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Common Tread

2022 Kawasaki Z650RS first look

Oct 06, 2021

Kawasaki just unveiled their new Z650RS, a tribute to their classic 650s based on the Z650 platform. 

At its core, the new bike is a standard Z650 with old-school bodywork, but the new RS also shows that Kawasaki’s retro department learned a few things since developing the Z900RS.

2022 Kawasaki Z650RS
Choose Candy Emerald Green... Kawasaki photo.

2022 Kawasaki Z650RS
...or Metallic Moondust Gray/Ebony. Kawasaki photo.

Meet the Z650RS

The underpinnings of Team Green’s latest machine are borrowed from the Z650 naked. The chassis is nearly identical, and the parallel-twin engine gets the same state of tune for 67 horsepower at 8,000 rpm and 47 foot-pounds of torque at 6,700 rpm. (Common Tread previously reviewed the 2020 Ninja 650, also based on the Z650, so give that article a look if you can’t wait for a future review of the RS.)

Kawasaki Z650RS
Under the skin, the Z650RS is almost identical to the Z650 naked. Kawasaki photo.

Expect a punchy, cheerful p-twin with good manners and reasonable weight. The Z650RS retains the assist/slipper clutch and Positive Neutral Finder that makes rowing gears on the other 650s so easy. Seat height is up just half an inch over the Z650 for a total of 31.5 inches.

Moving to the wheels, the Z650RS apes its older brother with cast wheels designed to mimic classic spoked wheels. Stock tires are Dunlop’s practical Sportmax Roadsport 2s.

2022 Kawasaki Z650RS
Not everyone wants the power (or price tag) of the 900. The Z650RS should be an approachable option. Kawasaki photo.

Ergonomics and styling

The cockpit gets the requisite flat handlebar on revised triple clamps that bring the controls closer to the rider, resulting in a more upright (read: traditional) seating position. Combined with the wide saddle, neutral footpeg position and slim fuel tank, the RS should come reasonably close to UJM ergos of old.

Let’s talk about that tank for a minute. Kawasaki got plenty of decisions right with the Z900RS, but one of the most common complaints seemed to be the bulk of the tank on that model. From the side, it had the flowing lines of the original Z models. The illusion unraveled from any other angle thanks to the tank’s width. The narrow 650 mill gave Kawi’s designers another crack at the vintage tank problem, and the Z650RS looks to come much closer to the long, thin profile of the past. 

2022 Kawasaki Z650RS
A slim tank references the Z/KZ models of old. Kawasaki photo.

Other updates include a round LED headlight, an oval LED taillight, analog-style clocks with an integrated digital display, and revised engine covers. A one-slot motif appears on the heel guards, exhaust heat shield, and radiator trim pieces. I wish they’d taken the trademark “ducktail” a little farther, but we can’t have everything we want, can we?

Kawasaki Z650RS
Nice start. More ducktail, please! Kawasaki photo.

Poking around the Z650RS accessory catalog reveals some tasteful add-ons like a chrome passenger grab rail, luggage hooks, metal dash trim, and rubber knee grips to replace the section in front of the side covers. 

A competitive class

At $8,999, the Kawasaki Z650RS carries a significant premium over the Z650 ($7,349). On the other hand, it’s $200 cheaper than the slower, heavier, and more authentically retro W800. Yamaha’s XSR700 will be its natural competition at $8,499. Hopefully we’ll get our hands on a Z650RS soon to give you the full breakdown of this heritage homage.

Kawasaki Z650RS
"Vintage style with modern performance" has been tried many times. The Z650RS looks promising. Kawasaki photo.

The Z650RS will be available in Metallic Moondust Gray/Ebony and Candy Emerald Green. That’s an easy choice for me.

2022 Kawasaki Z650RS
Price (MSRP)
649 cc liquid-cooled, eight-valve, parallel twin
Transmission, final drive
Six-speed, chain
Claimed horsepower
67 horsepower @ 8,000 rpm
Claimed torque
47 foot-pounds @ 6,700 rpm; 
Steel trellis
Front suspension
41 mm telescopic fork, 5.1 inches of travel
Rear suspension
Horizontal back-link with adjustable preload, 4.9 inches of travel
Front brake
Dual semi-floating 300 mm petal discs, dual-piston calipers, ABS
Rear brake
Single 220 mm petal disc, single-piston caliper, ABS
Rake, trail 24.0 degrees, 3.9 inches
55.3 inches
Fuel capacity
4.0 gallons
Tires Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2, 120/70R17 front, 160/60R17 rear
Claimed weight
412.3 pounds
12 months
More info