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.