You needed to know: Kawasaki Z900 edition

Oct 17, 2017

Recently, we published a few new videos on RevZilla’s YouTube channel asking folks for their questions regarding the press bikes we currently have in the ZLA garage. We have realized through the comments section of our articles and videos that many of you still have questions after Lem, Lance, and I review a bike.

This article answers some of the questions which have popped up regarding Kawasaki’s new Z900 since I wrote my first ride review. As there are over 150 comments on the Z900 Need to Know video alone, I won’t be able to answer everything, but I picked the questions that seemed to be more popular or that I simply found interesting. Questions are presented unedited.

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Thomas.Levan: Timeframe for after market rear seats, other exhaust systems, and protective engine covers? If it was your money, would you get the Yamaha FZ10 or the Z900?

So the aftermarket has been busy. A quick search of RevZilla.com offered up 44 bike-specific parts for the new Z900. There are a few slip-on exhaust options as well as a full system Akrapovic. R&G has a complete engine cover kit for the Z900, including ignition, clutch, and stator covers. If I were a betting man, I would guess you were asking about rearsets, and not rear seats, but just in case, I haven’t found any rear seats show up yet. If, in fact, it’s rearsets you seek, the only ones I have found at this time are on a Japanese website offering shipping to America. I would love to hear if anyone else has found any American options. 

If it were my money, I would think long and hard about how I was going to use the motorcycle. The FZ-10 is nearly $4,500 more than the Z900 (with ABS) in stock trim. It claims nearly 40 more horsepower, has four-stage traction control, three rider modes, and electronic cruise control. Couple that with a suspension derived from the R1 and throwing the Z900 at it is like taking a knife to a gunfight. It’s not really a fair comparison.

All that being said, I would go with the FZ-10. I loved that bike when I tested it and I still want one. But for riders not looking to spend that kind of money on a motorcycle, the Z900 packs a whole lot of power into a sub-$9,000 motorcycle.

F_berfie: How does it do offroad?

Fred, I looked through your Instagram photos, and based solely on those I can say, without a doubt, that you would die. Do not take this off-road. Leave that nonsense to that OneWheelWheatley character on the Instagrams.

Anti_parallali: I want to know how it would be for me moving from the Ninja 250 to this, and how is the seat position, I like the upright positions as opposed to aggressive sportbike ones.

Right above this question was one from indo.mitable1 asking about whether or not the Z900 was appropriate for a first bike so I figured I would touch on these two questions together.

I am going to start by saying that I would not recommend the Z900 as a beginner bike. I don’t know how we’ve gotten to a point in America where people look at something that is essentially a liter bike and think that it’s a good place to start out. If you are a larger rider and don’t want to start on a 300 cc bike, I get that. If that is the case, take a look at the Z650. It is a bit larger but still nice and light, provides a standard riding position, and offers up enough power to grow into while still being mild enough to start out on.

Bumping to the Z900 from the Ninja 250 is a bit different. I would say it really depends on how confident you are on your 250. How long have you been riding the 250? Do you feel like you’ve really hit a point with that bike where you are using all it has got confidently and in a controlled manner? If you really have a strong grasp of the fundamentals, you could get away with making the jump to the Z900 instead of progressing to the Z650. Its power is much smoother and more predictable than some other bikes out there. This makes it an excellent option for someone looking to move up into something with more power or who is making a shift into sport bikes from another segment of the motorcycling community.

Kawasaki Z900 Spurgeon Dunbar
The upright seating position is sporty enough for aggressive riding yet comfortable enough for everyday use. Photo by Drew Ruiz.

Part of that comes into play with the upright position you mentioned. The seating position is aggressive enough for spirited riding but after I rode this side by side with an R6 on the track, it became clear how relaxed the Z900 really is. It is comfortable for all-day riding as well as offering a more confidence-inspiring seating position than a race replica bike for someone new to sport machines.

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Impervium: How does it compare with the fz09 and street triples?

So let’s start with the Yamaha. The biggest difference from the FZ-09, or the XSR900 that we tested, is how the engine makes its power. Unlike the Yamaha triple, which feels much more aggressive right out of the gate, the Z900 builds power in a more predictable way. The power delivery difference between the Street Triple and the Z900 is very similar. The Z900 just has more of it (unless you consider the peak power of the new Street Triple RS, which is nearly identical). But as the RS is nearly $4,000 more money with a slew of advanced features, that’s not really a fair comparison.

But even the base Street Triple with an MSRP of $9,900 and the FZ-09 at $8,999 include traction control and different throttle modes. At $8,799, the Z900 is outfitted with ABS but that’s where the rider aids end. It offers a heap of power with solid brakes and a tunable suspension that performs quite nicely on the street. The Triumph offers the best fit and finish of the group, the FZ-09 yields the most aggressive power right off idle, and the Z900 is probably the most balanced and even keeled, offering the best horsepower-to-dollar ratio.

Sem K: Revzilla, I own a z900 and I will help me very much if you could talk about options for:

1. Wind screens
2. engine protections and sliders
3. bars for taller riders
4. tail and saddle bags for everyday use that can replace backpacks
5. General stuff that you would recommend adding from your experience

Keep up the great job, thanks!
Sem.

I picked Sem’s question because he ties in a lot of the same questions that others are echoing, including myself. I am planning on taking the Z900 on a longer trip and have been looking at how to outfit it for such duties.

The windscreen I am most interested in is the one from MRA. It comes with a bracket to give it a bit more lift than the Puig screen. I think this would be my choice for getting the wind off my chest during longer rides on the highway.

As for additional storage, SW-MOTECH makes their Blaze system for this bike. I like these as they are a cross between hard bags and soft luggage. Unlike regular soft throw-over luggage, these hold their shape and include a rear bracket to keep the bags locked into place. If you were looking for a tailbag I would recommend something from Kriega’s US Drypack series. I have used my US-20 on countless bikes and it has always worked great. It’s a perfect option for storing a laptop or small items while commuting.

Kawasaki Z900 Tires
Lemmy thought I was exaggerating how bad these tires are in the rain until he had to ride it through a thunderstorm one night. They're really bad. Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

There is plenty of protection options currently available from R&G in a variety of different flavors. As for bars, I didn’t have a problem with the stock handlebar and I am six feet, three inches tall. I would swap the exhaust as the stock one makes for a very uncomfortable position for my right foot. Also, I would swap tires as soon as possible. The stock Dunlop Sportmax D214 provided horrible traction in anything less than ideal conditions (they are terrible in the rain). For sport-touring, I would be looking at something like the Michelin Pilot Road 4 tires and for more aggressive sport riding and the occasional track day, I would go with the Dunlop Q3 Plus tires.

Okleydokley: Compare this bike directly with the z1000. At this point, I don't see why anyone would pay 2 grand more for the 1000.

As Lemmy has recently owned a Z1000, I am going to let him address this response:

"Spurgie asked me to jump in and speak to this, as I've ridden both somewhat recently. To me, the Z1000 felt much more nicely constructed. The parts were a bit less budget-feeling, and the fit and finish was nicer. Factory tires were worlds better, too. The Z1000 made a bit more torque and horsepower, but felt wilder. I found the Z900 to be much more friendly and inviting, and required a little less effort to ride.

"That's not a knock against the Z900, though. It's over $3k cheaper than the thou, as you point out. The new Z900, to me, really focuses on being a heavy hitter in the power-per-dollar-spent category.

"To me, it's not really a question of which is better. They feel to me like different bikes with different purposes."

Kollehschmock: How comfortable is this bike for tall riders? I am 6'5 tall and want to buy the z900. Do you think its ok with a higher seat? Greetings from germany!

Guten tag, Kellehschmock! I am six feet, three inches and I actually preferred the stock seat to the tall option. I found that the tall seat was overly padded and therefore I didn’t feel planted during spirited riding. In addition, I felt like it was constantly pushing my manly bits into the tank. Other than the fact that my heel was smashed up against the exhaust on the right side, I had no problems riding this in stock trim.

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Dave Roberts: Waiting to see if we get the 2018 Z900RS in the USA.

From what Lemmy has been reporting, it looks to be so.

Kawasaki Z900
Where the Z900's styling is quite aggressive, the new Z900RS looks to provide riders with similar performance but in a retro-inspired package. Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

Jordan Frazier: What are the pros/cons of this bike in relation to the Aprilia Shiver 900?

As Lance just returned from riding the Shiver 900 in California and spent a few days on the Z900 last time he was here, I am turning the pen over to him on this one.

"Hey, Jordan. I had fun on both these bikes, but they do have different personalities. Remember your college party days? The Z900 is your friend who egged you on to slam a few beers and dive into the swimming pool from the second-floor balcony. The Shiver is your other friend who quietly pointed out that if you stopped wearing beer-stained T-shirts and flip-flops to the parties you'd have a better chance of finally getting some attention from that attractive exchange student with a trust fund.

"OK, so I'm exaggerating, but I hope you get the point. The Shiver still has an unmistakable V-twin vibe, but from its TFT dash to its electronic rider aids and styling that's unique but not too far out there, it offers more smooth sophistication (given the price point) than the Kawasaki. The Z900 is all about bang-for-your-bucks power. It's noticeably stronger than the Shiver and the handling and suspension are good enough to keep up with the four-cylinder engine, which thankfully is tuned for the street, not the track. But you don't get any fancy TFT instrumentation or rider aids and you'd better like the current Japanese styling trend of robotic insectoid looks.

"So just be honest with yourself about your priorities and what really makes you happy with a motorcycle and I think the right choice will become apparent, Jordan."  

Steve Kamrad: Should Ryan Wheatley buy one to off-road with?

See my response to F_berfie above.

Hopefully we have dispelled any doubts as to whether Lem and I read your comments. If you guys want more information on the Z900 make sure to check out my original first ride review and keep checking back as we’re going to have this bike around for a while.