While other firms are making much of their heritage to plunder sales in the neo-retro bike scene, Kawasaki has been slow to follow suit.
Sure, it’s had the W800 twin on sale in Europe, but that Bonneville-alike never reached American shores and has now ceased production. And anyway, the era in Kawasaki’s history that really tugs the heart strings is the 1970s – and the Z1 in particular – rather than the 1960s W1 that the W800 harks back to.
The Z900RS changes all that. Even the limited view we get in the teaser video leaves no doubt that it’s intended to evoke the Z1. That brown and orange paintwork alone is unmistakable.
What the video doesn’t tell us is much about the bike’s technical make-up. Fortunately, we’ve got an inside line at Kawasaki that’s filled in the blanks. As the bike’s name suggests, it’s based on the new Z900. The engine is basically the same 948cc four-cylinder, although it’s been retuned and given a cosmetic makeover to add false cooling fins to the cylinders. It’s a solution that works better than you might imagine, and remember that fakery is a big thing in the retro bike scene these days; just look at the dummy carbs and fake exhaust downpipes on a Triumph Bonneville, for instance.
The retro look of the Z900RS stretches to the twin clocks and the chrome downpipes, but doesn’t extend as far as the brakes or suspension. The forks are the same upside-downers as used on the Z900, and it also shares that bike’s wave discs.
Under the Z1-alike bodywork the Z900RS’s chassis and swingarm come straight from the Z900, but the geometry is revised to give a 20mm longer wheelbase (1470mm vs 1450mm). It’s probably done by lowering the rear suspension, in turn giving a less steep steering angle. The riding position is similarly less aggressive, with wider bars (865mm wide instead of 825mm) that are also higher.
The softening of the bike also extends to the engine tune. Power is down from 123bhp to 110bhp, with the peak coming at 8500rpm – 1000rpm lower than it does on the Z900. That hints that the revised engine will make more low-end torque. It’s allied to lowered gearing that drops the bike’s theoretical top speed from nearly 150mph to around 140mph but should give snappier acceleration in exchange.
Weight is already a strong suit for the Z900, thanks to the light steel frame design. Ready to run, it weighs in at 463lb (with ABS), and the Z900RS is only 11lb heavier at 474lb wet.
Kawasaki will release the bike at the Tokyo Motor Show on October 25. It’s already been confirmed as a European model, and given the fact that the original Z1 was specifically designed with the American market in mind it would surely be crazy to let us miss out on its new tribute act.