Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe

From the moment that the Kawasaki Z1-inspired Z900RS was announced in October of last year, enthusiasts have been saying they wanted the model to go even further into the retro-racer styling. Just a month later, large portions of the rest of the world received the word that their dreams had been made real in the form of the Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe. Naturally, riders in the U.S. market wanted to know why they weren’t going to be allowed to own this strikingly-styled version of the RS.

First Look: 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS

First Look: 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe

2018 Kawasaki Z900RS First Ride Review + Video

Live With It: 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS Long Term Review

Well, according to this press release, the wait is over, and the Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe will be available in limited quantities in the American market for $11,499 – that’s only $300 more than the top of the line Z900RS. We don’t know the exact import numbers, but consider this to be a warning that, if you want to buy a Z900RS Cafe in 2018, you better put your money down sooner rather than later. Kawasaki reps said that buyers can begin ordering the Cafe during the first week in June, and the bikes will start trickling into dealerships shortly thereafter.

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe

The Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe gets this spiffy brushed stainless steel exhaust.

Just a quick reminder, the Cafe is mechanically the same motorcycle as the RS with some additional parts. While the bulk of the changes are strictly for styling, a couple could combine to affect the rider. 

The styling changes begin with Kawasaki’s Vintage Lime Green paint scheme that features a retro white stripe from front to rear. Even the black cast wheels receive a cosmetic upgrade in the form of a green stripe. The 948cc engine receives new case covers, and the exhaust sports a brushed stainless steel finish. The retro-inspired bikini fairing straddles the style/function divide, creating the biggest visual change on the Cafe while providing wind protection for the rider.

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe

This photo shows the differences in the cockpit between the Z900RS (red) and the Cafe. While the seat is slightly different, the most noticeable change will be with the location of the grips.

The functional changes are the stepped seat and the drop-style handlebar. While we only have numbers for how the Cafe’s seat height differs from the RS (32.3 in. versus 31.5 in., respectively), they don’t match what the provided photo which overlays the Z900RS and the Cafe, showing the RS seat being higher. (Update: Kawasaki informed us that the numbers in the press release are correct. The seat is slightly higher than the one on the RS.) We surmise from the photo that Kawasaki sent us with its press release that the grips are roughly 1.0-1.5 in. lower and slightly forward of the RS’ position. The sum effect should be a slightly sportier riding position that angles the rider’s upper body forward. Other than that educated guess about the riding position, we’ll have to wait until we actually get a chance to ride Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe to tell you what it’s really like. We hope it will happen soon!

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe

This swoopy bikini fairing is what the Z900RS has been crying out for since its introduction.

Update: At the unveiling of the Z900RS Cafe in Malibu, CA, I had a chance to sit on the bike and sample the riding position. While a few minutes in the saddle of a stationary bike are hardly enough to formulate more than a cursory opinion, the new riding position appears to be a bit sportier than the RS while not placing the upper body in a position that would tax the back in around-town riding.

We’ll be testing the Cafe in a few weeks, so keep an eye out for our review.

Kawasaki racing legend Eddie Lawson receives a Z900RS Cafe courtesy of KMC, USA.

Begin Press Release:



The all-new Kawasaki Z900RS CAFE motorcycle, produced in limited quantities for 2018, adds a classic front fairing, stepped seat, and black low rise handlebars to the nostalgic Z900RS adding another inspired design to Kawasaki’s retro style line of motorcycles.

In building the Z900RS CAFE motorcycle, Kawasaki has once again meticulously crafted one of the most authentic retro-styledmachines in appearance and design, paying homage to an era of motorcycles that shaped the Kawasaki brand. The Z900RS CAFE takes styling cues from iconic Kawasaki models including the Kawasaki Z1-R, Eddie Lawson Replica KZ1000R, and GPz models, all while tastefully incorporating modern technology and features.

Developed for riders in search of a well-rounded bike that is not only rich in history and character, but also packed with modern technology and handling. The Z900RS CAFE is powered by a 948cc in-line four engine, features a modern trellis frame, and modern suspension components that bring an unmatched level of performance.

By blending the sleek sweeping contours of the Z900RS with Kawasaki’s classic caferacer styling and class-leading performance technology, Kawasaki has yet again created another truly authentic motorcycle. The Z900RS CAFE received the same meticulous attention to detail in its construction as its predecessors did, from the Z1 inspired teardrop gas tank to the simple uncluttered engine design, all the way down to the sporty vintage inspired fairing and tail section.

The newest addition to the Z900RS lineup, the Z900RS CAFE, is packed with technologically advanced components and features, including the 41 mm inverted front forks, assist and slipper clutch, Kawasaki TRactionControl (KTRC), and a fully tuned exhaust note. New features appear as well including a brushed stainless steel exhaust system, black low-rise handlebars, stepped seat, fairing, and new engine case covers.The Z900RS CAFE is available in Vintage Lime Green.

Retro Styling

A few of the eye-catching features of the Z900RS CAFE are the beautiful sporty front fairing, black low-rise handlebars and iconic four and a half gallon teardrop fuel tank, which were inspired by the styling of the Kawasaki Z1 and the Z1-R. The entire frame was designed around positioning and showcasing the beautiful cafe-raceraesthetics of the bike. The retro vibe also influenced much of the look of the front end as well, such as the large 170 mm LED headlamp, which blends old school looks and modern designs.Position lamps in the high-beam chambers ensure the whole lamp appears lit, like a retro-style bulb headlamp; a convex lens and chromed headlamp ring add to the high-quality finish and appearance. The iconic Kawasaki styling of the 70’s and 80’s inspired theflowing design of the seat and rear cowl on the Z900RS CAFE. The oval design of the LED taillight also pays homage to its Z1 lineage. Unlike standard LED taillights that appear as a collection of dots, the surface-emitting LED taillight lights up as a solid surface. An analogue-style speedometer and tachometer give off the retro vibe for the gauges, which is contrasted by a multi-functional LCD screen with an easy-to-read black and white display that continues the theme of blending retro styling and modern technology.

The simple, uncluttered engine design was very important to Kawasaki engineers when building the Z900RS CAFE. Its engine has its own unique look and features all-new black stylish engine covers. The engineers wanted to capture the air-cooled & carbureted feel, to make the bike stand out in an age where electronics have become increasingly popular in the engine bay. The stylish engine fins were cast onto the cylinder head to create the image of an air-cooled engine. The long, flowing 4-into-1 stainless steel header design mates to the short, low hanging megaphone silencer ties together the vintage image of the Z900RS CAFE

The cast aluminum wheels chosen for the Z900RS CAFE feature flat spokes designed to look like classic wire-spoked wheels. The wheels offer a balance of lightweight and stylish looks, contributing to both handling and a design suited to the retro category.

Strong, Smooth Inline-Four Engine & Transmission

The Z900RS CAFE, features a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve 948cc inline four cylinder engine. Its design and configuration offer a great balance of power and manageability, delivering strong low and mid range torque that provides all riders the reassuring feeling of control. Several engine components played a crucial role in achieving the smooth, reliable, consistent power needed for the Z900RS CAFE. Utilizing the downdraft positioning of the 36 mm throttle bodies was crucial in allowing intake air to travel in the most direct route to the combustion chamber, which is all complemented by ECU controlled sub throttles that provide silky smooth throttle response.

To facilitate smooth shifting the gearing ratio of the Z900RS CAFE was designed to have a short first gear, making it easier to launch. It also features a longer sixth gear for improved ride comfort when touring or cruising at highway speeds and also allows the engine to operate at lower rpm, which in turn results in improved fuel efficiency and reduced engine vibration.

The Z900RS CAFE features a high-quality clutch with assist and slipper function working in unison with its transmission. Additionally, the back-torque limiting slipper function of the clutch contributes to stability by helping to prevent wheel hop during downshifts.

Kawasaki’s Precision Tuned Exhaust Note

While the Kawasaki inline-four cylinder engines have been historically known for their great-sounding exhausts, Kawasaki has used sound research to craft an ideal exhaust note. Sound tuning on the Z900RS CAFE was focused on the initial roar to life, idling, and low-speed riding where the rider is best able to enjoy the exhaust’s deep growl. To ensure both performance and the desired sound were achieved, every aspect of the exhaust system was scrutinized: exhaust pipe length, collector design, where to position the bends, even the density of the glass wool fibers in the silencer. More than 20 renditions of the system were tested before finding the perfect match. Clever internal construction of the pre-chamber achieves a balance of sound and performance, and at low-rpm, the exhaust escapes in a straight line, while at high-rpm the exhaust is routed through an additional passage.

The high quality stainless steel exhaust system features a 4-into-1 collector layout.  The header pipes and pre-chamber are built as a single unit. The exhaust headers feature a double-wall construction, which helps to minimize heat discoloration and provide protection from the elements. The compact stainless steel megaphone-style silencer contributes to the retro appearance of the Z900RS CAFE. To ensure the highest quality finish possible the header pipes are all treated with a special three stage buffing process:the first is done as individual parts, the second is done once the exhaust is assembled, the third stage is a final buffing process.

Lightweight Trellis Frame

To achieve the desired weight, handling characteristics, and appearance, the Z900RS CAFE received a high tensile steel trellis frame. The lines of the frame were made as straight as possible, only utilizing bends when necessary, which has created a frame that disperses stress extremely well and enhances handling. Also aiding in the pursuit of lightweight and performance handling is the rigid-mounted engine, which is connected at five points to the frame: front and rear of the cylinder head, behind the cylinder, and at the top and bottom of the crankcases. Its minimalist design has helped to trim all unnecessary weight while showcasing its retro styling.

The Z900RS CAFE has a laid back and relaxed design, which was achieved by raising the front and lowering the rear.


Complementing the ride comfort of the all-new performance designed trellis frame is a 41 mm inverted fork and Kawasaki’s Horizontal Back-Link rear suspension design. The high-grade fork features fully adjustable 10-way compression and 12-way rebound damping, enabling riders to find their precise settings to suit their preference and riding style. Enhancing the performance of the rear is Kawasaki’s Horizontal Back-Link rear suspension design. The rear shock features fully adjustable rebound damping and preload.This arrangement contributes to mass centralization while ensuring that the suspension is located far enough from the exhaust that it is not affected by heat.


Handling the stopping duties of the Z900RS CAFE is a full disc brake setup featuring modern ABS.The radial-pump front brake master cylinder commands a pair of 4-piston radial-mount monobloc calipers to grip a pair of 300 mm brake discs, providing plenty of stopping power. The rear brake features a single piston, pin-slide caliper gripping a 250 mm disc.

Kawasaki TRaction Control (KTRC)

The Z900RS CAFE is equipped with Kawasaki TRaction Control (KTRC), which has two performance settings riders can choose from: Mode 1 prioritizes maximum forward acceleration, while Mode 2 provides rider reassurance by facilitating smooth riding on low-traction surfaces.

When selected, Mode 2 utilizes the same logic and control as Mode 1, but enables riders to better negotiate both short patches of slippery terrain, such as train tracks or manhole covers, and extended stretches of other less predictable surfaces. Wheel spin is also limited when starting on a low-traction surface. However, when excessive rear wheel spin occurs, Mode 2 switches to three-way control, which governs the ignition timing, fuel delivery and airflow, and engine output is reduced to a level that helps the rear wheel to regain grip. This fine control results in a very natural feeling with smooth engagement and on/off transition. Riders may also elect to turn the system off to enjoy the raw feel of riding.


The 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS CAFE is available in Vintage Lime Green


Z900RS CAFE $11,499


Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. (KHI) started full-scale production of motorcycles over a half century ago. The first Kawasaki motorcycle engine was designed based on technical know-how garnered from the development and production of aircraft engines, and Kawasaki’s entry into the motorcycle industry was driven by the company’s constant effort to develop new technologies. Numerous new Kawasaki models introduced over the years have helped shape the market, and in the process have created enduring legends based on their unique engineering, power, design and riding pleasure. In the future, Kawasaki’s commitment to maintaining and furthering these strengths will surely give birth to new legends.

Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. (KMC) markets and distributes Kawasaki motorcycles, ATVs, side x sides, and Jet Ski®watercraft through a network of almost 1,100 independent retailers, with close to an additional 7,400 retailers specializing in general purpose engines. KMC and its affiliates employ nearly 3,100 people in the United States, with approximately 250 of them located at KMC’s Foothill Ranch, California headquarters.

Kawasaki’s tagline, “Let the good times roll.®”, is recognized worldwide. The Kawasaki brand is synonymous with powerful, stylish and category-leading vehicles. Information about Kawasaki’s complete line of powersports products and Kawasaki affiliates can be found on the Internet at www.kawasaki.com.

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