Back in October last year Bjorn got to ride Kawasaki’s Z900. It was a bike that hugely impressed me when I rode it a while back. I have also recently had a flirtation with naked bikes so I was dead keen on revisiting the Zed. For some inexplicable reason, the Z900 offers perhaps the best value in the whole of motorcycledom. I’ll expand on that later. My test bike was resplendent in ‘Metallic Spark Black’. Oh my soul, what a looker.
Kawasaki kind of coined the phrase “Sugomi styling”. In essence, it is specifically aimed at naked bikes and it signifies something that is awe-inspiring energy and intensity, akin to a feline predator preparing to strike. It is something of a philosophy too. Kawasaki purposefully avoided throwing a bucketload of electronics at the bike, choosing to rather make it so good dynamically that electronic interventions would detract from the pure essence of Sugomi. OK then. The powerful ‘shoulders’ and lean hindquarters of the Zed certainly get the message across. This is a bike that means business.
Let me throw it straight out there. This is an astoundingly good motorcycle. Let’s start with the heart of the beast. We are living in times where a UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) is no longer endowed with an inline four-cylinder engine, but rather a parallel twin. The inline four-cylinder, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve-per-cylinder motor in the Zed is a thing of beauty. Fed by four 32mm Keihin throttle bodies it is smoother than a smooth thing and pumps out 125hp @9500rpm and a grunty 99Nm of torque @7500rpm. If you lean hard on the throttle, it buzzes ever so slightly through the seat and pegs. When you settle at speed everything goes uncannily smooth. With the Sport mode engaged, it has minimum traction control or other electronic intervention. The throttle response is perfect, and it simply hauls in the horizon with a turbine-like shove. Airbox honk mutates into a banshee shriek from the exhaust which makes the hair on your arms stand to attention.
The raw speed of which this bike is capable needs to be contained, so two 300mm discs with four-pot Nissin callipers retard the front wheel, aided by a 250mm rear disc and single pot calliper doing a similar job on the back wheel. Braking is powerful, full of feeling and reassuring, slowing the bike with confidence-inducing ease from all speeds. The chassis is a steel trellis affair which is painted the same metallic green as the mags shod with a 180/55×17 rear and 120/70×17 front tyre. 41mm USD forks with preload and rebound adjustment and 120mm of travel work superbly, as does the back shock with similar adjustment and 140mm of travel. The bike is firm and planted yet wonderfully supple over crappy surfaces.
An all-in weight of 212kg, allied to a 1455mm wheelbase and a 24,7-degree head angle, make the Zed a doddle to turn, yet it is remarkably stable at speed. The handlebar bend is comfortable and the bars are not too wide, hitting the perfect balance between leverage, comfort and stability. You sit in this bike, making speeds of up to 140km/h a doddle, which makes the naked Zed up to all-day brisk touring. The rider perch is comfortable too and despite a sporty rider triangle, the bike feels effortless to ride for hours on end. A 17-litre tank capacity aids in the touring stakes, with a decent fuel range between refills.
A TFT display is neat and tidy and legible in all light conditions. It gives all the vitals and can be scrolled through via the left handlebar-mounted toggle switch. It has cell phone connectivity for those dumb enough (sorry) to want to take or make phone calls rather than indulge in the pleasures of the Zed. Engine modes are selected the same way. The lighting is all LED. The Zed is so user-friendly that you feel instantly at home and in control the moment you let out the assisted slipper clutch.
I am far more demanding than your average weekend warrior rider for whom motorcycling is a sport. It is akin to dating versus being married. If you see the hottie in your life a couple of times a week her shortcomings don’t get under your skin. It is a whole different story when she moves in with you. Suddenly those cute little quirks become real irritants. I marry my bikes. I only drive cars under protest. I need bikes that are complete and easy to live with. The Z900 is such a bike. It is not the fastest thing on two wheels and maybe you will ride something with a little sharper handling. The strength of the Zed is the overall package. It has absolutely no rough edges. It is the consummate smoothy, yet it has that Ninja soul in its DNA which is so rewarding.
Riding this bike fast is so rewarding. It snicks through its six-speed box with total accuracy, harnessing the torque of the amazing motor. The turbine smoothness launches you to the next bend with a shriek from the pipe. Squeeze the excellent brakes, scrub off the excess speed, and turn in with pin-point accuracy before getting hard on the gas to do it all again. This is what we ride bikes for. A quick shifter is not available as an option and that is a pity because that would make the whole process I have described a little bit more seamless. The super slick gearbox almost compensates, but not completely.
The Kawasaki Z900 ABS is a true rider’s bike. If you are even vaguely considering a naked bike, then you simply have to take the Zed for a trundle. There is another issue to consider, and this is the real kicker. When you find as complete a package as this Zed, you expect to pay a premium. This is not a bike that requires any aftermarket spend because something is not up to scratch. It is sorted and perfect for its intended application. Kawasaki manages to bring this bike to market for a mere R184,500. Up until last year, the Zed could be had for as little as R165,000. Its rivals will cost you at least R20,000 more! Do your sums and don’t delay. Bargains of this magnitude don’t often come our way.
Kawasaki Z900 ABS
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