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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
|Bore x Stroke||73.4 x 56.0mm|
|Fuel System||DFI with 36mm Keihin throttle bodies|
|Ignition||TCBI with electronic advance|
|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|
|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|
|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)