Few Kawasaki riders from the 1970s have trouble remembering what it was like to ride a Z1. In 1973, the fortunate owners felt the edge over the rest of the pack because without mincing words, it was a hell of a fast superbike and it earned its nickname “The New York Streak.” Being the biggest and the top runner, it delivered on speed and performance, but there was a certain kind of prestige that accompanied ownership or just having taken one out for a spin. The nostalgic interlude, most enthusiasts would agree, is entirely necessary for those who were not exposed to the legitimate hype that circulated during the early to mid-’70s era. The 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS may not be the record-breaker of its distant relative, but it doesn’t need to be. The DNA delivers prestige enough and the bike is an evolution with new genetics infused into a solid ancestry and it bears a closer look for those who have not yet experienced the privilege of ownership.
As you allow your eyes to sweep the profile of this bike the first thing that jumps out at you is the clean and simple silhouette that is both eye-catching and inspiring. It’s an attractive bike that offers a deceptive aesthetic in the contrast-cut fins that lead you to initially think it’s air-cooled when the reality is that it is liquid. Its classic styling is given a vintage flavor with an upswept muffler and the polished stainless exhaust. It’s apparent that thoughtful consideration went into the details laid out by the design team to achieve a multi-elemental personality carefully postured in a simple classic that is heavily nuanced but apparent only to the discriminating eye. Time, age, passion and experience finely hone the senses to detect such nuance and it’s the stuff that makes the difference between enthusiast and connoisseur.
The frame of the Z900RS is comprised of a horizontal subframe. The 25.4-degree rake combined with a 58.1-inch wheelbase is responsible for lighter steering. A few other engine modifications and upgrades to the braking and suspension were implemented to achieve the unique comfort and laid-back feeling that is reminiscent of the vintage dream bike of the ’70s. This bike has a different attitude and personality though. Power and speed are not in question because they’re present, but in an understated manner with a preference for focusing on the smaller details in life that make the journey worth taking. It reminds us all that sometimes we need to slow down and appreciate the small things, in between rowdy bursts of energy and bravado. Hence, the low to midrange torque which is intentional by design and fitting with the character of the Z900RS.
The 2018 Z900RS received a rework of the 948cc engine. The intention was to deliver on low-end power for the ridership finding it difficult to rein in the full fury of the Z900. Every bike has its purpose and it’s the careful attention to such details that make it a masterpiece. It’s not all about the unbridled power that lies latent within the bike, it’s more in the expression, funneled through the designated channels and in the appropriate degrees to suit the individual personality of the machine. Such intention is the mark of a master craftsman and the flawless execution is revealed in the character of the bike.
One shortcoming worthy of closer inspection
Kawasaki hit the mark in its intent to deliver a more laid back ride suitable for a specific niche of consumers. It delivers on the retro nostalgia of the ’70s Z1 and even brings back some of the elitist vibes. The relaxed steering and toned down nature of the bike is ideal for riders who want to shift it down a bit and simply enjoy the ride without the need to constantly pull in the reigns, but there is one glaring deficiency, while not a deal breaker, should be revisited. The twitchy throttle throws the laid back sensation out the window. If the design team were to take a second glance and perhaps smooth the operation out it would bring a total harmony to the bike that has the classic good looks of a motorcycle from yesteryear. It’s really more of a fueling issue, but the abruptness and occasional pulsing through turns could easily be remedied through an applied aftermarket fix. All in all, it gets kudos for uniqueness as a riders’ bike. At an MSRP of $11,199, it’s in the ballpark with an excellent value for the cost.