2018 Kawasaki Z900RS and Café

Story by Marcus Martellacci// Photos by Kawasaki
November 22 2017


Kawasaki makes its long-awaited entry into the retro category with the all-new Z900RS. Conceived as a homage to the legendary Z1, it is powered by a liquid-cooled 900cc-class In-Line Four – an engine choice that makes the Z900RS unique in this category.

The newest Z is a synthesis of the traditional and the modern. An engine with a traditional In-Line Four configuration is backed by Kawasaki’s latest rider support technology, the engine and frame design both benefit from the latest in advanced analysis technology, and carefully crafted styling elements are complemented by high-tech features like LED lighting and digital instrumentation.

Great efforts were taken to achieve the Z900RS’s look and feel, with each component meticulously selected and every setting carefully considered. A synchronous ride feel combines the smooth response of an In-Line Four tuned for low-mid range torque, a deep rumbling exhaust note crafted to deliver additional rider enjoyment, and neutral handling that enables both leisurely and sporty riding. This is complemented by timeless looks that blend Z1-inspired styling with modern technology and craftsmanship techniques, and an attention to detail and high level of fit-and-finish to rival that of the Z1 itself.


For riders searching for a bike with character and a rich history, the Z900RS – also available in a variation with a cafe racer image – offers both in abundance, while providing an opportunity to slow down, look around and enjoy the ride.

Thanks to its smooth In-Line Four tuned for strong low-mid range torque, and unhurried handling care of its lightweight trellis frame, the ride feel of the Z900RS is unique in the retro category. Both engine and chassis response were carefully designed to not be too quick, making it easier to feel at one with the bike. The resultant stress-free riding is complemented by a crafted exhaust note that enriches the riding experience from the time the rider thumbs the ignition – features that will enable riders to enjoy their machine for many long years. The Z900RS’ refined character is reminiscent of the legendary Kawasaki bikes of yesteryear: it is happy to run at a leisurely pace, but is more than capable of accommodating more spirited riding should the mood arise.

Kawasaki’s First Tuned Exhaust Note

While Kawasaki engines are historically renowned for their great-sounding exhausts, this the first time that Kawasaki has conducted sound research to craft a model’s ideal exhaust note. Designed to elicit rider response, the sound tuning focused on the engine’s initial roar to life, idling and low-speed riding where the rider is best able to enjoy the exhaust’s deep rumble. Kawasaki’s experience with sound tuning started with the 2014-2016 Z1000 and 2017 Z900. The know-how gained from those models was brought to bear when designing the Z900RS. However, where those two models had crafted intake howls, it was the sonorous exhaust note of Z900RS that was tuned.

Lightweight Trellis Frame

Complementing a light overall weight (noticeable as soon as the bike is lifted off its side-stand), frame rigidity and chassis geometry tuning were selected to deliver light, natural handling. Like the engine, the chassis responds to rider input predictably, going where the rider wants it to without resistance. In keeping with its retro sport character, the Z900RS’ stance is less forward-leaning than the Z900.

41 mm Inverted Fork

Large-diameter inverted fork contributes to excellent ride comfort and sporty riding potential. Response is unhurried, offering reassuring handling in riding situations ranging from in-town to winding roads. The high-grade fork features compression and rebound damping adjustability, enabling precise settings to suit rider preference and riding style. • Horizontal Back-Link Rear Suspension Unlike the twin rear shocks of the Z1, the Z900RS features Kawasaki’s Horizontal Back-Link rear suspension. This choice of modern suspension (also featured on Kawasaki’s supersport and Supernaked models) offers a higher level of sporty riding potential – something that Kawasaki engineers were not willing to sacrifice. Like the fork, the linked suspension delivers a balance of ride comfort and sporty performance.

Radial-Mount Front Brakes

300 mm front discs gripped by radial-mount calipers provide sure, strong stopping power. Radial-pump front brake master cylinder contributes to brake touch and control.

Relaxed Riding Position

Whether navigating city streets or winding through the hills, the Z900RS’ relaxed riding position, more upright than that of the Z900, offers both comfort and control, accommodating both leisurely riding or running at a more spirited pace.

KTRC (Kawasaki Traction Control)

Contributing to rider reassurance, the Z900RS is equipped with advanced Kawasaki rider support technology. 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.

Assist & Slipper Clutch

Race-inspired clutch technology offers both a much lighter feel at the lever, as well as a back-torque limiting function that helps prevent rear-wheel hop when downshifting.




With a seamless blend of Z1-inspired styling elements and modern craftsmanship – from the iconic teardrop fuel tank to the innovative oval LED taillight – the Z900RS offers timeless good looks with an exquisite attention to detail and superb fit-and-finish that results in a very high-quality appearance. Functional beauty was a priority, with a simple, yet refined design pursued. In contrast to the sharp, edgy design of the Z Supernaked models, the Z900RS uses rounded elements to emulate the retro-style design of classic motorcycles.

The centrepiece of the Z900RS’ design, the beautiful teardrop fuel tank is reminiscent of the Z1. The frame was completely redesigned to accommodate the tank’s ideal position and slim shape. Only after the fuel tank position was fixed were the seat length, tandem seat and tail cowl length all balanced for the optimal retro sport proportions.

With a naked bike, the engine is an important styling element, and with its simple, uncluttered design the engine adds to the Z900RS’ presence. Stylish engine fins built into the cylinder head create the image of an air-cooled engine, and are complemented by an engine design featuring many Z1 motifs. The engine cover design is reminiscent of traditional naked models. An insistence that all the engine covers be die-cast aluminium pieces adds to the high quality appearance.

When designing the exhaust system over 20 variations were considered before arriving at the final design, one that emphasizes the presence of the In-Line Four engine. Double-walled header pipes give the exhaust a more powerful appearance, while making it more difficult for the headers to become discoloured over time. A lack of connector pipes or exhaust devices ensures clean lines. A short megaphone silencer contributes to the Z900RS’ retro sport image. The header pipes, pre-chamber and silencer are all formed from high-quality stainless steel, and are treated to a buff finish.

Round LED Headlamp A blend of retro and modern designs, the large 170 mm LED headlamp casts a bright, white light for great night-time visibility. It features six chambers (four for low-beam, two for high-beam). Position lamps in the highbeam chambers ensure the whole lamp appears lit, like a retro-style bulb headlamp. Details like a convex lens and chromed headlamp ring add to the high-quality, retro sport design.

The flowing design of the rear cowl was inspired by the duck-bill tail cowl of the Z1. Likewise, the oval design of the LED taillight is another homage to the Z1. Unlike standard LED taillights that appear as a collection of dots, the surface-emitting LED taillight lights up as a solid surface, creating a design that is both retro and modern.

Dual-Dial Instrumentation with Multi-Function LCD Analogue-style speedometer and tachometer dials are complemented by a multi-functional LCD screen, balancing retro-style looks with modern functionality. The LCD has an easy-to-read, negative (white letters on a black background) display. Bullet-shaped dial cases are a fitting touch for a retro sport model, while a spindle finish on the dial faces adds to their high-quality design.

Spoke-Style Cast Wheels Original cast wheels feature flat spokes designed to look like classic wire-spoked wheels. Designed using Kawasaki’s advanced analysis technology, the wheels offer a balance of light weight and stylish looks, contributing to both handling and a design suited to the retro category. Machining on the spokes further contributes to a high-quality image.

Meticulous Attention to Detail From the top-quality paint chosen for the fuel tank to the high-grade coating selected for the bolts, attention to the smallest detail, carefully considered wire routing, and a clean fit-and-finish contribute to the Z900RS’ high-quality appearance.


In addition to the standard Z900RS, a special cafe-racer-style model is also available, offering riders a second way to enjoy the rich vintage bike life offered by a retro sport model. The Z900RS CAFE features a cafe-racer-image , front cowl; black, cafe-racer-image drop handlebar; its own unique seat; and original colour and graphics.

Information about Kawasaki’s complete line of powersports products can be found on the Internet at www.kawasaki.ca.

KAWASAKI Z900RS Color: Metallic Spark Black

MSRP: $12,999

KAWASAKI Z900RS SE Color: Candytone Brown/Candytone Orange

MSRP: $13,199

KAWASAKI Z900RS CAFE Color: Vintage Lime Green

MSRP: $13,599



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