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Kawasaki Brings the Z900RS CAFE to U.S. Market

Kawasaki’s retro-styled Z900RS will be joined in the U.S. market by the Z900RS CAFE. Priced at $11,499, the CAFE will share the engine and chassis components found on the Z900RS, and add a few changes … some cosmetic and some functional.

The obvious cosmetic changes are the bikini fairing and the lime green paint with white striping. More subtle are the brushed finish on the silencer and a green stripe on the black wheels. More functional in nature are the stepped, cafe racer-style seat and the black drop-style handlebar.

This all adds up to a different look and a slightly sportier riding position. We expect the CAFE will be in dealers soon since it is designated a 2018 model, but Kawasaki says availability will be limited in the U.S. market. You can read the press release, and look at a more detailed analysis of the new CAFE in this PDF.

The all-new Kawasaki Z900RS CAFE motorcycle, produced in limited quantities for 2018, adds a classic front fairing, stepped seat, and black low rise handlebars to the nostalgic Z900RS adding another inspired design to Kawasaki’s retro style line of motorcycles.

In building the Z900RS CAFE motorcycle, Kawasaki has once again meticulously crafted one of the most authentic retro-styled machines in appearance and design, paying homage to an era of motorcycles that shaped the Kawasaki brand. The Z900RS CAFE takes styling cues from iconic Kawasaki models including the Kawasaki Z1-R, Eddie Lawson Replica KZ1000R, and GPz models, all while tastefully incorporating modern technology and features.

Developed for riders in search of a well-rounded bike that is not only rich in history and character, but also packed with modern technology and handling. The Z900RS CAFE is powered by a 948cc in-line four engine, features a modern trellis frame, and modern suspension components that bring an unmatched level of performance.

By blending the sleek sweeping contours of the Z900RS with Kawasaki’s classic cafe racer styling and class-leading performance technology, Kawasaki has yet again created another truly authentic motorcycle. The Z900RS CAFE received the same meticulous attention to detail in its construction as its predecessors did, from the Z1 inspired teardrop gas tank to the simple uncluttered engine design, all the way down to the sporty vintage inspired fairing and tail section.

The newest addition to the Z900RS lineup, the Z900RS CAFE, is packed with technologically advanced components and features, including the 41 mm inverted front forks, assist and slipper clutch, Kawasaki TRaction Control (KTRC), and a fully tuned exhaust note. New features appear as well including a brushed stainless steel exhaust system, black low-rise handlebars, stepped seat, fairing, and new engine case covers. The Z900RS CAFE is available in Vintage Lime Green.

Retro Styling
A few of the eye-catching features of the Z900RS CAFE are the beautiful sporty front fairing, black low-rise handlebars and iconic four and a half gallon teardrop fuel tank, which were inspired by the styling of the Kawasaki Z1 and the Z1-R. The entire frame was designed around positioning and showcasing the beautiful cafe-racer aesthetics of the bike. The retro vibe also influenced much of the look of the front end as well, such as the large 170 mm LED headlamp, which blends old school looks and modern designs. Position lamps in the high-beam chambers ensure the whole lamp appears lit, like a retro-style bulb headlamp; a convex lens and chromed headlamp ring add to the high-quality finish and appearance. The iconic Kawasaki styling of the 70’s and 80’s inspired the flowing design of the seat and rear cowl on the Z900RS CAFE. The oval design of the LED taillight also pays homage to its Z1 lineage. Unlike standard LED taillights that appear as a collection of dots, the surface-emitting LED taillight lights up as a solid surface. An analogue-style speedometer and tachometer give off the retro vibe for the gauges, which is contrasted by a multi-functional LCD screen with an easy-to-read black and white display that continues the theme of blending retro styling and modern technology.

The simple, uncluttered engine design was very important to Kawasaki engineers when building the Z900RS CAFE. Its engine has its own unique look and features all-new black stylish engine covers. The engineers wanted to capture the air-cooled & carbureted feel, to make the bike stand out in an age where electronics have become increasingly popular in the engine bay. The stylish engine fins were cast onto the cylinder head to create the image of an air-cooled engine. The long, flowing 4-into-1 stainless steel header design mates to the short, low hanging megaphone silencer ties together the vintage image of the Z900RS CAFE

The cast aluminum wheels chosen for the Z900RS CAFE feature flat spokes designed to look like classic wire-spoked wheels. The wheels offer a balance of lightweight and stylish looks, contributing to both handling and a design suited to the retro category.

Strong, Smooth Inline-Four Engine & Transmission
The Z900RS CAFE, features a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve 948cc inline four cylinder engine. Its design and configuration offer a great balance of power and manageability, delivering strong low and mid range torque that provides all riders the reassuring feeling of control. Several engine components played a crucial role in achieving the smooth, reliable, consistent power needed for the Z900RS CAFE. Utilizing the downdraft positioning of the 36 mm throttle bodies was crucial in allowing intake air to travel in the most direct route to the combustion chamber, which is all complemented by ECU controlled sub throttles that provide silky smooth throttle response.

To facilitate smooth shifting the gearing ratio of the Z900RS CAFE was designed to have a short first gear, making it easier to launch. It also features a longer sixth gear for improved ride comfort when touring or cruising at highway speeds and also allows the engine to operate at lower rpm, which in turn results in improved fuel efficiency and reduced engine vibration.

The Z900RS CAFE features a high-quality clutch with assist and slipper function working in unison with its transmission. Additionally, the back-torque limiting slipper function of the clutch contributes to stability by helping to prevent wheel hop during downshifts.

Kawasaki’s Precision Tuned Exhaust Note
While the Kawasaki inline-four cylinder engines have been historically known for their great-sounding exhausts, Kawasaki has used sound research to craft an ideal exhaust note. Sound tuning on the Z900RS CAFE was focused on the initial roar to life, idling, and low-speed riding where the rider is best able to enjoy the exhaust’s deep growl. To ensure both performance and the desired sound were achieved, every aspect of the exhaust system was scrutinized: exhaust pipe length, collector design, where to position the bends, even the density of the glass wool fibers in the silencer. More than 20 renditions of the system were tested before finding the perfect match. Clever internal construction of the pre-chamber achieves a balance of sound and performance, and at low-rpm, the exhaust escapes in a straight line, while at high-rpm the exhaust is routed through an additional passage.

The high quality stainless steel exhaust system features a 4-into-1 collector layout. The header pipes and pre-chamber are built as a single unit. The exhaust headers feature a double-wall construction, which helps to minimize heat discoloration and provide protection from the elements. The compact stainless steel megaphone-style silencer contributes to the retro appearance of the Z900RS CAFE. To ensure the highest quality finish possible the header pipes are all treated with a special three stage buffing process: the first is done as individual parts, the second is done once the exhaust is assembled, the third stage is a final buffing process.

Lightweight Trellis Frame
To achieve the desired weight, handling characteristics, and appearance, the Z900RS CAFE received a high tensile steel trellis frame. The lines of the frame were made as straight as possible, only utilizing bends when necessary, which has created a frame that disperses stress extremely well and enhances handling. Also aiding in the pursuit of lightweight and performance handling is the rigid-mounted engine, which is connected at five points to the frame: front and rear of the cylinder head, behind the cylinder, and at the top and bottom of the crankcases. Its minimalist design has helped to trim all unnecessary weight while showcasing its retro styling.

The Z900RS CAFE has a laid back and relaxed design, which was achieved by raising the front and lowering the rear.

Complementing the ride comfort of the all-new performance designed trellis frame is a 41 mm inverted fork and Kawasaki’s Horizontal Back-Link rear suspension design. The high-grade fork features fully adjustable 10-way compression and 12-way rebound damping, enabling riders to find their precise settings to suit their preference and riding style. Enhancing the performance of the rear is Kawasaki’s Horizontal Back-Link rear suspension design. The rear shock features fully adjustable rebound damping and preload. This arrangement contributes to mass centralization while ensuring that the suspension is located far enough from the exhaust that it is not affected by heat.

Handling the stopping duties of the Z900RS CAFE is a full disc brake setup featuring modern ABS. The radial-pump front brake master cylinder commands a pair of 4-piston radial-mount monobloc calipers to grip a pair of 300 mm brake discs, providing plenty of stopping power. The rear brake features a single piston, pin-slide caliper gripping a 250 mm disc.

Kawasaki TRaction Control (KTRC)
The Z900RS CAFE is equipped with Kawasaki TRaction Control (KTRC), which has two performance settings riders can choose from: Mode 1 prioritizes maximum forward acceleration, while Mode 2 provides rider reassurance by facilitating smooth riding on low-traction surfaces.

When selected, Mode 2 utilizes the same logic and control as Mode 1, but enables riders to better negotiate both short patches of slippery terrain, such as train tracks or manhole covers, and extended stretches of other less predictable surfaces. Wheel spin is also limited when starting on a low-traction surface. However, when excessive rear wheel spin occurs, Mode 2 switches to three-way control, which governs the ignition timing, fuel delivery and airflow, and engine output is reduced to a level that helps the rear wheel to regain grip. This fine control results in a very natural feeling with smooth engagement and on/off transition. Riders may also elect to turn the system off to enjoy the raw feel of riding.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    had to stop by the bike shop, and the stock version was on display, the black orange one, and I liked it a lot. I still have my ‘012 CB1000R, but sure wish Suzuki would make something like this. One can dream, eh?

  2. todd says:

    I’d love to see (and own) a 400 version.

    • Mark says:

      Me too. Really, I want a Honda CB400 SuperFour, or a Yamaha XJR400. Or what would be really perfect would be those bikes, but with monoshock suspension.

    • slipjoint says:

      You will have to work on mama Kaw to start the 80’s retro wave and ask for a small displacement GPZ 400-650. Given their current motor lineup it would probably be twin powered.

  3. Doc says:

    If you’re going to do a modern UJM, this and the standard model are the way to do it. I think Z1 for the Candytone Brown and Orange sounds good and ELR for the cafe. In fact, that brown and orange looks really good in person. Saw it at a demo ride. Hauls ass too.

  4. Majority seem to like it, I’m not a fan of the fairing, but some are.. Maybe cheaper would be nice.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I hope it’s such a hit that they do offer more colors in the future!Great job Kawasaki!
    One of the few bikes with lollipop mirrors that actually look good.

  6. 5229 says:

    Well done Kawasaki..Cool bike!

  7. Zuki says:

    I kinda wish Kawasaki would have named this version GPz900RS. I’d love to see a GPz red version. As for the standard Z900RS, I hope the ’75 Z1B dark blue w/gold & black stripes version comes out.

    • Anonymous says:

      x2 on the blue + gold/black it would be a nice follow up in a year or two.

    • HokieColt says:

      x2 on the GPZ comment! The GPZ-550 was the motorcycle that got me interested in learning to ride. This bike looks awesome!

  8. RD350 says:

    Great classic looks, modern performance and low weight. Kawasaki nailed it. Now we all just need to go out and buy one! Lets support a manufacturer that built what many of us have been asking for.

  9. RyYYZ says:

    This doesn’t appeal to me as much as the standard version. I think the graphic they decided to go with is part of it – I’m just not groovin’ on that big stripe carrying on around the front. But in another colour scheme…

  10. My2cents says:

    I had a seat on one of these at the show and I can say that the riding position is perfect for me, just enough forward tilt with well sorted peg/seat/bar ratio. Sporty for the twisties and able to ride the distance. Kawasaki once again has really produced a excellent motorcycle , many happy riders about to be reborn.

  11. Artem says:

    Very cool.

  12. Grover says:

    I like the bike, not a big fan of the white stripe that wraps around the headlight, though. It would look better without it.

    • Fred says:

      The stripe is more subtle in overseas market colour’s like the mid gray one.

  13. Jim W says:

    Just needs a rectangular headlight and a more angular fairing, then bump up the displacement by 300cc…

  14. Neil says:

    Finally a fairing that deflects wind not into the face of the rider. Does the choice of a bar vs higher clip ons matter? Gives you the option to go higher if you want if the cables are long enough and if I were KAW I would have thought of that. Maybe they did. I like the CB1100 but it’s so heavy. Companies use too much metal and chrome when they don’t need to. Ducati has schooled us in that and now Kawasaki as well with their frames. Nice job KHI.

    • Mark says:

      Except with the frames on the z900 they used too little metal on the rear shock mount and the linkage is ripping out of the frame when hitting potholes and causing accidents. I don’t think anybody has died….yet. True story, Google it.

      • says:

        Nice update . But you need to get it correct. The problem is elongateing of bolt holes where tie rods connect. Not linkage ripping out of frame. It involves aproximitly 2300 Z900 units. It occurs when the shock bottoms.
        Mark where did you get you report?

      • Regan says:

        Mark where did you get your report. I found that the problem is elongated bolt holes where the tie rods connect to the frame. It occurs when the shock bottoms out. Not a a report of suspension linkage ripping out of frame. There were 2300 2016-2017 Z900 affected.

    • Grover says:

      Sometimes these smaller fairings will deflect turbulent air just under your helmet opening and cause buffeting that gets really old on a longer ride. I always like to test ride bikes before I buy, but testing this Yamaha might be difficult as the Japanese manufacturers are hesitant to let you ride before you buy. You won’t know until you ride it.

      • Motoman says:

        I have worked at large, multi-line dealerships in Ca and MO for ten years or so and you could ride whatever you were interested in before buying. The only condition was a moto license and insurance. Must be different where you live.

        • Josh B. says:

          I have yet to be able to test ride a bike in the Chicagoland area. No one lets you. Triumph does, but when I bought my Daytona 675 back in 2006, it was too new and popular to have a demo available (had to wait a couple months for my Graphite to come in). I wanted to test ride the new 2019 Speed Triple RS, and they were going to let me, but I was laid off and had to put my motorcycle dreams on hold yet AGAIN… Ugh…

          Either way, it was absolutely ridiculous not letting customers test ride a bike back when $10k was considered an expensive bike — but is downright criminal in an age where $13k is the new NORMAL.

  15. jimjim says:

    Now that’s a great looking motorcycle, well done Kawasaki!

  16. Neal says:

    At the same cost, I’d rather have the Z900. For $3k more, I don’t know why anyone would choose this over the non-retro Z.

    • Sean says:

      Because people are different and like different things?

    • Onto says:

      Agree with you Neal. I have no desire to ride a bike that looks so old, and that means all retros.

      • Kagato says:

        Alright now….you young whippersnappers are going to want a “retro” bike one day. You will be pining for some angular transformer looking thing.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “the non-retro Z”

      There. Now you know.

  17. Frank says:

    The standard RS looks nice…this looks nicer.

  18. Provologna says:

    Totally OT: San Francisco resident, Isle of Man TT regular, and Side Car fanatic Wade Boyd converted his Yamaha R1 in to a naked dirt mile oval club champion (dubbed DT-R1). Google “Wade Boyd Sacramento Mile R1” for a pleasant and entertaining diversion. When I first found the headline I thought it was just click bait, but it’s real. A modern analogy to Kenny Robert’s TZ750 dirt track championship bike, but with more power, infinitely better handling, and a smooth, mile wide torque band.

    The first lap Wade trails about a half dozen riders. By the 2nd lap, Wade reels in the leader like he dropped anchor, and it’s lights out. I doubt the R1 ever sees 3rd gear. In latter laps, once Wade and the R1 monster are settled in, Wade wheelies through the first half of each straight.

    At the start, several lighter singles get the hole shot. For the first 1.5 laps, the lighter singles corner harder, likely because Wade’s tires and suspension need to warm and settle, again, because of his bike’s extra 200+ lbs.

    In the paddock, other racers moan to Wade’s friend that Wade’s bike is too new v. their “old” bikes, to which Wade’s friend replies: “The bike is legal. Would YOU ride that R1?” Crickets.

    I searched for but could not find a list of the R1’s mods.

    After I got intimately familiar with Lucas Valley Road, Marin County, CA, Wade and 2 other guys are the only ones who beat me on it. The other three bikes were highly tuned, two R1s and a GSXR-750. My best ride at the time was a stock ’83 Yamaha Vision minus fairing, similar weight but down 80+ hp to the other three bikes.

  19. graham says:

    A perfect mix of retro looks and high technology. I would love to have one !

  20. David S says:

    That is FANTASTIC!!

  21. Anonymous says:

    its totally bitchin

  22. kjazz says:

    Nice job Kawasaki !!!

  23. Bob K says:

    Great looking bike but for 500 more, I can get a more much useful Ninja 1000 ready to accept hard cases.

    • slipjoint says:

      Go ahead. I don’t want hard cases or a generic bug bike. This is the UJM styling that started the big 4 on their way and it still looks great 45 years later.

  24. ROXX says:

    Want it!
    I can ride that thing all day long and still have a blast.

  25. redbirds says:

    Really like the looks of this bike better than the std RS although the riding position would be a pain. I think Kawasaki should have used a twin shock rear just for the traditional look but the single is superior in function. Good job Kawasaki, now Suzuki needs to get on board with their retro GS.

    • JVB says:

      Wasn’t that a ZRX? On that note, is this a step up from the ZRX or just an admission that they should never have ended that model? Is the retro market so much stronger that a similar bike is now viable? Will we be seeing Honda re-hash the GB-500??

      • Trpldog says:

        I had a 2002 Green ZRX1200. One of the best bikes I’ve ever owned, until hitting a line of antifreeze in a corner made me throw it into the scenery.

  26. Rich says:


    Perfect job Kawasaki. The chrome seat rail and seat strap will be instantly removed but otherwise, I love it.

  27. Ken says:

    Love it. Yo Kawasaki…. Blue would be awesome too… but the green looks mean!

  28. Dave says:


  29. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    Wow, an article about a motorcycle ! Thank you . Sure would look dead nuts on without the loopy white thing on the fairing . It is so odd I can’t describe what it reminds me of .

    • Mark says:

      Blunt…Some say the swoops white line is a nod to Eddie Lawson. His helmet had the same design.

    • Larry Kahn says:

      Remember “paint by Molly”? Yamaha “speed blocks” and 1970 or so Kawasaki paint schemes. If you google it you get a lot of pics of a nekkid girl named Molly with body paint. On my computer anyway…

  30. mcmotohistory says:

    Excellent!! Now can I get it in brown and orange?

  31. Bill says:

    Beautiful bike. Since we are cursed with whatever Europe decides for emissions, why can’t we be blessed with their cool blinkers?

  32. Provologna says:

    This Z900RS Café is about as close to perfect as it gets. Well done, KHI!

    “Earth to Suzuki, c’min Suzuki…” Has it occurred to Suzuki to release a GS1000S with the motor from their 1000cc street fighter?

  33. Mark says:

    It has nicer bits than the z900 but $3000 worth? Anyways, I’m glad it’s here and I’m glad they brought it late because I already bought the z900. (Saved me $3000 because I could not have refused the Cafe). I wish them well.

    • skortch says:

      It’s nice to have options… I didn’t think the RS offered enough over the Z900 to justify the price difference, especially when you factor in the loss of hp and touchy low-speed fueling. This Cafe version, though… tempting. It’s too bad they didn’t give it the standard full-zoot z900 engine, that would probably seal the deal for me.

      My local Kawi dealer has a ’17 Z900 ABS discounted to $7999. That’s tempting, too! Both would be awesome bikes.

  34. Tom R says:

    Until Suzuki brings out a retro GS1000S, this is a great alternative.

    • My2cents says:

      I understand your want, but for me its the 1982/83 1100 Katana

    • joe b says:

      I doubt if Suzuki will ever introduce a Retro performance bike, GS1000S or Katana. I would want one, I am a Suzuki fan, but I doubt it.

    • Zuki says:

      Katana would be really cool but I think the 1983 GS1100ES style would be the way to go for Suzuki, in the same color scheme.

  35. Buzzard says:

    I agree, it would be nice to have color choice. Weight/Power ratio looks interesting from the older bikes. Sure glad it’s coming to the US.

  36. Sean says:

    The ZRX is dead… Long live the ZRX

    • Christopher says:

      My thoughts exactly…while cool, how does this move the needle from the ZRX? It has TCS, but in terms of performance, does it pencil out unless you just want a new bike?

      • bmbktmracer says:

        I owned a ZRX1200. The handling of that bike was not good. It was super heavy. It had a nice engine, but top-end was neutered. I went with Holeshot’s Stage 2 kit to get the bike to perform, but handling was still lackluster. This new bike is a lot lighter, faster, better suspended, fuel-injected… No comparison.

        • Pacer says:

          I kind of hope that Kawasaki joins the open naked, or better yet the Super Naked class with a new ZRX. Maybe an H2ZRX? Doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but imagine the roll-ons.

        • todd says:

          People don’t buy a big heavy 1200 to have a good handling bike. Yes that’s what the 400s – 750s are for.

        • slipjoint says:

          If you don’t mind tinkering a bit there are quite a few very doable and relatively low cost step by step power and handling upgrades available for viewing at the ZRXOA site. Some great expertise available there.

          • Sean says:

            I had 2 ZRX1100s. I went through a retro bike faze back in my early 30s and the look and function just worked for me at the time. They where both the black and silver from 2000. The first one bit the dust do to a mechanic that did not know how to install a jet kit, ran the bike lean on the dyno and pop…The second, well that one got it right. Full exhaust, ZX11 cams, ZX11 computer (spark and timing)Pods, stage 3 jet kit, Race tech forks and shocks. It was a fun bike. But for some reason the full on retro thing just does not work for me any more. Bikes like the XSR and BMW 9T hit the buttons better because its a good mix of retro and modern cues.

    • Mark says:

      A trellis framed ZRX. Change to a square bikini fairing with a rectangle headlight and this would be it. Only better.

      • JVB says:

        May be intentional to not be a complete ZRX redux. The look of this bike is so close to the Yamaha Seca 900, which was more of a bored out 750 seca with a fairing.

  37. Martin B says:

    This reminds me of the old 1970s bikie movie “Stone”, with an Eddie Lawson paint job. It is a proper retro.

  38. VLJ says:

    All it needs is a Kevin James voice-over…

  39. Ricardo says:

    Very nice bike!! I want one.

  40. Trent says:

    Now that’s what a retro bike is supposed to look like.

    • Superlight says:

      I’m glad to see a bikini fairing present that may actually deflect the windblast. Fairings like that have always been a good idea – wind protection plus good access to the mechanicals.

      • Lonebiker says:

        This kind of bikini fairing deflect he wind. But on one of my previous bike this fairing protected … my tankbag. I have to say that this fairing is a very nice add-on look-wise.

  41. randy d says:

    HOT DAMN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Im happy!!!! Best news all year.Only complaint is I would have liked the grey color,but at least the cagers will see me in green better.