MCN Fleet: Tyre swap time for the Kawasaki Z900RS

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A while back I lent the Kawasaki Z900RS to Michael Neeves for a run around the MCN250 and when he returned it, he made a comment about the tyres. “It would really benefit from some better rubber,” he reckoned. “It would be a much plusher ride.” Grippier maybe, but more plush? Time to experiment.

The originals were due for a change because they had started to square off so I opted for a set of Metzeler Sportec M9 RRs. I mentioned them in my last report, but as I was chugging round the Lakes two-up with my dad, I didn’t really get a chance to put them through their paces (plus my dad does not need impressing on a bike).

After a few dry runs out warming up the tyres and scrubbing them in, my confidence had risen sufficiently for me to start pushing harder through the corners and getting a bit more of a lean angle. It was then that I discovered what Neevesy meant by a ‘plusher ride’, whether leaning into a corner or riding along a straight road. The bike does feel much better; from accelerating to braking, they have given the Kawasaki a lift and cornering is a joy as the machine rolls smoothly into bends.

New shoes needed for the Z900RS

With the weather being so hot lately, the RS has been finding huge amounts of grip. It was only when temperatures soared into the dizzy high 40s and the tarmac was giving off a heat haze ahead of me that I could feel the bike squirm because the surface was just so hot. Definitely time ease off and let the weather cool down a bit.

Since the roasting weather moved away again, I chanced a rideout the other evening. The forecast was not great, but it hadn’t rained for ages, so why would it start this evening? Unfortunately, the forecasters at the BBC weren’t joking and about halfway through my ride the heavens opened.

Luckily, like all good boy scouts, I’d come prepared and had some lightweight waterproofs stashed. Extra layer on and ready to go, I was able to look on the bright side: at least I would finally get to try the Metzelers in the wet. And you know what? They are surprisingly good, even though the roads were greasy after so long without rain.

Update Four: Pillion duties for the Kawasaki Z900RS

Published: 27 July 2022

Kawasaki Z900RS onboard action

The whole reason for making a plan is so you have something to cock up; no plan, no cockup. My plan was to ride my 1949 Ariel 350 Red Hunter to an annual event I have been going to for the last 25 years, along with my dad on his Triumph TRW. We were about a week away from setting off to Hesket Newmarket in the Lake District for a weekend of riding around with the Vintage Motor Cycle Club Lakeland Section, the weather forecast looked good, what could go wrong?

That’s when my dad phoned me. Strange, I normally call him… “You will never guess what has happened,” he said. He was right, I didn’t… Turns out a trip to the hospital revealed he had managed to fracture his elbow whilst planing a piece of wood! It meant no riding for dad, but he was still keen to go.

Rather than missing out, I came up with plan B (as I said earlier, you need something to cock up), and decided to take the Kawasaki Z900RS so that we would still be able to get out and about riding around the Lakes, albeit two up!

Views and pillions

My dad and I are both 6ft 1in and both partial to a pint or two, so I thought it wise to add a bit of preload to the rear single shock, which is easily done with a C-spanner thanks to easy access from the right-hand side of the bike. The other thing with modern bikes is the height of the rear footrests, which tend to be fashionably high these days.

Before we set off, we had a go at with both of us sitting on the bike, as 80-year-olds are quite hard to fold in half. Luckily the Z900 rear pegs are not too high, plus the pillion saddle is a good three inches higher than the rider.

With both of us on the bike we were off for a ride round from Hesket Newmarket out over the fell tops down to Bassenthwaite before heading towards Keswick then around the back of Lake Derwent down to Grange, then back up the other side of the lake, taking in some of the most glorious countryside the Lakes can offer.

Love a good grab rail

The bike is happy two up, partly thanks to the highly flexible nature of the Z900’s engine which would still take a slow corner at 15mph in third gear and just pull away again, as smooth as anything. Riding smoothly was key, as I did not want to jar my dad’s elbow while it was on the mend, and luckily the Zed’s brakes are progressive with plenty of feel. A brand-new pair of Metzeler Sportec M9 RR have also helped to transform the ride, but I might have to save removing the chicken strips for a time when I haven’t got my dad on the back!

The only other thing I’ve thought about altering on the bike are the handles I had fitted along with the centre stand, to help pull the bike up onto it. Instead, I’d now probably opt for the original Z1-style handrail (available from Kawasaki £162.95), as apart from the rider there is nothing for a pillion to hold onto.

Thanks to the Z, our weekend went to plan (well almost), and we both got out and about round the Lakes enjoying the glorious countryside, and a few beers once the Z was in bed.

Update Three: Relphy adds a few optional extras to the Kawasaki Z900RS

Published: 27 June 2022

I am trying not to go over the top with extra gadgets and gimmicks for the Kawasaki Z900RS, but there is room for improvement on most bikes, some of which used to come as standard back in the old days.

I am a big fan of shaft-driven motorcycles, as there is very little maintenance involved with them compared to chain-driven machines. With this in mind, and the fact the Z900RS is not a shaftie, the easier solution was to fit an official Kawasaki centrestand (£224.95).

Now I can’t complain about the quality here, nor with the additional Z900RS sidegrips (£133.95) to complement the centrestand. The best bit, though, is it takes the absolute minimum effort to raise the bike up onto the stand – the design bods at Kawasaki got the geometry spot on.

Centre stand and shiny pipes

I know I could have fitted some bobbins and used a paddock stand to perform the odd bit of maintenance to the bike. But I wouldn’t be taking the paddock stand with me on longer runs, so at least if the chain needs some attention it can now be done easily. Also, it is useful to have the bike standing upright when fitting luggage, rather than hanging off one side.

While I am on the subject of the chain, I have been having an ongoing struggle to keep rust at bay. Unfortunately, when I first took over as the bike’s guardian, it was pressed into service to complete the MCN 250,on  probably the last day of the year that the local council had sent the gritters out to scatter their life-saving but rust-encouraging salt.

Chain reaction

So far, I have cleaned it several times, even bringing in my Dremel with a small wire wheel attachment to try and eradicate the brown demon. Alas, even with some rust prevention spray administered to the side plates on a cloth, it is still coming back each time.

I also had a Kawasaki radiator screen (£71.95) fitted for a bit of added protection as the last thing I need is holed radiator leaking coolant on the side of the road. Last but not least, a pair of Kawasaki heated grips (£232,95). Why don’t all bikes have them as standard? They are great for riding in the middle of winter or cool spring mornings. Now I can get away with summer gloves to keep my hands warm before the sun takes over.

Update Two: It’s first service time for the Kawasaki Z900RS

Published: 20 May 2022

Well, I have reached my first thousand miles on this stunning looking Kawasaki Z900RS. I am still in that honeymoon period where everything is a joy, and I look forward to every ride. Last week I had my longest day in the saddle when I had to take the Z1 back down to Kawasaki head quarters for its first service. The ride was a 220-mile round trip. Something I was looking forward too, a chance to really get to grips with the bike, and feel I know a bit more about it.

I tried to concoct an interesting route down and add a few bends in to make it more interesting, but I was also aware I only had so much time to do the journey in, as it was booked in to be on the bench for 11 o’clock.

As usual, it ended up A1, a bit of a wiggle to cut across to the M1, then M25 and M40, not really what I was hoping for, but it did teach me that the Z1 is a very good mile muncher, and comfortable with it.

Simon admires the Kawasaki Z900RS
Simon looks on lovingly at the Kawasaki Z900RS

I had also lucked in with the weather too, my first ride of the year in riding jeans and a leather jacket, no great bulky Gore-Tex suit to struggle in and out of! With the bike being completely naked, with not even a bikini screen in sight, it is surprisingly the amount of air that gets deflected up by the head lamp and clocks, making the wind blast at speed tolerable. Not bad, 10.55, five minutes early!

After a few cups of coffee and some biscuits later, my bike was serviced and ready for the ride home. It is always nice to get your bike, refreshed and replenished with fluids, just like myself. My intended route home was more scenic to avoid motorways and to get more enjoyment from the Z1.

Bumbling around smaller A and B roads is so much better on this bike, I think this is helped by the fact the engine is so flexible, I found myself accelerating out of a tight bend at 20mph, it was only when I looked down at the gear indicator I was in forth gear, this bike just gathered up pace without the slightest grumble.

Kawasaki Z900RS right side on the road

The longer I ride, the better this bike feels, and it is more than happy when I push through a few bends, but this also highlights my only little grumble, which is the fuelling at around three thousand revs, if  I roll off, the engine braking is almost instant, but as I accelerate again the pickup response is a little snatchy, so only if I roll off, under straight acceleration, it is silky smooth right through the range, so it would be nice to have someone qualified to look at the fuelling and iron it out this small glitch.

After my 220-mile jaunt, I have found a couple little adjustments to make, just to personalise it for myself. First up the clutch and brake leavers wanted rotating down a bit, as they were making me twist my wrists to get to them. Also, both leavers have adjustable reach, so my big hands it is nice to set them in the perfect position for me.

I also have not ridden the much at night, but when I did, I noticed the round LED lamp casts an amazing beam, albeit a tad too high when on low beam, I could see the beam reaching to high up some of large road signs, another small adjustment and I am no longer dazzling people. This is all coming together nicely!

Previous Updates:

Update One: Riding back into the past on the Kawasaki Z900RS

Update One: Riding back into the past on the Kawasaki Z900RS

Published: 11 May 2022

Relphy and his Z900RS

Every time I look out of my living room window at the Kawasaki Z900 RS, it says to me ‘Get your jacket and helmet, we’re going for a ride’. It looks so good if only I could just step out of the front door and go for a ride I think I would! If it wasn’t for reality of daily life getting in the way…

But the other Saturday morning I got up ready to get stuck into the weekend jobs while my wife took our son to his football match, and as she left she uttered those immortal words: “It’s a lovely morning, why don’t you go for a ride?”

I didn’t need asking twice. By then I’d only had the Zed for a week and hadn’t had much  chance to get out on it.

I’m lucky that I live on the doorstep of the man-made reservoir of Rutland Water and there are lots of good A and B roads that form a perfect loop around it. My plan was to ride this loop with deviations down some smaller roads.

Right, off we go!

I settled into the Z900 quickly. It’s comfortable with a deep, plush saddle. The riding position is nicely upright and, thanks to the massive handlebars which measure a whopping 86cm from bar-end weight to bar-end weight (that could be fun in town traffic when filtering), the steering is nice and light with plenty of leverage.

Sitting pretty on the Z900RS

The Z loves the long sweeping bends which characterise the A606’s smooth tarmac. The suspension feels firm, yet comfortable as my confidence in the Kawasaki’s handling grows. The 948cc engine is very smooth and more than happy just tootling around at low revs. But  wind it on in the same gear and it pull from the lowest of revs without complaint. Before I know it, it’s flying along effortlessly.

Then it was time to turn off and enjoy some of the area’s quieter back roads, of which there are plenty. But these narrower, twistier roads are no problem to the Z where it proves quite nimble.

In fact, everything is working well until I hit some rougher surfaced roads at a quicker pace. The front suspension copes well but the rear shock begins to get out kilter with the resonance of the bumps. It’s something to maybe look at in the future.

But with my first ride under my belt, I’m more than pleased with the Kawasaki, especially the fantastic looks. I just need to find a bit more time and get away properly!

‘I’m more than pleased with the Kawasaki’


I remember looking at the original back in 1973 aged eight and thought it was gorgeous then. It has only been a 49-year wait, but I am looking forward to getting out on the country roads!

Simon Relph

By Simon Relph

MCN Senior Designer - loves bikes old and new, from building them to riding them on and off road