Z900RS road test & review

Kawasaki Z900RS Café – Retro clothes, modern performance roadster

I’d been hankering after a retro-style bike for quite a few years. I’d read and heard positive views on the Z900RS, but the bike was never really on my radar. After a little research, I found that they produced the bike in the lime green Café version with the old school style headlight cowl.

There seemed to be an over-supply issue with the Café version and I found brand new bikes for sale at M&P Swansea for £8,000! That’s well down from the £10,299 retail price. The purchase was made and I began to experience life with the Café. It soon became obvious that this is one of those bikes that is greater than the sum of its individual parts.

Z900RS – Beautiful looks and sounds

The looks of the bike are stunning! It manages that rare combination of retro and contemporary styling perfectly. The silver-rimmed clocks, easy-to-read dials and tail section emulate the original Z1 design. The headlight cowl is also classic 70’s style and the exposed engine has faux air-cooled fins. With the lime green livery the bike really ‘pops’. I’ve lost count of the times that other bikers from Joe Public have approached me to ask about the bike and comment on its ‘wow’ factor. The standard exhaust also gives a purposeful auditory raspy note, something that is rare on modern bikes out of the factory. Kawasaki clearly gave serious thought to how the bike should look and sound.




Performance in the real world

Nevertheless, this bike has thoroughly modern performance with KTRAC traction control, a slipper clutch and ABS. The motor is fundamentally a Z900 948cc supernaked unit. It is re-tuned for less peak power but more low and mid-range torque The short wheel base, tubular chassis (again based on the Z900 SN) and the fully adjustable suspension gives the bike very sharp handling. Even with the mediocre OE GPR 300 Dunlops, this bike shines on the twisties. If your mate is on a sports bike, they may be in for a surprise when you ‘do’ them on a corner!

Make no mistake, this is a quick bike! The low and mid-range shove gives a superb spread of power when you need it most. Rapid progress and overtakes are a breeze; short shifting with little effort at 6 to 7k on the tacho. The bike also loves to rev! Full throttle and higher RPM give a searing top-end rush. Fortunately, the brakes match the performance, with plenty of power and good feel. The gearbox is smooth and slick.

A few issues

Of course any machine has the odd negative issue and thankfully these are few with this bike. A common complaint is the clocks getting moisture behind the lens. This occurred with my bike during the winter run-in period. It did dry out quickly when stored and it didn’t occur in the warmer summer months, so it’s something I’ll put up with. Another issue is a snatchy throttle and ‘fluffy’ fuelling due to Euro 5 emissions regs. I never found the throttle snatchy, although I did get the odd ‘fluff’ at low revs when pulling away in higher gears on a roll on from a closed throttle. Fortunately, there’s a cheap and easy fix to this in the form of a plug-in O2 sensor eliminator that pretty much solves the issue.

Pillion comfort

The Z900RS Café is just as happy with two-up, having a decent-sized pillion seat and a stunning OE chrome grab rail which enhances the retro-styling of the bike.
Of course I parted with my own cash for this bike and I’ve covered over 2000 miles to date. Notwithstanding this I’m being entirely objective when I say the Z900RS, either naked or Café versions really are excellent motorbikes.




Cliché or not cliché?

The term ‘roadster’ can be a little bit of a cliché. All too often it’s style over substance and rideability… but this is certainly where the Z900RS shines! It delivers on every level – style and performance. That to me, is the definition of a modern roadster!


Review and road test by Geoff P. for BikeMeet – all image and content rights reserved. If you’d like to publish a motorcycle or bike accessory review on here, get in touch via the contact page.