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Kawasaki z900rs

You again!

by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen, Feb 2021

The good, the bad and the ugly of factory clones

(See the 'You Again' home page here.)


Kawasaki z900rs

Part 2: Kawasaki Z900RS
Jaffa Revival

Fondly remembered as the Jaffa, the first-gen Kawasakis in their deep brown and orange livery (I know, it sounds hideous when you put it like that) were an instant hit. While Honda’s 750-Four (see our history) started the Japanese multi revolution, Kawasaki came along a few years later with the Z900 (aka the Z1 or 900 Super Four) and ramped up the market’s expectations by several notches.

kawasaki z1

These days a good restored example of the 1972 model is a valuable piece of machinery. Like any other manufacturer that dares step into the retro ring and play with people’s memories and emotions, Kawasaki was taking a hell of a risk with this one.

Kawasaki zephyr 750

It has in fact had a go at this previously, with the whole Zephyr series of the nineties, and it was much closer in profile to the original. However the overall market was struggling at the time and sales were low. That was capped off with talk about reliability issues in some versions.

Kawasaki did a lot of things right when it came to Z900RS. For a start, it stuck to the 900 capacity class, in which the company has had several stars over the years – Z1 and GPz900R among them.

While the new gadget is liquid-cooled (the original was air-cooled), the engine is exposed and, thanks in part to minimal cooling fins, bears at least a passing resemblance to a pukka Zed.

Plus it passes the overall at-a-glance test when it comes to styling. You know who its parents were.

For critics, it lacks some of the 70s brutish looks and of course the four exhaust pipes. The latter was arguably the biggest loss, though Kawasaki may well have been aware that many of its customers would not be old enough to have ridden the original and are open to a new interpretation. A nod to the past, for them, could suffice.

For anyone who handed over the readies, it will may well be more important that the end result is a thoroughly enjoyable all rounder which, according to one very experienced motorcyclist I know who has done big miles on his, is well worth the money.

Kawasaki Z900RS
Power 82kW @ 8500rpm
Torque 98Nm @ 7700rpm
Weight 215kg wet
Rating: 4.5/5
A convincing tribute to the looks of the original and delivers as a good-riding package. That’ll do.

Kawasaki z900rs



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