THE 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS is a motorcycle that many have waited to see.
Here in Kuala Lumpur, there are many dedicated fans of the Universal Japanese Motorcycle genre.
Inspired by the Z1, at the heart of the RS is a four stroke liquid-cooled, 16-valve DOHC inline-four engine with a revised bore. Similar to the Kawasaki’s 903-cc Z1 of 1973, the 2018 Z900RS features a 948cc-class in-line four where tuning is focused on the low-mid range.
The Z900RS shares the same engine with the Z900 naked sports bike (no wonder!) except Kawasaki claims that it has retuned the motor to deliver more torque below 7,000 rpm with claimed horsepower dropping from 125 hp to 111 hp.
So if you think riding it would be a slow, laid back experience because it is a retro bike, you ought to think again.
This latest offering from Kawasaki does not ride like how an old retro bike should.
I took the Z900RS out around Kuala Lumpur for the test. The first thing that hit me was the updated exhaust note. You have to hear it, to believe it.
The sound tuning focuses on the engine’s initial roar, idling and even low-speed riding where the sound of the exhaust is just glorious. It is Kawasaki’s first time conducting sound research to deliver an ultimate rumble from the pipes.
The Z900RS comes with an assist and slipper clutch where the race-inspired technology offers a much lighter feel at the lever and also a back-torque limwiting function to reduce rear-wheel hop whenever downshifting.
Kawasaki made a shorter first gear where there is less stalling at low speed making it friendlier for novice riders while the sixth gear is taller for reduced vibration at high speed.
The first day of the ride involved a rather unconventional test for the Z900RS done on a whim.
As I passed by Sungai Penchala, I decided to visit the Most Fun Gym, an off-road coaching platform run by former racer Oh Kah Beng.
Oh had a ride, and said he was impressed with the brutal low end torque and plush suspension.
He should know something about these type bikes. He raced the real ones in the 70s and 80s.
It was rather odd watching him put the Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC) to test around the dirt track.
The KTRC features two modes that cover a wide range of riding conditions, offering either enhanced sport riding performance or the peace of mind to negotiate slippery surfaces with confidence, according to Kawasaki.
There is no doubt they never envisioned this bike to ever be on the dirt, but hey, there are no hard and fast rules to bike testing.
Of course, my itchy legs took the bike for a short spin on the unpaved and gravel surface too. I must say that the KTRC does put me in the state of being reassured.
The lightweight trellis frame complements a light overall weight at 215 kg which is slightly heavier than the Z900 which weighs at 210 kg. Overall, no matter on highways or in tight traffic, I had so much fun riding the retro naked bike. And yes, it does go round corners and it doesn’t take much effort to initiate the turn.
Of course for all the nostalgic style, the RS is at its heart a truly modern bike.
The RS features a 41mm inverted fork and horizontal back-link, gas-charged shock, unlike the twin rear shocks of the Z1. Both are fully adjustable for spring preload and compression and rebound damping.
An analogue-style speedometer and tachometer dials fixed are complemented by a multifunctional LCD screen to balance the retro-style looks with modern functionality. Fuel capacity is by 17 litres.
However, I find the suspensions slightly hard when going through potholes or bumps.
Fortunately, the brakes are as powerful as the engine. At the front, the semi-floating 300 mm brake discs gripped by opposed 4-piston radial-mount monoblock calipers combined with single 250 mm disc at the rear bring the bike to a complete stop with confident-inspiring ease. ABS comes in as standard feature on the Z900RS.
Overall, the ride is smooth and polished regardless of the speed and road conditions. The riding position is also so comfortable that I felt like I could ride for at least two full tanks, back to back.
The 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS comes in two variants in Malaysia.
The base model is priced at RM67,900, while a special edition version is available at RM69,900.
The Z900RS comes in Candytone Brown, Candytone Orange and Metallic Matte Covert Green and Flat Ebony. My pick would be the Metallic Matte Covert Green and Flat Ebony!