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Is Kawasaki Z900RS worth the money?

Kawasaki Z900RS worth every cent cafe motorcycle seat - crosby
Kawasaki Z900RS

Whether the Kawasaki Z900RS tribute bike to the legendary Z1 is worth the money is the question that has been on everyone’s lips since the price was announced.

At about $18,000 ride away (depending on where you live) it’s about $4000 than the Z900 on which it is based.

But the RS is worth much more than the Z900 with better suspension, a more tractable engine, better brakes, full LED lighting and the intrinsic value of its timeless styling.Kawasaki Z900RS worth every cent

Even though it has been “retuned” with 9kW and 3Nm less, I reckon it’s worth more than the Z900, just not so sure about a $4000 premium.

Although who can put a figure on the intrinsic worth of the admiration of your peers when they see you pull up at your fave biker cafe?

They will tear up and start talking romantically about the original Z1 of 1972-75 which starred in the cult 1974 Aussie biker film, Stone, and has forever been their poster bike.

I rode a Z1 back in the 1970s and have worn rose-coloured glasses for the bike ever since. That is until a couple of years ago when I rode a well-restored model.

Kawasaki Z900RS accessories
The original and the tribute bike

It felt lifeless, steered like a ship and the brakes were wooden.

Not so the modern Z900RS.

Perfect balance

This is the perfect balance of modern and retro with a light feel, responsive engine with 30% more power and almost twice the torque of the original, strong brakes, plus Kawasaki’s deserved reputation for reliability and quality fit and finish.

While everyone seems to love the look of the bike and its traditional “Jaffa” paintwork, some “old codgers” said it should have had four pipes and steel spoked wheels like the original.

Kawasaki Z900RS worth every cent
Polished mag wheels resemble spokes

Four pipes would have added extra weight, but no doubt an aftermarket company will do a good trade in four pots.

Likewise, a wide 180mm three on a steel spoked wheel would have weighed a tonne.

Kawasaki has cleverly overcome these “unfaithful” styling issues by providing a discrete short pipe, albeit with a rather large collector box tucked underneath, and they have polished the edges of the mag wheel “spokes” to give the impression of wire spokes.

Kawasaki has also been very clever with its twin retro instrument pods that have a discrete modern digital screen in between them.

The screen features a wide range of information including range, two trip meters, odometer, instant and average fuel economy and ambient temperature. You can conveniently toggle through the information via a selector control on the left switchgear. 

Kawasaki Z900RS instruments
Traditional pods and modern screen

It also operates the two-stage traction control which can only be changed or switched off while stopped.

Stage 1 traction control is a bit interventionist, cutting engine power even if the front wheel accidentally skips off the ground over a bump while accelerating.

It’s more of a wheelie control because it does allow some sideways rear-wheel slip.

Stage 2 traction control cuts all wheel spin so it is a great wet-weather aid.

Styling concernsKawasaki Z900RS worth every cent

While I love the look of the bike and its combination of retro and modern, there are a few concerns.

Thanks to Australian design rules that require side reflectors, they have attached them at the rear where they stick out. Why not attach them to the forks like most other bikes?

Kawasaki Z900RS worth every cent
Side reflectors like an afterthought

Modern emissions rules also dictate the bike requires water cooling so the radiator is a necessary but ugly addition. What makes it worse is the size of the radiator cap which sticks out a mile.

Kawasaki Z900RS worth every cent
Ugly and bulky radiator cap

Kawasaki has also run the engine quite lean to reach emissions targets, so even though it’s liquid cooled, it still runs hot and creates a lot of heat on your shins. Take my advice and wear long boots, even in summer.

Also, the four header pipes may look great, but they attract a lot of road grime and gravel pitting.Kawasaki Z900RS worth every cent

While the seat has faithful retro styling and appears thick and comfortable, it’s actually quite hard and slightly slopes forward pushing you into the tank.

I don’t mind a firm seat, but the retro ribbed vinyl seat with faux stitching digs into your backside after a while.

How does it ride?Kawasaki Z900RS worth every cent

Of course the most important thing is how this retro model rides on the road.

Even riding away from the shop it was a delight with a beautiful raspy induction roar and exhaust note that won’t offend passersby but will delight the rider.

The fuelling is perfect for heavy traffic with a very smooth throttle.

Together with the shift in tuning to more torque at low and medium revs, this is such an easy bike to ride in all conditions.

You can ride smoothly and responsibly around town or country at a comfortable 4000 revs at 60km/h in fourth gear, 80km/h in fifth gear or sixth gear at 100km/h.Kawasaki Z900RS worth every cent

Even from as low as 3000 revs, it pulls smoothly, strongly and in a linear fashion all the way to the dizzying limiter at 10,000 revs.

And thanks to the hefty torque curve, there is no need to work the gearbox hard.

But if you feel like it, you can quickly slip through the gears with the super-slick and faultless transmission, and the ultra-lightweight cable clutch.

This makes it ideal for commuting.

On a technical piece of road you can also run up and down the gears with ease thanks to the assist and slipper clutch that prevents rear wheel lock-ups from hamfisted clutchwork.

With its suspension set in the middle, the bike feels firm for my 80kg weight but with plenty of absorption for the sharper bumps.Kawasaki Z900RS worth every cent

The Z900RS forks add compression adjustment over the Z900 that takes the jackhammer effect out of the bars and makes it steer better on corrugated corners.

Change of direction is quick and light yet it feels stable. This is a result of the combination of light mag wheels, quality suspension and wide handlebars.

Kawasaki Z900RS worth every cent

It has the same big 300mm semi-floating petal discs as the Z900, but has dual radial monobloc callipers which provide better feel.

Stopping power is strong with moderate initial bite and plenty of progressive feel.

I never activated the front ABS, but rear ABS came on a few times as there is a bit of fork dive. However, dive can be dialled out with the multiple fork adjustments.

Kawasaki hasn’t cut any corners with the tyres, either. It is fitted with quality Dunlop Sportmax rubber that heats up quickly, has great grip in all conditions and provides plenty of rider confidence, particularly in the front tyre.

Day and night riding is safe with the full LED lighting providing plenty of visibility to other traffic and a wide and even spread of beam from the headlights.Kawasaki Z900RS worth every cent

Pillions will like the ample and flat rear seat, but there are no grab rails provided and no dedicated anchor points for luggage.

Your pillion could hold on to the side reflectors which are held in place firmly enough to also use as luggage anchor points.Kawasaki Z900RS worth every cent

However, Kawasaki has a range of accessories available that including a traditional chromed grab rail.

Underseat storage is limited to just the owner’s manual. You couldn’t even squeeze in a spare pair of gloves.

Since the fuel tank is metal, you can throw a magnetic tank bag on the front and go touring.

The 17-litre tank will give you an excellent 350km of range, although your backside might be demanding a pit stop sooner.Kawasaki Z900RS worth every cent

Worth the money?

The rideability and eye-catching timeless appeal of this bike together with all the mod cons makes this a very appealing bike.

I’m still not sure it’s worth $4000 more than the Z900, but that’s a stick-insect Transformer-style bike that just does not appeal to me at all.

The Z900RS fires me up at all levels and I simply want one.

Kawasaki Z900RS tech specs

Kawasaki Z900RS worth every cent
Big collector box
Model Z900RS                                                              ZR900CJFB
Engine Type Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke In-Line Four
Displacement 948 cm³
Bore x Stroke 73.4 x 56.0 mm
Compression Ratio 10.8:1
Valve System DOHC 16 valves
Fuel System Fuel Injection, 36 mm x 4 with sub throttles valves
Ignition Digital
Starting Electric
Transmission 6-speed with Positive Neutral finder and Assist & Slipper Clutch
Frame Trellis high tensile steel
Suspension – front 41 mm cartridge fork with compression and rebound damping and spring preload adjustability
Suspension – rear Horizontal Back-link with rebound damping and spring preload adjustability
Wheel travel – front 120mm
Wheel travel – rear 140mm
Brakes – front
Dual 300 mm semi-floating petal discs. Dual radial-mount monobloc opposed 4-piston calipers, ABS
Brakes – rear Single 250 mm petal disc with single piston caliper, ABS
Tyre Size- front 120/70-ZR17 (58W)
Tyre Size- rear 180/55-ZR17 (73W)
L x W x H 2,100 x 865 x 1,050 mm
Wheelbase 1,470mm
Ground Clearance 130mm
Seat height 835mm
Fuel capacity 17 litres
Curb Mass 214 kg (includes full fuel tank and all fluids at optimum levels)
Max Power 82kW @ 8,500 rpm
Max Torque 98.5Nm @ 6,500 rpm
Colour/s Candytone Brown with Candytone Orange
Warranty 24 Months Unlimited Kilometres
  1. Good review thanks. Fair points on the styling – that radiator caps sticks out a lot. Maybe Kwaka has a sticker to put on top of it. Interesting to see what sort of pipes come out for it.

    I’m not sure it’s worth that money … be tempted to wait a couple of years and grab one second hand (though if they don’t sell many that would be hard).

    The RS is the pick.

  2. Well this is the best review I have read (so far) a sheepskin for the seat, a center stand for sure! looking on the web you can pick one up for $15k riding it home would be the joy, a bit like these blokes in the clip: – same but without the joy part.

  3. The Z900RS at $18000 didn’t make much sense to me at first. But then that was because I was comparing it to the $13999 Z900.

    Compared to an $17990 MG V7 Racer or Suzuki M109R though, it’s starting to make a bit more sense… Until I compare it to a $17990 Brutale 800 or Hayabusa or used R nineT. Then, I’m confused again.

    That then is the problem: The Z900RS is just fine but is at a very confusing price point.

  4. Good review.
    Every bike needs enough underseat space to hold a small puncture kit. Should be supplied with new bike.

  5. The original Kwaka 9 has the curves of a super model and in my humble opinion it is the perfect blend of chrome, colours and lines. It looks tough and delightfully beautiful at the same time.
    The best ever to come out of Japan period.
    The New 900RS how ever looks like a back yard operation to make a modern bike look like the original with a tank, side covers and duck tail plonked on. Like a whale really.
    Obviously you can’t beat new technology so hands down it would be a far better bike to ride. You can’t have everything!

    1. the main difference is…

      the OG Kwaka 9 will still be worth what you pay for it in five years…

  6. Great review Mark.
    I went down to Moorooka a couple of weeks ago in the hope they’d have one in stock for me to drool over.
    There were 3! (one sold) The quality & finish, attention to detail can only be described as brilliant.
    $18k is a bit steep, but find the funds, & I’d be proud to park it in front of the Outpost on a Sunday morning whilst enjoying a flat white & a scone!
    …Only problem is, they’ll give me sod-all trade on my ZR7!!!
    Talk soon,

    1. I tested an RS last weekend and again on Tuesday as the dealer gave it to me as a loan bike while mine was in being serviced.

      All up, so far I have put 110kms on it on those two rides and the overwhelming thing that comes from them …………….. how damn much it reminds me of my old ZR-7 that I sold many years ago before going dirty.

      Honestly, it is a ZR-7 on roids

  7. Funny you should specifically mention the smooth throttle. I had the opposite experience with this bike. The fuelling seemed uneven, “jerky”. More like an on/off switch than a proper throttle. I don’t know if this was the one I rode or my style of riding. It just felt that I had to work really hard to make the acceleration and throttle response smooth.

    Same with the torque. I would not describe this engine as torquey in any way. In fact, I’m put off by the lack of it, or rather the lack of *feel* for the torque. Feels like too many ponies, too little torque. Although, and I’m going to contradict myself here, I thought first gear was entirely useless. First should start where second is, and go from there. So perhaps it’s not the lack of torque but the weird gear ratios?

    Fantastic styling with huge oversights like the ones you mentioned.

  8. I went to the dealer with the intention of a test ride. Bike is a bit tall for my ducks leg stature (5’9″…little legs)
    Disappointing. Salesman tried hard to get me to take it out (I am after all at nearly 60 the prime candidate for ownership) but didn’t “move” me like I thought it would. Rode original Z’s like all my mates back in the day…loved ’em. Later owned a GPZ900R (fast but not as bombproof motor as the OG Z) and a ZRX1200 (big comfy bugger that the wife still misses). This new bike (on closer subsequent inspections) doesn’t really say “Z’ to me at all. The more I look at it the less it seems to reflect the original Z that it is supposedly so faithfull to…does it ride $4000 better than the generic Z900 naked? I’d find that very hard to believe.

  9. I test rode this an deliberated for months. Very, very nice bike. (Except for that big ugly radiator) . Last month I parted with a lot less cash for a brand new XJR1300. Last new one (2016 model) in Australia. Beautiful bike and an amazing piece of engineering and YAMAHA quality. So glad I got a proper retro in the end!

  10. Hi… getting back on the motorbikes after a 10 year break (kids n all) and being a former sports bike rider for years, I tested a few sports models, including the SuperSport of Ducati. I test rode a few cruisers too ie; Indian scout, Diavel… and then finally the kawa Z900RS Café..
    It was love at first sight (the looks) and then it was ‘hook, line and sinker’ once I test rode it..
    It is what I call a “Sweet Ride”…. it has adequate grunt, yet full of manners, and for a 47 yr old who quite does not want to go back into full sport models nor into full on cruiser style, this fit the bill well….. It sits right bang where I want to be in my humble opinion as far as my needs are concerned… esp taking into consideration I feel it is quite the bike that will do well on them long country drives, as well as city travel.
    So today paid up for a brand new one from Matt Jones Motorcycles in Melton (staff extremely professional and helpful – not pushy either), and pick up on the coming Monday..
    Excited and eager … looking forward to some good safe riding…
    Ps: the sound from the stock cans are incredible… they (Kawasaki) have got it just right..

    1. Great to hear someone so happy with their choice.
      I’m sure it will fit YOUR needs.
      Guess I’m the kind of grumpy old fart that wanted it to be the Z9 of my lost youth and couldn’t get my head ’round what it really is…(probably a great all rounder and improvement in every respect over the bikes I remember so fondly).

  11. I believe no other group attracts as many deadbeats, opinionated, lying, cheapass broke plonkers as motorcycling. Ride any bike build in the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s and you’ll find they’re all rubbish compare to the budget models available from all the Brands today (barring Chinese made and Enfields). In the early 2000’s Man & Machine did a compo with the XJR coming in last after the GSX1400 and the ZRX1200. Any idiot truly looking for a 70’s/80’s UJM retro bike would be salivating over the final Japan only ZRX DAEG edition. Price? Compared to the Z900? How about comparing it with the T120 (the T100 is better in every way), the Duc Scramblers or the Faux retro Nine T whatever? Either you like the way it looks or you don’t. Either you can afford it or you can’t. Either you like the way it rides or you don’t. That’s it! There now exist a bike to suit very taste, budget and lifesyle. It’s a good time to be a biker and celebrate every new bike being produced. So shut up with all the bullsh*t already!

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