Legend returns as Kawasaki reveal Z900RS

Published: 25 October 2017

Kawasaki finally unveiled their new Z900RS retro naked roadster in Tokyo today, ending two years of rumour and speculation that a Z1 homage was waiting in the wings. Not only does it invoke the spirit of the legendary Z1, it’s currently Kawasaki’s only retro offering (after the demise of the W800 last year) and looks set to have a serious impact on the market with superbly authentic looks, the engine from the Z900 – and an even higher level of spec than its more modern-styled donor.

At the heart of the new Zed is the liquid-cooled 948cc Z900 engine, re-tuned to give a slightly lower peak power, but a swell in the midrange that means the RS actually pulls harder than the Zed below 7000rpm. The new RS has a few additional strings to its bow, too – boasting traction control and higher spec cycle parts like radial-mount brake calipers, and LED lighting all round – none of which feature on the Z900.


The centrepiece of the new Z900RS is the 17-litre teardrop fuel tank that’s so reminiscent of the Z1. Kawasaki say the frame was completely redesigned to accommodate the tank’s ideal position and slim shape. Only after the fuel tank position was fixed were the seat length and Z1-aping tail cowl length all decided. The flat waistline is particularly appealing for retro purists.

The exhaust system – which is a slightly disappointing departure from the iconic Z1’s four-pipe layout – is a simplistic 4-into-1 arrangement. The header pipes and collector are one piece, with no connector pipes or exhaust valve, allowing authentically uncluttered retro styling. All are formed from high-quality stainless steel, and treated to a buff finish.

The wide, flat handlebar contributes to the retro sport styling while offering a wide grip to facilitate decent leverage. Relative to the Z900, the bars are 30mm wider, 65mm higher, and 35mm closer to the rider, also giving a more upright riding position. While the seat height is reasonably accommodating at 835mm, there’s also an ERGO-FIT low seat available that reduces the seat height by 35 mm. Compared to the Z900, the footpegs are 20mm lower and 20mm farther forward, meaning an even more relaxed riding position.

The dual clocks boast analogue-style speedometer and tachometer dials, with a multi-functional LCD screen tucked between the two – which can be blanked off with an accessory panel for a more 70s aesthetic. The LCD screen features a gear indicator, odometer, dual trip meters, fuel gauge, remaining range, current and average fuel consumption, coolant temperature, external temperature, clock and the Economical Riding Indicator.

Unlike it’s modern stablemate, the Z900RS is equipped with traction control featuring two modes, and an ‘off’ setting. Mode 1 prioritises maximum acceleration, while Mode 2 provides a bigger safety net on slippery surfaces. The system is also able to distinguish between smooth torque wheelies and ham-fisted clutch-ups. In Mode 1, torque wheelies are allowed, but deliberate hooliganism will cause intervention. Mode 2 allows neither, while you can always turn it off.

Pleasingly modern rim sizes mean that owners will be able to spec a wild array of tyre options, from the standard-equipment retro styled Dunlop GPR-300s, to all-weather touring rubber, or trackday-friendly sports tyres.

The one surprise yet to be revealed is the café racer version which MCN believes is also in development. It wasn’t shown in Tokyo, so the assumption is that the Milan show will be the venue for its unveiling, in early November.

Kawasaki are giving no word on the UK price, or availability, or the Z900RS just yet – but expect it to be in dealers by the end of the year with a price tag of around £10k.


Sharing much with its Z900 forebear, the RS gets the same 41mm inverted fork with compression and rebound damping adjustability, enabling precise settings to suit rider preference and riding style – but the fork bottoms now support radial calipers.

Horizontal pogo

Unlike the twin rear shocks of the legendary Z1, the Z900RS features Kawasaki’s Horizontal Back- Link rear suspension, which is adjustable for rebound and preload.

Getting radial

Beating the more modern Z900 to the punch, the RS gets 300mm front discs gripped by radial-mount calipers and a radial-pump front brake master cylinder. The ABS-enabled braking system is backed up by two-mode (and off) traction Control.

Clean pipe

Over 20 variations were considered before arriving at this slightly bland design. Makes you wonder what the others looked like. Double-walled header pipes snake into the collector without any links, before exiting the exhaust gas through a single silencer. There’s no exhaust valve, and the whole system is stainless steel.

Bright lights

The 17cm diameter LED headlamp casts a bright, white light from six chambers (four for low-beam, two for high-beam). Position lamps in the high-beam chambers ensure the whole headlamp appears lit, like a retro-style bulb headlamp.

Throwback up back

The design of the rear cowl was inspired by the duck-bill tail cowl of the Z1. Likewise, the oval design of the LED taillight is another homage to the Z1. The surface-emitting LED taillight lights up as a solid surface to look more like a bulbed unit.

Casting spells

The new cast wheels feature flat spokes apparently designed to look like classic wire-spoked wheels. What they’re not, though, is actual spoked wheels – which we believe will be available on the café racer version.

2018 Kawasaki Z900RS Technical Specifications

Engine 948cc liquid-cooled, 4-stroke inline-four, DOHC, 16v

Max. power 110bhp @ 8500rpm

Max. torque 72.6ftlb @ 6500rpm

Frame High-tensile steel trellis

Suspension Front: 41mm inverted fork with compression and rebound damping and spring preload adjustability. Rear: Horizontal Back-link, gas-charged shock with rebound and preload adjustability

Brakes Front: Dual semi-floating 300mm discs, radial-mount, 4-piston Monobloc. Rear: Single 250mm, single-piston caliper

Tyres Front 120/70ZR17 / Rear 180/55ZR17

Seat height 835 mm

Kerb weight 215 kg

Fuel tank capacity 17 litres

Colours Candytone Brown & Candytone Orange, Metallic Spark Black, Metallic Matte Covert Green & Flat Ebony


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