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2017 Kawasaki Z900 ABS: MD Ride Review

If you read our press launch report, you know we were impressed by the new flagship naked from Kawasaki, the Z900. Lightweight, nimble and powerful, the Z900 is priced under $9,000. We asked Kawasaki for a test unit following the launch so that we could further evaluate the bike. Here is our report.

We had a chance to talk with the Japanese project leader (whose name currently escapes me) about the Z900. We were curious about a couple of things, including rumors of a retro version of the bike, i.e., an homage to the original Z900 (or Z1) from the early 1970s, and the reasoning behind use of a steel trellis frame.

I got nowhere asking about the possibility of a retro version, however, getting the usual response that possible, future models will not be discussed. Frankly, I came away feeling the likelihood of a retro 900 from Kawasaki is small. Kawasaki seems focused on the Z “family”, as it currently stands with the aggressive, modern styling.

With regard to the use of a steel trellis frame, I thought there might be some performance aspect, but the decision to use it was conveyed to me as purely one related to cost and styling. The price point of the Z900 is impressive, and the family resemblance with other Z models (including the Z650 and Z125 Pro) is now more cohesive (the new Z650 also features a steel trellis frame). As we stated in our press launch report, we nevertheless feel that the steel trellis frame has contributed to the performance of the bike, and we note that the “halo” Kawasaki model, the super high performance H2 is also designed with a steel trellis frame. Perhaps, we were talking to the wrong Kawasaki representative regarding this topic.

The new frame does give the bike a light, nimble appearance, and a good, unobstructed view of the engine. Apparently, CAD was used by Kawasaki to determine pipe diameter, length and wall thickness to “deliver the ideal lateral and torsional rigidity”, and the resulting frame weighs only 30 pounds, incorporating the seat structure (eliminating a separate sub-frame). The engine is a stressed member.

We won’t go into all the technical details, and refer you back to our earlier report. In summary, the 948 cc inline-four powered Z900 now has a very low, wet weight of 463 pounds with its 4.5 gallon fuel tank topped off. With a low seat height, aggressive steering geometry and relatively narrow rear tire (a rare, for an open class machine, 180 section) and suspension that offers only rebound damping adjustment (together with spring preload on the rear shock), Kawasaki has designed a small-feeling, powerful and nimble machine that dramatically undercuts most of the competition on price.

Hitting that price point meant Kawasaki had to eschew radial mounted front brake calipers, for instance, but nevertheless provided excellent performing four-piston calipers on 300 mm discs. Together with ABS on our test model, we weren’t looking for better braking performance.

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. Whether Kawasaki has a retro version planned, or not, this new engine deserves to migrate to other platforms (a Versys, for instance).

The Z900 is easy to ride with a very light clutch pull for such a powerful bike (courtesy of the “Assist and Slipper Clutch” described by us earlier), and the handling is hard to fault. Excellent feedback through the tires and chassis mean a rider gains confidence quickly, and the Z900 is capable of some serious pace on twisty roads.

The suspension damping characteristics are also good. The only change we made was to back off on the fork rebound damping slightly, but the result was suspension action superior to some other bikes we have ridden recently with fully adjustable forks and shocks.

Fuel economy isn’t great, however, and aggressive riding will see your average fall below 40 mpg. Perhaps, not so bad for a bike of this nature, and more relaxed riding can yield decent range from the 4.5 gallon tank.

The seat height is low, and the riding position comfortable with the exception of reduced leg room (relatively short seat-to-footpeg distance) compared to some other machines. Riders with longer inseams might find the Z900 uncomfortable for longer trips for this reason, but the leg room is still far better that that offered by most sport bikes.

The passenger seat accommodations include a small, relatively narrow seat that we did not bother to test. Although it appears to be superior to many sport bike passenger accommodations, that isn’t saying much, and it wouldn’t be the best place to put your significant other for extended rides.

The bottom line is that the new Kawasaki Z900 is a blast to ride, and offers comfortable ergonomics (for the rider, not passenger) and excellent performance at a surprisingly low price. At an U.S. MSRP of $8,399 for the non-ABS model and $8,799 for the ABS version, you will have a great deal of difficulty finding similar “bang for the buck”. Take a look at Kawasaki’s web site for additional details and specifications.

See more of MD’s great photography:



  1. thoppa says:

    Such a shame about the pillion perch. If they would do a version with a decent passenger seat, I’m in. And I’d be queuing up for one that is half-faired. However, until then the FZ09 wins for me. Such a shame cos that engine sounds awesome.

  2. Barry Burton says:

    I travel to Japan every month and if the Japanese motorcycle magazine ” Young Machine ” is to be believed (They have been pretty accurate about future bikes ), a retro Kawasaki 900 is on the way !!! There was no way that Kawasaki was going to launch a retro version at the same time they launched this Z900 !! Kawasaki like all the other Japanese motorcycle manufacturers are copy cats !! They know the retro and naked market is upon us like it or not !! Kawasaki has the greatest retro legacy with their 2 stroke triples, Z1, and KZ bikes and they know it !! Kawasaki got caught off guard with the retro bike faze and are playing catch up to Yamaha and Triumph !! Also if ” Young Bike ” is to be believed expect more cool retro and naked bikes from Honda,Yamaha and Suzuki including a new Honda CBX 6 cylinder bike,a new version of the Suzuki Katana, a 4 stroke retro RD350 from Yamaha built from the FZ line, plus a 3 cylinder 4 stroke naked Kawasaki models after the early Kawasaki H1 500!!!

  3. MIGUEL ZEDRX says:

    Yes I thought I heard tell of a rumour that the big K was gonna start toying with smaller displacement supercharged bikes. Would a Ninja 650 twin that runs with a ZX6R interest anyone? memememememe!

    • Norm G. says:

      Q: Would a Ninja 650 twin that runs with a ZX6R interest anyone?

      A: meh…

      but a high revving, supercharged 250-400cc 4-cylinder (think RC-166) that runs with a Zed would do it, OH YEAH…!!! (Macho Randy Savage voice)

    • Selecter says:

      A blown 650 that runs with a 600 would still be heavier than the 600 (supercharger, plumbing, a LOT of extra cooling capacity), and by our own definition here, would only still “run with” a 600. And you’d still be stuck with a relatively expensive-to-build motorcycle with crap brakes, chassis, and suspension compared to the 600.

      Gimme a plain old 636 any day. Turbos and superchargers work great on cars, where the extra weight of a reinforced engine block, cooling plumbing, and bulk aren’t such a handicap. On motorcycles, they’re not nearly as desirable or feasible to throw together.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        It could still run with a 600, but it could also be so much more. A blown 650 could make similar peak power while also having superior mid-range power, making the package much more flexible. But like the point you make with the 636, Kawasaki has already accomplished that same thing with the Z900. Why go through the expense of forced induction when a bump in displacement can net the same thing for less money and complexity?

  4. Paul says:

    Dirck: Thank you for the Z900 review. I’ve been following your site for 15+ years, and enjoy your insights and beautiful photography. When you return the Versus 300 to Kawasaki HQ, can you please ask to test an H2? Also, any chance you can return to adding videos to select reviews? Your photos and videos are much appreciated by us east coast residents that often don’t see the sun.

  5. todd says:

    They design a nice, trellis frame and then cover it up with lame plastic “cast aluminum-look” covers.

    Also, I doubt it costs much more, if at all, to drill the mounting holes on the edge for a radial caliper than on the face for a traditional one. I think it’s more about cost PERCEPTION than actual costs. If the cheap bikes had radial calipers, there would be no reason to charge more for them on “premium” bikes.

  6. WSHart says:

    Instead of making a tribute to their history, Kawasaki chose to make a mess. Okay. . . It’s not as gruesome as some other bikes but it could have been better. I hope they sell well as taking a chance that doesn’t pay off too often results in “cult” status. Think W650 and you’ll get the idea.

    It is better looking that the four muffler creature they foisted on an unsuspecting public a few years ago. If anyone at Kawasaki is reading our remarks then think hard about appealing to those with the wherewithal to buy and insure such a bike and do a tribute to the Z900.

    And for fooks sake, give it a 5 gallon tank and tubeless spoke wheels because we want to go somewhere and only an idiot wants tubes on a bike made for making good memories versus flatting in the middle of nowhere. Make it right or forget it. It should come with a centrestand too. It should pay homage to the past without forcing us to our knees with carbs, tubes and what-have-you.

    And because the manlets here will get in a knot, “naked” is a stupid term that no real adult would use when describing a standard bike. FTN, kiddies.

  7. MIGUEL ZEDRX says:

    The first Z1000 had a Z1 tribute styling with the four gruesome mufflers poking out the back! If I remember correctly they didn’t sell well. How many OG’s are gonna pony up for a retro Z1.

    • mickey says:

      I think you’d be surprised. Kaw would sell plenty.

      If it looked like this

    • Neil says:

      Kawasaki are winning in World Superbike. What reflects that on the street? A naked version of their Superbike. A Z1000 zoomed past me on the Highway heading to work today. I almost never see retro bikes, old or new. I can see it in the South and Southwest. Sunny. Fair weather bike. Here in New England, it’s faired Harleys riding and new riders on their small bikes. – The manufacturers MUST get NEW riders on the road. Bikes have to be edgy. Sport bikes still sell to younger people. Nakeds as well. Greater Boston Motorsports sold their first green framed Z900. It’s a motor with wheels.

      • Austin zzr1200 says:

        Interesting argument. Lets see if the sales numbers and demographics support it. Something tells me they are alienating more riders than they are acquiring with this bike…as someone who lives in the south, I can tell you that nakeds are scarce and I have seen only a handful of z-bikes in my time riding. Street fighters are more of an urban phenomenon and make perfect sense in Europe where you have a combination of urban and slab settings. Here (in Texas) if you are not riding a “newb” bike, you are on a heavy cruiser, a dual sport, a tourer or a sportbike.

        • Tim says:

          While I agree it isn’t the most beautiful bike, the price point for a near-liter bike (to go along with reviews like this) may be enough to offset the looks. While I don’t love the look, I’ve seen a lot worse from the Japanese manufacturers. If I was in the market for a good value, high output naked, this would be near the top of my list.

    • mickey says:

      and just so I am not misunderstood, I am talking a retro in ADDITION to the above bike in the line up, not in lieu of.

      Have BOTH in the line up, an edgy one for youngsters and a more traditional one for oldsters if you will

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “a more traditional one for oldsters if you will”

        as the kids say, show some Love to the OG’s, we’re people too.

  8. Tim says:

    Still waiting for the ELR version. Probably will be for a long time, though.

    • Larry Kahn says:

      Good luck finding anyone under 50 who has any idea who/what ELR means.

      • todd says:

        I’m a good tick under fifty and I know. Bikes don’t go on forgotten once they leave the showroom floor. A legacy lasts. This is why Vincents are still desirable and Indian can be reborn (yet again).

  9. Neil says:

    The first photo of Dirck says it all. A wheel aloft is a happy Dirck. It’s his thumbs up. I like the clutch being sooo EASY to pull for a change for such a big motor. It looks great in person. I take the highway a lot so it’s good for that. Slipper clutch is nice to have. Would it get you out away from your day to day grind? Yes.

  10. Tom R says:

    I guess I am a charter member of the Flat Seat Society.

    When I started riding in the 1980s most bikes had relatively flat and comfortable seats, in which you could move fore and aft, and change positions. And with my fairly short legs I could still reach the ground well enough to be confident and in control when stopped.

    Most bikes today have a separate rider seat (or portion of the complete seat), and a high step up to the passenger section, as on this Z900. This locks the rider into one position that prohibits movement to alleviate fatigue. What changed?

    • Tim says:

      I’m with you, Tom R. I miss the flat seats. I assume they are doing the step up seats for a couple of reasons. The first is probably for appearance and, second, so the Pillion may be able to have a better chance of being able to see over the rider. (I’m guessing a lot of pillions probably preferred the old way though.)

      From an individual perspective, I’m convinced that a flat seat is usually going to be more comfortable. As you point out, it allows you to change positions, and helps keep “hot spots” from occuring.

    • Kyle says:

      I too am a member of the flat seat society. I was born in 86 too so I probably should prefer the stink bug style according to demographical market research. Half the reason Triumph is my only option because they make beautifully flat seats.

      My wife hates sitting on stink bug catapult rear ends and I do too as a pilot. It is stupid ugly and I’m sick of it.

      Not to mention sick of the smeared down headlights too. Like someone had a traditional headlight in Photoshop and just applied the smear tool to the headlight and pulled it straight down to the front fender.

      • Dino says:

        You must be an old soul… I was born in 68, and feel the same way about the seats and styling..

        • Kyle says:

          That and I don’t wheelie even after riding dirtbikes for 25 years… Wheelies never did it for me or ever translated to riding skill. But I can complete an endurocross course without dabbing! But these seats make sense if the rider is gonna wheelie around town for whatever reason. I guess it is something we just have to accept. Or weld on an fz-09 subframe… Or just buy an fz-09 😉

          • Scott says:

            Okay, this conversation needs a rebuttal…

            I was born in 1963, and I have no problem with the seat on the Z. If I owned this bike, I would certainly pull the occasional wheelie, and I definitely would not attempt to ride an endurocross on it, dabbing or otherwise. So a flat seat is completely unnecessary for me.

            Also, my wife wouldn’t care if the rear seat had spikes all over it, because she would be riding along side me on her own bike.

            I have known many motorcycle riders in my life, and I can tell you that the crowd that post here are definitely NOT representative of the current motorcycle market in general.

            If the manufacturers spent all their time trying to satisfy the Motorcycle Daily crowd – indeed, if that were even possible – they would go out of business in short order.

            Kawasaki (and many other manufacturers) have been making and selling motorcycles for decades. I think maybe it’s possible they know what they’re doing by now…

          • mickey says:

            Scott, if you will, please describe the current motorcycle market in general, as you see it.

            and do sales back that up?

            And do you think you are typical as far as motorcyclists go? (cause everyone thinks most everyone else thinks just like them)

          • Dino says:

            So Scott’s ideal market would be a showroom full of bikes with spike-covered stink bug rear ends because nobody rides with a passenger anyway.
            Our point to this conversation was that many new bikes seem like a good time, but we can’t get our better half to come with. A more reasonable seat design would be welcome.

          • Kyle says:

            I just realized in none of the pictures is the rider utilizing the rear seat to keep him in place. And I bet it is safe to say 90% of the rider’s wives here don’t ride beside them!

            I hear ya on everything except this Scott:

            “Kawasaki (and many other manufacturers) have been making and selling motorcycles for decades. I think maybe it’s possible they know what they’re doing by now…”

            That doesn’t make the big 4 immune from failure. A great example is the Suzuki Gladius which they listened to the people on and fixed with the latest version of the SV650. Sometimes bikes are “improved” too much and it takes the voice of the people with $10,000 in their pocket to change their minds!

    • azi says:

      “This locks the rider into one position that prohibits movement to alleviate fatigue”

      It doesn’t. There’s plenty of room to move around.

  11. Vrooom says:

    How about putting this in an adventure bike Kawasaki? With a different headlight and flat seat however.

    • Bob says:

      What would be the point? ADV bikes need grunt, which a four doesn’t provide. ADV bikes need to narrow, which fours can’t manage. (Modern) ADV bikes need electronic aids to manage open-class power in the dirt, which this engine doesn’t have (yet).

      I’m getting the idea that you’ve never ridden a proper ADV bike off-road?

      • Dirck Edge says:

        Adventure bikes are, more often than not, used for touring on the road.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Really? Does a BMW flat twin qualify as narrow? Modern ADV bikes don’t need grunt off-road. They already have too much. In any case, a four cylinder is perfectly capable of providing grunt if tuned for it. Or geared for it.

        The Versys family is more of the touring type ADV bike anyway. A smooth I4 would be perfect for that platform’s mission.

      • Jon says:

        “grunt, which a four doesn’t provide.”

        Wut. Are you talking about.

      • MGNorge says:

        Gees! I “adventure biked” on my ’64 Trail 90! Adventure is wherever the road or trail leads you.

  12. yellowhammer says:

    That riding position causes your t-shirt to blow up in the back. I get tired of seeing the fat sunburned backs and buttecleavage of the boys riding those. My wife always says “gross” when they whiz by like rodney roadracer.

    • Tim C says:

      Criticizing a bike’s riding position for how it affects completely inappropriate gear is a rather odd way of looking at things IMO.

    • Scott says:

      This bike also doesn’t have a windshield, which makes it hard to light a cigarette while you’re riding… Sad!

  13. mechanicus says:

    It always cracks me up to see those arse-elevated rear treatments that require complex convoluted extensions to get the tag plates and turn signals attached where you can see them LOL.

  14. mcmotohistory says:

    WOW, when you look at the frame it’s like could you stick the rear end any more up in the air? The rear of the frame is level with the TOP of the handlebars. I don”t get it, it ruins the bike for me.

    • Brian says:

      It’s definitely up there, but doesn’t look much different from most sporting bikes of the past 10-15 years to me. For example, compare w/ Z1000, SuperDuke, R1, S1000R, Monster, etc.

      The FZ-09 and FZ-10 are probably the closest to “traditional.” And if you’re looking for a chunky 90s-style tail section, I’m thinking the hypersports (busa, ZX-14, K1300s) are about your only options these days.

  15. Sentinel says:

    Another issue I’ve seen reported, is that it has at most about 15w of electrical power to spare, and that trying to power other accessories, such as heated gear, would not work out. I wonder if the same is true for the Z650 / Ninja 650?

    • Provologna says:

      Can the alternator be rewound or modified in some other fashion for more output?

      • Vrooom says:

        Surely someone will come out with a higher power stator for it, they do for every other bike.

    • Bob says:

      These things aren’t built for long-distance, all-weather touring in mind. Find a different bike.

      • Sentinel says:

        The overly narrow focused and pigeonholed motorcycle trend is for sure one of my top industry complaints. Thanks for the reminder.

  16. beasty says:

    I really like the idea of this bike and as naked’s go it’s not too bad looking. But that peg position makes my knees and calves ache just looking at it. Sadly, I won’t be a buyer.

  17. Kyle says:

    the main reason i want a retro version is to get rid of that dang stink bug rear subframe. one less bend in that seat rail. Flat from tank to tail. Pillion friendly.

    Here, this might help: 私がレトロなバージョンをしたい主な理由は、そのスティックバグの後部サブフレームを取り除くことです。そのシートレールに曲がりが1つ少なくなる。タンクからテールまでフラット。何十億もの友好。

  18. TomG says:

    I have had my Z900 for 3 weeks and it is a fantastic bike. I agree with azi. The motor, weight, chassis, and overall feel of the bike is very good. When you sit on the bike and take it off the sidestand it immediately feels very light. I like the seating position better than the FZ09/MT09. The bike has very good linear power. It won’t snatch your head back like the FZ09 but you won’t be wishing for more power. The fueling is very very good with little to no throttle jerkiness from closed to open throttle. I have owned over 20 bikes and this is a keeper. I think Kawasaki has a winner here.

  19. relic says:

    The lack of a detachable subframe will raise insurance costs. A damaged tail, with panniers, is a write-off.
    While everyone pines for retro bikes, few are willing to make the payments. (CB1100)

    • Jim W says:

      I believe the problem with the cb1100 is that it’s just not an exciting (or interesting) bike to ride…

      • mickey says:

        Relic, Jim, we have a couple thousand members from 22 countries on the CB1100 forum. Many sold more powerful bikes to get their CB1100’s, my self included. For me it was a 125 hp FZ1 Yamaha. I find the 88 hp CB infinitly more enjoyable to ride than the 125 hp bike,and now have over 40,000 absolutely trouble free miles on my CB’s. I guess it all depends on how many hp it takes to get one excited. Some get all giddy over a 34 hp 300. Some whiz their pants over 75 hp twin, others want a 105 hp triple, and for some it takes a 145 hp 4 or a 160 fire-breathing 6 cylinder. We all have different wants and needs.

        Some CB1100 forum members would welcome more hp in the CB, but it is what it is, the point of this being, I’m sure Kawasaki would find a decent market for a retro designed KZ 900 using this motor. Make it like the one that has been floating around on the net for the last 3 or 4 years, root beer and orange, decent flat seat, 4 into 4 pipes and I’m sure it would sell well. For some reason Kawasaki doesn’t think it’s worth their effort. That’s too bad.

        • Fred says:

          Mickey, well said.
          I imagine that there are hidden costs with spare parts stock, Countries of Sale approvals etc, that don’t reflect a quick return on investment gamble.
          I am sure a German aftermarket company could knock up a kit of parts to make that KZ900 in a few weeks, but at what cost for the few that would take it up.
          All bike’s have it’s day in the new bike showroom, and like a Windows OS product that we loved then, there’s a time to let those ‘to be reborn’ hopes go as there’s a few new Buyer’s of today to consider.

        • Curly says:

          Mickey gets it, the CB1100 is what is very good at what it was meant to be and a retro Kawasaki would meet with a better reception now if they’d try it.

        • Fujkami says:

          1. weight – Z is much lighter
          2. twin shocks vs single (single works better with more travel)
          3. More power – means power sooner, so you’re not ringing the bike’s neck to get to it
          4. Chassis – My VFR absorbed my occasional mistakes which retro bikes often do not and many guys go down on the retro bikes when the chassis won’t handle the situation
          5. Design: It’s 2017 – young engineers are on design teams – trying to lure young people out of the house
          – I myself like the retro and the modern.

        • John Bryan says:

          It doesn’t even have to be a “full-retro” bike – lower and lengthen the rear frame section, change out the Optimus Prime headlight for a round chrome housing, and build a full-size tank to replace the current tank/side scoop set-up – no changes to anything else is really needed. Yeah, 4-4 pipes would up the cool factor – the aftermarket can handle that. It seems so simple…

        • Jim W says:

          Mickey, when the cb came out I wanted one badly but after taking one out for an extended test ride it just didn’t do it for me, no matter how much I loved its appearance. Tried one again the following year, same conclusion. I wanted to like it…. By the way I’m on my third FZ1! I’m glad that you are enjoying the cb, ride safe.

          • mickey says:

            Jim, understandable. Not every bike is made to suit every person. If it doesn’t suit you, it just doesn’t. Same way I am not a cruiser person, or an origami styling person.

            BTW I had 2 Gen 1 FZ-1’s an 01 and an 04. Great bikes, I put about 80,000 miles on. However, I prefer the CB. Ride, ergos, power delivery and appearance suit me.

            I would also ride a Z900 if it looked like the pictures I posted above..or is that below? Closer to the top story.

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “Some get all giddy over a 34 hp 300. Some whiz their pants over 75 hp twin, others want a 105 hp triple, and for some it takes a 145 hp 4 or a 160 fire-breathing 6 cylinder.”

          280HP Desmo V4…


        • slipjoint says:

          It’s nice that the CB 1100 members enjoy it but it is a commercial flop.

      • Brian says:

        Love it when people assume that their personal definitions of words like “exciting,” “interesting,” and “character” are universal.

  20. TomG says:

    I have had my Z900 for 3 weeks. I agree with azi in saying this is a fantastic bike. I don’t ride passengers so the small passenger seat doesn’t really bother me. I prefer the riding position over the FZ09/MT09. The engine, clutch, weight, and overall feel of the bike are very good. Build quality also appears is very good. Nothing looks cheap. I do think that Kawasaki could have cleaned up the covered part of the frame and left off the molded plastic cover. I removed the cover to use my Abba superbike stand and with a little work Kawasaki could have left off the covers and let more of the beautiful Kawasaki green frame show. Anyway, I really like the bike. I have owned over 20 bikes so I am not new to this. It looks better in person that in pictures and when you sit on it and take it off the sidestand you will like it. Should sell well for Kawasaki. I will be surprised if it does not. Go Big Green.

  21. azi says:

    I’ve owned my Z900 for around two months now, riding it daily as a weekday peak hour commuter and for weekend recreation. Dirck’s evaluation of the bike is fairly close to my own experience. It has a smooth and flexible engine that’s just as happy to poke around in traffic (especially when paired to that wonderfully light clutch) as it is in the mountain roads. The suspension is reasonable for a bike in its price range – I would rate it “7 out of 10” – it keeps the bike under control when ridden with enthusiasm, but just lacks a bit of refinement in plushness/harshness. Interesting that Dirck dialled down the front rebound, when I had to dial it up on mine.

    The seating position is much more traditional sport-touring, as opposed to the compact motard position of the MT-09/FZ-09. I prefer this. The tall seat option is more plush than stock, but some people don’t like the resulting ergonomics.

    Probably my only major gripe with this bike is its luggage unfriendliness. That tail is tiny and doesn’t offer any proper tie-down hard points. I am still waiting for the aftermarket to sort out supply of their rack/pannier products. In the meantime I’ve had to make do with the underseat loop system used by Kriega – functional, but not the most elegant solution. Apparently the stator can’t handle much more current than a USB charging port either – I’ve heard that aftermarket heated grips are a no-no, and that you’re better off going Ninja 1000 if you’re that way inclined.

    • Dino says:

      You could probably hang side bags UNDER the tail section, and it would work great! Plenty of room down there..

      • Kyle says:

        Seriously why does a bike that has 4-6 inches of travel need 12-16 inches of a gap between tire and fender? Aerodynamically yeah I get it, but these are not sportbikes so it does not matter.

        I say no to stink bug bikes.

  22. Nohi says:

    Hopefully Kawasaki will take a page out of Yamaha’s book and design multiple bikes on this frame/engine combo. Yamaha did it right with the FZ-09, FJ-09, & XSR900 combo. Kawasaki could kill it with this one. This version, a ZRX style retro bike, & a sport touring version would fit the bill nice. Also as mentioned in the article, moving the engine to the Versys would be a great move as well.

    • Bob says:

      Or you could just go, and like, buy one of those Yamahas.

    • Dave says:

      Isn’t there already an open-class Versys built around some version of the Ninja 1000 engine?

      There are already 3x good bikes built on the 650 twin chassis/engine.

  23. Erik says:

    I will buy a retro version of this if they make it. I loved the looks and engine of my old Zephyr 550 but the suspension sucked. Not a fan of the transformer look but would appreciate the modern performance.

  24. Austin zzr1200 says:

    Ok. What about the interview that you guys promised with the designer?

    Still too fugly to consider. They wont go retro so will someone please make a ZRX kit for it?

    • Brian says:

      Funny how little of my ZRX I actually see when I’m riding it…

      • Austin zzr1200 says:

        but you are not afraid to look at it in the parking lot or in the garage…I saw the Z900 at the dealership and it took 10 seconds for me to say “nope” and walk away. Every time I see a ZRX, I get ZRX envy…

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          To each his own I guess. I like the look of this bike. It isn’t the greatest…. The tail is just silly. But I’ve always considered the ZRX to be a dreadfully ugly bike.

  25. Yoyodyne says:

    Made in Thailand, it will be interesting to see if this offers comparable build quality and reliability to Kawasakis that are made in Japan.

    • azi says:

      I’ve got one in my garage, Yoyodyne. Its fit and finish is better than some Suzukis and Ducatis I’ve owned in the past, and easily matches the other Japanese-made Kawasaki in my shed.

    • Tom R says:

      I have 12-year old Nikon that was made in Thailand. It has been used A LOT and has never stopped working (if it was a car it would have about 250,000 miles on it).

      If this camera is any indication, Thailand Kawasakis should do well.

    • Ken says:

      I’m of the understanding that all of BMW’s F series motorcycles and S1000 models are produced in Thailand and are generally regarded as premium motorcycles in most places.

      • Tom R says:

        They are produced in Berlin, but the coming G310R and G310GS are being produced in India.

        • Bob says:

          Mostly right. A lot of the F-series is coming out of China/Taiwan, along with the big scooters. The 310s are from India.

          Everything else should come from Ze Fatherland.

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “all of BMW’s F series motorcycles and S1000 models are produced in Thailand”
            re: “They are produced in Berlin”
            re: “A lot of the F-series is coming out of China/Taiwan, along with the big scooters”

            the answer is D: All Thee Above.

            the original F650 singles (now known as G) have been outsourced to China. unless it’s changed, the F800 twins are still produced by their Austrian cousins Rotax, iirc the first batches even had Rotax stamped on the valve cover (not something easily seen with engine in the frame).

            premium “intellectual property” kit like the S1000, Wasser Boxer, and the Sechs-Zylinder they absolutely do in-country. the Germans are VERY nationalistic in that regard (Jawohl mein Kommandant). however (comma) i do believe some peripherals are done in China though. i think the wheels of the S1RR are in fact China-made. if you ever get your hands on a set you’ll see more clearly. the casting and the finish are definitely sub-standard compared to any old R1100 or K1200RS. the old to semi-old kit was clearly built with a “WW2 ethos”. but of course much like stock canisters, levers, and rear sets, wheels are targets for aftermarket replacement on everybody’s supersport model, there really IS a sound business case for out-sourcing items like that, a case not even i can argue with.

            while the global economics of manufacturing are certainly changing all the time, i would contend Bavarian pride in the S1000 engine is so high, if sales dipped, i’d say they’d sooner CANCEL the S model line up altogether than out-source production just to save a few “Deutsche Marks”.

            don’t know much about the baby G’s, but India production sounds about right since that market was the impetus for their creation in the first place so that figures.

    • VLJ says:

      Most modern Triumphs including all the Street Triples and Bonnevilles are assembled in Thailand, and everyone raves about the build quality. I’ve had a large number of Japanese bikes, and my Street Triple was built just as well as any of them.

    • todd says:

      Quality depends more on Kawasaki than the country that manufactures it. If Kawasaki can’t control their product quality coming out of their suppliers or their own factories, I’d blame them not a certain country or nationality.

  26. Don says:

    Too bad they had to angle the rear sub-frame almost straight up in the air. They could have designed the bike to have an actually usable passenger seat and a much more level rider perch.

  27. MIGUEL ZEDRX says:

    OOOOOOOMG I got to ride this thing a few weeks ago! I take back the slight bashing I gave it at first sight. (The seat still qualifies as a torture device.)This thing RIPS! I went on the freeway and couldn’t help myself, I got off, turned around and got back on! Riding a naked bike at speed is the closest thing to flying near the ground I’ve found. Now I have to talk to the CEO/Chief financial officer about feasibility. Thanks Kawi for the test ride! (Sorry about the rear tire.)KIDDING!

  28. joe b says:

    Previously owning a ’07 GSF1250 Suzuki Bandit, still having my ’12 Honda CB1000R (along with still other models), I bet this will be a popular bike. Would like to see all the big 4 make retro looking bikes out of this genre. I would buy a first year Katana looking bike made out of their new naked GSX-S1000, for sure.

    • Your Uncle Bob says:

      I like your 12150 Bandit. The modern looks of this one, and the modern Yamahas and the modern Suzukis do nothing for me.

      I feel like I’m going to pitch over the front wheel if I stop too fast.

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