Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe rekindles Crosby

Nostalgia flows when you get on board either of these desirable modern motorcycles. Yet the ride, handling, power, feel and finish is all thoroughly modern.

STORY MARK HINCHCLIFFE

Riding the Kawasaki Z900RS rekindled images of cult 1974 Australian bikie movie Stone, while the Cafe version had me imagining I was Kiwi racer Graeme Crosby on his Moriwaki Kwaka in the late ‘70s.

Nostalgia flows when you get on board either of these desirable modern motorcycles. Yet the ride, handling, power, feel and finish is all thoroughly modern.

Depending on where you live, the RS is about $18,000 on the road and the Cafe Racer version with a different seat and 1970s bubble racer fairing costs an extra $300.

I’ve already tested the naked version and loved it.

Here is a summary of my impressions:

  • the engine is lusty, responsive and smooth;
  • transmission is super-slick and faultless with a light clutch action;
  • handling is the perfect balance of precision with a smooth ride plus plenty of suspension adjustability for different sized riders;
  • brakes have plenty of initial bite, good progression and a smooth ABS intervention;
  • fit and finish is perfect although the radiator sticks out; and
  • there is plenty of grip in those Dunlop Sportmax tyres.

The differences between the naked and the faired model are few, but still substantial.

They are the bullet or bubble fairing, the blackened and dropped handlebars and the humped seat.

It puts a bit more sport into the bike, hence the Graeme Crosby feel.

The dropped bars and shaped portion of the seat make the rider lean a bit further forward in a more aggressive stance.

I found the seat on the naked version a bit hard and the ribbed section dug into my backside. This is smoother and better shaped, but still firm.

The biggest difference is, of course, the fairing.

I’ve never been a fan of fairings which are either too high that they obscure your view or too low so they only create turbulence.

Even though this is very low, it’s actually quite wide and provides a fair amount of protection for your chest yet doesn’t create a lot of turbulence on your helmet.

It may be a different experience for riders who are taller or shorter than my 187cm height.

At highway speed, turbulence from trucks does tend to move your shoulders around, although the bike is still very stable.

The addition of the fairing make this bike more pleasant to ride on a longer trip than the naked version which can be tiring on your arms and neck and have you screaming for a stop long before the  tank’s 350+km range dictates.

It also visually disguises the wide and ugly radiator.

The inside of the old fibreglass bubble fairings of the 1970s looked rough and unfinished. This is a plastic fairing so the inside is smoother and cleaner, although it still looks a little unfinished with the ends of bare bolts showing.

However, it provides some shade for the twin-pod instruments so they are even easier to read.

I love the way Kawasaki has managed to blend the traditional analogue pods with a modern digital screen in the middle.

When the ignition is switched off you wouldn’t even know that screen was there!

The Cafe version only comes in green and white or grey and white. I’m not a fan of either. For me the green is too garish and the grey too subtle.

I’d prefer the brown and orange “Jaffa” colours of the naked version, or maybe a red and white or blue and white flour scheme. Maybe they are coming!

  • Kawasaki Z90RS Cafe tech specs
  • Engine: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, 948cc, DOHC, 16-valve in-line four
  • Bore x Stroke: 73.4 x 56.0 mm
  • Compression: 10.8:1
  • Power: 82kW @ 8500rpm
  • Torque: 98.5Nm @ 6500rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed with Positive Neutral finder and Assist & Slipper Clutch
  • Frame: Trellis high tensile steel
  • Suspension: 41mm cartridge fork with compression and rebound damping and spring preload adjustability; horizontal back-link with rebound damping and spring preload adjustability
  • Wheel travel: 120mm, 140mm
  • Brakes: Dual 300mm semi-floating petal discs with dual radial-mount monobloc opposed 4-piston calipers (front); 250mm petal disc with single piston caliper; ABS
  • Tyres: 120/70-ZR17 (58W); 180/55-ZR17 (73W)
  • Length: 2100mm
  • Width: 845mm
  • Height: 1190mm
  • Wheelbase: 1470mm
  • Clearance: 130mm
  • Seat: 820mm
  • Fuel: 17-litre tank, 95 RON
  • Wet weight: 215kg
  • Warranty: 24 Months Unlimited Kilometres