The Kawasaki Z 900RS is a complete, modern and sturdy bike that has the lines of a classic motorcycle. It is inspired by the legendary Z1 but brings the idea to the present, making it a perfect choice for most riders. Read on to see how I travelled to the past with this modern classic and how it affected me. In addition to that, I will tell you about two accessories. I found that changed the game for me and added to all my bikes. Read on because the king of the road is back.
It all started almost four decades ago when Kawasaki first introduced the Z1 to the world. What we now know as the Kawasaki Z 900 RS is the new version of this classic bike. First of all, let’s take a ride to history and let me tell you all about the roots of the Kawasaki Z 900 RS.
The year was 1972, and Kawasaki presented to the world a new, revolutionary motorcycle. It was an air-cooled, four-cylinder, double overhead camshaft, carbureted, chain-driven machine. The move by Kawasaki was to outperform the Honda CB750 that was out in 1968. Because of this effort, the legendary four-in-line-engine the motorcycle featured was called UJM. UJM stands for Universal Japanese Motorcycle, the benchmark for which all others are measured by.
At the time, the Z1 not only outdid the CB750, but it’s also twice as costly as MV Agusta 750 S. They both used the double-overhead-camshaft system, only that Kawasaki was a large production, costing half the price. That same year, the Z1 set new FIM and AMA records for 24-hour endurance at the Daytona Racetrack. Also, a Z1 tuned by Yoshimura set the lap record that same year. The same model also won the MCN “Machine of the Year” from 1973 to 1976 uninterruptedly.
Fast forward to the present, Kawasaki introduced the Kawasaki Z 900 RS not as a nostalgic replica but as a redesign of this classic bike. There are many similarities and also some updates, but overall they did a great job keeping the spirit intact.
However, now that we know the motorcycle’s history, it is time to go right into its incarnation. The first thing to say about the Kawasaki Z900RS is that it’s true to the original. Its lines are the same as used for the Z1. Another thing you should know about this bike is that it is a retro bike with modern features while maintaining the lines of a classic motorcycle, Kawasaki managed to create a bike that would please even the most demanding riders.
The “looks” department is the one drawing more attention when you first see the motorcycle. For older riders like me, who had the chance to sit on an original Kawasaki Z1, it feels like home. The tear-shaped fuel tank with the brand plaque on one side plus the colour scheme is crucial. Although it is no longer an air-cooled bike, the chromed large panel in front of the engine looks fantastic. The round front light (filled with modern LED lights) is a distinctive touch.
In the same way, the round speedometer and tachometer are beautifully crafted and fit the vibe. Between them, an LCD screen gives the rider all the information a modern bike would offer. Finally, the classic spokes and rim on the wheels set this bike apart from the rest.
When sitting on the new version, the same cushioned superb seat the Kawasaki Z1 had is present. This new version absorbs bumps and is road-ready. The four-in-line legendary engine has been updated by Kawasaki giving the rider smooth transitions and performance. The company took the time to fine-tune the exhaust to recreate the original rumble.
The Kawasaki Z900RS sounds like a marvel, and if you like big bikes you’ll love the sound of it. In addition to that, it meets all the emission requirements to use it anywhere in the world. At the beginning of the piping system, the inner pipes are slimmer than the outer ones, focusing performance in the low-mid range.
The superb suspension system of the bike is a fully-adjustable 41mm inverted fork that delivers sporty and city performance alike. The trellis saw some adjustments and is now more modern, light-weight and stronger. Along with it, the Kawasaki Z 900 RS has a new back-linear rear suspension with progressive damping, which gives sports riders a better performance at the track. It also makes casual riding more comfortable.
In the ergonomics department, the shape of the motorcycle allows the rider to choose the position. You can be fully upright and very comfortable or bent forward and very sporty. If you are a short rider like me. you’ll appreciate the fact that the Kawasaki Z 900 RS has a lower seat than its predecessors. Finally, the handlebar is precisely in the right position for low-speed manoeuvring and cornering. Also, the sporty handlebar can be a plus for taking some more speed and adjusting your riding position. The Kawasaki Z 900 RS can be a commuter and a race-track warrior.
Finally, in the brakes department, ABS technology is a factory standard. The technology applied is minimal and lightweight but does its job when it has to. Also, the radial-mount callipers and radial-pump front brake master cylinder are very modern. These features contribute to a fantastic feel while retaining the regular, firm and powerful braking performance.
Well, let’s start this part of the article by saying that I was lucky enough to ride the real thing back in the eighties. I was a long-haired metal freak who loved bikes as much as guitars, and yes, I had a Z1. A long-time went by – even though I got rid of my long hair and the guitars, the love for motorcycles stuck with me. You can imagine my emotional response to the email I got, saying “testing” and “Kawasaki Z 900 RS.”
I showed up at the right place at the right time and waited anxiously to get my testing model. The guy that brought it to me was walking with it by his side, transporting the 215 kg gently to me. I put on my helmet, looked around at the bike, put my right leg over it and then it all clicked instantly. I could feel my long hair again because Kawasaki did a terrific job recreating the original vibe. Everything, from the gas tank, the seat and to the handlebar felt exactly like home.
I started it, and the low growl I loved so much was still there. First gear and out to the street to test it. The Kawasaki Z900 RS performance has fine-tuning to accommodate city riders too. The first thing I noticed was the bright LED panel in between the old-school meters. It had all the info I would get from any other modern bike but respecting the retro look. It is not a tall bike at all, but between the tank size and the seat height, it feels like a big ride.
I put it in the first gear and rolled it down to the pavement so I could start my adventure. Regardless of how gentle you are on the throttle; you can feel this machine pushing forward. I went ahead and to the streets of the busy city. I wanted to try how it does in the busy streets and on the open highway, so I started working my way to the highway exit. The sun was still bright, but dusk was coming over us quick. The streets were packed up with cars but finding my way through them was not hard. The manoeuvrability of this motorcycle is superb; you can move around at will. Also, the braking system is way more than appropriate and makes you feel safe on board of a powerful machine.
Car after car I swerved them all effortlessly. I felt as if I was in my early twenties again showing off on my big bike. The traffic lights were fun to test the response at high revs and low speeds. I took the first exit towards the highway and decided to test this bike on the open road. I have to say that the Kawasaki Z 900 RS is one of those do-it-all-bikes; you can change your riding posture effortlessly. What I wish I had done was to adjust the suspension in it, so the little bumps and nuances of the road were easier on me.
That being the case, the Kawasaki Z 900 RS is a fantastic bike for the open road. It pushes forward at the exact time it has to and also makes smooth transitions from any gear to any other. Breaking is almost unnecessary when riding this bike; you can use your body for turning and the gears for slowing down.
Opening up the throttle is a thrilling experience that differentiates the Kawasaki Z 900 RS from the Z900. The transition is smoother, but the power is still there. For those who find the super sports bike a little too much, this RS version is perfect. You get all the power and the response in a more rider-friendly package that has distinctive looks. I can say that the bike is even a little boring for being too perfect. All you can expect from a four-in-line engine is right there. Once you’ve ridden a bike with these characteristics, you understand why it is the UJM and the benchmark for the rest.
After taking the bike to all the corners and the straight lines, I decided to go back. Delivering the motorcycle to the place where we parted ways felt a little bad like giving my young mojo back again. Suddenly my hair was short still, and I was an adult again.
To conclude, the Kawasaki Z 900 RS is the perfect recreation of a timeless classic. They made the ideal combination of technology and classic looks that will satisfy even the most demanding riders out there.
This is a great option for those who want to take good care of their bikes when they leave them parked somewhere for a long time. Center stands are always more stable than side stands, and you can add this accessory very easily to your bike.
This is not an official Kawasaki accessory, but it works wonders on the Kawasaki Z 900 RS or any other bike. Transitions on a motorcycle can be smoother if you don’t use your brakes. Especially in motorcycles like the Kawasaki Z 900 RS that is soft as butter. The downside to it is that you don´t inform other vehicles you´re slowing down. This little, easy to install gadget does exactly that: engages the stoplight whenever you slow down.
By the same company and with the same mission to avoid being involved in a traffic accident, this gadget is fantastic. What it does is very useful: disengages your turning lights when you completed the turn, which could prevent accidents in the city and the open road too. I had them both installed to all my other bikes.
What I like in those two gadgets is that they are compatible with all of my bikes, even though they are of different brands. If you also own one or more than one motorcycle and want to increase your safety while riding them, fill in the form below. You can easily find out if STS and SBM are compatible with your model. I assure you – you won’t regret it.
The Kawasaki Z 900 RS is a great motorcycle that combines classic style with fantastic performance and technology. It is not a nostalgia reissue of a great classic; it is a new classic based on an old bike. Also, the Kawasaki Z900rs cafe is an excellent addition to the line transforming the lines into a cafe racer. If you like classic bikes and also love to ride comfortably with the latest technology available, this bike is for you.