2018 Kawasaki Z900RS

Editor Score: 86.5%
Engine 17.5/20
Suspension/Handling 12.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 8.25/10
Instruments/Controls4/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.5/10
Appearance/Quality 9.25/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 8.0/10
Overall Score86.5/100

If you were expecting a cosmetic makeover of the Z900, you’d be mistaken like I was. I mean, it’s called Z900RS, but apart from the basic engine, this one’s nearly a completely redesigned animal, designed to bow deeply before Kawasaki’s Holy of holies (when it comes to motorcycles), the 1973 Z1. The steel-tube frame is said to be all-new, the engine’s tuned completely differently, the ergos are totally revised, the suspension is tuned for gentlepeople – and in general Kawasaki says this one’s supposed to be a mellow ride, not a raw high-performance one like the regular Z900.

Everybody’s cashing in on their heritage these days. Why shouldn’t Kawasaki? The original Z1 really was quite the atom bomb when it got here with its big DOHC engine in ’73. The RS picks up the thread with a new 4.5-gallon gas tank that closely mimics the original before flowing into side panels with original-look badging, then rearward into that duck-tail rear end and period-correct round taillight – though illumination at both ends is by modern LED. The molded in seat stitching looks the same, the big round tach and speedo look the same, the metal-flake paint job looks the same, and the polished edges of the cast wheels on the Candytone Brown model look like spokes. If there was anyplace else to put a radiator on a motorcycle other than front and center, you’d be hard pressed to tell old from new.

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Well, there aren’t four exhaust pipes either – but the RS’s four-into-one sounds almost as throaty good as the original when you climb on and hit the starter button.

Well, there aren’t four exhaust pipes either – but the RS’s four-into-one sounds almost as throaty good as the original when you climb on and hit the starter button.

Personally I dig the Z900 a lot, and so does the whole MO staff, but sitting upon the RS is even more upright and easier on the lumbar region. The shiny chrome handlebar is 2.6 inches higher and 1.4 in. rearward – also 1.2 in. wider than the Z900’s bar. Footpegs are 0.8 in. lower and forward, and the thick-padded seat is actually a bit higher, at a claimed 31.5 inches. Even more of the load was removed from your wrists by raising the front of the bike a bit and lowering the rear; a new upper triple-clamp with 6mm more offset reduces trail to keep the steering nice and light.

The exhaust is all polished and shiny as is most of the rest of the RS.

The exhaust is all polished and shiny as is most of the rest of the RS.

When you lower your 20%-heavier mass upon it, you might note that not only is the seat cushier, so are the springs in the 41mm inverted fork and wrapped around the rear shock. Ahhh… it’s all very retro and perfect for rolling down Sunset Boulevard, splitting lanes just a bit through morning traffic down toward the ocean with visions of the swingin’ ’70s brought to you by the “vintage” gear everybody dug out to ride the new RS.

That ’70s round headlight is filled with position lamps in the high-beam chambers that make the whole light appear lit like a bulb type. A convex lens and chrome ring go with the overall really good fit and finish of the rest of the bike.

To complement all that mellowing out and so you won’t get blown off that comfy seat, they also mellowed out the engine. Compression ratio is down to 10.8:1 from 11.8, cam durations are shorter, the crankshaft is 12% heavier, and the double-wall exhaust headers’ inner tubes are about 20% smaller, now at 28.6mm diameter. All that boosts low- and midrange power a bit, not that anybody complained much about the Z900’s lack of either. There’s no horsepower claim (Kawasaki Europe says 110), but Kawasaki USA says the retuned RS makes 72.3 pound-feet at 6500 rpm; on the dyno, the Z900 made peak torque at 8000 rpm. The RS’s low-rpm lunge is further abetted by a lower first gear (and a taller sixth), and together with the slip/assist clutch’s really light pull, the RS reinforces the “easy-to-ride theme.” Big and powerful though it might be, it’s civilized enough to be a first bike for anybody who’s able to show a little restraint.

The RS marks the first time Kawasaki has used sound research to craft the a bike’s exhaust note, focusing on the initial roar to life, idling, and low-speed riding, where the deep growl is easiest to hear. Pipe length, bends, collector design and the density of the glass wool fibers in the silencer were all examined before hitting on the right combo, Kawasaki says. At low rpm, the exhaust escapes in a straight line; at higher revs the exhaust gets routed through an additional passage.

If you want a high-performance motorcycle for tearing up the backroads, Kawasaki says you want the Z900, but that didn’t keep their excellent PR staff from taking us on a lovely romp through the Malibu canyons on a beautiful warm December day anyway (with smoke from the Thompson fire, now the fourth largest in state history, visible a few ridgelines away).

The RS’s sit-up ergos work great on tight roads, and its steeper geometry lets you aim it even more accurately than the Z900. When the tires are warm and the pace accelerates, though, the softer springs get things pitching fore and aft more – and if you throw in a few bumps, she sort of wants to skitter across them toward the outside of corners. This is the first Japanese bike ever that could use longer peg feelers; a guy in front of me dug the sidestand mount in a couple of times, levering himself a foot to the right each one. Amusing yet potentially dangerous… (he was a bigger guy, though).

The 41mm inverted fork up front is fully adjustable, and the rear shock has rebound and preload adjustability – a half hour spent playing with them might result in a much sportier ride. I didn’t have time to find out. Anyway, tooling along at eight/tenths and smelling the (charred) roses is what the RS is more about.

Corner exits are a hoot, thanks to that low-rev urge and the bike’s excellently tuned exhaust. (It’s easy to swap traction control between 1,2 and Off.) The midrange is also strong and a sonic delight – but this engine doesn’t have the Z900’s 10,000-rpm top-end rush. There’s not much to be gained past 9000. And that’s perfectly okay unless you’re riding really fast roads or doing track days. Kawasaki has a few other bikes in its quiver more focussed toward those activities.

Everything you need to know is in there, legible and easy to read even for mature eyeballs.

For rolling down to the beach on a perfect winter’s day for a fish taco with your favorite passenger, in full protective gear of course, I’m having a hard time thinking what else I’d rather be on? Honda’s revitalized CB1100EX was the last time I had this kind of quality nostalgic motorcycle fun. Like that bike, what you give up in outright power, you get back in near-perfect linear fueling and smooth, broadband power delivery – though the RS does suffer a bit of throttle abruptness occasionally when things get aggressive in the curves. By no means a deal-breaker. With a bit more power than the air-cooled Honda and substantially less weight (472 pounds claimed curb weight), the Kawasaki is definitely the sportier of the two, and about $1k less expensive to boot.

Kawasaki’s target is 35 to 55 year old people, but it sounds like it’s maybe going to skew more towards the bigger number. The younger guys fully embraced retro drinking (way too much) the night before our ride, and were open to the idea of heritage sex (I didn’t catch the definition of that beyond that my favorite Kawi PR guy has a Z1-era Los Angeles Lakers Girl for a neighbor) – but they didn’t seem quite as enthralled with the RS as I was. I remember the original. I can’t help but think it would attract a bunch more kids if Kawasaki had added a kickstarter like the Z1 had. Retro starting.

If you worshipped the old Z1, you’ll love this this modern interpretation; it’s a great person-about-town motorcycle that’s super friendly to ride, way comfortable, and has a delicious howl when you give it the whip. If the Z1 is for you an old man’s bike, the Z900 it’s based upon is a new favorite of everyone – faster, cheaper and harder-edged. For Kawasaki, I think both are going to be winners.

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  • Mad4TheCrest

    Man, there is always a catch. Giving the world a bike that looks that good and then shorting us on the characteristics that make an in-line 4 so thrilling is cruel. You just can’t get your cake with the exact frosting you need to eat it too.

    • Mary

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  • Old MOron

    Gee, I kind of wish they’d left the Z900 engine as-is.
    Since the first sigh is “I was fine with the full-power Z900 engine,” I be the bike would’ve scored even better that way.

    Oh well, it sounds like a pleasure to ride, just the same. Can’t wait to read the comparo with the CB1000R. I kind of hope the Honda wins for having a better motor. That’ll teach Kawi not to dumb down their engines. Morons.

    Oh, and please include the Street Twin or the Bonnie!

    • Alaskan18724

      Right there with you. Upgraded brakes and suspenders, high-end finishes—and they took a great motor and made it, well, less great. Whose idea was that little piece of douchebaggery?

      • Mildred

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    • DickRuble

      Street twin? Really? At 55hp claimed and 55 ft*lb ? It’s the weekend, but still. Ease up on the bourbon. The t120 Bonneville is 550lbs, 80hp (claimed).. Anything else you would like to compare it to? Maybe a Harley?

      • Old MOron

        Yeah, but Skinny Jeans Burns made it seem like a fun bike, so if they can’t get a Bonnie, give the Street Twin a shot at the title. Oh, I agree the XSR900 should be in the Battle Royale.
        http://motorcycle.com.vsassets.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/120915-2016-triumph-street-twin-ap1_3220.jpg

      • Born to Ride

        Just found out some dudes are getting 70rwhp out of the street twin with a cam, decat, and tune. Basically triumph intentionally killed the top end of the engine because it was too close in power production to the bigger engine.

        • DickRuble

          I think it had more to do with emissions than anything else.

          • StripleStrom

            I disgree- I think it had everything to do with product differentiation.

          • Born to Ride

            The decat+exhaust was only good for like 4 hp, the majority of the gain comes from the cam. With those mods the engine is making more torque at every point in the graph. So either the boys at Hinkley don’t know how to grind cams properly, or something else is going on.

          • DickRuble

            All that increase in performance comes with a whopping increase on consumption and emissions. Changing the cams may make it impossible to bring the emissions to acceptable levels. Parts may also not last long with the increased output as they were probably not engineered for that. The T100 shares the same engine with the Street twin. Same tune, power output, etc. They didn’t bridle it just to piss off American arm chair riders. And the differentiation strategy (from the T120, a 300cc bigger engine?) just doesn’t make sense because that engine also could be “unleashed” in the same manner. The only plausible explanation is that they sacrificed power to manufacturing costs, licensing (A2?) requirements in EU, and emissions.

      • Eric Straordinary

        I think a BMW R nine T might be a good (although pricey) addition to that comparo too.

  • Born to Ride

    Sad about the springy bits and the detuning. Aesthetically gorgeous. I’m thinking the CB1000r is more my speed.

    • Eric Straordinary

      I think it looks great but am worried about how much Honda is going to be asking for one.

      • Born to Ride

        My guess? 14 grand. Which after you pay the dealership markups and tax, will probably make it a $16-17k bike OTD. Thankfully it’s no longer my concern because I just bought a new STRS and I don’t need 2 roadsters, or bike payments…

  • Sentinel

    I have yet to see one person that thought detuning the engine for this bike was a good thing. I would love to get to ride both the Z900 and the Z900RS back to back, just to see if maybe we’ve all been wrong about the engine detuning somehow.

    • Max Wellian

      I could care less about a handful of top end HP. Much rather have it in the midrange where I tend to ride the bike. Not looking to win any trophies.
      The sad part is the reviewer comments I keep hearing about regarding the poor on/off throttle manners. As someone who prefers curvy roads to flying down straightaways, that’s a far bigger deal to me.
      With the full adjustable suspension, I’d think most could probably dial in a decent ride. Given the condition of a lot of back roads these days, a setup for a finely manicured European racetrack isn’t something I’d require anyway.

      • Sentinel

        Like I said, I’d like to ride both the Z900 and the Z900RS back to back to form my own impressions, but of course that’s not going to happen. As for the fueling. The general consensus is that it has to do with the emissions restrictions forcing lean fueling. We’ve seen this issue with many other bikes as well. Apparently the fix is remapping the fuel to smooth it out. So basically it’s going to cost an additional premium above the price paid for the bike itself to sort the fueling. Which has become quite common now. Soon enough I’m sure we’ll have owner reports regarding all of this.

        • Lewis

          I will definitely let you know. Hoping for some decent 40 degree plus days to put some miles on.

      • Born to Ride

        Sounds to me like its gonna need springs at least, especially since I’m 220 with my gear on. I would actually like to see a dyno overlay between the two engines, because the Z900 torque curve was nice and flat with a step up right at 8000 rpm. If the RS engine makes more power everywhere under 8000 but then is only down a bit up top, that’s one thing. If the torque falls off past that mark precipitously, then that is another entirely. Having a wider range of usable power in the mid to high rpms makes riding hard in the mountains much easier IMO. It is the main reason why Triumph triples are such blast.

      • Alaskan18724

        Problem is, the Z900 is so good. It really…distresses me that this bike, which I love to look at, is less good. I WANT a bike that looks like this, but rides like the Z900. And I take JB’s point about accessibility, but this bike doesn’t need to be accessible. Z1 = ripper. Z900RS = um, not a ripper. Stone pebble—what famous movie character famously said, “Damn, damn, damn, damn!

        • Jason

          The Z900RS makes more HP and Torque than the fabled Z1.

          • Alaskan18724

            True. But it was judged against the standards of its time, and was superlative. I had hoped this bike would come to market at least the equal of its sistership, the Z900, which seems to be a significantly more polished motorcycle in every way except looks. Don’t get me wrong—looks are important, and I’m not a Z900 customer, I’m an RS customer. I just think the performance of the Z900 is truer to the spirit of the original. Peace.

        • Max Wellian

          What makes you think that? A few pounds? A harder stock suspension setting on one than the other when both are fully adjustable? A handful of top end HP?
          What’s a ripper? On the track, those minor spec sheet heroics may come into play. On real roads, a good rider on an RS will lay waste to Danny Dragstrip on his Z900 anytime the road becomes mildly entertaining.
          And besides, I don’t need to use narcotics to enjoy looking at the RS.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            “And besides, I don’t need to use narcotics to enjoy looking at the RS.”

            But, it doesn’t hurt …

          • Alaskan18724

            Personally, I do not give a furry opossum’s underbelly about a few horses on top–either bike makes plenty. What DOES disappoint is that Special K took an engine and drive train which, by all accounts, is exemplary in terms of rideability, and made it worse. I’m all about rideability. I’ve never professed to be fast, but I like to think I’m a smooooth rider. Sounds like the fueling is significantly more badder* than that displayed by the Z900. Ain’t** no call for that. As to what’s a ripper? A ripper, I’d say, is a bike that shames its competition, whatever the competition may be at a particular moment in the space-time continuum. The Z1 smoked everything in its path. I’d like it if the Z900RS, and especially the Café, would confer those bragging rights. They aren’t ever going to rule the superbike roost, but it would be nice if they compared favorably with other factory hotrod nakeds. Like the original Z1 did.
            *Grammatical fox pass*** intentional.
            **Ibid.
            ***Vile misspelling of otherwise perfectly good Latin phrase also on purpose. For the pickers of nits–don’t bother.
            Peace, baby.

          • Alaskan18724

            And I’m still a good candidate for this motorcycle, once I get over myself. It’s drop-dead gorgeous, and my number one criterion in the alchemical art of motorcycle selection is the amount of time I spend looking over my shoulder at it as I walk away….

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            Little advice for you: you can’t ride looks.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            ***Vile misspelling of otherwise perfectly good Latin phrase also on purpose. For the pickers of nits–don’t bother.

            “faux pas” is French.

          • Alaskan18724

            Dingnabbit, you’re absolutely right. Took both, speak neither. Mea culpa, and everything.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            I just enjoyed the “For the pickers of nits–don’t bother.” 😛

            (There is a Pepsi on a hockey site I frequent. He is bilingual. He once posted something in French. I corrected his spelling. He got miffed.

            Recently, I was listening to Radio-Canada Toronto -CJBC 90.3FM; I had to admit to him I no longer speak French! I understood nothing the presenters spewed. Oh, well. We still have beer.)

          • Max Wellian

            Someone did a kinda comparo of the various bikes. As I recall, Kaw was similar to the BMW Pure (with H2 heads) in terms of cost and performance. Faster but similarly priced to my Thruxton, which is plenty healthy and handsome. More expensive than the less pretty XSR (disclaimer: the yellow and black one was nice). It’s going to be way less expensive and faster than the new Duc Scrambler 1100.
            I like all of them. I think the Kaw ranks well in price and performance, if not outright dominant. Really comes down to looks and how one likes their power delivered. I’m a fan of twins and I already have a Versys 1000 for longer, two up rides. Still, I wouldn’t kick the Z900RS outta the garage for eating a little oil.

        • Rocky Stonepebble

          Was that Christopher Lloyd?

          • Alaskan18724

            Rex Harrison.

    • Lewis

      Depends on how you ride. Considering the way I ride and where I ride, I would gladly trade peak power for a more friendly, flexible engine that can pull a higher gear cleanly in many situations. I really think Kawasaki is targeting people attracted to the CB1100EX or Triumph heritage models etc. I think in that context, the engine tuning makes sense.

      • Born to Ride

        Yeah, it’s pretty clear from the price point and the tuning of the chassis and engine that they are looking to compete with those bikes. Some of us are hooligans with good taste and want both. Oh well, I guess that’s what having more than one bike is for.

      • Sentinel

        Good point, but I never heard any complaints about the Z900 in that regard to begin with.

        • Angus Pug

          I don’t see any scenario where I would pay $3,000 more for an RS over a Z900.

          • Angus Pug

            Or you can just buy an FZ-09 which is probably a better bike in all respects—the fuel mapping issues have been fixed, it weighs 50 pounds less than the RS, and costs $2,000 less—unless you’re really hooked on the RS styling. But I don’t see that Honda is selling mamy CB1100s, which are similarly overpriced and overweight.

  • hipsabad

    more mufflers = more weight, power sapped

  • John B.

    Though aesthetically more pleasing, the Z900RS appears to be not as good a value as the Z900 unless one prefers aesthetics to performance. I wish Kawasaki would give the Z900 and other bikes more legroom so taller riders could be somewhat comfortable.

    John Burns writes reviews I read all the way through even when I am not that interested in the bike. That’s a critical skill for writers in the Internet age. I have spent my life reading long and complex documents, and even I have developed a short attention span for leisure reading.

    We are all unwitting participants in a grand experiment that I suspect will have far-reaching and adverse unintended consequences.

    • Born to Ride

      If this bike was 1000$ cheaper, I would still consider buying one new. But given the diminished performance envelope and inflated price compared to its ugly fraternal twin, it just seems like a bad deal all of a sudden.

      • John B.

        There are so many great bikes out there it gets confusing.

        • Born to Ride

          Honestly I’m getting ready to just throw my hands up and buy a Street Triple RS. I already know that bike is perfect at what it does, the insurance is super reasonable given what it is, and I doubt there will be anything better for many years. It’s aesthetics are pretty uninspiring, but I’ve overlooked that before to get the perfect bike. Sigh, why can’t it just look like a Supersport and be as usable as my multistrada?

          • John B.

            I really like the Street Triple RS too, but it’s a bit small for me. TR gave that bike very high scores in his review.

          • DAVID

            I test rode the triple and the supersport found the supersport has more room and a fairing for doing long days PLUS wherever I go with my SS I feel like I need an alarm everybody stares at it!!!! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/505c93b2e174a954d205f3e23b24482480c21bc5b560132431c3eb33a6d97b7d.jpg

          • Born to Ride

            Really nice bike man, for me it’s coming down to intended use and monthly expense. 2018 to 2018 model, the Street Triple is 2000$ cheaper OTD and 700$ Less per year on insurance. I’m mostly going to ride it on the weekends and flog the crap out of it, and the top of the line components on the STRS give it an edge there. If I could only have one bike and those two to choose from, it’d be the SuperSport hands down.

          • TriumphRider87

            BtR,

            I own a Street Triple RS that I bought back in April – the very first one my dealer received. It’s a great bike, but frankly, I’m probably going to sell it come spring. It’s too much of a track bike and not anything else. All sport, all the time – no luggage room, begs to be revved to the moon, taunts you with how tight and low you can carve the next corner — fantastic traits, and a superb performer, but frankly not practical in the least. No luggage at all, so can’t really use it around town, definitely can’t travel with it. Wind protection is non-existent, so highway travel for more than short jaunts is an exercise in fatigue. Handlebars are too high and wide for true, chin-on-the-tank sporting corners. Power band and torque are very high up in the rpm range.

            It’s a fast bike, and a fun bike, but frankly not good for much beyond spirited back-road riding on weekend afternoons.

            Yes, I could start changing things, put on different bars or clip-ons, find a way to mount soft luggage that won’t cling to the narrow wasp-tail and hang too close, put on a larger fly-screen, etc. But at some point you’ve morphed the bike beyond what it is.

            Either the Sprint RS or the Speed Triple R I used to have were a better balance of practical and fun. Yes, the Street Triple RS shows 17 years of refinement beyond that Sprint, but I’m not convinced it’s any more fun, and perhaps less so.

            So think twice before you pull the trigger.

          • Born to Ride

            I have a multistrada 1100S that has luggage, comfort, versatility, and practicality. I’d be buying the RS to literally be my sportbike because I can’t afford the insurance on any late model Japanese sportbike. I had a Sprint ST for a couple years, piled up nearly 30k miles on it commuting and light touring. Great bike, but a sport bike it was not. My Multi is significantly quicker despite the horsepower deficit.

          • TriumphRider87

            Didn’t you mean to say, “thank you for sharing your experience with the bike I’m going on & on about whether to buy”?

            or possibly “thanks, that’s actually the kind of performance I’m looking for, so while it may not work for you, what you’re describing will work really well for me”?

            or even just “thanks”?

            if you’ve got it all figured out, why post asking how usable it is?

          • Born to Ride

            Ah man, totally didn’t mean to offend. I really do appreciate the insight and the effort you put into your post. THANKS!

          • TriumphRider87

            Fair enough. You’re welcome. Hope you do get one and it lives up to your expectations – they are great bikes.

          • Born to Ride

            Also I never really asked anyone how usable the bike is. I was just sharing my thoughts and rationale on the potential purchase with these guys that I share this little slice of the internet with. Thanks again for chiming in though.

          • TriumphRider87

            ok.
            Guess I was feeling a bit soapbox-ish.
            Do let us all know what you end up with.

          • Born to Ride

            That’s okay man, I like to jump up on the soapbox from time to time too.

          • StripleStrom

            I think you have valid points. I am planning on taking my Speed Triple to the Sport touring side in the near future… windshield, hard bags (even if I have to make them), just to try and make it a little more usable. I know that it is what it is, but the bike that’s payed for is always a better value than something new, so why not try and make it what I need it to be. I’ve done 12 hour days on it, mostly on 2 lane highways, but it was not easy on me. Highway travel is unpleasant, to say the least. Anything over 80 and you feel like a sail in the wind with those wide bars. I’m probably going to clip-ons. The bars have always felt like a bad compromise.

          • TriumphRider87

            Thanks. Totally hear you on what’s paid for beats the stuffing out of buying all over again. Hope the Speedie in touring form works for you.

          • Mad4TheCrest

            I picked up my 2016 Street Triple Rx as a downsizing move from a Ducati 1198SP superbike, and in that mission as smaller, more useable on the street, more comfortable sportbike it excels. But I have a Tiger 800 too for the practical chores and long distance the Striple sucks at. From what I’ve read about the 765RS it would be even better than the 2016 my purposes. So I’d hoped might also be the Z900RS.

          • Rocky Stonepebble

            That bike is alright … I guess … if one like’s sexy, beautiful, great handling machines.

            But, there is no beer in the photo!

          • Chris

            I rode the Supersport. I had a 96 VFR and tons of standards. I liked it a lot. Comfy. Fast. Easy to ride. Def better than naked on a highway and I like me some highway riding.

          • Kevin Duke

            Yep, I also love the RS. I’m interested in testing the R to find out if I might prefer saving $1300 and getting the torquier R version instead. It’s down a few hp up top and lacking the RS’s M50s, but it’s only 5 ponies and the R’s Brembo M432s are usually pretty damn good.

          • TriumphRider87

            As a current owner of an RS, were I to do it all over again, I’d get the R. More practical engine tune and the M50s aren’t that noticeably better than the M432s, on this bike. The Speed Triple R Brembos were pretty amazing; these, not so much for some reason.

          • Born to Ride

            So you’re actually gonna spend your own money on a new Streetie? Damn that’s a hell of an endorsement.

          • Kevin Duke

            Ha! I have neither the money nor the time for a new motorcycle. I was speaking hypothetically through you…

          • Chris

            Always interesting to know what testers are riding as a daily rider, Kevin. I have a YAM TMax right now so I can help a friend motor pace on his bicycle, but I really like the RS. I remember the Z1 racing down a straight the next block over from my childhood home. My brother had it up to 125 and said it sure did wobble a bit up there.

          • Born to Ride

            I rode them back to back. The brakes on the R model are plenty powerful for any sort of street riding, but they don’t have the WHOA factor that the RS brakes have with the master set to 21mm. Quick shifter is fantastic, nuff said(not as good as the TV800 though…). The mirrors were atrocious on the R model. The bar ends of the RS not only look better, but you can also actually see behind you. My butt Dyno wasn’t able to really get a sense that the R was much beefier in the midrange, but I was riding around suburbia and not on a racetrack. Same goes for the suspension, both felt horribly overdamped in the rear and soft in the front with the Factory settings. I could have walked out the door with a black/red R model (demo ~400 miles) for almost 2500$ less, but I decided to get the bike I wanted, not the one that was “good enough for the money.” No regrets so far, can’t wait to hit 1000 miles and see what this engine can do North of 10,000rpm. =D

          • Kevin Duke

            Thanks for your report. I wish you many happy miles on your RS!

          • StripleStrom

            I wish I had bought the Street instead of the Speed back in 09. It’s a great bike. Should have listened to the dealer when he was steering me that way, but I was set on a liter bike at the time.

          • Born to Ride

            I’m in negotiations on an RS right now. Basically hinging on whether they want my Guzzi on trade. I’ll find out on Thursday.

          • Born to Ride

            I’d get a speedie if I could only have one bike. The Street is the perfect second bike IMO. I just wish both were prettier.

          • StripleStrom

            I wish they would have kept the round headlights. I like some of the cosmetic updates they did otherwise.

          • Kevin Duke

            Having put a few miles on the RS, I’d caution that the high pegs might annoy taller riders when they’re not on a racetrack. YMMV…

          • Born to Ride

            I’m not tall 5’ 9-10”, and it’d be primarily used for sport riding. Got the Multi for commuting and touring.

          • Kevin Duke

            For that type of riding and your size, you’ll fit just fine. I like the 765 a lot and wholly endorse it, and it was really fast around Thunderhill when I was there several weeks back. But it’s bulkier and a little less playful than the 675 Striple. I almost adore the 765 and think it’s terrific, but I also miss the tossability of the 675. Curious to know if you’ve been able to negotiate a test ride yet?

          • Born to Ride

            I have not, that’ll be Thursday. But the this dealership isn’t near any decent roads so it’s unlikely I’ll get a sense of its flickability like I did when I got to make a whole palomar hill climb on the 675. I basically just assumed that the 765 would be better than the 675 across the board. Is that not the case?

          • Kevin Duke

            It would be impossible for you not to like the RS, and it’s better than the 675 in every respect. Except agility and playfulness. On the 675, I always felt like its master, like I was riding cool and significantly more powerful SV650. The 765 is a more serious machine with far greater performance capabilities. It just depends on what kind of ride you’re really looking for. Also, have you even considered the 765 R? The componentry of the RS is amazing, but the R’s (Showa, Brembo) doesn’t seem to be a far step down considering the $1300 price diff. And, from what I’ve heard, it’s currently tough to get a bargain on the RS, as that’s the lustier one that I understand is in higher demand. I wonder if you could drive a harder bargain on an R and get them to cut you a deal on the RS’s quickshifter if that’s something you’d want.

          • Born to Ride

            Right now the whole deal is make or break by virtue of the trade in value of my Guzzi. From what the salesman told me, the GM doesn’t like the brand because they sell like garbage. And is reluctant to even take the bike at all. If we don’t make a deal it’ll probably have to wait until next year after I get a chance to clear out my garage a little bit. They have a demo R model right now marked down 1500$ and it’s tempting, but the M50s, Öhlins shock, and quick shifter are worth a whole helluva lot more than the price difference. And the matte grey is my favorite color scheme on the 765 by far. So I’m kinda stuck looking at the RS at this point.

          • Kevin Duke

            Good luck on a deal! And take the R for a spin and let us know how it measures up. Heck, it’d be worth it even if they won’t give you a fair trade on your Guzzi. Griso, yes?

          • Born to Ride

            Cali 1400 Custom. If it was a Griso I might not be trying to get rid of it. The bike is gorgeous and the best cruiser I’ve ever ridden. But after having it almost a year and 6k miles, I’ve found that a cruiser is more of a luxury item that does one thing really well, and 9 times out of ten I reach for the keys to my Multistrada. Can’t justify a garage queen. I’m not that kind of motorcyclist.

          • Mad4TheCrest

            I must say my’16 Striple 675 is the most playful bike I’ve owned since the little 90cc 2-stroke that was my first ride.

    • RyYYZ

      Maybe the RS isn’t overpriced, but rather the Z900 is a smoking bargain. Probably is, considering that, with ABS, it’s priced at CDN$9,799, which undercuts the (now ABS-equipped) MT-09 by $200 – another bike that was widely declared a bargain when it came out.

      And yes, I also experienced some sticker shock when I looked at what they want for the RS in Canada compared to the base Z900 model.

      • John B.

        In my neck of the woods, the OTD price for a 2017 Z900 is $7,815 U.S. That’s a great value.

    • Eric Straordinary

      The trick might be the increased usage of onomatopoeia in long paragraphs to keep our attention.

  • Craig Hoffman

    Agree with the others. The original Z1 was no holds barred, and it is not like the Z900 is a ZX10 – they should have left the engine at full strength. Brilliant fit and finish and attention to the exhaust’s sound though.

    Speaking of the exhaust, “at low rpm, the exhaust escapes in a straight line; at higher revs the exhaust gets routed through an additional passage”. This is very clever, and I am wondering if it can be disabled 😉

    • Born to Ride

      This. That same stupid exhaust valve trickery is what robs the ninja 1000 of literally 20 top end horsepower without even remotely affecting the bottom end. I’m hopeful that opening up the exhaust will net serious gains for this engine, but having lower compression, lazy cams, and a heavier crank doesn’t instill much confidence.

      • DickRuble

        In this day and age the components are matched to the expected output. Meaning you are correct: you won’t be able to squeeze out power cheaply.

        • Born to Ride

          Yeah a full system and Dyno tuning are certainly not cheap mods. Not worth it on something that’s already been tuned for maximum performance. But given that the 1000cc version of this engine benefitted massively from a pipe and tune, it’s possible this bike could see similar improvement. I’m not willing to bet my money on it though.

    • DickRuble

      “I am wondering if it can be disabled ;)” – Even if it can be disabled, it won’t do you any good. You would have to remap fueling and it’s uncertain you’ll get a decent mapping. Count another $1000 for that. Why not just get the z900, which is $2600 cheaper?

      • Craig Hoffman

        ECU Unleashed will remove all the crap programming and map the ECU to your bike’s configuration for $495. Not cheap, but not a grand either. Give them some time, they will sort this thing out. Better living through software hacking seems to be the way with modern bikes now.

        I had the ECU in my ’06 FZ1 flashed, the difference is pretty phenomenal. The bike went from feeling a bit buzzy and reluctant to free revving and silky smooth at high RPM. It is now the mechanical equivalent of a bad influence buddy who takes you to the titty bar and keeps buying you shots. So hard to not get in trouble on it now 😛

        • DickRuble

          You just send them your ECU or do you have to take the bike there for dyno testing and matching to your exhaust system (assuming it’s not stock)?

          • Craig Hoffman

            Just send the ECU. Over time they apparently develop a database from bikes that are brought in. In the case of a new model like this, it may be a few years though.

            I just bought a used ’14 Yamaha Super Tenere with a Yosh slip on. ECU Unleashed has a map for that, or, if I decided to go whole hog, a map for the slip on with Arrow headers, which will mate with the slip on.

            The ST, wonderful bike that it is, needs a bit of a wake up, so I will probably go the Arrow Header route. There goes another grand for the headers and ECU tune. At least the slip on was “free”. Total bump is 85 to 103 hp at the wheel with the full exhaust and ECU tune with similar gains in the middle where it matters. I think torque is approaching 90 lb ft too. Enjoying the ST so far, it is a Labrador retriever of a motorcycle.

          • DickRuble

            Meh.. I’ll take a junkyard dog over any retriever.

          • Craig Hoffman

            I have a well set up FZ1 with 150 at the wheel for the mean dog role, and a 450cc dirt bike, which is meanest of them all. So many ways to hurt myself on the 450.

            Felt the need for a bike that is not going to always try to kill me, or goad me into doing things that will land me in jail. Popped a good wheelie on the S10 the other day though, I am hopeless 🙂

      • Angus Pug

        Exactly my thought.

  • MotorbikeMike

    Man, I can’t get over how gorgeous that bike looks; but it just is not the retro styled bike with super-naked performance I was hoping for. It looks like all you gain over the standard Z900 is the aesthetics (and I guess those radial mount brake calipers that must work just a little bit better). All that costs you over $3000 more (CAD) while missing out on a decent bit of top-end.

    Maybe this de/re tuned engine would have been better suited to a Vulcan platform. To me it looks like they were going for more of a cruiser than a super-retro.

    Overall, I really do like this bike, but I think it may have been a missed opportunity. If I’m going to have a four-cylinder standard with a liter class engine, I want something that is going to beg to be run up to the redline, and if I’m going to save thousands of dollars doing that, well, the choice is pretty easy.

    • Alaskan18724

      Exactamundo.

    • Matt O

      i’d love to see this motor in a Vulcan. i have a bit of seat time with a Vulcan S and its a great bike. I’m thinking they could call this one the Vulcan R.

      • Lewis

        Then it could be called the “Eliminator”. I am sure some of us remember the shaft drive ZL900 and ZL1000 from the mid 80’s.

        • Matt O

          I remember them, and they were great, I briefly owned a zl600, but I think that name has been tainted by the Eliminator 125. Plus it fits the current naming lineup better.

  • Alaskan18724

    I’m thinking I might enjoy a pristine Zephyr 1100 as well as this. It just ain’t enough. Dadgummit. Rackumfrackum. I wanted this bike. Haven’t even ridden one, and I’m already feeling let down.

  • DickRuble

    Poor fuel mapping according to other reviews. Budget another $600 for power commander.

    • spiff

      If I were a dealer I would throw a PCV in as a way to close the deal.

      • Born to Ride

        I read this and thought, why the hell does it need an extra positive crank vent. Lol

    • Gruf Rude

      Cycle World positively slams the fueling; what a shame, as that REALLY detracts from a bike’s appeal.

  • W Donald

    This bike ticks lots of boxes for me , the suspension I would personalise to suit my riding style irrespective of the bike so for me that isn’t an issue , the power loss , well if I were still racing I might complain , but I haven’t in years so that will also be suitable for my application .
    Then again I do however still have an original , well mostly original at least 1975 Z900 in the garage , you don’t get more retro than that now do you

  • Matt O

    i love that dash.

    • Eric Straordinary

      Same here. I dunno if it is from years of conditioning that I find analogue needle-gauges easier to read or what, but they are so much better for me than digital ones.

  • Rocky Stonepebble
    • Alaskan18724

      Always apropos.

      • Rocky Stonepebble

        Well, it was the tune … I was going to post the Maxine Nightingale – Right Back Where We Started From video, but since I was watching hockey at the time and the Slap Shot DVD was on my coffee table next to a Leafs magazine …

  • Lewis

    I am expecting my RS in the next 2 weeks according to the dealer. I am pleased to read about the ergos. I was anticipating more of a gentlemen’s express and that is what it will be. Time to clean the spiders and stinkbugs out of my Tourmaster suit and get ready to break the RS in during the winter. If not for the RS, I would have bought either the XSR900 or CB1100EX, well done Kawasaki!

  • Lewis

    Burns, is that a Vanson Manx jacket?

    • john burns

      it’s a Vanson i forget what they called it ten years ago? But the kids were all jealous…

      • Lewis

        Very cool. I can attest to the crashworthiness of Vanson leather. Still wear my almost 20 year old Manx complete with scuffs/rash. Wonderful piece of gear.

      • Moto Yogi

        When I watch video, it looks like the pegs are too low to corner properly. If the lean angle isn’t there, its just another poser bike. I own a 2014 CB1100 and an FZ 10; you can really lay both of them through corners without hitting anything. When you test rode the Z900RS, did you scrape your boot, or any hard parts?

  • StripleStrom

    great review. I guess I fall right in the middle of that age range,which must be why I really dig this bike (If you can wear bell-bottoms, I can use “dig”). I’m losing my hard edge these days anyway.

    • Rocky Stonepebble

      I’m hip, daddy-o. Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls.

  • StripleStrom

    The only question I have is, why not lower the pegs a little more if hard parts are touching down first? It’s a win-win.

  • Gary

    Speaking of fires, you guys in the southland are soiling the air in the northern part of the state. Can you please put out the flames? This is getting old.

    Cool bike ….

    • Mad4TheCrest

      We’re trying, Dude! If you’re impatient, I think there may be a few volunteer spots available …

  • JMDGT

    Kawasaki can fine tune this bike over the next few years. Doesn’t need that much. A retro Roadster for every manufacturer and one for every garage.

  • RyYYZ

    I think Kawi has hit just the right spot between retro looks and modern function. Sure, the new Triumph twins have the retro look nailed, but also the retro performance. Ditto the Honda CB1100. The Yamaha XSRs don’t really look retro at all, more like what they are – some retro stuff pasted onto a modern bike. The Kawi looks like what the KZs of the 70s might have evolved into if their styling had stayed largely the same, but engines and suspension had progressed as they did in the (mostly) sport models.

    • Motonirvana

      I’m a big Yamaha fan but the XSR has to much of a “parts bin” bike look. The two fuse boxes below the tank with their four screw covers look ridiculous.

  • TronSheridan

    No video? Or am I missing something…

    It looks like a cool bike, but just doesn’t fit my needs. I ride fast and do lots of sport touring out west. I need wind protection and gearing for hauling booty. As a second bike for commuting or errands around town, this might fit the bill.

    Also, you guys should install some kind of Lightbox software for viewing your galleries.

  • OregonOnTwoWheels

    They did a great job at blending old with new on this one. Love the rich browns & sparkly bits, too. I will add that a spoked wheel option would have been the biscuit wheels on this two-wheeled gravy train. Good job,Kawasaki! (*lifelong Kawboy, here. That’s me on the back of the bike with me dad in 1970) 🙂 https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1e7255aa8c6156ea517abb13ccb9c7d2ff2204ea1687f60c2fe50603f155b197.jpg

    • Eric Straordinary

      Your dad is Howard Cosell? That is awesome!

  • Angus Pug

    Booooooring. Why would I want a new bike that looks 50 years old? And pay two grand more than Z900, which is essentially the same bike? And then spend even more money to buy 4 into 4 pipes to make it even heavier? But then, I don’t get he whole Harley thing either. You’d think that market would have aged out by now. But lord knows they sell tons of those overpriced, overweight, underperforming boat anchors.

    • Born to Ride

      Because some of us have good taste and like our roadsters with clean lines and elemental aesthetics? You’re spot on about the price differential between the two bikes though. I (foolishly) thought this bike was only going to be 1000-1500$ more than the base model. The 12 grand MRSP was probably one of the motivating factors that led me to buy something else.

  • Andy C

    Not too sure its place is on those winding Malibu roads but on those streets of Pacific Palisades, my old hometown, (yes I have a sharp eye) is exactly where it feels, and sounds like, it belongs.

  • Chris

    I’ll take the extra two inches of wheelbase over the Street Triple. The RS is a great machine in the modern world and it’s more comfortable than the Z900 and looks better too. Standards with too much power get crashed. My 140 HP FZ1 felt like it was constantly being held back. Why do I want so much top end at the expense of Torque? I don’t. It gets guys killed. Sport bikes have plenty of power and the proper riding ergos for that power so you don’t low side going into a corner hot, and you STILL might! High bars with tons of power are NOT making that corner at way over the speed limit. That’s why our insurance rates are through the roof, idiots squidding on the street instead of at the track where they belong. – FZ1 wanted to be short shifted even at low revs. So I like what Kawasaki is doing here. Traction control. Slipper clutch.

    • Born to Ride

      So why is it waaaaay cheaper to insure a supernaked than a Superbike? Also, I’ve never felt held back from taking a corner with a handlebar, and I see far more lowsides from RR mounted riders than supernaked pilots in my neck of the woods.

  • Gee S

    “The original Z1 really was quite the atom bomb “.

    What an elegant turn of phase, even if it seems somehow ….familiar.

    They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, so thanks for the stroke, JB.

    Folks wishing to see the source for this shining turn of phase are encouraged to read the original. — https://rollingphysicsproblem.wordpress.com/2017/11/12/atom-bombs/

  • Alan G

    tuono 1100 factory. do it all bike.

  • Eric Straordinary

    After seeing all of the interest that this bike has received, I wonder if Kawasaki is going to do a Z650RS for next year.

  • Alaskan18724

    Finally got to see one and throw a leg over in the flesh. Felt right at home–Special K got a lot right with this one. And it may have been my imagination, seasoned by a healthy helping of wishful thinking, but it seemed to me that the metal flake in the black paint leaned toward green! This is a lovely machine. A whole lot of motorcyclists of a certain age are going to leave DNA all over them. Cheers!