, and I’m sure this will be the same. It’s like, “OMG, my bike will only acccelerate as fast as a 460 hp C7 Corvette! What a slug!”

      I love stupid-powerful bikes as much as anyone, but not every naked bike needs to be an S1000R/Super Duke 1290/Tuono 1100, etc.

  42. Rocky V says:

    I would have liked to see a true throw back –with air cooled / twin shock’s / 4 single pipes –i think they could have made both versions—

  43. Ken House says:

    Which bike did you like more, the Z900 or the Z900RS, and why? The RS is a lot more expensive, but for me it has an advantage because of the increased seat-to-peg distance, flat seat, passenger accommodations, radial brakes, traction control, and taller sixth gear. The detuning and the fuelling of the RS need to be factored into the equation, along with performance impact of the riding position and the light steering. Is the RS worth the extra money? It did seem plenty capable in the twisties, but which bike would be better around town? How do the electronics compare between the two? Was the traction control on the RS useful? Is the ABS on the Z900 intrusive, particularly in corners? Perhaps another article is in store, because it’d be great to compare dyno runs too. Regardless, thanks for getting me excited about these bikes. I miss my ’92 Zephyr 750!

    • austin zzr 1200 says:

      If you are under 30 or otherwise have horrible taste, go with the z900.

      • viktor92 says:

        Ha ha ha !!!

      • Ken House says:

        For me, the Z900 is their best “sugomi” designs. Much better looking that the Z1000. I like the engine and frame, clean, but also clearly designed to please the eye. The front end is a bit ugly, but the bike inspires me. I need to test ride one.

  44. jimmihaffa says:

    Someone has to do it, so let me be the nitpicker in the room. Styling issues for me – polished and visually obtrusive rad shroud, engine appearance inconsistent with styling cues, needs dual shocks, should use 4 into 2 exhaust, front fender braces (or whatever they are). Personally, I much prefer the appearance of the CB1100RS especially the look of the big air-cooled motor prominent HONDA engine cases and fins.

    Aesthetics aside, it would be interesting to see a head-to-head comparison of the Kawasaki and Honda entries in this retro market segment. Dirck, you certainly make a strong case for the balanced overall performance of the Kawasaki.

    • ApriliaRST says:

      > Someone has to do it, so let me be the nitpicker in the room.

      And nitpick you did, lol. I think the bike is awesome. I still remember the day I returned from lunch with a magazine having the article about the original 900 and handing it to my fellow mc mechanic (we weren’t called techs in that day), who had a very massaged CB750 and the look on his face as he read the article. Little did we realize the forward march of motorcycle technology we were about to witness in coming years.

      • jimmihaffa says:

        +1

      • Neil says:

        1. Kawasaki thought about twin shocks and four into four exhausts. Twin shocks don’t work as well, are heavier and you have to pay for two. Same money? One shock twice as good.
        2. “I see a radiator shroud and want to Paint It Black.”
        3. Same with exhausts. Weight vs performance tuning, right where they wanted it with the single side.
        They wanted it to run like a modern bike and handle like a modern bike but look “retro”. But hey, I like the Yamaha XSR too and they look like cousins, these two bikes.

        • Dave says:

          Also worth noting re: exhaust- See that metal box under the bike? Those are part of our new reality and cannot be excluded from a bike from the factory. Given that the metal box erases any functionality of 4x exhausts, real or imagined, would you want 4 pipes exiting from it, just for looks?

          • Dino says:

            Not that anyone would really want to, but how about having three pipes out the back, like the original triples?? 2 on one side, 1 on the other.. then you count 4 pipes up front?? What the What??!

            Kidding aside, I like the one pipe. lighter, cheaper (probably) and similar to upgrades done back in the day anyway…

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “needs dual shocks”

      GTFO!

  45. Brian says:

    Looks like a winner. I know everybody’s into the whole alpha-numeric naming thing now, but seems like something a bit further from Z900 would have been better. Like Zephyr 900 maybe?

  46. Neil says:

    I like it. Muffler looks good stock. Suspension leaves space by the rear wheel but works MUCH better than twin shocks. I like the black more than the Red one somehow. Nice wheels and spokes. Best standard out there now? Certainly as good as…

  47. Norm G. says:

    since i still see some slight squat in that undersprung rear suspension even while solo, if i were to hazard a guess i’d say Dirck weighs 180lbs +/- 5lbs.

    re: “Suspension tuning is softer than found on the Z900”

    you betcha.

  48. DucDynasty says:

    I won’t nit-pick….Well done, Kawasaki!

  49. Rhinestone Kawboy says:

    Kawasaki done a very good job in having this bike modernized with many of the classic 900’s styling. The only fail I see so far, is the 4 into 1 exhaust system with a muffler that looks like it would be a custom accessory one. Personally, I would have rather seen the 4 into 4 mufflers with maybe an updated muffler look, but not like the one they used, more like the original. I’ve always liked the multi-muffler look of the fours no mater whether it was a Kawasaki or a Honda, or others. But I suppose that was done as usual for cost and likewise lower MSRP for the bike. JMHO

    • slipjoint says:

      It’s been brought up a lot so I imagine the after market will make one available soon.

    • dman says:

      I may be in the minority but I think the 4-1 looks perfect. Shape and length. Heck, we all switched our 4-2 or 4-4 pipes over to 4-1 Kerkers or others back in the day anyway. Either for looks/sound/weight/power or because our stock mufflers rusted out in a year. At least that was true with my Honda 4’s.

      • slipjoint says:

        I agree, the first thing I have done with every inline 4 I have owned was to put an aftermarket exhaust on it if it wasn’t there when I purchased. And they were all 4 into 1’s

        • Rhinestone Kawboy says:

          That’s probably because that’s about all you could get with aftermarket exhausts- 4 into 1’s.

  50. dman says:

    Wow! When I first saw the pictures of this bike, I didn’t care for the silver, vented piece ahead of the side covers. But the rider’s knees totally block it. So even though you may have to look at it in the garage, others won’t see it when you’re riding. And I suspect we’ll see a lot of people riding this bike; far more than the Honda 1100, which I certainly like, but this bike just seems to tick the right boxes! It looks good and works well. Congratulations Kawasaki’