Common Tread

Kawasaki unveils Z900RS retro

Oct 25, 2017

After teasing us with videos, Kawasaki has now unveiled the retro Z900RS at the Tokyo Motor Show, combining some classic 1970s Z1 style with a surprising number of technical upgrades from the modern-looking Z900.

Though the Kawasakis have a style quite different from the Yamaha competition, the company seems to be following the same plan with the Z900 models as Yamaha did when it used the FZ-09 as the basis for the "retro" XSR900. The retro model actually gets higher spec components and more tech than the modern-looking version.

In the case of the Z900RS, those clean, 1970s lines are accompanied by upgraded radial-mount front brake calipers, traction control, a slipper and assist clutch, and LED lights. That's more tech than you get with the Z900, and I'm sure that means we'll see higher price tags on the Z900RS, too. As yet, we have not heard about availability and pricing in the U.S. market.

I guess I must be the target audience for this bike, because I love muscular naked bikes that don't drift into overweight or overkill territory and I'm old enough to remember the Z1 (but not old enough to buy one when it came out). I also enjoyed riding the Z900 but didn't enjoy looking at it once the ride ended. I do like the way the Z900RS looks and in general I like the base it was built on. The Z900 proves that four-cylinder engines can reward you with high-end power without forcing you to suffer anemic torque at low speeds. The specs Kawasaki released in Tokyo on the Z900RS show peak horsepower reduced from the Z900's 123 to 111 for the retro version. I'm not sure 10 percent less power is a good thing, but it may depend on the overall power delivery. If we get a chance to test-ride this one, it may be a rare case where I try to exercise the editor's prerogative and slot myself in for the intro, instead of Spurgeon or Lemmy.

Kawasaki Z900RS
2018 Kawasaki Z900RS. Kawasaki photo.

Some are already criticizing the Z900RS for not having four exhausts, or not having spoked wheels. I understand their position, but I think there are more people who want not a copy of the Z1, but something that pays tribute to it while performing in a thoroughly modern way. Looking at it through that lens, the Z900RS looks promising.