KAWASAKI Z900RS (2017 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Retro take on the Z900 formula
  • Excellent build quality
  • Brilliant detailing
MCN AWARDS
Best Retro 2018
WINNER

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.9 out of 5 (4.9/5)
Annual servicing cost: £260
Power: 109 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.9 in / 835 mm)
Weight: Medium (474 lbs / 215 kg)

Prices

New £10,399
Used £6,900 - £10,400

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Starting with the brilliant Z900 as its base, its no surprise the 2017 Kawasaki Z900RS matches performance with looks. It oozes '70s Z1 charm, detailing and mixes it with modern technology, easy speed, light controls, superb build quality and fastidious attention to detail. There’s enough performance for experienced riders to enjoy and for new riders it’s a piece of cake to jump on and live, or relive, your '70s dreams.

It's a different model to the Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe, which as the name suggests is more geared towards cafe racer styling. There's an online forum for owners to join on Facebook: the Kawasaki Z900RS owners club.

2020 Kawasaki Z900RS colours

In September 2019 Kawasaki introduced three striking new colours for the Z900RS for the 2020 model year. You can see one of the new liveries below, which echoes the style of the 1973 Z1A, which replaced the first-generation Z1. The bike will also be available in either a black or grey design - both new for this year.

Watch Kawasaki Z900RS video review on MCN

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Kawasaki have modified the Z900’s upper frame so they could fit the tank and seat horizontally, like the original ’72 bike. As well as its modified chassis, higher spec monoblocs trump the Z900’s brakes and a three-way switchable traction system and retro-styled Dunlop GPR-300 tyres are other new editions.

Light, accurate town handling continues when you hit the open road. Suspension springs are stiff, so the Z900RS is more composed the harder you ram it into corners and fully-adjustable forks and ZX-10R-style horizontal rear shock and linkage are lightly damped, so the big Zed feels floaty when you up the ante, but they’re set to give a smooth ride and easy, accessible low-speed handling.

Original equipment tyres lack grip and confidence when you push on, but are fine for normal riding and there’s no problem with ground clearance, braking feel and power. But we’d love to spend a day twiddling the suspension settings and fitting stickier tyres to see if it could match the composure of track-ready retros like Triumph’s Thruxton R and BMW R nineT.

All-day riding is relaxing and the back-friendly, upright bar position is natural. There’s plenty of seat-to-peg room for the tall and it’s low enough for the short (a 35mm lower accessory seat available to drop you down even further).

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

This is more than just a Z900 with flares, because there’s even more going on under the skin. Kawasaki have bolstered low to midrange power for everyday riding, which is at the expense of the standard bike’s top end clout, but the reality is you never miss it in the real world. First gear is shortened and the exhaust is tuned for bass-laden ear destruction, as well as grunt.

There’s no lack of speed in the Zed’s armoury and with the traction control turned off it will do the kind of Evel Knievel wheelies the Z1 could only dream of back in the 70s. The slip and assist clutch, gearbox and twistgrip are all beautifully light and easy to operate, but the power delivery is aggressive from a closed throttle, which makes tackling tight corners and slow riding tiresome.

A smooth inline four motor like the Zed’s will never have the same kind of earthy character as the Z900RS’s twin and three-cylinder rivals, but it makes up for it with apocalyptic exhaust raw on the throttle and a blood-spitting gurgle on the overrun. The Kawasaki Z900RS horsepower is 109bhp.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
5 out of 5 (5/5)

A big Zed is as bulletproof as a tank and the attention to detail here borders on the obsessive. The Z900RS is more like a one-off special than a high volume production bike.

Kawasaki Z900RS owners' reviews on MCN

This is a very popular bike with owners - our Kawasaki Z900RS owners' reviews on the site show a gleaming five out of five score at time of publication in October 2020. 

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Kawasaki say they’re gunning for the similarly priced BMW R nineT Pure, but the Z900RS has to face a raft of retro rivals such as the Triumph Thruxton R and Yamaha XSR900.

With its impressive blend of performance and disco-cool Z1 style, it could easily beat the lot of them. Find out below how it fares against some of its most popular competition...

Group test: Kawasaki Z900RS vs Triumph Thruxton vs BMW R nineT Pure

First published 31 January 2018 by Jon Urry

Kawasaki Z900RS takes on BMW R nineT Pure and Triumph Thruxton 1200

Despite dominating the naked and sportsbike markets, there is one segment that the Japanese simply can’t crack – retro. No matter how hard they try, riders fail to warm to any oldschool styled Japanese bike while the Europeans sell like hot cakes. It’s not as if the Japanese have a lack of heritage with bikes such as the Kawasaki Z1, Honda CB750, Suzuki GS1000 or Yamaha XS750 from which to draw inspiration. But the issue is they are up against marques such as Triumph, BMW, Ducati and Moto Guzzi and in the retro world, the history behind the name on the tank is as important as the bike itself and how it rides.

It’s something I call ‘the David Beckham effect’. Ask yourself, would you ever see Beckham on a Japanese bike? The answer is simple – no. But this fashionsetter would happily be pictured on a Triumph, Harley-Davidson or Ducati because they are ‘cool’ brands due to their heritage. But could the Z900RS be the bike to change all that? By faithfully blending some of the classic lines of the Z1 in a machine that contains thoroughly modern technology, in the Z900RS Kawasaki may have eventually solved Japan’s retro puzzle. MCN were impressed by the RS at its world launch, but how will it fair against the leading European retros from Triumph and BMW?

Riding the Kawasaki Z900RS on the road

Triumph have created a superb looking bike that packs modern comforts – which is exactly what Kawasaki have done with the RS. But where Triumph have erred more towards the old days and added trinkets such as fake carbs, Kawasaki have toned down the finer details in favour of performance. If you think about it, performance rather than style was at the heart of the Z1 back in the 1970s, so it’s a wise move. 

Unlike the Kawasaki, the BMW doesn’t rely on retro paint to highlight its styling, instead preferring to let its waif-like look do the talking and covering what panels it has in muted grey. It’s not a pretty bike like the RS, it’s more mechanical and functional, which again will split opinions. So why do Kawasaki believe the R nineT Pure is their main competition? I guess it’s the fact that some riders will never consider entering a BMW dealership due to an ingrained dislike for the brand. Yet these same riders, who were probably brought up dreaming about the Z1, have been eagerly awaiting a Japanese equivalent – and now it’s arrived.

The Verdict 

Kawasaki Z900RS vs Triumph Thruxton 1200 vs BMW R nineT Pure

These three retros are very different machines that rely on styling, spirit and performance to a lesser and greater degree to define their character. In the same way you can blend three colours to create many different shades, this variation has led to three unique bikes. But what has changed for 2018 with the introduction of the Kawasaki Z900RS is that there is now a really cool Japanese retro in the mix. With beautiful styling, strong heritage and a wonderful relaxed nature, if the thought of 1970s Japanese inline fours floats your boat, you can now buy a retro that lives up to your rosetinted dreams.

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

There’s a cacophony of Z1-inspired accessories, from the ducktail back end and oval rear light, to the machined engine fins, textured metal tank and side panel badges, replica cam covers and clocks, which use the same typeface and needle shape (resting at the same angle at zero) as the originals.

Step back and you’ll see how the new upper frame shape allows the seat and slim, pear drop-shaped fuel tank (which extends down, behind the side panels) to be placed horizontally, like the ’72 machine and from above the Z900RS has the same slinky ‘hour-glass’ shape. The metallic brown and orange livery isn’t just a faithful replica of the original’s carcinogenic paint, it has one of those flawless, glistening finishes that looks like it’s still wet with lacquer.

Kawasaki have cleverly made crisp rear LED lights glow like a '70s light bulb, the orange tank stripe wraps around the front of the tank and meets around the front in a Z-shaped bow and the Euro-spec speedo on our test bike goes up to 240km/h, just like the original.

Everything from the Z900RS’s chest puffing riding position, to the view down to the wide chrome bars and the unholy growl it makes with a fist full of throttle, can’t help but make you feel good.

Modern day niceties like the multifunction display between the analogue dials, the easy to use switchgear, traction control and skin-saving ABS all give the Z900RS a safe, practical edge and as you’d expect there’s a raft of Kawasaki goodies available, too, from crash protection, to a bikini fairing, grab rails and heated grips.

There's a choice of three colour schemes on offer: metallic green, black, and grey. 

Specs

Engine size 948cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 16v, inline four
Frame type Tubular steel trellis
Fuel capacity 17 litres
Seat height 835mm
Bike weight 215kg
Front suspension 41mm forks fully-adjustable
Rear suspension Single rear shocks adjustable fir preload and rebound damping
Front brake 2 x 300mm discs with four-piston monobloc radial caliper. ABS
Rear brake 250mm single disc with single-piston caliper
Front tyre size 180/55 x 17
Rear tyre size 120/70 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption -
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost £260
New price £10,399
Used price £6,900 - £10,400
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 109 bhp
Max torque 73 ft-lb
Top speed 140 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range -

Model history & versions

Owners' reviews for the KAWASAKI Z900RS (2017 - on)

8 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI Z900RS (2017 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your KAWASAKI Z900RS (2017 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4.8 out of 5 (4.8/5)
Engine: 4.9 out of 5 (4.9/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.9 out of 5 (4.9/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.6 out of 5 (4.6/5)
Equipment: 4.8 out of 5 (4.8/5)
Annual servicing cost: £260
5 out of 5 The bike that brought the fun back.
10 October 2020 by Keith

Version: Rootbeer and orange.

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £300

It's fun at reasonable speeds. It's fast enough for the street. It's lovely to look at and will cruise or get a wiggle on. This bike reignites your passion for street riding. Since I sold my 2014 Ninja 1000 I've been through several bikes looking for that fun and excitment. I was beginning to think it was time to quit after 50 years. Triumph Bonneville T120, FZ09, Africa Twin before the Zed. They just didn't do it for me. The Zed saved me.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

So superior to the FZ09/MT09 I has in 2016. The suspension is above average ride and handling and the brakes are a perfect compliment to the performance.

Engine 5 out of 5

Fuels very good for fuel injection, makes great power, is very smooth and sounds terrific. A Scorpion slip on was all it needed.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Trouble free and not a chip in the paint. Very easy to service too.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

That's US dollars.

Equipment 5 out of 5

Scorpion slip-on and Bridgestone T31. R&G radiator guard, Bags Connection tank bag and Yoshimura swingarm paddock stand spools. OEM tires were ok Dunlops but were toast at 3850 miles.

Buying experience: Dealer. The shop owner's ride with 300 miles, unregistered. MSRP was $11,900, I paid $8399.

5 out of 5 Modern retro
09 October 2020 by Steve Wilburn

Version: Jaffa

Year: 2018

A retro bike that really hits the spot! Not only good to look at, but good to ride. You can trace the Z900rs dna back to the original z1. The throttle can be a bit snatchy due to the co sensor to meet emissions but this can be ironed out with a remap.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

This bike is for those who are riding to enjoy the ride.. It isn’t a balls out speed machine, but has good point and squirt abilities.. Easy to travel 150 miles between top ups.. With a pillion stops may need to be more frequent..

Engine 4 out of 5

The engine is typical Kawasaki, strong and bullet proof.. The gearbox can be a bit clunky until the first oil change..

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Good build quality.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Shop around different dealers, to get the best deal.

Equipment 5 out of 5

Has Kawasaki riding modes, which work really well.

Buying experience: Some bargains to be had if you shop about especially cafe’ models

5 out of 5 Z900RS Owners 2 year Review
07 July 2020 by Fatboy Hughes

Version: Brown/Orange

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £500

It's a fantastic bike as is and won't disappoint. Clutch is very light for those who don't work out or are getting arthritic. For me i'd love it even more, if that's possible, if it had 30HP more but with same gearing characteristics - cross between it and Z1000SX (which I also have). I can see where Kawasaki came from with Z H2 but I prefer straight forward in line 4's and no supercharger. It's definitely a keeper. It's reminiscent of the best bits from the bikes of the 70's but wholehartedly improved in every way to produce the same big smiles in the best possible way.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Front brakes are good but like most other bikes back brake is made of wood.

Engine 5 out of 5

I love it as is. Mid range is fantastic and the intake and exhaust noise make me sile every time. Although I am greedy and would still like 30BHP more. (as above comments).

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Reliability - Had it 2 years now - finish is still good. Performance still good. done 3800 miles. Only a couple of events of false neutrals but may have been down to me being a little club footed, changing down at higher revs. Quality is outstanding but don't buy Kawasaki crash bungs - they are plastic, flimsy rubbish and won't protect anything!

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Don't believe £120-£140. That's for the 600 mile service! Servicing is always reasonable at first service but gets more expensive at each service so estimate £250-300 for say a 2 year service and although I love the original tyres - it handles just great & they've handled everything I've thrown at them with no probs they only last about 2500 miles so £250 per 2500 miles just for tyres too. so for medium complexity service and set of tyres per year that's realistically about £500-£600 and more when valve clearances get checked but it's worth it.

Equipment 5 out of 5

Only use traction control on gritty and / or wet roads. Love the analogue clocks. LCD / TFT Displays aren't for me. I love old school needles wizzing round and they're easier to see with peripheral vision so you keep eyes on road and they are sexier..

Buying experience: Test rode one from Preston Motorcycles and loved the confidence inspired handling round bends and roundabouts as well as the looks / sound. Made me smile so much I bought one and have not regretted it.Was going to order one for my birthday in January with quoted 20 wk lead time at that time however they had a cancelled order in the right colours so got it in two weeks (October). I would buy a second one new if I could afford it to keep for only sunny dry days.

5 out of 5 Great bike
05 April 2020 by Scott G

Version: Camouflage green

Year: 2018

Bike looks and sounds amazing. So much torque. Pulls in any gear. Even 6th. Glad it has a gear position indicator I always think it's in a lower gear !!!!

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5

Had a little fiddle with suspension. A little bit softer. Brakes are extremely good.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Paint and finish are fantastic. Bike is only 2 years old but no problems as yet

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Insurance is cheap as I'm a old fart ! Average fuel consumption around 50mpg ! For a almost 1000cc bike :)

Equipment 4 out of 5

Traction control and abs work great. Fuel gauge not the most accurate. But you do figure it out !

Buying experience: Got it from via moto kawasaki in clay cross Chesterfield. Great guys to deal with :)

5 out of 5 Mr
04 April 2020 by John Walder

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £110

Absolutely love my Zed in fact I will probably trade up again to the same model but a different colour. I no boy racer so understand it might be a bike for everyone but I recommend going for a test ride to see how good it is... I haven,t changed any of the standard settings or tyres as it is fine for me, plenty of power to play with with a great exhaust note. It’s fair to say my bike has only seen bright sunlight and never experienced the wet but as a man in his late fifties is there a better hobby.....

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Service costs seem reasonable and in line with current costs

Equipment 5 out of 5

Analogue clocks with digital centre display that includes gear position.

Buying experience: Can’t fault my local Kawasaki dealership,

5 out of 5 Retro sport.
03 April 2020 by Keith Stallard

Year: 2018

Annual servicing cost: £140

Love this bike as it rides as good as it looks and it’s even better then i ever thought it would be. Definitely a keeper.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Can ride this bike all day.

Engine 5 out of 5

Very responsive in every gear.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Kawasaki quality at its best. Great sound and the quality of the paint work is something else.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5

The clocks with the digital read out between the 2 looks brill. And for OEM tyres they top quality.

Buying experience: Bought from a dealer and bought New.

5 out of 5 Back to the Future 2018 style 😎
10 July 2018 by Flyingscotsman3

Version: Z900RS

Year: 2018

The worst thing about the bike is the standard tyres as the MCN review states. Great Facebook owners group, with lots of upgrading info for this bike is Z900RS UK. Easy to ride bike, great suspension, brilliant radial mounted brakes and looks to die for! 140mph top end and hits over 130 very quickly indeed, just as happy to cruise along at legal speeds though. Best looking motorcycle for sale in 2018 by far.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Soaks up our potholes roads with relative ease!

Engine 5 out of 5

Mid range stomp of a Rhino, for a 4 cylinder multi.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
5 out of 5 Zedtastic!
26 June 2018 by Mitch

Year: 2018

Really easy bike to just get on and ride, certainly fast enough for me, but not intimidating. Throttle initially feels a bit ‘snatchy’ but you quickly get used to it. First thing you notice about the RS is obviously the way it looks - I bought mine without seeing one ‘in the flesh’, the early on-line shots of it were enough to convince me, and I wasn’t disappointed. Brakes are pretty good, though not as sharp as I expected, suspension feels spot on, sharp and fully adjustable if you’re that way inclined. I previously owned Harley-Davidsons (and an early model Buell) before this, so let’s face it, the RS, to me at least, is a massive leap forward in performance and handling. The only negatives so far are having to put up with nonsense from blokes that owned Z1’s back in the day - no, it wouldn’t look better with twin shocks, a four into four and skinny spoked wheels. A small price to pay though, for owning what I consider to be a very accomplished and pretty motorcycle.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Brakes are good, though not as sharp as I expected. Think I’ve only felt the ABS kick in a couple of times so far. Ride quality felt great straight out of the showroom and I haven’t felt the need to tinker with it so far.

Engine 5 out of 5

Generally easy going, torquey with an even spread of power, get to about 6,000rpm and it goes like a stabbed rat!

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

I’ve only owned the bike for four months, and so far, no problems. At the end of the day, it’s a big Kawasaki four, and I think they’ve kind of got the hang of manufacturing them by now!

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Ten and a half grand on the road was about as much as I wanted to pay - I was initially thinking of getting the new Speed Triple, but thought it was just a bit more than I could afford. Yes, it’s more expensive than the other Japanese nakeds, but come on, just look at it!

Equipment 4 out of 5

It’s a naked bike, what do you need? Perfect for street riding, OEM tyres are a bit average.

Buying experience: Bought it from my local dealer (Autorama, Batley), paid about eleven grand (got the Kawasaki lower seat and a tail tidy fitted).

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