Return of Z New Kawasaki Z900RS. Let’s imagine this scenario for a while – let’s say that you are motorcycle fan who escaped the rigours of everyday life in the mid-70s or 80s to live in a cave. First things first, welcome back and perhaps now would be a good time to tell you that the latest rage in motorcycles is the same as it was when you first retreated into that comfortable cave. Except now we call it retro bikes, or cafe racers.
Let me introduce you to the latest of such machines in Malaysia – the Kawasaki Z900RS. It is based on a bike that was hugely popular around the time you retreated into the cave, the Kawasaki Z1. The Z900RS looks unmistakably like the classic Z1 or even the Zephyr, but it shares more in common with the Z900 than the Z1.
But before we get into that, lets just take a few seconds to marvel at how incredibly beautiful the Z900RS is. When it comes to modern retros, this bike is among the best looking, there is no doubt about that. Of course there is the Triumph Thruxton, the Moto Guzzi V7, the BMW RnineT, the Ducati Scrambler (or Scrambler Ducati according to the Italians, not sure) and other custom bikes. So, as you probably would have already figured by now, retro machines really are all the rage these days.
Fun fact – Triumph may have a full range of really cool bikes like the Daytona and the Tiger, but its best selling model is the Bonneville Bobber. In fact it is the best selling model Triumph has ever had, proving that classic looks can go a long way.
So based on that logic, Kawasaki may just have a real winner here. And so, according to Kawasaki, when its engineers first set out developing the Z900RS, the goal was to “design a retro-naked model, that enriches riders lives and leaves its imprint to inspire future generations to dream.” Wise words by Seiji Hagio, the Project Leader of the Z900RS.
And so, back to the Z900RS. Even though it may be based on the Z900 naked bike, which is an aggressive and edgy machine designed for unadulterated performance, the Z900RS however is designed and positioned for a more sophisticated rider who likes a touch of classic design, a powerful engine and yet offers a more relaxed ride.
Its design is unmistakably that of a classic motorcycle, but there are elements that have clearly been carried over from the Z1 such as the teardrop-shaped fuel tank, the upswept rear cowl, the round headlamps, round mirrors and the dual-dial meters that look like they have been taken out of a long forgotten parts bin from the 70s. Design wise, the Z900RS will look right at home in the 70s and yet manages to turn heads even today. The Z900RS is one of the few new motorcycles that manages to transcend time itself; a huge feat by Kawasaki.
And so, Kawasaki Malaysia recently invited us to have a go at the Z900RS at a test drive event in Putrajaya. The route was just about 20 kilometres long, which took about an hour to complete with stops for photography and such. Though seat time was not very long, it was good enough to give a basic idea of how well-rounded the new Z900RS actually is.
The engine is the same as the bike it is based on, but is slightly detuned to give a more “cruiserly” feel. Lets put it this way, the Z900 makes 123hp at 9,500rpm and 98.6Nm of torque at 7,700rpm, the Z900RS on the other hand makes just 109hp at a lower 8,500rpm and 98.5Nm of torque at just 6,500rpm. From these stats alone you can figure out that the RS is designed for a ride akin to a cruiser where you can ride the masses of torque, while the Z900 requires constant gearshifts to access power, the former being a typical trait of a sports bike. Talking about gearshifts, the gear ratios too have been changed to suit the character of the RS, specifically first gear which makes it easier to move off from a stop, and a longer sixth gear that is better suited to touring or cruising.
The sound it creates however is entirely different. Kawasaki highlighted the fact that the Z900RS features the first-ever “tuned” exhaust ever on a Kawasaki. This means that a specialised acoustic team worked on the sound of exhaust, to give off a deep rumble upon start up and at low-speed. Speaking of the exhaust, it is worth mentioning that the headers are also a throwback to the Z1 with a stainless steel 4-into-1 exhaust system similar to that of the classic bike.
Getting comfortable on the RS is fairly easy with its 800mm seat height, which is 5mm taller than the Z900. I personally did find the seat a little hard for my bottom, but height wise it was almost perfect. For taller riders, there is actually an option for a higher seat height. And together with the wide handle-bars (30mm wider than the Z900) and increased steering angle for easier turns around tight, confined spaces around urban settings, it is easy to understand why Kawasaki decide to resurrect its retro machine – it simply makes a lot more sense to be riding the RS around town, to work and back, than the Z900. It is a much friendlier machine yet still packs a mighty punch.
It also comes with all the modern safety catch nets we have come to expect of modern machines such as assist and slipper clutch, ABS on 300mm front discs and 250mm rear discs, and two-mode traction control for either maximum acceleration or riding stability. And on the topic of stability, the 41mm front fork is fully adjustable for preload and rebound, while the horizontal back-link rear suspension too features steeples rebound and preload adjust ability. This allows you to fully customize how the bike performs in corners to better suit your riding style.
So, all-in-all, the Z900RS is modern bike that looks old yet is able to outperform some of today’s best sports bike. It is perfectly suited to the everyday grind to the office and back home, promises heaps of fun for weekend rides, and if you slap on some side boxes and wind protection, the Z900RS will also take you to faraway places in relative comfort as well. At RM67,900, it is among the more affordable retro machines in Malaysia. We will reserve our final verdict until we have tested the bike more thoroughly, but for now, it is safe to say that the Kawasaki Z900RS is one fast, fun and gorgeous bike.
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