At the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show last weekend the Japanese manufacturer wowed the motorcycling world once again with the all-new, retro-styled Z900RS. Following suit with other manufacturers who have released their own “modern classics” in recent years, the Z900RS is aimed at leveraging the market’s lust for classically styled motorcycles. With its teardrop fuel tank, unmistakable Z1 inspired tail end and side covers and of course that iconic brown orange paintwork with period correct pinstriping, the Z900RS is a dead ringer for the legendary Z1.
Kawasaki has continued the retro theme throughout the rest of the Z900RS by incorporating additional design features like the classic round headlight and Z1 styled taillight that both utilize the latest in LED technology. Although there aren’t any real spokes to be found Kawasaki have paid special attention to the look of the bikes 17-inch cast wheels by creating a unique 20 spoke design that oozes 70’s style. Thankfully the seat is more svelte than the Z1, but they haven’t skimped on the styling cues using a classic double stitched design. Badges on the tank and side covers hark back to the companies seventies branding styles and there are even a few Z1 emblems on the engine casings. The icing on this modern classics cake would have to be the clever inclusion of faux cooling fins on the engines top end.
Leading up to the release of the Z900RS it was predicted that the new model would be built upon a 2017 Kawasaki Z900 platform which seems to be the case. However, now that everything is out in the open we thought we’d take a closer look at some of the major differences between the two to see what else this retro sports bike has to offer.
The Z900RS is powered by a traditional Kawasaki inline parallel 4. Identical to the Z900 the engine uses water-cooling and has a capacity of 948cc. Unlike the wild Z900 however, the Z900RS has been designed to deliver a riding experience suited for everyday riding. This, of course, means a slight drop in power from 123bhp to a more manageable, but still enticing 110bhp. According to Kawasaki this change provides an easy handling and good power in the low and medium speed range and is well suited to street commuters as well as sport and touring riders. The Z900RS uses the same adjustable 41mm inverted forks and rear horizontal back-link mono-shock found on the Z900 for its suspension which has been adjusted to suit the changes in weight distribution. The Z900RS frame is also unique to the bike, designed especially to allow the fitment of the new bodywork and to enhance the bikes retro styling.
The riding position of the Z900RS has also been designed for a more relaxed riding experience. The handlebars sit higher and wider than the Z900 and the footpegs position the rider’s feet further forward for a more upright seating position. Kawasaki has also installed their KTRC traction control system with 2 different performance modes (plus an off setting), a slip-assist clutch and radial mounted brake calipers that you won’t find on the Z900 and of course ABS. Another unique feature of the bike is its polished stainless steel 4-into-1 exhaust system tuned to deliver a sound that “heightens the riding experience” similar to Triumph’s new Bonneville.
Other unique features of the Z900RS include the twin analog speed/rev gauges with a centrally located LCD display for additional information. There’s also a gear position indicator, low profile LED indicators and a color range that includes Candy Brown, Candy Orange, Metallic Spark Blue, Flat Ebony Black and Covert Green. Similar to other modern classics it also likely Kawasaki will be planning on releasing a series of aftermarket parts allowing owners to easily modify their Z900RS. So far their Japanese website only shows basic items like a flyscreen, crash protection components and dress up items, but we’re hoping for some Moriwaki and Yoshimura inspired parts and perhaps even a wild 4-into-4 exhaust system to recreate a true Z1 homage.
Finally, there’s also been talk of a supercharged version of the Z900RS and a special café racer edition that wasn’t on display at the Tokyo Show. The supercharged version will most definitely deliver a wilder riding experience and could perhaps outgun the sportier Z900.
Honda’s CB750 may very well have held the title of the world’s first superbike but it was Kawasaki that knocked them off their perch with the mighty Z1. After being saddened by the news that Kawasaki was putting an end to their W series, which began more than 50 years ago, I have to admit I was rather excited by the prospect of a modern interpretation of the Z1. Thankfully, unlike many of the concepts we see come and go this new Zed, coined the Z900RS, is heading to Kawasaki dealerships soon.