Why We Picked It:
Take a popular naked motorcycle, the Z650. Take off all the modern, angular bodywork. Give it a slightly more robust rear spring, rework the front forks to give better road feel, and slap some 1960’s era Cafe-inspired bodywork and gauges on it. You get the 2023 Z650 RS, the newest member of Kawasaki’s retro class along with the Z900RS and the W800.
This is not to say, however, that this bike rides or goes like a retro bike. The engine, with a mild tweak over the standard Z650, produces almost right on 70 HP, and produces a healthy 48 lbs-ft of torque from its 649cc parallel twin. What really impresses, however, is how, despite using almost the same frame and the same engine from its naked cousin, the bike feels a lot more raw and connected. We put that down to the work on the forks and suspension, letting more of the road travel to your hands and to your butt in the saddle, without feeling the slight numbness that the Z650 has with its softer rear springs (in factory spec, at least).
As with 95% of Kawasaki’s model range, it is also priced perfectly at $8,999 with a whole range of goodies thrown in as standard. ABS is standard, it has two-stage dual throttle valves, an assist and slipper clutch, less aggressive footpeg position, and LED lights everywhere. They’ve even managed to put an LCD information screen between the tachometer and speedometer, giving you all the info you need, but not distracting you from enjoying the ride.