IF the rush by motorcycle companies to make modern versions of classics is anything to go by, then old is certainly becoming gold.
Triumph had rocked the local scene with its jaw-dropping Thruxton R earlier in the year, but it was Kawasaki that must have grabbed the heartstrings of classic bike lovers with its long-awaited cafe racer version of the Z900RS late last year.
Launched in mid-August, the Z900RS Café shares chassis, powertrain and performance of the retro Z900RS bike. The most prominent difference is in the styling.
Inspired by the 1972 Kawasaki Z1, the Café sports a front fairing and low-rise handlebars.
One thing about these classics I’ve discovered — beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the age of the beholder. In my eyes, the Café’s green-and-white paint job (reminiscent of the KR250/500 of the late ‘70s) looks slightly dull and uninspiring.
But there’s no denying the sex appeal of the bike’s Z1-inspired tail cowl along with the Z1 inspired oval taillight.
The four-into-one-pre-chamber-into-silencer layout exhaust has also been fine-tuned for a deeper growl when you twist the throttle.
The Café has twin pod analogue dials. Between the twin pods is an LCD unit which has been disguised to maximise the bike’s retro vibes.
The LCD screen includes an odometer, gear indicator, fuel gauge, current and average fuel consumption, dual trip meters, coolant temperature, external temperature, clock and the Economical Riding Indicator.
Similar to the Z900RS, it is powered by the 948cc liquid-cooled inline four engine, producing around 110hp at 8,500rpm and 98.5Nm of maximum torque upon hitting 6,500rpm.
The Z900RS Café also gets a change in the gear ratio where the first gear is made shorter to reduce stalling while the sixth is taller to reduce vibration and provide higher fuel efficiency.
The Café has the same assist-and-slipper clutch as the Z900RS. Gear changes are fast and slick.
Despite its Café looks, the bike’s sweet and smooth feeling as you twist the throttle means riding the bike is as modern as it gets. We rode the bike from Kuala Lumpur up north this time to Gerik and then to the scenic Tasik Banding, and the Z900RS tackled the hundreds of corners deftly and happily.
This bike is perfect for Sunday rides but for longer distances, be prepared to deal with some complaints from your arms and perhaps even your spine. But then again, we clocked some 800km on the Café over the weekend.
At 215kg, the bike is nimble and makes a lady smile. At 5’7, I find the seat 835mm seat height just nice. But don’t worry. Kawasaki says it provides an ERGO-FIT low seat accessory that will sit you at 800mm.
The suspension consists of 41mm inverted front fork featuring stepless rebound damping and spring preload adjustability with an adjustable Horizontal Back-link Rear Suspension.
The Café also comes with standard ABS working on the dual 300mm front petal discs gripped by 4-piston radial-mount monobloc calipers. At the rear, the 250mm rear petal disc is clamped by dual opposed piston calipers.
The Z900RS Café is available in vintage lime green and is priced at RM72,372, excluding road tax and insurance.
Overall, I have no major complaints as far as the bike’s performance goes. But in my eyes, the Café’s ‘72 Z1 inspired styling is modernistic fit and finish that makes it nowhere close to “feeling” old.