2017 Kawasaki Z900

Editor Score: 85.50%
Engine 18.0/20
Suspension/Handling 12.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 8.0/10
Instruments/Controls3.00/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.5/10
Appearance/Quality 9.0/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 9.0/10
Overall Score85.5/100

Every once in awhile we get opened-end motorcycle loan agreements from manufacturers. What does that mean for you? It means we have a chance to really put a motorcycle through the ringer. We have the time to schedule overnight, long rides. We have the time to schedule track days. We have the time to really live with a motorcycle and give our best interpretation of what it would be like for a potential owner to, well, actually own the thing.

2017 Kawasaki Z900 Review: First Ride

Such is the case with Kawasaki’s new Z900. Tom Roderick attended the media introduction of the new Z900 back in March of 2017 and had a lot of great things to say about Kawi’s new Z. I’ll admit it, I was underwhelmed when I first saw it. I had been a fan of the Z1000’s styling, but when is a decrease in cubic centimeters ever a good thing? After taking a peek at the Z900’s spec sheet and comparing it to the outgoing Z800 and Z1000, things start to look a bit better for the new kid on the block.

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The Z900 replaced the Z800 and Z1000 for 2017, and on paper it looks to be a worthy replacement. The 900 weighs in at 469 lbs full of fuel, a fair bit less than both the 800 at 506 lbs and 1000 at 488 lbs. Power figures are also not bad on the Z900, especially when considering its base MSRP of $8399. The Z900 cranks out 115.6 hp and 68.1 lb-ft of torque to its rear wheel compared to the outgoing Z800 at 103 hp and 58 ft-lb of torque. When comparing performance numbers and price, the ABS-equipped Z900 rings up at $8799 while the Z1000 with ABS was $3200 more and provided 14 more horsepower and 9 more lb-ft of torque.

2017 Kawasaki Z900

The Z900 continues to build power throughout the rev range, leaving you with a 1,200 rpm of over-rev before hitting the 11,000 rpm redline.

Okay, you’ve piqued my interest. And I guess that green frame is starting to grow on me as well. A few members of the staff here at MO had spent a fair amount of time on the Z900, however, now it was my turn. As the old(er) guys set up for their Supernaked Streetfighter Shootout (to be published soon), it was decided that I would tag along and bring the Z with to put it through its paces out on some great southern California mountain roads followed by a track day at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway.

Once it was time for me to pick up the motorcycle from old man Burns, he too had nice things to say about his time on the bike. I hopped on and thought, ‘Hey, it’s kind of nice to be able to firmly plant both of my feet on the ground’ thanks to the 31.3-inch seat height. It’s something that doesn’t happen too often with my 5-foot-8 height and a 30-inch inseam. I enjoyed the smooth inline-Four engine on the freeway stint home and didn’t even think about the riding position that would become one of my few complaints after spending more time with it.

2017 Kawasaki Z900

From former editor Tom Roderick to our newest editor Brent Jaswinski, the MO staff has had many good things to say about Kawi’s Z900.

I have enjoyed the time spent using the Kawi around town running errands, and it has made what would otherwise be mundane tasks more enjoyable. Although some motorcycles can make boring trips more exciting, the Z does it with style and power that is easily manageable. While it doesn’t have the narrowest of handlebars, lane-splitting is still done effortlessly thanks to the nimble handling characteristics of the bike. The width of the handlebar does come in handy for leverage when in tight canyon roads or at the racetrack.

2017 Kawasaki Z900

After having ripped up canyon and mountain roads of all sorts and spent a day at the track, I can say, the 948cc Kawasaki is a great powerplant for this motorcycle. It can be smooth and polite in town and just as easily be spun up out on a nice twisty canyon road enough to put a smile on anyone’s face. It’s also not such a fire-breather like a Tuono or Super Duke R that it is downright intimidating at the track. I felt completely comfortable using every bit of the throttle at Chuckwalla. The power comes on predictably without surging. That, combined with the near perfect fueling, allows the motorcycle to be easily managed with your wrist, which is a good trait because you won’t find traction control or ride modes on the Z900. You have to give some thought to what you are doing to keep yourself out of trouble.

2017 Kawasaki Z900

The Z900 was a blast at the racetrack, though switchable ABS and more cornering clearance would have been welcome adjustments in this environment.

Even these other jaded journalists couldn’t hide their excitement around the Z900. Managing Editor Evans Brasfield had been dropping hints of how excited he had been to ride the bike since March when Tom Roderick came back raving about it. Editor Duke made subtle advances while at Chuckwalla insinuating he would like some time at the track on the Z. Always the calm, cool jungle cat that he is, after spinning a few laps and back in the pits he said something like, “Yeah, it’s actually really fun,” seemingly forcing his grin back behind his cool demeanor.

2017 Kawasaki Z900

The lack of traction control wasn’t unnerving at the track due to the Z’s smooth power delivery.

Naked Sports Threeway: Aprilia Shiver 900 Vs. Kawasaki Z900 Vs. Suzuki GSX-S750

After the trackday we loaded up and rode the bikes home. This was when I really first began to notice how bent my knees were while on the bike. I didn’t experience any pain, but it seemed rather scant of legroom. It wasn’t until we shot our Naked Sports Threeway shootout which included the Aprilia Shiver 900 and Suzuki GSX-S750 that I would begin to realize just how crunched up the Z felt to my legs. Even with that minor annoyance, the Z900 won our shootout, with us all agreeing it was the best all-around package of performance, styling, and day-to-day usability.

Best Standard Motorcycle Of 2017

In August, the 2017 Z900 also took our Best Standard of the Year award, an accolade that only furthers what I have come to find. You really can do everything with the Z900. It is fun and easy to use on a daily basis, it is a blast out in the canyons, and it handles great on a racetrack without being intimidating. Those with many trackdays in mind may want to invest in adjustable rear-sets, as the pegs tend to drag rather easily, at least on the track. The new Z works well in every environment in which you place it. I even took the thing down some fire roads and up some dirt hills. It’s no KTM Adventure, but it performed as expected.

2017 Kawasaki Z900

One complaint we had agreed on during the shootout was the shortage of room from seat to pegs. This can be easily remedied with a higher accessory seat option from Kawasaki which raises the seat 1 inch. However, the biggest performance complaint from our testers was the early intervention of the ABS system. While the brakes feel like they have the potential to get things slowed down in a hurry, the antilock system kicks in earlier than we’d prefer. If I were to buy this motorcycle I would opt for the non-ABS model and spend the savings on the higher seat and put the rest toward adjustable rear sets. There we go. No other real complaints.

By the time the sun had set on Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, I had ridden the Z900 through town, along the freeway, through the mountains, at the racetrack, and on the dirt. Aside from the two easily fixed complaints, the Z has performed in every scenario and held its own while doing so. You want a bike you can do some trackdays on, commute to work or school, and take on a long trip? Do your research, but at $8799 Kawasaki’s 2017 Z900 (ABS) might just be one of the best all-rounders on the market.

2017 Kawasaki Z900 Specifications
MSRP $8,399 / $8,799 with ABS
Engine 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four
Displacement 948cc
Bore x Stroke 73.4 x 56.0mm
Compression ratio 11.8:1
Fuel System DFI with 36mm Keihin throttle bodies
Ignition TCBI with electronic advance
Transmission 6-speed
Final Drive Sealed chain
Front Suspension 41mm inverted fork with rebound damping and spring preload adjustability/4.7 in
Rear Suspension Horizontal back-link, stepless rebound damping, adjustable spring preload/5.5 in
Front Tire 120/70 ZR17 Dunlop Sportmax D214
Rear Tire 180/55 ZR17 Dunlop Sportmax D214
Front Brakes Dual 300mm petal-type rotors with four-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes Single 250mm petal-type rotor with single-piston caliper, ABS
Frame Type Trellis, high tensile steel
Rake/Trail 24.5°/4.1 in
Overall Length 81.5 in
Overall Width 32.3 in
Overall Height 41.9 in
Ground Clearance 5.1 in
Seat Height 31.3 in
Curb Weight 463.1 lb (claimed)
Fuel Capacity 4.5 gal
Wheelbase 57.1 in
Color Choices Pearl Mystic Gray/Metallic Flat Spark Black, Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Spark Black
Warranty 12 Month Limited Warranty
12, 24, 36 or 48 months Kawasaki Protection Plus (optional)
  • gjw1992

    And the z900rs addresses the suspension and traction control issues, looks much better, and with the low seat option shares the friendly flat footability of the above. Oddly all the z900rs on display at the local show – NEC UK – had that low seat except for the one cafe. This 2017 version tested despite higher power will surely be lost now the rs and rs cafe are all but out.

    Anyway, should be good. Though the cb1000r might be sharper and more fun…

    • Born to Ride

      Since this engine is apparently tuned so nicely, with near perfect torque and power curves, I’m really really disappointed that they detuned it for the RS. Seems really unnecessary.

      • gjw1992

        Maybe classic 70s style Yoshimura kit will help restore it. Still remember a 73/74 Cycle World cover with a Yoshi pimped z1 and a bold rising sun flag – lovely.

        • Born to Ride

          The unfortunate thing is that they installed different profiled pistons for lower compression ratio in addition to milder cams. You’re not getting those ponies back without taking the engine apart.

    • azicat

      The RS costs over 30% more (in Australia). It’s in a completely different market segment to the Z900.

      • gjw1992

        About 20% more in the UK (RS vs std) unless you go for the classic brown option. But the 2017 z900 is a bargain and that RS price still only puts it into the street triple RS price range, and just below the z1000.

        • Born to Ride

          It’s too bad the Streetie is twice the performance bike that the Z is. I was really hoping that Kawi wouldn’t jack the price way up on their RS model. They added some nice stuff, but is has nowhere near the level of componentry to put it in the same price bracket as a Street Triple RS. US pricing is yet to be announced so I guess we still have to see.

          • azicat

            I think that it’s not such a bad thing since Kawasaki isn’t competing with itself, and there’s nothing else on the market that directly compares with the Z900RS. The CB1100 and the Triumph Bonneville are the closest retro competitors in price, but lack the performance; the Thruxton R has the styling and performance to match, but is much more expensive. Maybe the Yamaha XSR900, but that’s just Frankenstein’s monster. Looks like KHI found the retro price-performance niche and rode straight for it.

          • Born to Ride

            I guess when you slap a “retro-“ prefix on your bike, it automatically makes it worth an extra two grand right off the bat. Nostalgia tax I guess.

  • azicat

    I’ve had this bike since April. It’s a wonderful real-world sportsbike, and really good value for money. It’s just as happy in peak hour traffic as in the canyons. Only three gripes: the low seat and sore knees for a 6′ tall rider (the optional tall seat fixed this straight away), the lack of luggage tie down points (sorted with some Hepco & Becker C-Bow panniers); and the low placement of the instrument cluster.

    No regrets over getting this before the retro Z900RS came out either – the listed retail price of the latter (in Australia anyway) is about 8% more than the Z900, placing it up against MT10 and other supernakeds.

  • kenneth_moore

    It seems odd that the pegs crunch up your legs while dragging early at the same time. I’m surprised, similar Kawis I’ve ridden like the Z1000 had really good ergos.

    • azicat

      It’s the low seat that comes as standard. It’s really really low and scooped. The optional ‘tall seat’ would be equivalent to a ‘standard’ seat on any other bike.

    • Matt O

      I thought it was odd that he wants a higher seat for more leg room but then immediately says he wants to raise the pegs with adjustable rearsets. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of wanting more legroom?

      • Born to Ride

        He said he wanted adjustable rearsets. Implying that he wants the option for more legroom or more ground clearance, depending on where he is intending to ride.

        • Matt O

          Oh that makes sense

          • Born to Ride

            What he doesn’t realize though is that the vast majority of adjustable rearsets are higher in their lowest position than the stock pegs.

  • Born to Ride

    I have to say, this bike is much much nicer looking in person. It was parked next to the the flat green Z650 at Long Beach, and I couldn’t help but think it’d be quite handsome in that color scheme. I think I’d throw the Z1000 pistons in this thing, fabricate a kerkeresque full system exhaust, and see how bad of a road burner I could build.

    • DickRuble

      All talk no action.. Come back after you build anything.. The SV1000, heck, even a souped up moped.. till then it’s too easy to fantasize what you’d do and throw and weld and flame and twist…

      • Born to Ride

        I’ve rebuilt top ends on dirt bikes plenty of times, but I’ll give you that’s easy work. I’ll let you know when I get the S2R1000 rebuilt with 98mm pistons. Been waiting for some m1100evo pistons to pop up on ebay. Bike is currently torn down and waiting for parts.

      • Born to Ride
        • azicat

          Nice project. I used to have one of these, but sold it because I could never get it to handle properly, and the fuel tank was only slightly bigger than a shot glass. Other than that it was fun, and got a lot of attention. Watch out for tank swelling from ethanol 🙂

          • Born to Ride

            3 gallons from a dry fill(don’t ask me how I know), and I’ve coated the inside of the tank already to prevent expansion. This is actually the replacement tank for the bike. As for the handling? Yeah, it’s not the best…. I dropped the triples and jacked up the rear end just so that it would steer properly. Had to get it resprung and the racetech valves in the forks to get some feel. But, honestly after all that it handles just fine up to 70% aggression levels. Pushing any harder than that and she likes to shake her head. The bike cruises comfortably and has a great engine character, but I would Love it more if it handled like a Street Triple.

          • azicat

            Yeah I just couldn’t figure out the geometry. I revalved/resprung everything, set the rear ride height to the max, and the thing would still run wide on corners despite feeling twitchy as heck when going in a straight line. Maybe it’s really sensitive to tyre shape, maybe it was bent somewhere, but I never had the same problems with Triumphs or Japanese bikes.

          • Born to Ride

            Yeah, I had to use really exaggerated body positioning to get going in the real tight stuff. After I got it set up it would settle into the corners and power out of them nicely, but quick steering it is not. If Triumph or the Japanese made a bike that looked, felt, and sounded like it, I would have traded it out years ago.

      • David K

        I really liked the TL1000 then and now.

  • Starmag

    Yum. Can’t wait for the RS.

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      • Gabriel Owens

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        • Jon Jones

          Made me LOL!

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  • Jens Vik

    Come on, are you really telling people to drop å ABS?
    You THINK and FEEL that the brakes have more potential, but you have no proof to back it up. Yet you are giving advice that customers should not get a tool that might save their life? Is it possible to turn the ABS off?

    Considering how completely worthless motorcycle training is in most states in the US, this is a very bad advice! Most people cant ride motorcycles like Duke and Co.

    • Elizabeth

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    • Born to Ride

      Lots of bikes have bad ABS systems, and this is not billed as a beginner bike. I think the recommendation is absolutely valid, and its information that I appreciate found its way into the article. These journalists shouldn’t be discouraged from highlighting problems with a safety feature that’s optional on the bike. He said that if it was his purchase with his own money, that he’d forgo the feature that he finds lacking in performance. Cheap ABS is not better than a skilled braking hand except perhaps in the rain.

      • StripleStrom

        I would be very surprised if the majority of people reading this article could actually out-break ABS in a panic stop situation.

        • Born to Ride

          Have you ridden a bike with overly sensitive ABS? Sure on a ZX10 or a monster 1200s, you can’t hardly even feel the ABS intervention because it is so seamless. No pulsing at the lever, it just feels like the lever goes hard as if to say “that’s all you get.” Budget bikes with ABS often get crude systems that pulse the brakes abruptly when it feels like you are only using 70-80% of the braking power available. I don’t really care what the majority of riders can or can’t do. I know for a fact that I can stop my Guzzi or a Ducati Scrambler faster in the dry than the ABS system will allow. I’m glad that Ryan saw fit to point out that you will experience this same frustration from the ABS version of this bike.

          • StripleStrom

            I would say the system on my DL650 is a budget system. I feel the pulsing. I still think that in the right circumstances (unexpected panic stop) most of us wouldn’t be able to do better than the ABS. I definitely love it on the rear- It’s nice to not have the back end start to come around, which is usually what happens in a situation like that. Who knows… I think I’m a pretty good rider (better than most I’ve ridden with, not as good as others), but maybe I’m not the braking god you are.

          • Born to Ride

            Never meant to imply that I’m a braking god, just that I really don’t like overly intrusive ABS systems, and that I’m glad the writeup included information that would help a rider with my preferences to make the right decision. I merely was responding to the somewhat disparaging comment made that suggesting ABS on this particular bike isn’t worth the money is tantamount to killing new riders.

          • StripleStrom

            A new rider shouldn’t be on this bike anyway. It’s nice to have the option for ABS or not.

          • Scott Silvers

            I’ve a non-ABS DL650 vstrom and it’s brakes are also essentially anti-lock (without all the complicated pumps n’ hoses too)…..ha ha ha

          • StripleStrom

            I know what you mean. One of the best improvements I made to my 2007 DL was braided lines and Nissin calipers off of a 600fi, with svracingparts adapter brackets. The 2012 is some better stock than the 07 was, but it’s still a little on the mushy side.

          • Born to Ride

            Throw a radial master and some Vesrah track compound pads in that list of upgrades and you have the best braking setup I’ve had on any bike. Better than the stock radial brembos on my monster 1100s.

          • StripleStrom

            Nice. I used the FI master and sintered HH pads, and it was pretty darn good.

          • Born to Ride

            My master was off a late model gsxr, don’t recall what year or model, but it worked amazing with that setup. Tons of feel, I had to go to an even stiffer spring in the front end after it was all set up. I shoulda kept that SV650 and made it a track bike.

          • StripleStrom

            SVs are fun bikes to mod. Lots of options, and lots of room for improvement, particularly to suspension and brakes.
            On my DL, I did the brake mods, front suspension, exhaust, cams, and a tune, and it was like a new bike afterward. Then, financial issues, and I sold it for a loss.Such is life.

          • Born to Ride

            I needed the money for a commuter bike to get me back and forth to school, 150 miles round trip. My naked SV wasn’t the tool for the job and I wasn’t giving up my Ducati. Ended up with a Sprint ST.

          • Jens Vik

            I mean its OK to point out that the ABS might be working early…allthough we still dont have any proof of it. But to give advice to drop a safety feature is not good and should be avoided.

            We dont know if its possible to turn off the ABS, but that will fix the problem. Then you turn it on when its wet, and/or you need more help.
            Roads are not always dry or in good condition.

            In general people are idiots, and over confident of their motorcycle skills. Thats why ABS is mandatory in the EU.
            Having many years of experience does not make you better at braking automatically. My mother has been driving cars for 50 years, but she still cant hold a curve without adjusting the wheel.

            I am sure both beginners and regular idiots will buy this bike 🙂

          • Born to Ride

            This is definitely true, and beginners should be cognizant of what they are buying and choose the ABS model. I was under the impression, based on the mere presence of the complaint, that the ABS isn’t switchable. If the ABS has a toggle switch on the bars, then I would definitely want the feature so that I could switch it on for rainy days or if I’m riding through the desert with lots of dust on the road.

            As for idiots? You’re a silly silly man if you think ABS is gonna keep them upright. 😉

          • DickRuble

            “to give advice.. should be avoided” Amen

    • Martin Buck

      OK, I’ll tell you what actually happened to me one day. I was bimbling along with the traffic flow on a fine clear day, when a woman suddenly pulled out from a side road, realised she was about to hit me, panicked, and stalled her car right in front of me blocking my lane. I was only a few yards away from her, about to T-bone her driver’s door. She actually threw up her hands to protect her face. I was riding a Honda XL350 with drum brakes front and rear. Those brakes would not have stopped me in time. I was about to make a very intimate and unwelcome acquaintance with her, possibly fatal. So what did I do?

      I jammed on the brakes to max, instantly locking both wheels. This allowed me to throw the bike sideways, the tires hopping along but slowing dramatically. The bike was effectively being dragged along sideways by momentum, but it DID slow, much faster than the brakes could achieve. The light weight, great balance, and the will to live kept me in the fight, holding the bike upright. As soon as I was close to her car I released the brakes, and the bike shot forwards. I was by this time five feet from her door, and I remember having time to smile at her. My bike sailed past the rear of her car, and I snapped the bike around again to continue on with my journey. My heart rate was not even elevated. This all happened instictively, I did not have time to think about it or plan anything. It was the result of hundreds of miles of playing around on and off road, getting to know the limits of my and the bike’s abilities. I don’t know of any electronic aids that would have done anything positive in that situation. Those are the split second life or death moments where what you have done up to then determines whether you live or die. There endeth the lesson.

      • Jens Vik

        A great story, but it doesn’t really contradict that most people will benefit from ABS.

        Practicing on a bike and becoming skilled is of course a benefit for all riders.

        • DickRuble

          What’s your proof, other than your deep belief that’s how it is?

      • Callie

        Google is paying 97$ per hour,with weekly payouts.You can also avail this.
        On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $11752 this last four weeks..with-out any doubt it’s the most-comfortable job I have ever done .. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
        !da206:
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    • DickRuble

      Here you go, an ABS fanatic who knows for sure people will die if they don’t have ABS. He has no clue how the ABS is implemented, whether effective, defective, or simply useless, but he is thoroughly brainwashed that “ABS saves lives”.

  • RyYYZ

    Well, in one sentence you note how much you appreciated the relatively low seat height and the ability to get your feet on the ground, and in another about the tight seat-peg relationship. One supposes these two things are related. If you’re finding it tight, I can only assume someone taller will find it even more so. It’s amazing how much difference an extra inch of seat height can make, though – I rented a Triumph Tiger XcX which came with its seat in the low position. I found it rather tight (although not as much as this bike, I’m sure), and then quickly looked up on the interwebs how to raise the seat. It probably wasn’t much more than an inch, but it made a huge difference. Why don’t all bikes come with a height-adjustable seat like this? I guess because buyers don’t demand it and vote with their dollars.

  • Old MOron

    This is a good review, Ryan. I guess you’re starting to come into your own. And especially since Brent arrived, you’re not the FNG anymore.

    But speaking of long term reviews, how are those moto-hiking boots? Did they clean up nicely? How are they holding up? Post a pic.

    • Born to Ride

      Moar boot pics!

  • StripleStrom

    Nice bike… nice price, good power. I’m not a fan of the cosmetics, but it’s not quite as hideous as the recent Yamahas. I wonder when the manufacturers are going to start putting on adjustable seats and pegs. Would it really be that difficult?

  • Old MOron

    Okay, I hadn’t watched the video before. Don’t watch video while I’m at work, and I prefer to read well-written text anyway. But it was a good vid, and the sunscreen gag was good, too. I guess maybe you still are the FNG.

  • azicat

    I’ve had one of these since April. Agree with most, if not all, of the review. Riding position is completely sorted with the optional ‘tall’ saddle (which is more like a normal saddle when compared to other bikes). Lack of luggage tie down points and a funky instrument cluster that’s too low would also be niggles worth mentioning. Apparently the stator can’t handle heated grips either.

  • 12er

    Lean angle fix, hang off the bike a little. Still see Buttocks firmly glued to seat.

    • Born to Ride

      He’s got one cheek off in one of the track photos. I’m sure he could do better on clearance if he went for the full Marquez tho.