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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

2018 Kawasaki Z900RS: MD Ride Review

This is our final report on the Z900RS we have been testing near our offices in Temecula, California. Before reading this report, you may want to have a look back at our report from the press launch, as well as our introduction to this final ride review.

Looking at the beautiful bike, along with the spec sheet, one can draw the conclusion that this is the first Japanese motorcycle delivering what retro enthusiasts have been begging for, i.e., a bike that is true to the design heritage, while offering modern engine and chassis performance. We rode the Z900RS in an effort to determine whether this is, in fact, the case. On the whole, it is.

We went through all the technical specifications of the Z900RS here, but let’s go through the highlights. Despite styling that is reminiscent of a 1970s-era Kawasaki Z1, this is very much a modern motorcycle in terms of performance.

The engine is a liquid cooled, DOHC, 16-valve, 948 cc, inline four-cylinder with fuel injection. Nothing retro about that. In fact, this engine is a close relative to the one found in the Z900 that impressed us so much when we tested it last year.

An “Assist and Slipper” clutch serves two purposes by reducing clutch pull effort, and allowing aggressive downshifts without upsetting traction from the rear tire. This is a feature found on several other Kawasakis, and it performs as advertised.

Kawasaki also put a lot of effort into tuning the exhaust note of the Z900RS. We have previously reported on the result. It sounds fantastic! It might best be described as a deep roar, rather than a high-end shriek found on a 600 supersport, for instance. Regardless, it adds real pleasure to the experience of riding the Z900RS.

The chassis is also very modern. The fully-adjustable, upside-down fork, and a horizontally mounted rear shocked (with both rebound and spring preload adjustment) are housed in a lightweight steel trellis frame. Cast aluminum wheels have thin spokes to mimic the spoked wheels of yesteryear. Tire sizes are appropriate for a performance motorcycle, including a 120×70 17-inch front, and a 180×55 17-inch rear.

The brakes are sportbike-level, and a big step up from the Z900 sibling model. In front, the dual, 300 mm brake discs are squeezed by four-piston, radial-mount monobloc calipers, controlled by a radial pump master cylinder. The rear brake is a single piston gripping a 250 mm disc.

Kawasaki even includes traction control with two, rider selectable modes (including one for low traction situations).

That Z1-inspired styling does a good job of honoring the older model, while adding some modern flair. The biggest difference, perhaps, is the lack of the twin shock set-up found on older bikes, including the Z1. Otherwise, the tank shape, the instrument cluster, as well as the rear seat and fender, hit the mark.

Engine performance is exceptional. The powerband is almost completely linear, that is, it builds smoothly and progressively from idle through to the 10,000 rpm redline. It provides plenty of power at around–town rpm levels, allowing strong acceleration from as low as 3500 rpm. At the same time, the bike has a nice high–rpm pull, where the exhaust note really sings.

Throttle response from a completely closed throttle to an open throttle is not as smooth as it is on the Z900. Having said this, it is better than many, if not most, of the competing, Euro4 compliant motorcycles. After riding the bike for an extended period of time, any issue in this regard largely disappeared for our test rider. It is helped by the fact that the bike allows you to accelerate well from very low rpm levels, and you can choose a taller gear when exiting corners.

The brakes have good power and feel. The front brake, in particular, surpasses the performance demanded by the typical rider of a retro standard. The front brake could work well at a track day with a change in pads and brake lines.

The six-speed transmission has a very broad spread with a low first gear, and a relatively tall sixth gear. RPM levels at highway cruising speeds are low, as are vibration levels (this bike is very smooth for an inline four). With the flat torque curve, good acceleration at highway speeds does not require a downshift from sixth.

The Kayaba suspension offers a decent range of adjustability, allowing the rider to cruise around with plush suspension action, or dial in additional compression and rebound damping to tighten things up. We added spring preload to the rear shock, and slowed rebound damping considerably to create suspension action we felt provided good performance on twisty roads.

After setting up the suspension, we found the handling to be excellent. Steering through corners is neutral, and we were confident carrying a good pace through familiar canyon roads. We found a smooth rhythm by short-shifting, and opening the throttle on corner exits with the engine turning just 3,500 rpm. On straights, the motor accelerates the bike strongly, and the transmission shifts positively from gear-to-gear. The fork resists excessive dive when on the brakes. Ground clearance is very good for a retro.

The ergonomics are what you might expect. Nearly bolt upright (much more so than a sport tourer, but not quite as upright as an adventure/dirt bike), with the broad, flat seat offering good comfort and support. The seat allows you to easily adjust your position fore-and-aft. Leg room is decent, if not generous.

You can expect roughly 45 mpg with a mix of cruising and aggressive riding. Fuel capacity is 4.5 gallons so expect your fuel gauge to start warning you after 150 miles, or so. With the right accessories, the Z900RS could certainly serve as a commuter or light tourer. Passenger accommodations are generous when compared to many other standards, particularly the seat.

Our list of complaints includes the somewhat snatchy off/on throttle response and a gas tank which is beautiful but a bit wide between the legs. That’s about it.

So we think that Kawasaki has succeeded in creating a bike that combines beautiful retro style with modern engine and chassis performance. It will blast away from most of the retro-styled competition, whether in a straight line or down a twisty canyon road. At the same time, it can be the perfect partner for a Sunday cruise to the store and back, or the commute to work. In other words, it fulfills the promise of a Japanese standard motorcycle sold in the 1970s … or in 2018.

The 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS is available in two colors, including the Candytone Brown/Candytone Orange shown in our photos, and Metallic Spark Black. U.S. MSRP starts at $10,999. Visit Kawasaki’s web site for further details and specifications.

See more of MD’s great photography:



  1. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    Finally saw one today at the dealership, sat on it (they only had a black one). Meh. Did not light my loins aflame, will not impulse-buy. Tank too fat. In comparison, the battleship grey/ orange Ninja 400 was stunning

    • Regan says:

      Not another complaint about aZ900rs’s gas tank. Go to Kawasaki’s website to the Z900rs page . Then in the gallery find the overhead pic of the tank and seat. The tank is narrow were it meets the seat. Then the tank widens as it gets closer to the handlebars. Is the tank wide yes , is it too wide no. There are plenty of tanks as wide or wider being sold.
      Another case of somebody negatively exaggerating something about a bike they had no intention of buying.

      • actually, I had every intention of buying it and the proportions are a deal-killer. Gimme a ZRX

        • Regan says:

          Austin how about your comments on two previous reports on this machine . Now you were saying considering buy it.
          Sure you were .

      • Scott says:

        ^ Kawasaki shill.

        • Regan says:

          Yes right , based on what ? You agitators can’t handle the truth.

          • Austin ZZR 1200 says:

            Based on how defensive you are around this topic. Truth? Agitators? Wow, this is just a website, not a troll farm. Good luck at the dealership. Also, you want to sell more/ overcome the tank bias, do test rides like Yamaha/BMW/Triumph/ Ducati dealers do in my area. Side-by-sides are not going to pay the rent.

          • Regan says:

            Ok , that was funny.

  2. Jon says:

    After looking at it for a bit longer in those candytone colours, I’ve decided if they manage to smooth out the fuelling I’m going to buy one. Can’t think of any other good reason not to.

  3. TCN says:

    Great report and would love to own this bike.

    I’ve been riding since the mid 70’s (58 years old and ride @ 10000 plus miles a year) and think this is a great looking bike. It’s styled after bikes that I grew up with. I like the mix of retro with a modern engine, brakes and suspension. As it the bike being non fairing; I like it without. Just like the 70’s KZ900/1000. Sitting straight up feels comfortable for me. My back gets sore when bent over for too long. That’s why I have multiple standard bikes in the garage along with a sport bike and a touring bike. If I did not just get an XSR900 last year, I would buy this bike in a heartbeat.

  4. Glen says:

    I think it’s a beautiful bike.

  5. Mr.Mike says:

    I felt that Kawasaki mostly nailed the look of the old bike with this, with a few small exceptions. Then I saw a version of it with a chrome passenger grab rail installed and suddenly it all came together. That bike also had a chrome front fender and other bits, which really took it the rest of the way back to 1972.

  6. Rapier says:

    Sales numbers are hard to come by and that is just the gross numbers by manufacturer, much less by model and I don’t think any such number are final sales. The point being it would be nice to know if these bikes that create a lot of buzz on the internet actually sell.

    I’m all for anything that will get people onto two wheels and new great bikes flowing into the market.

  7. Marty says:

    I had a ’76 KZ900 LTD back in the early 90’s…Shoei cafe fairing, higher gearing and lower (2″ high?) bars. Took it from Houston to Boston for a job and ran all over the NE while I was there. Put 6000 miles on it when all was said and done. Loved the bike, wish I still had it. This version sounds like a winner to me..

  8. Rich says:

    My question is, since you have ridden both the Z900 and the RS, which was the more fun to ride, regardless of looks?

    • Alan says:

      How fast do you ride? We have both bikes at the dealership where I work. If you ride over 80 mph a lot, get the Z900. The wind blast on the Z900rs is considerable above 80 mph especially for a long trip. Don’t know if the “cafe racer” version will help/if and when ?? made available in the USA.

  9. Randybobandy says:

    11K for a nighthawk 750 with better brakes and suspension? This and the cb100 are 7K bikes, not worth anywhere close to $11,0000. I’m sure I will have one of each in my garage in the next few years. A two or three year old garage queen for 4-5k will fit my budget perfectly.

    • Provologna says:

      I suspect the self-defeating point of your post escapes you. If everyone followed your advice, no one would buy the $11k CB1100, because after all, per you, it’s overpriced by $7k. Do you know what that does to your wish? No used CB1100s exist for sale, because everyone avoids buying new, and waits for their used $4k bike.

      The best thing you could do to make your dream come true is to keep it to yourself. I suspect you avoid doing that because you wish to advertise your finances are morally superior.

      Your math appears to ignore there exist people with more disposable cash than you have, who want to ride the bike they want between today and 2002. Some of those people might not want to wait, and they have the funds to not wait, something you apparently lack.

      The value of anything is determined at the moment money changes hands. If you determined the value of the CB1100, the bike would not exist, and yet it does.

    • CrazyJoe says:

      There’s somethings I won’t buy not because I don’t have the money but because I think it’s over priced. I won’t spend 1.3 million for a 800 Sq ft house. I won’t spend 100 dollars for a hamburger. I won’t spend 10k on a 400 cc scooter. Although I like this bike and it’s far from a 1970’s widow maker I’m not sure it’s a great value. I know people who really have the money that would never buy a new car or bike because to them it doesn’t make financial sense.

      • Provologna says:

        Every thing you post makes perfect sense.

        The OP bike X is overpriced new. If that was an objective truth, bike X would not exist, because the OEM would not make it, because it would not sell.

        Nobody in the world really “needs” an open class motorcycle, period. It is always and solely a luxury purchase with “disposable” income. There is no logic required for such luxury purchase beyond pleasing one’s whim.

        Homes can be required for shelter to get to a high paying job, which explains the value per SF you mention.

        Actually, the OP makes two potentially mutually exclusive statements. First is the bike is overpriced, then he said used would fit his budget better.

        Again, if the bike is objectively “overpriced” then it would not exist. The fact the bike exists and is for sale, and does sell new, confirms objectively the bike is fairly priced, not priced too high.

        It appears the reality is the OP “objectively” lacks funds to purchase the bike new. So he makes a (false) objective statement (bike is over priced new) to justify the fact that he lacks the funds to buy it new, falsely proclaiming his logic exceeds that of a new buyer who wrongly spends their money for over price goods.

        And again, a person who lacks funds to buy new would better achieve their goal, and drive used prices lower, by posting the opposite of what the OP posted. The better post is one listing all the inherent joy and satisfaction of buying a new bike, the polar opposite of posting that the bike is overpriced new.

        And sorry for inverting the OP’s alleged used value and depreciation value.

        • Ron says:

          The OP doesn’t need your approval of his opinion. He has a different take on how/when to purchase a bike. To question his finances or ability to buy a new bike is a real dick move.

          Get over yourself.

          • Randybobandy says:

            Thanks Ron, I have owned over 30 bikes in my 40+ years of riding…. I can afford any bike I choose, but I won’t spend 11K on a standard and I won’t argue with anyone who thinks 11K is a ” fair deal “. The used bike market of 50-60% off MSRP after 2 years of ownership would not exist- yet it does. Provolonie can suck up the depreciation for me.

    • Grover says:

      There’s no shortage of used bikes out there and if one chooses to buy used then he has the freedom to do so. If this Kawasiki doesn’t sell in big enough numbers to saturate the used market then it’s not the fault of someone waiting for the prices to become more affordable. Everything is overpriced these days and buying used is smart. If sales of new bikes is slow then the manufacturers are not offering the right combination of price/value. The market always responds with their checkbook and that’s the best indicator there is. I do agree with Randybobandy that these bikes will probably depreciate rather quickly and there will be good deals to be had in a couple years. Also, it’s not just riders with limited income that buy used, but even well heeled riders that watch their pennies and enjoy saving thousands by buying used.

      • Scott says:

        Overpriced? List price for a 1973 Z1 was $1895. In today’s dollars, that’s $10,579…

        Draw your own conclusions, but…

        • Grover says:

          $7,000 is cheaper than $10,579 + freight, set-up additional dealer markup etc. $11,000+ for a UJM (or any bike for that matter) is a lot of money to many riders regardless of inflation comparisons.

      • Provologna says:

        If one’s goal is to buy used and save money v. new: is that goal better served advertising the joys of buying new, or by stating that the bike one wants to buy used is “overpriced new?”

        Or try this: if potential buyers of this bike new read the OP and change their mind to not buy a new bike, and to instead wait a few years for a used model, what is the mathematical effect on used value and supply? The difference is net minus 2: one less new bike plus one more buyer for potential later used bike.

        All bikes and all vehicles like this depreciate rather quickly, because they are mass market completely unnecessary luxury purchases with disposable income.

    • John says:


      Holy crap! You guys sound like a bunch of old farts!

      I mean no disrespect, I’m an old fart also and doubtfully have a new-new bike in my future. My new-new bike is a nineteen year old 1999 ZRX.

      BUT – someone has to buy these new bikes so that we have a used market in a couple of years! Somebody needs to pay to keep our motorcycle companies in business!

      So, c’mon guys, stop the freekin’ bitching about motorcycle prices.

  10. Jeremy in TX says:

    I applaud Kawasaki for building this bike. It is very much what I was in the market for four or five years ago. Powerful, light, good suspension, solid brakes and chassis. Classic styling cues while showing restraint with respect to struggle between form and function (brave move to leave the dual exhaust, 18″ wheels, cheap forks and dual shocks in the past in the retro segment, and all the better for it IMO.)

    I hope they sell a lot of these. Now bring in the cafe and scrambler versions.

  11. sherm says:

    Went to see the 18’s today. Since I have no recollection of the 1977 original, for me the RS didn’t have to “fit” into any preconceived shape or style, or be critiqued from that point of view. My impression is that the RS is very good looking, well proportioned bike that certainly needs no retro crutch. It can stand on its own, and looks like a contemporary bike, which it most certainly is in every way. Just one old fart’s opinion.

    Speaking of being an old fart, the bike I was really interested in is the Ninja 400. At 365 lb, very compact, and pretty comfortable, it just might be the right golden years special for me.

    • Tank says:

      Would love to see a Z400 (round headlight) in the future. Don’t like all the plastic of the Ninja.

  12. Coops says:

    Still loving mine. Fantastic bike.
    That’s from EXPERIENCE not the arm chair Pfffft……………

    • bmbktmracer says:

      Do you mind if I ask your age? What color is your 900? What’s your primary use for the bike? What part of the country are you from?

  13. Mindspin says:

    These comments couldn’t be more typical. You all are comparing this to bikes like CB1100 and you’re disappointed? Honda set out to recreate the CB750 in as many ways as possible with that bike and people complained it was too retro, too heavy, too slow, too soft, and thus it sold like crap. Even the new 2017 heavily updated EX version isn’t selling. Kawasaki wanted the Z900RS to be a modern sport bike with retro looks and they did a fantastic job. If they went full retro everyone would be complaining that it needs more motor, suspension, brakes, and more lightness! But since they did exactly that you’re gonna complain that it’s not retro enough. Nobody says you have to like it, but don’t say Kawasaki went wrong because they didn’t do what Honda did, or Triumph, or whoever. Variety is the “spice of life” with motorcycles, right?

    • Grover says:

      Bike in this class aren’t particularly good at any one thing. They’re a compromise at best. They’re not tourers, sport bikes, dual-purpose etc. The market for these bikes is limited to a rider that wants a bike for Sunday morning rides and not too far from home. Sitting straight up (as Dirk describes it) makes it difficult to put lots of miles on. Also, these bikes are still too expensive for most riders when you consider their lack of utility. My bet is they’ll sell a few and then the interest will die down. Nothing wrong with these standards, it’s just that the world has moved on and specialized motorcycles are what’s popular.

      • Regan says:

        I disagree . This bike can be used in sporting mode , commuting to work or light touring. Sitting up right is very comfortable , just look at all the Adventure bikes ergonomics .

      • Dave says:

        Re: “it’s just that the world has moved on and specialized motorcycles are what’s popular”

        The problem for the US market is, *NO* bikes are popular and the makes can sell enough specialized bikes to justify expanding the offering.

        Standards do excel at one thing – being useful for many things. A bike like this can be lightly modified to do lots of things competently well and stock, it looks fantastic.

        Lots of people on these forum boards have panned the retro-styled bikes for not offering enough performance. If those posters don’t buy this bike, then the manufacturers will be correct to abandon the US market further because when they get very close to what the core user claims they want, we don’t buy it. We don’t get to have perfect. We have not proven we’re a real customer base. Commit, or be ignored.

      • Scott says:

        Ha! I love the irony here. When motorcycles started becoming more specialized in the ’80’s, people started calling bikes like this one UJM’s, or Universal Japanese Motorcycles.

        Back then, people said “UJM’s were great, because you could do anything with them. Boy, I miss those bikes!”

        Now that they’re becoming common again, people say, “Those UJM’s aren’t good at anything! What’s the point?”

      • VLJ says:

        “The market for these bikes is limited to a rider that wants a bike for Sunday morning rides and not too far from home.”

        No, it isn’t.

        “Sitting straight up (as Dirk describes it) makes it difficult to put lots of miles on.”

        No, it doesn’t.

        New to this whole motorcycling thing, are you?

        • Grover says:

          Been riding since the 1970’s and still ride every chance I get. Maybe I’m getting old, but I prefer wind protection when traveling, comfort and baggage space when I’m touring, off-road capability when I’m adventuring etc. We have specific bikes to choose from these days and although the Kawi does perform in all these situations in a limited way, there’s always a better way to do it. Jack of all trades and master of none, that’s what this bike is and that’s not bad if it’s the only bike you own.

          • VLJ says:

            Not all motorcyclists share your preferences. Many riders prefer a bike without a windshield. Many riders prefer to sit upright. Many riders prefer to sit upright in turbulence-free clean air when they do distance work, and those riders do more than “Sunday rides not too far from home.”

            You of all people ought to know this. You’ve been riding since the ’70s, so you’ve doubtless run across countless people who use bikes like this Z900RS for just about everything except serious off-road riding.

            Besides, nearly all bikes are jacks of all trades, masters of none. Even the vast majority of purpose-built ADV bikes are decidedly compromised, by dint of their excessive heft. Really, the only “masters” are purpose-built luxury-tourers, hardcore race-replicas, off-road-only dirtbikes, and cruisers, and all of those bikes are severely compromised in other areas.

          • mickey says:

            Agree with VLJ, although Grover does have a point. If you have enough budget and enough time, and garage space, you can buy a specialty bike for each category and they will do their specific jobs better than an all rounder. Nothing tours better than a Goldwing or BMW tourer, nothing does canyons better than a Ducati Panigale or a Suzuki GSXR, nothing does commuting better than a mid sized twin like a Honda NC 700 or a 250 scooter for that matter and nothing does off roading better than a KTM 690 or WR 450 Yamaha dirt bike, but for those of limited time and resources something as reasonable as a modern standard like the CB 1100 or Kawasaki 900 RS can do a yeoman’s job of long distance traveling, canyon blitzing and plain city riding/ commuting where the highly specialized models suffer in certain areas due to their specialized purpose. Nothing does serious, single track dirt like a serious dirt bike I’m afraid, but any bike will run down a dry dirt or gravel road.

    • Mark says:

      Exactly. I sure like looking at old bikes and may even like to take one for a spin just for laughs but I sure as heck don’t want my bike to perform like one. Kawasaki did a great thing here. (Disclosure: I own a 2017 z900).
      If you want a new bike that looks old and performs like crap just drive on down to your local HD dealer. They could use the business.

    • Jon says:

      Hear hear!

    • bmbktmracer says:

      Well, truthfully, I think everyone loves the idea of building a modern machine with vintage styling cues, but we all have different opinions about the results. You can insult people for sharing their opinions, but seems like that’s not quite fair since that’s the purpose of the comments section.

      I think the bike is cool, but also think tacking the vintage bodywork on a perimeter style, single-shock frame resulted in odd proportions. One man’s opinion.

      • Regan says:

        Let’s get it right . The Z900RS has a tubular trellis frame not perimeter. And where is the bodywork tacked on to the frame.

      • Regan says:

        The Z900RS has a tubular trellis frame not perimeter . And where/how is the body set tacked to the frame .

        Let’s get it right .

    • Tom R says:

      “More lightness”.

      George Carlin would have been proud.

      • Mindspin says:

        As long as I didn’t say “pre-lightness” 😉

        “Add more lightness” is something I hear from Brits all the time, intentionally incorrect, but I think Colin Chapman coined the phrase as a formula for Lotus race cars.

      • Scott says:

        Hmm… I think you mean Colin Chapman.

        • Mindspin says:

          Is that not whom I said?

          • Scott says:

            Blame this goofy forum for the confusion. I was replying to Tom R., and your reply must have been held up in “moderation” – as so many are, for some reason – so it wasn’t visible at the time I posted mine.

            It’s incredibly frustrating trying to have a conversation here, because so many posts are held up for hours. By the time they all show up, some of the threads make no sense when you read them chronologically.

            We’ve complained about this for years, but it never changes…

    • joe b says:

      Lets hope there are other model derivatives, from this base model. Wish Suzuki had something like this.

  14. Vrooom says:

    I can’t help but think if they threw a fairing, larger tank and some bags on this it would make a nice sport tourer. Inexpensive but effective.

    • Selecter says:

      The “inexpensive” part of this would go right out the window if they based a sport-tourer off of the RS model. It’d breach the $13,000 mark, easy. Basing an S-T off the basic Z900 would be a much better way to go, and wouldn’t price Kawasaki above the most obvious competition, the FJ-09…

      • Snake says:

        That *is* inexpensive, in a day of $9,000 midsize bikes. The FJ-09 is a sore point of missed opportunities: we told them what we really wanted, they gave us none of it. I’d rather have this bike, it’s beautiful and sounds like loads of fun.

    • slipjoint says:

      It’s a homage to the Z-1 if you want to clap it up with a period Vetter and bags you will have to make the same mistake that people did in 1975 when they did it then. The cheap sport tourers are used FJRs, C-14s, or take your pick.

  15. RobbieAG says:

    I was really excited about this model when I first heard about it, and then very disappointed to hear about the throttle issue. If I got one of these, it would be to ride a lot of twisty mountain roads – a snatchy throttle would ruin that for me. I’ve already got one FI bike with this issue; I don’t need another! The biggest surprise is that the Z900 is supposed to be so good in that regard. If they fix it in a year or two, I would reconsider.

    • Larry Kahn says:

      Almost 1000 miles on mine, throttle responsive but not snatchy. Others in the FB and forum groups feel the same. Don’t know what the reports are on about.

    • Lewis says:

      Started with mine in low traction setting. No problems with throttle. Have not tried the more aggressive setting yet.

  16. SausageCreature says:

    Does anyone have any idea what the load capacity is? I haven’t been able to find the gvwr published anywhere.

  17. dt 175 says:

    isn’t that the bike that did the circle burnout right before the “push me? shove you!” “oh yeah? says who?” scene…

  18. Grover says:

    It seems that interest in this Kawasaki is already dying out. Perhaps enough old guys trying to relive their youth will buy enough of them to keep the line open.

  19. Lewis says:

    I took delivery of my Z900 RS last weekend. Did not get time to ride much yet, but this engine pulls well from low RPM and sounds wonderful. I did not notice any issues with the throttle, but I did set the ride mode to low traction setting given the cold roads and brand new tires. The bike feels lighter than the weight figure on the move and pushing it into and around the garage. The bike looks fantastic to my eyes, especially in sunlight. It is early in the ownership experience yet, but I think this is a keeper. I chose this bike over the XSR 900,CB1100 EX and the Thruxton 1200.

  20. bmbktmracer says:

    I want to love it, but the visual proportions are all off. To my eye, they either went too far, or not far enough. Too far, in that the vintage bodywork doesn’t fit the modern frame. In this case, the bodywork should be closer to the Z900 with a modern take on the vintage paint. Not far enough in that the vintage bodywork and paint doesn’t fit the modern frame, and therefore needs its own frame.

    • Lynchenstein says:

      I see what you mean, it’s sort of a middle ground – but one I rather like. I do miss the dual shocks out back though.

    • ApriliaRST says:

      > To my eye, they either went too far, or not far enough.

      There ya go!! The ol’ MD comment standard: “No matter what I don’t like it!!”

      It has a beak. I doesn’t have a beak. It looks too modern. It looks too old. It has too much power. It doesn’t have enough power. It costs too much. It looks cheap. It’s just another standard. It has race bike ergos. It’s too small. It’s too big. It has bags that come off. The bags don’t come off. I don’t like the color. The color needs to be black. I mean grey.

      Humorous stuff. 🙂

      • mickey says:

        well, it is a forum driven by comments, not just by those that like the featured bike, but by those that don’t as well. we all have likes, dislikes, preferences etc and this format allows/encourages expressing those. Unlike a paper motorcycle magazine, there is give and take here, instantly to boot.

      • todd says:

        The people who find a bike perfect, they buy it. Those who think it doesn’t quite do what they expect, don’t. That’s why there are so many choices, so we all have a chance to ride.

        I like my K75S better than this Kawasaki but I think it should appeal to many people.

      • DorsoDoug says:

        Merica. So many choices. But not enough for some.

      • Josh says:

        I am *extremely* happy to see a few bikes available these days with a traditional headlight and no beak.

        Good to see more motorcycles look like a motorcycle.

      • Mindspin says:

        Agreed! These keyboard jockeys live to complain. Nobody makes the bike they want and when new bikes are released that are different than current offerings they pick it apart. It seems like people are just looking for an excuse to not commit to buying anything, and they’ve likely had the same bike for 10+ years. Apologies, but manufacturers can’t “make them like they used to” even if it was five years ago. Time and tastes move on, not to mention regulations. You may have found the perfect bike for you from some brand in some year, and in that case I suggest you stick with that bike. It will never be made again. And if you don’t have a bike and you just nit pick every bike that is released, well I guess you better get used to being sans motorcycle.

        • mickey says:

          So if you type a response here, doesn’t that make you a keyboard jockey?

          • Mindspin says:

            I was highly specific. I said “these keyboard jockeys” No hypocritical generalizations here sir. Good day to you!

          • Regan says:

            It’s not the keyboard jockeys. I think he was referring to the complainers and I will ad the agitators and shills .

      • joe b says:

        well said AprillaRST…

    • Neil says:

      Black one looks fantastic in person.

  21. Josh says:

    Just too many things on it visually that don’t come together for me.

    I’ll stick to my CB1100- and even that I changed several bits to look the way I want it.

  22. DP says:

    I am not sure if “retro” is the right description. I have seen it recently on show and it looks good, nice modern bike. Just he price (in Canada) is bit elevated; at least 1.5 grand. It may sell, I hope.

  23. Oilhead says:

    In the first photo Dirck demonstrates how to close up that rear wheel gap! Nice report!

  24. redbirds says:

    Kawasaki should sell many of these and I hope they do but being short of inseam, I found the Kaw far too tall for me; it’s as tall in the saddle as many ADV models, a deal breaker for me.

    • Curly says:

      It has the same 31.5″ seat height of the original Z1 which I remember was a big bike but manageable. The new bike is much lighter so I guess its a lot easier to handle.

    • Alan says:

      Work at a dealership – have a 900 RS in front of my desk on the sales floor. It is a dealer demonstrator. Sitting on the 900 RS, I’m flat footed. I have a 30 inch inseam (5 foot 8 inches tall @ 200 lbs ). This is the second 900 RS we have received, the first bike was pre sold and sat just a tiny bit higher. I did not ride/have not taken a ride on either bike – just sat on them. Mechanics and shop people found no problems with the throttle on either bike but they were not “road racing” the bikes – just prepping the bikes for delivery.

  25. Falcodoug says:

    I like it just fine.

  26. Provologna says:

    Kudos to KHI for the bike, and to Dirck for his great, informative, easy going writing style.

    I would color match my NOS Rifle Superbike fairing, install it and some light touring accessories, and be a happy camper.

    I suspect the size of the engine air box directly correlates to the perceived excess width of the fuel tank. Air box volume directly correlates to engine performance, which is apparently very good under all conditions.

    Possibly the most remarkable thing about this bike is the dearth of criticism strong enough to prohibit closing the deal.

    Personal nitpicks and nothing more: Dual 18″ wheels preferred, which would net 1″ less air space above the rear tire, and bike/wheel ratios more like the original, especially the front wheel/fender assembly (IIRC the Z1-R had dual 18″ cast wheels, all other a/c 900s/1000s running 19″ front, 2″ taller than the retro bike’s 17″). I think I’m OK with the mono shock’s appearance, or lack of same is more accurate. I’ll take dual exhaust ala ’77 KZ1000; as an audio/acoustics professional I estimate such would add less than 3# (divide X magnitude of muffling by 2, most extra weight accrues from the 2nd muffler’s shroud and fasteners, but still, weight of 2 shrouds is <2x the original single muffler). I might prefer a taller fuel tank if it reduced width, but again, the engine's air intake chamber may limit fuel tank minimum width. I'll take black v. the brushed alloy looking air intake ends and radiator ends. Add 3/4" to 1" length to the tail section, but I admit this criticism approaches neuroses level, so I'll quit while I'm ahead, or behind, depending on your opinion.

    • Butch says:

      +1 on the 18″ hoops.
      Honda got it right on the CB1100.
      Screw the lack of tire choices.
      They’re not track day bikes.

      • Dave says:

        What tires are available in 18″? I think that’s the biggest obstacle for this bike’s design intent.

    • todd says:

      I don’t care for the comically huge rear tire. It should be a 130 – 150, max.

    • Sportourpa says:

      Nice job Kawasaki
      An optional half fairing,some nice luggage and a few accessories would make this a great do it all bike.

  27. randy d says:

    please bring the Z900RS cafe to the states kawasaki.I’ll take a grey one.

  28. shmitty says:

    Does anyone else find it curious that they upped the braking and suspension bits over the Z900 while cut back the power? I’m also a bit surprised by the throttle response, after hearing that the Z900 was such a nice performer. I think that the bike is brilliant, though, and hope Kawasaki sells the crap out of them.

  29. Keith says:

    Any chance that Kawasaki takes this 900cc engine platform for a Versys900? Looks like with the Tracer900 (formerly FJ-09) as a comparison that a Versys with the same 900cc engine would add some sporty style over the Versys1000.

    • shmitty says:

      Yeah, if they could do that and achieve the same kind of weight savings as they have on their Z line of bikes, then that would be really cool.

    • scottb says:

      I’ll second that!! Looking for a performance upgrade on my 2010 Versys; the z900 is very tempting, but loses some of the tourability.

  30. Tim says:

    I realize beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone will have their own opinion. I do respect that. I saw one of these in a dealership Saturday and have to say I was disappointed. My biggest problem with it was the shape of the tank. The original had a really nice, sleek, rounded shape to it that this one lacked. It basically looked like a flat bottom tank mounted on top of the frame instead of molded around the top of the frame like the original. This bike was built around a frame designed for a different model (a dramatically better frame, no doubt) so I understand they had to compromise. Saying all of that, from an appearance standpoint, after seeing it in person, the bike missed the mark for me.

    I loved how the Honda CB1100 turned out. Too bad they felt the need to neuter the engine on that bike. Maybe Honda had to detune it as a compromise based on it’s frame and other parts. The Honda just captured the appearance of the original much better than this bike. I’m usually a guy who would take horsepower and handling over looks, but given the choice of the more modern Kawasaki or the Honda, I’d have to go with the Honda, and get my horsepower kicks elsewhere. From other comments here, I appear to be in the minority.

    • Cagefree says:

      I felt the same way about the tank shape when i saw it in person. Looks kinda bloated compared to the original, not that it has to be an exact copy but just some how misses the mark for me.

    • MGNorge says:

      Honda sticking to an air-cooled (and oil) engine certainly helps retain the retro look in comparison but I’ve also felt it limited output and emissions because of it. So in that sense I don’t see it as Honda neutering it but rather sticking closer to the original.

    • Bryan says:

      I don’t know I really liked it. In fact I went home and told my Wife that this is the bike I would buy if I were in the market. I am in the market, but am waiting for my Tesla and can’t really afford another $11K purchase right now.

    • mickey says:

      In the strict sense of the word, Honda didn’t neuter the CB1100. It was a clean sheet design ( not another motor neutered) and designed with exactly the horsepower it got.

      There are those that would argue that it should have been designed with more horsepower, but it is what it is. Those of us that own them don’t find them lacking except for a very few, and some of those have been able to bump them up to the mid 90 rwhp ( dyno proven) with a few mods, pipe, ecu reflash and intake mods) very close to this new Kawasaki’s 99 ish rwhp.

      • Random says:

        Not to nitpick (but already doing it :p ) the project leader did neuter the bike, asking to the engine development team to make it with less power (it’s on Honda’s japanese site I think). Not arguing it’s better or worse for it, didn’t even ride it as it’s not brought to my country, but the statement is true.

        • mickey says:

          trust me, I have been following the CB 1100 project since 1999 when it was proposed as a 750-900cc bike, have owned 2 of them, and wrote the history section for the CB 1100 forum after a lot of research. Here’s what the designer said

          “At the same time, the required performance numbers will influence such dimensions as engine height, engine width, valve angles and so on, and all these figures will tend to determine by themselves the engine size and shape.

          The CB1100 engine was no different, and an engineer said to me at the beginning of the process, “What level of displacement did you have in mind?”

          Uh oh—he asked! I thought.

          The amazing thing about Honda’s engineers is that, once they establish an objective, they never quit until they fulfill it. Had the objective been horsepower, there would have been no problem whatsoever. In striving to bring true joy to CB1100 customers, there were things more important to us than horsepower.

          For this reason, I responded thus to the engineer’s question: “Let’s decide after we ride it. If it’s fun to ride, then that’s what we’ll need.” Since, like beauty, fun is a concept that cannot be numerically expressed, the associates who were responsible for engine design and testing had quite a tough time fulfilling this particular requirement.

          Yet, freed from the necessity of maximizing output, the designers came together and created an air-cooled engine offering not a superficial, decorative appearance but instead true beauty based on the essence of the molded form. I believe that this was a huge accomplishment.

          Designers Talk Honda CB1100

          • mickey says:

            I also have the reference book Honda Design Motorcycle Part 2 1985-2013 (half Japanese half English about the development of major Honda motorcycles during that period with design drawings and explanations) which devotes I think 9 pages to the CB 1100 project and it’s not mentioned in there either.

            Random if you have a source link, I’d love to read it for my own knowledge.

          • Random says:

            Had to look at it. It’s on

            The whole series of pages are nice to read at. Lotta work, gotta admire it even without liking the final result. Having a soft spot for old bikes I waited for some time to Honda to bring it to my coutry, so read the news and articles instead…

          • mickey says:

            Yea I’ve read that a lot of times. I think what he was saying was the engineers wanted to design a 100 hp bike but he didn’t need that for the purpose he had in mind for the CB1100 so he told them lets not build it with a hp goal in mind, lets design the bike this way and if it only has 80 hp that’s plenty.They didn’t have an engine already designed with 100 hp and he never insisted they de-tune it to make it less hp.

            yes an excellent series of articles explaining what all they went thru designing the CB 1100. You’d think it would be easier than that lol.

          • Regan says:

            ” In striving to bring true joy to CB1100 customers, there were things more important to us than horsepower, ”

            Who is the us in the ” more important to us “, designers or decision makers ? Are they selling you what you want or telling you what you want. If Honda truly had there finger on the pulse of buyers why are they still selling 2013-2014 models at huge discounts.
            So you get less horsepower and the icing on the cake is your ecu shuts off the fuel at 120mph. And Honda say’s to CB1100 buyers “you have to like it”. Who would sign up for that.

          • mickey says:

            Regan, you must understand the CB 1100 was never designed to come to the U.S. It was actually designed for the Japanese domestic market where it is a tremendous success, with a huge aftermarket for accessories. Because it was designed for Japan with it’s 100 kph freeway speed limits and self imposed 180 kph top speed by agreement of the manufacturers, it was never intended to be a high horse power motorcycle. Just an air cooled inline 4 along the lines of the CB750 that is enjoyable to ride.The air cooled inline 4 is a great sense of pride for the Japanese. They dominated the world with it for a couple of decades. When Europeans and Americans saw the CB 1100 in magazines they asked that it be brought here. It still took 3 years to get it here. There are huge clubs of CB 1100 owners world wide. It is currently in it’s 8th consecutive year of production, so they must be selling enough of them to make the mother company happy.

            Will be interesting to see if the Z900 RS will still be in production in 2026.

          • Regan says:

            Mickey , I understand that the CB1100 took off like a lead balloon in America. Maybe a significant amount Americans wanted it here base on its looks and hype. But once they realized the CB1100 was a sub standard motorcycle on the road they backed off. Lets face it Honda got its clocked cleaned when they brought the CB1100 to America.

            Will the Z900RS be produced passed 2021 probably not. But if they put body sets from the Z1R and 1979-1980 KZ1000 mach2 models on the same frame, motor and running gear they may be able to sell the package past 2026. If Kawasaki put a KZ1000 Mach2 on the Z900 fame I would buy it immediately.

    • Gary says:

      The original Z also had a bulbous tank. They are staying true to the original.

      • mickey says:

        I bought a KZ 1000 new in 77. No way was that tank bulbous like this. Google image 73 Z1 Kawasaki and you will see.

      • Tim says:

        I respectfully disagree, Gary. Have you seen it in person yet? As a big fan of the original styling and especially the tank, that image is burned into my mind. The side profile of the top 2/3 of the tank may look similar, but it’s much wider, and then there’s that flat bottom mentioned above. It’s not a bad looking bike by any means, but the tank doesn’t look that close in my opinion.

      • Grover says:

        It’s interesting how everyone looking at the same bike comes away with a different view. Some say it’s close to the original, some say not. If the bike is for you, you will know it. My personal opinion…it’s trying hard to bridge the 40 year gap between the original and today. Nobody really wants to ride a 40 year old machine compared to the technically advanced machines we enjoy today. So many things are better today that you don’t realize it until you ride them back to back. Fuel injection, great brakes, ABS, radial tires, longer maintenance intervals, traction control, slipper clutches, faster, better handling and the list continues. If you’re in the market for a modern-retro this bike is more about the modern than it is about the retro. And that’s a good thing.

    • dman says:

      I agree that the tank shape, as well as the silver side cover trim, aren’t perfect. OTOH most of us aren’t looking down there when we’re riding (or shouldn’t be). I’m old enough to remember the original ’73 as the ultimate dream bike, and I even rode one briefly. I had decided that my next bike will be smaller … something I can age into gracefully … but this is very appealing. Please, Americans and others, go out and buy tons of them so Kawasaki will be encouraged to bring back an updated GpZ550, maybe even based on the 650 Ninja but retro-ish looks and a red-silver-and-black colorway.

    • Alan says:

      We now have a pair of Z900rs on the sales floor – a black one and the brown/orange color. The gas tank on the brown/orange color “appears” larger than the gas tank on the black bike because of the stripe, angles and colors. Optical illusion? The tanks are the same size.

      The seats however are different heights? Why? I do not know? The black z900rs seat is 1 and 1/2 inches higher than both the brown/orange z900rs we are using as a demonstrator and a new brown/orange z900rs sold weeks ago.

      • Scott says:

        I knew I wasn’t making things up! BTW, the one I sat on that felt tall was brown & orange, so the inconsistency doesn’t seem to be related to color…

  31. ROXX says:

    It’s a beauty for sure!

  32. takehikes says:

    Put on twin shocks and get rid of the acreage between tire and fender and I’m in.
    I still remain baffled why there is so damn much space there, its simply one of those cases give up some so-called performance/clearance for some style.

    • Bob K says:

      The easiest solution that would keep the performance of suspension travel and reduce the acreage would have been to provide a deeper storage area under the seat. Something we could toss a slime pump, patch kit and some basic tools into. Maybe even some room for a pound of beef jerky we’re bound to pick up on a weekend ride.

    • Neil says:

      Leg room. And I agree with that decision. The seat on the Z900 is crap. The leg room good for shorter rides. This bike is a bike you can ride all day.

  33. mechanicus says:

    Would be interested in an owner report about the rear wheel slinging mud/water/etc up on your back and/or your passenger. Maybe not an issue? Definitely not a deal breaker – the bike is a hit.

  34. mickey says:

    I think Kawasaki did a heck of a job bridging the gap between modern and retro.

    Had Honda not brought out the CB1100 I’d probably have bought one of these, but I love my CB1100 so I’m happy with my choice.

    Besides the wide tank, my complaints after seeing one and sitting on one in person still include the large gap over the rear wheel to the fender, and the radiator cap sticking out so easily seen from the riders position. Plus all the silver pieces on it, under the tank, front fork brace, heel plate and end caps on radiator I would have to anodize or paint black.

    • viktor92 says:

      Yes, almost my only complain is the huge gap between the the seat an the rear wheel, it looks almost like a dirt bike.

      • Neil says:

        Gap? Leg room. Shock travel. In person I did not notice the radiator at all. It’s stunning in Black.

        • Bryan says:

          Neil, I so agree, I didn’t notice the gap at all. More interested in the feel of the bike. Unlike most Kawasaki motorcycles I fit this one well. Or should I say it fit me well. Plus it looks like a real motorcycle. I really like Yamaha and Suzuki motorcycles in the way they fit me but whoever designs them now needs to find a job in the transformer movie computer art section. They are fugly. Even the retro refits are not very good looking.

          • Neil says:

            AND this one has a slipper clutch and an easy clutch pull unlike the hard to pull clutch on the GSXS1000 which I otherwise really liked.

      • Bob K says:

        Perfect for those who might want to turn it into a scrambler. Options, options, options…

    • Bob K says:

      That’s the beauty of motorcycles. They’re very easy to “make into you own.” Take care of those things that bother you and have the bike you like. Honestly, in 32 years of riding, I’ve never been completely happy with a bike off the showroom floor. I’ve done something to every single bike I’ve ever owned. That said, most manufacturers do a pretty good job of trying to please a broad audience while producing something legal.

  35. joe b says:

    I too geared up my CB1000R, smoothed out the vibes, made it easier to decide which gear to leave it in, and happier on the fwy. I wish it had the heritage look of the early CB, and still wish Suzuki would make something with Katana heritage, like this Kawasaki thats tested.

  36. Larry Kahn says:

    Got one about 3 weeks ago and very very happy. Geared up one tooth in front and it’s even better with a bit longer spread in each gear and right at 4K rpm at 70mph. (speedo was 6% high stock, spot on now). I’d just call the throttle responsive rather than abrupt. I have a Ducati Sport Classic and that’s on/off for sure. Those of us over 50 (I’m 63 soon) will love this. Not cheap but feels worth it.

    • joe b says:

      I too geared up my CB1000R, smoothed out the vibes, made it easier to decide which gear to leave it in, and happier on the fwy. I wish it had the heritage look of the early CB, and still wish Suzuki would make something with Katana heritage, like this Kawasaki thats tested.

  37. My2cents says:

    Great report and a exciting thought of being able to sample this unit during a ride program. I find the cafe version to be even better looking and other than cosmetic changes the rest is likely the same.

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