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Kawasaki Z900RS – Retro Done Right

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

Have you ever noticed how different you perceive photos of a famous landmark, depending on whether you have physically been there or not? Once you have been there, you can relate to the photos and it can bring back fond memories. When I first laid eyes on the Kawasaki Z900RS it immediately brought back a flood of memories. You see, I grew up with bikes like the Kawasaki Z1, and even did my driver’s licence on a borrowed Kawasaki Z440. So, seeing and riding the retro-styled Kawasaki Z900RS is something really special.

The Kawasaki Z900RS is by no means a brand-new model. In fact, the only thing that was updated since its debut in 2018 was the paint schemes. The demo model was finished in a colour scheme that pays tribute to the original Z1, and Kawasaki did a mighty fine job of it.

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

The base colour is called “Metallic Diablo Black” and the side of the tank is painted in “Metallic Imperial Red”. The red is neatly outlined with a gold pinstripe. The paint extends to the back of the bike with the tailpiece that covers the oval taillight. The LED headlight is round and there are even faux air-cooling fins on the engine. The only thing Kawasaki did not try to imitate from the original Z1 are the indicators. And that is a good thing. Where the original bike had big, round indicators that looked like two oversized orange lollipops sticking out either side, the new bike has sleek LED indicators.

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

Where the real attention to detail caught my eye was with the two bullet-shaped analogue dials. Although there is a modern LCD sitting between the two dials, the dials themselves could have been lifted from surplus stock from 1970. Kawasaki not only replicated the font used for the lettering, they even copied the original angle at which the needles rest on zero. Furthermore, the stitching on the seat also mimics the original and even the side panels with the Z900RS badges curve upwards and neatly integrate with the stitching on the seat. This level of detail tells me that this bike was created to pay homage to the Z1 and not just some accountant’s idea to add another model to the Z900 range.

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

None of the Kawasakis I remember from my teens ever retained their four-into-two exhausts. The first modification that was done to any four-cylinder Japanese bike was always a four-in-one exhaust. Usually, from companies like KERKER. Kawasaki decided to spare you the trouble and installed a four-into-one as standard. I am sure if you put a KERKER sticker on it, the illusion would be complete.

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

When you sit on the RS, the tank is quite wide and can spread your legs a bit. But, there is a reason for it. Where the Z1 had carburettors, the RS has fuel injection. To accommodate the air box and the injectors, they had to hollow out the bottom of the tank. That meant that the tank grew sideways, much like the waistline of people who are old enough to remember the original Z1. The seat is wonderfully flat and very comfortable. I found the reach to the handlebars a bit far, and you don’t sit quite as upright as you would imagine. They are nice and wide though, but the RS is so delightfully light that I doubt you will need the extra leverage the wide handlebars offer to muscle the bike into a corner.

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

The engine is lifted from the Z900 naked bike, but for the RS they tamed it ever so slightly. It delivers 82 kW, compared to the Z900’s 92 kW, but offers a similar torque figure. The gearing has also been adapted, which makes the RS quite nimble off the line. It does run out of puff high up in the rev range, but admittedly, this bike will probably be in the sights of a less energetic rider. With the RS in sixth on the freeway, you never need to change cogs to overtake. You simply twist the throttle. The midrange grunt is more than enough to propel the RS forward with vigour.

The naked Z900 is a bike that I thoroughly enjoyed, but the RS just dials it down a notch. Looking down at those dials, and not a TFT screen, makes me nostalgic. And then I instinctively roll off the throttle and just reminisce about what motorcycling must have been like when the original Z1 was first launched. For a bike that has been around for a few years now, I still enjoy riding it. It really is an honest motorcycle and to me, the Z900RS is probably one of the best examples of retro done right!

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

Kawasaki Z900 RS

For more information on the bike featured in this article, click on the link below…

2023

Kawasaki Z900 RS

Pricing From R209,995 (RRP)


Brand: Kawasaki
Brian Cheyne
Brian Cheyne
I have always been fascinated by four things: coffee, photography, motorcycles and writing. However, my mother encouraged me to get a real job instead. I studied programming, so I could turn coffee into code. Much later in life, I gave myself the title of freelance motorcycle journalist. That way I could tell my stories through the lens and pen. As a bonus, I get to ride bikes every day!
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