Surely you didn’t think we were done talking about the toast of the 2018 Kawasaki-town, did you? The bike that finished runner-up in our little MO Poll in November with fully 17% of the vote? This time last week yours truly was riding it (and yesterday we added a video to our review). Now we’re still talking about it. In honor of the birth of the Baby Jesus, these are a few of my favorite things:

5. Helmet Lock!

Weren’t we just complaining about where’d all the dang helmet locks go? This bike has an easy-access one that uses the ignition key. Also bungee hooks for strapping things on the back seat, an optional centerstand you can lift the bike onto with your pinkie finger, adjustable brake and clutch levers, bright LED head and taillights, and fantabulous paint with just enough metal flake.

4. The Controversy its “Retuned” Engine Stirs Up

One commenter following this Monday’s AskMO had it exactly right: The word “detuned” should be expunged from the record any time any manufacturer is promoting a new motorcycle. In fact, Kawasaki never did use that word, it was us motojournalist snobs poking the fire. We look at things like shorter cam duration, heavier crank, lower compression, and skinnier headers and jump to that conclusion. Granted, all those things do have the Z900RS making less peak horsepower than the Z900, but they also allow it to make just as much torque at significantly lower engine speeds. Some people are unhappy about that, others think it’s a smart trade-off that makes the RS a more authentic modern Z1 that’s just as fun to ride as the Z900 in its own unique way. Either way, it’s fun to watch everybody’s panties get twisted up into a tight little communal knot. What I live for, really. (Look me up on Facebook and we can talk politics!) From now on, I’ll say “retuned,” not detuned.

3. Humane Standard-bike Ergonomics, No Body-Shaming

The Z900 was already a naked bike, meaning mostly upright ergonomics. But the RS gets grips that are even higher and closer to its rider, along with lower, slightly more forward footpegs and a seriously cushy old breadloaf of a seat. They even rotated the whole frame a bit rearward to move the rider into a truly swingin’ `70s sit-up and grin riding position that’s perfect for rolling down PCH with your Tom Selleck mustache and mullet wafting in the breeze. You can always lean forward when a burst of speed is called for, but the RS is ideal for cruise nights and those Sunday morning classic coffee meet-ups so many enthusiasts are into. Have two donuts; the RS is not a paunch-free zone.

2. The Sound

Like we pointed out in last week’s test, Kawasaki says this is the first time they’ve made a serious engineering effort to get the right sound out of a bike’s exhaust (though when I think about it, Kawasakis have always had among the gnarliest aural signatures – and I mean that in a good way). At lower rpm, the exhaust makes a straight run through that polished stainless four-into-one pipe. At higher ones, it somehow gets rerouted through another passage to keep things within the Fed’s 80-dB limit. At no point is it obnoxious, but you can definitely hear how good you sound as you admire your admirable reflection in storefront windows. I feel bad for all the Yoshimuras and Vance & Hineses who want a piece of this bike, particularly since this hand-buffed pipe looks as good as it sounds.

1. Just Like 1973 But Way Better

I’m not sure what percentage of what’s wrong with me today was caused by heavy mouth-breathing around engines burning leaded fuel directly into the atmosphere while I snacked on paint chips flaking off the dragstrip bleachers and listened to my cochlear bones vibrate against my brain pan, but it must be in the double digits – and don’t forget all the gas fumes inhaled and absorbed while mishandling carburetors and other toxin-marinated components in moldy garages.

The new Z900RS goes faster and makes better power everywhere than the original Z1 ever did, and does so on unleaded fuel whose combustion byproducts are more sanitized than Taylor Swift’s methane. It’s also ¼-ton lighter, rolls on radial tires instead of wooden hoops, and goes, stops and does everything better than the original, including not wobble off into the weeds. Way more comfortably. All it needs is for you to push the starter button and change the oil once a year. If that. Guess why the kids don’t work on their vehicles anymore? They don’t have to.

 

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  • Born to Ride

    Despite being possibly the loudest whiner in the other thread regarding the ‘retuning’, I can shamelessly admit that the bike is way cool and I still want one. But I’m gonna wait a few years to let someone else take the hit on depreciation and fixing the fueling. And by then I’m sure the aftermarket will offer stylish touring accessories and the performance mods to make it perfect.

    • Craig Hoffman

      There is satisfaction in a bike that “needs” its rider. This is indeed a very cool bike, and perhaps just a bit of well placed “owner involvement” could be even better.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      By then there will be other bikes to drool over.

      • RMP52

        “other bikes to drool over”, You are probably right, but this is a neat bike. Have always like the UJM bikes, bought a Honda Ascot a couple of years ago and last fall picked up a Suzuki Tempter,650 vertical twin. Swapped out the large gaudy turns signals and tail lamp, and “cleaned up” the lines a bit, new paint, and it’s really a neat, clean bike. Love the new XSR700 Yammie, and this Z900RS would definitely be on my wish list.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          You must be a bike collector.

          • RMP52

            Na, just cheap ! :- ) Actually love to find these old bikes that I would have liked to have bought new, but years ago had mortgage payments and kids to raise and just couldn’t afford it. Sort of like what’s been said here- wait a few years and get “deal”. I AM about due for a new one though. ;- )

    • Mad4TheCrest

      I have to admit, despite my also whining about the unnecessary ‘retune’, I still admire this bike enough that I would buy one if I hadn’t picked up a leftover 2016 Street Triple in early 2017. That said, if the engine was straight out of the Z900 and the Cafe was available I might have the Street Trip listed already and a deposit down … a test ride may still sway me.

      • Alaskan18724

        …and the small kangaroo in her pouch said, “Me too!”

        • Barbara

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      • Born to Ride

        I don’t think there are any circumstances that would lead me to spend 14-15 grand OTD for this bike new. I doubt anyone is going to be getting a deal on this thing until next year if there are leftovers. I’ll buy used, no markups and a bike like this is unlikely to be abused.

        • Alaskan18724

          Suspect OTD will be significantly lower, especially given the market. We keep seeing flurries of enthusiasm for new bikes, followed by…nothing. Exciting new rides, languishing on showroom floors, especially those of predatory dealers with their ADP, surely not ever expecting to have repeat customers….

        • Mad4TheCrest

          The sheer joy of riding around on a brand new bike may be worth the $ that might be saved by holding off for a year. By the time cautious buyers step in for savings eay adopters have thousands of miles of fun on their fancy digital Odos. In my opinion, the only good reason to hold off on a new model you can afford at the initial MSRP is if the reviews or a test ride indicate flaws you hope will get fixed for the following model year. Otherwise you are wasting valuable seat time to save a few bucks.

          • Born to Ride

            Well, if I was bikeless, and this was the one I wanted more than anything else, then yeah, buy the damn thing and ride it. I just don’t think I’d like this bike enough to justify the expense of full MSRP, Japanese dealer markups, and getting it tuned so that it is pleasant to ride. To me, this is a 10,000$ bike. Whether it’s lightly used or brand new makes little difference to me, I’m going to beat it harder than the previous owner anyways. Lol

          • Sayyed Bashir

            That’s what I did. Paid cash for the 2018 KTM 500 EXC-F and love riding it everywhere, both on and off road. It is like riding a bicycle compared to my other bikes.

    • Old MOron

      I saw one of these at the Rock Store yesterday. As much as I liked the CB1000R, I think I like this better!

  • 12er

    Any word on the Cafe? Been lusting after that version, retuned works for me, I only see red line every so often and always playing in the midrange on the multi so that doesnt bother me. The light switch fueling on the other hand kept me from buying other bikes. So if its not coming, I may have to get the indian scout 1200 str if I can afford it.

    • john burns

      They kind of hint it may be coming but it’s second on the production line and more in demand than anticipated. Dunno if I would like it as well with the lower handlebar?

      • Larry Kahn

        If it’s too low you’re too old.

      • Marc

        As much as I like to avoid low bars (I have been riding 50 years,so I’m old), I find that the front end operates better with more weight on the front. One of my bikes is a Harley Roadster, Sportster that has cartridge forks and Low bars and it actually handles quite well. I had the pegs moved back to the passenger pegs so it is really a cafe at this point. I also have an old man’s sport bike , Ducati Supersport S, and it outhandles the rest of my naked bikes. So yes I would have preferred the cafe, but put in an order for the root beer RS.

        • Alaskan18724

          And I’m thinking that “lower” might not equate to “low,” relatively speaking….

          • Marc

            That would be correct

      • Mad4TheCrest

        I would – if they put the un-retuned Z900 motor in it 🙂

  • 12er

    Any word on the Cafe? Been lusting after that version, retuned works for me, I only see red line every so often and always playing in the midrange on the multi so that doesnt bother me. The light switch fueling on the other hand kept me from buying other bikes. So if its not coming, I may have to get the indian scout 1200 str if I can afford it.

  • JMDGT

    Like a moth to a flame I am drawn to this bike. It is tits. Not all bikes are. This one is.

    • Michelle

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      • JMDGT

        Tits ahoy.

        • Christina

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    • Lavon

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      • JMDGT

        I am so glad I dumped you. Get on with your life it’s over.

  • Sayyed Bashir

    “Also bungee hooks for strapping things on the back seat.” Bungee hooks always end up damaging the paint. The 2007 Suzuki Bandit 1250S I bought in March, although like new, had scratches near the bungee knobs. Ended up taking the entire tail section off and getting it repainted.

    • Ulysses Araujo

      In the Bandit’s case one of the attachment points is on the tail section plastic if I remember well, isn’t it? There are some bikes that place two pairs of hooking straps under the seat, and its enough to pack something without touching the rear or using other anchor points. Others had that passenger holding (?) strap that could be used instead of 2 of the aforementioned underseat hook straps. Wish more bikes used that configuration.

    • Alaskan18724

      That’s OCD attention to detail. I approve. Probably wouldn’t sleep until it was perfect.

      • Sayyed Bashir

        I have a riding friend who owns a collision shop. He noticed it and said if you take it off and bring it to me, I will repaint it for free. He did such a nice job the bike looks like new. Even the previous owner (who I also ride with) couldn’t believe it.

  • TC

    Quarter ton lighter? That’s 550 lbs. Awesome!!

  • Rocky Stonepebble

    “Top Five Hippest Cool Features Of The New Kawasaki Z900RS.”

    Correction: Top Five Four Hippest Cool Features Of The New Kawasaki Z900RS. I’m not on it.

  • Sam Faris

    John; Are you privy to Ms. Swift’s meethane?

    • john burns

      I was actually front row center at her last gig at the Stone Pony, where a small peninsula projects out from the stage. At one point she was facing away from me and bent over to high-five Andrew Capone on the other side of the stage. At that point, she emitted a tremendous blast of gas which was audible in spite of the band playing with amps at “11.” It actually rippled the Spandex in back of her pants, and I was directly in the line of fire. My nostril hairs recoiled in horror, but when the cloud reached me, it was no worse than a rose garden that had just been composted. I ruined it all, though. It was my first concert since Lynyrd Skynyrd, and when I flicked my Bic there was a huge explosion. I’m banned from now on.

      • Sam Faris

        Too damn funny…

      • Alaskan18724

        Sheesh.

  • TriumphRider87

    Nice article. Makes we want one even more.

  • Matt Howerton

    Fun article, nice bike. It’s starting to grow on me as I grew up drooling over the UJM’s of the late 70’s and early to mid 80’s. My first street bike was a little 1975 Honda 550Four back in 1982 as a sophomore in high school and I loved it. Put thousands of miles on it when the snow wasn’t there at Lake Tahoe where we lived, and it was a fun mount blasting up and down the mountain passes to the Carson valley and Reno and all places in between. Great memories and I became a forever fan of the standard style four cylinder Japanese motorcycle. Thinking Suzuki needs to come out with a retro GS1100E now to join in on the fun. Good stuff, these new UJM’s.

    • Matt Howerton

      Or a Wes Cooley edition GS1000. 🙂

  • Gary

    You mean I don’t need chiropractic care to ride a performance bike? Great! Children who learned to ride in the early 70s, like me, have known this all along. It’s fun to ride comfortably, rather than assuming the position of contrition to the gods of speed. Now for our next lesson: the Goodness of Torque 101. Horsepower wins trophies, but torque gets you out of trouble out on the mean streets. You know … where we all ride bikes. Long after you start taking horsepower for granted, a simple tool, powered by mid-range torque, is a joy forever.

  • FreeDominion

    “It’s also ¼-ton lighter…”
    erm.. it’s 500 pounds lighter than what exactly? I thought you were comparing it to the original z1.. so you’re saying the original z1 weighed 972 pounds?