Kawasaki identified steady sales growth in naked bikes and has put a laserlike focus on offering more performance, lower weight and better handling in the Z series. 2017 models already include the Z125 Pro and Z650 and this all-new addition completes the trilogy. Similar styling cues run throughout the lineup, from the ergonomic layout to the continuation of “sugomi-inspired” bodywork.
The 948cc Z900 is down a notch in displacement from the former top-of-the-line and even more aggressively styled 1043cc Z1000 that it is replacing in the U.S., but it’s also $3,200 cheaper. A more direct comparison might be the improvement this new model makes on the 509-pound, 806cc Z800, which is simultaneously being replaced.
Before anyone cries foul of one bike replacing two, they should realize that the 464-pound Z900 is a claimed 46 pounds lighter than the outgoing Z800 and costs only $400 more when comparably fitted with ABS. Riders who want to save more can get the Z900 without ABS for the same suggested retail price as the short-lived Z800 ABS. We are somewhat surprised non-ABS is an option, as the overall platform improvements more than make up the price delta and the bike is a great value for the performance it provides.
We rode a diverse set of roads straight from Kawasaki’s North American headquarters. Perfect for discovering both the capabilities and possible shortcomings of the bike. The wide handlebars combined with a low seat height and lightweight and narrow chassis made the bike easy to ride aggressively, but still very comfortable when upright.
Designed to be “refined raw” (K-marketing), there are no complex technological rider aids like ride-by-wire modes or traction control. Power delivery is also never so overwhelming as to require them. The incredibly smooth throttle response consistently sent exactly the right amount of juice to the rear wheel. The exhaust note is solid, but even better is an aurally engaging intake howl.
An assist and slipper clutch makes for easy bumping through the very short gears and allows quick acceleration. There is a noticeable amount of vibration in the seat, pegs and bars, which reduced to a mild-mannered hum only when cruising in sixth gear. The footpegs are set high, which allows ample cornering clearance, but when combined with the low seat results in a more sport-oriented riding positioning that is not entirely comfortable for long, straight stretches of asphalt.
The stock seat height is just over 31 inches and although Kawasaki’s accessory seat adds an additional inch of padding, it didn’t help much with comfort. Kawasaki reps mentioned that their internal testers were also split evenly on which seat was preferred.
There are many options for bikes under $9,000 and the Z900 ABS looks to be well worth the $1,400 mark-up from the Z650 ABS (MCN 3/17), for riders who desire a back-to-basics performance standard with more legroom, more attitude, more cylinders or more power.