Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe Review - Lean Green Espresso Machine
When Kawasaki launched the Z900RS last year, the local guys in green said there wasn’t a big chance of the Cafe variant hitting our roads. Thankfully, someone convinced the top brass to bring a few in.
Good thing too, as they’ve left the dealer showrooms almost as soon as they came out of the boxes. It seems us journos weren’t the only ones enamoured by those clean old-school lines. Changes over the standard Z900RS are predominantly aesthetic, with the bikini fairing and classic green-and-white paint job being the standouts.
Look closer and you’ll see the more corner-friendly ergos (lower bars etc). The rest of the bike is largely identical to the regular Z900RS. That means the same round headlight, single elongated stepped seat, bullet-shaped instrument binnacles, duck bill cowling at the rear, and a teardrop-shaped tank.
It also means the same 948cc inline four offering 82kW and 99Nm, the same gorgeous exhaust system, and the same beautifully forgiving riding characteristics. This engine is a peach, happy to burble along from low into the twos if you’re brave. It doesn’t rev as high as you might expect from a four, topping out at 10,000rpm, but the tune is such that you don’t need to rev it hard.
There’s gobs of torque from not much above idle, while Kawasaki reckons it peaks at 7700rpm. The full hit of power arrives 800rpm later. It sounds mint too - Kawasaki spent a long time getting the exhaust note just right and it shows. There’s an addictive induction howl, with a particularly tasty zing you can hear sometimes when you’re leaning through a corner and a grin-inducing bark from the short side-slung muffler.
Given the Cafe is mechanically identical to the normal Z900RS, we didn’t bother running the numbers again. The Z900RS was clocked hitting 100km/h in 3.4 seconds which is plenty quick, along with a 1.73s (49.65m) 80-120km/h sprint. It weighs in at 214kg with fuel, virtually the same as the naked version.
Despite looking like an old-school race machine, it’s as comfy as anything, thanks partly to softer-than-usual suspension. The flipside of that is slightly less confidence in corners but it takes all of two minutes with a toolkit to stiffen things up.
A city-friendly riding triangle helps too, despite the dropped bars. Cruising on the highway is a doddle, and should Kawasaki ever add cruise control to the electronics package, one could even ride a full day non-stop on the Cafe. Of course, you could still do that without cruise control but it just makes life easier.
Staring at the numbers, it might look like Kawa has missed the boat compared with something like the Honda CB1000R or Triumph’s Speed Triple but they aren’t really comparable. It’s closer to the Brit’s Street Cup, which makes do with a 900cc parallel twin producing ‘just’ 40.2kW and 80Nm.
Kawasaki charges $20,400 for double the Street Cup’s power and an extra cog in the gearbox, about four grand more than what Triumph asks for the Cup. There’s also the BMW R nineT Racer to consider, although that one’s much more at home on the track than urban roads. It costs more-or-less the same as the Z900RS, that being $19,990.
The modern classic market is well crowded now, with yet more options available should you wish to explore non-cafe-racer variants. Plus with quality control as tight as it is, there is rarely a ‘bad’ bike. It essentially boils down to what you like the look of the most.
And if you like buttery smooth inline-fours, gorgeous retro racer lines and a smattering of modern tech, the Z900RS Cafe should easily make your shortlist.
Model Kawasaki Z900RS Price $19,995
Engine 948cc, liquid-cooled, fuel injected, IL4, 82kW / 99Nm
Transmission 6-speed, chain final drive Vitals 3.43s 0-100km/h
1.73s (49.65m) 80-120km/h, 42.27m 100-0km/h, 215kg