Kawasaki Z900RS

Kawasaki has launched the retro-styled Z900RS as a tribute to the legendary Z1 that starred in the 1974 Aussie biker film, Stone.

Kawasaki has launched the retro-styled Z900RS as a tribute to the legendary Z1 that starred in the 1974 Aussie biker film, Stone.

The Z1 has been a poster bike ever since, so this model has a lot to live up to.

Even though it has been “retuned” with 9kW and 3Nm less, it’s worth more than the Z900, I’m just not so sure about a $4000 premium.

The Z900RS is the perfect balance of modern and retro with a light feel, responsive engine, strong brakes, plus Kawasaki’s deserved reputation for reliability and quality fit and finish.

Kawasaki has cleverly overcome “unfaithful” styling issues by providing a discrete short pipe instead of four pots and polished the edges of the mag wheel “spokes” to give the impression of wire spokes.

The twin retro instrument pods have a discrete modern digital screen in between them with a comprehensive range of information. You can toggle through the info with a control on the left switchgear which also operates the two-stage traction control.

Modern emissions rules dictate the engine is liquid-cooled, so the radiator is a necessary but ugly addition. Kawasaki runs the engine quite lean, so even though it’s liquid cooled, it still runs hot on your shins.

While the seat has faithful retro styling, and appears thick and comfortable, it’s actually quite hard and slightly slopes forward pushing you into the tank.

The real value of this bike is how easy and safely it can be ridden in all conditions thanks to the perfect fuelling and retuning for more torque at low and medium revs. You can ride smoothly and responsibly around town or country at a comfortable 4000 revs at 60km/h in fourth gear, 80km/h in fifth gear or sixth gear at 100km/h.

Even from as low as 3000 revs, it pulls smoothly, strongly and in a linear fashion all the way to the dizzying limiter at 10,000 revs. If you feel the need, you can quickly slip through the gears with the super-slick and faultless transmission, and the ultra-lightweight cable clutch with assist and slipper functions that prevent rear wheel lock-ups.

Ride is comfortable and the suspension fully adjustable. It has the same 300mm semi-floating petal discs as the Z900, but has dual radial monobloc callipers providing better feel.

Kawasaki hasn’t cut any corners with the tyres either, fitting quality Dunlop Sportmax rubber.

Day and night riding is safe with the full LED lighting providing plenty of visibility to other traffic and a wide and even spread of beam from the headlights. The 17-litre tank will give you an excellent 350km of range, although the firm seat may require a pit stop sooner.

Fast facts

  • Price: about $18,000 ride away
  • Engine: 948cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve inline four
  • Power: 82kW @ 8500rpm
  • Torque: 98.5Nm @ 6500rpm
  • Bore x stroke: 73.4 x 56mm
  • Compression: 10.8:1
  • Transmission: 6-speed
  • Suspension: 41mm fully adjustable forks; horizontal back-link shock with rebound damping and spring preload adjustability
  • Brakes: 300mm semi-floating petal discs, dual radial-mount monobloc opposed 4-piston callipers (front); 250mm petal disc with single piston calliper; ABS
  • Tyres: 120/70-ZR17 (58W); 180/55-ZR17 (73W)
  • Length: 2100mm
  • Width: 865mm
  • Height: 1050mm
  • Wheelbase: 1470mm
  • Clearance: 130mm
  • Seat: 835mm
  • Fuel capacity: 17 litres
  • Wet weight: 214kg
  • Warranty: 24 Months/ unlimited kilometres.

Story by Mark Hinchcliffe.