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KAWASAKI Z900RS (2017-on) Review

Published: 09 December 2017

Updated: 03 October 2019

The new Z900RS matches performance with Z1-inspired

KAWASAKI Z900RS  (2017-on)

The new Z900RS matches performance with Z1-inspired

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

Starting with the brilliant Z900 as its base, its no surprise the new 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.

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.

2020 Kawasaki Z900RS colours

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 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 in into corners and fully-adjustable forks and ZX-10R-style horizontal rear shock and linkage are lightly damped, so the big Zed feels get 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 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 4 out of 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.

Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5

A big Zeds 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.

Insurance, running costs & value 4 out of 5

Kawasaki say they’re gunning for the similarly priced R nineT Pure, but the Z900RS has to face are a raft of retro rivals. With its impressive blend of performance and disco-cool Z1 style, it could easily beat the lot of them.

Equipment 4 out of 5

There’s a cacophony of Z1-inspired detail, 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.

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2017
Year discontinued -
New price £9,899
Used price £7,800 to £11,600
Warranty term two years
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £91
Annual service cost -
Max power 109 bhp
Max torque 73 ft-lb
Top speed 140 mph
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption -
Tank range -
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

History & Versions

Owners' Reviews

2 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
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 4.5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Back to the Future 2018 style 😎

10 July 2018 by Flyingscotsman3

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!
5 out of 5
Mid range stomp of a Rhino, for a 4 cylinder multi.
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
5 out of 5
5 out of 5


26 June 2018 by Mitch

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.
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!
Build Quality & Reliability
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 & Running Costs
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!
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).

Photo Gallery

  • KAWASAKI Z900RS  (2017-on)
  • 2020 Kawasaki Z900RS colours
  • KAWASAKI Z900RS  (2017-on)
  • KAWASAKI Z900RS  (2017-on)
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