Kawasaki Z900 Per­for­mance

Fast Bikes - - CORE TEST -

If you can’t beat ’em, cheat ’em, which is es­sen­tially what Kawasaki’s done with the Z900. There’s no need for me to bang on about the detri­men­tal im­pact Euro 4’s had on mo­tor­cy­cles, but there’s plenty of rea­son to shout about big K’s sim­plis­tic ap­proach to keep­ing R&D costs down and en­sur­ing its cus­tomers aren’t left want­ing in the oomph de­part­ment. In case you weren’t aware, you should know that the Z800 got su­per­seded at the start of 2017 by this mostly all-new Z900. I say mostly be­cause its key in­gre­di­ent, the mo­tor, is a bor­rowed item from its big­ger bro, the Zed-thou.

Only that lump’s been sleeved down to 948cc in an ex­er­cise to bol­ster its man­hood and negate the rigours of the afore­men­tioned leg­is­la­tion. It makes a claimed 123bhp (up 30bhp on the Z800) and weighs in at 210kg (a whole 16kg lighter than its pre­de­ces­sor). So far so good, and things get bet­ter when you learn that the bike’s min­i­mal­ist trel­lis steel frame was de­vel­oped us­ing the same hi-tech prin­ci­pals ap­plied to the brand’s ASBO in­duc­ing H2 and H2R su­per­charged sen­sa­tions.

Yep, the strong arm of Kawasaki Heavy In­dus­tries (KHI) was out in force to en­sure that the Z900 hit the mark and left peo­ple ful­filled in the same way that Fa­gan’s left sat­is­fied af­ter eat­ing four Big Macs and a tub of Qual­ity Street. But specs and hype aside, does it tick the boxes as a cred­i­ble naked weapon?

Aes­thet­i­cally speak­ing, I’d say ir­refutably yes. The look, feel and per­sona of the Kawasaki is un­ques­tion­ably premier league. If you want to go balls deep into the mar­ket­ing spiel then its sharp an­gles and clean-shaven stance are the byprod­uct of a Ja­panese prac­tice called Su­gomi, which has noth­ing to do with quirky cross­word puz­zles just in case you were won­der­ing. Think of it as a badass feng shui that’s cleansed the bike of all its ming­ing bits and cre­ated an im­age of per­for­mance that’s sug­ges­tive of red-line abuse and en­cour­ages 12 o’clock­ers. There’s not a part of the Kwacker that looks ill thought-out or cheap, es­pe­cially so on the higher spec Z900 Per­for­mance ver­sion we were test­ing, which came com­plete with a sexy and stubby Akrapovic end-can, anti-so­cial pil­lion seat cover, a slightly larger screen and a hard core tank pad guar­an­teed to re­buff the on­slaught of any steel-pants wear­ing ir­reg­u­lars that might choose to sit on your pride and joy (the bike).

As for power, the stan­dard and per­for­mance mod­els make the same power, but the noise from the Akra sets the two mod­els apart. Kawasaki’s done a praise­wor­thy job of cre­at­ing an en­tic­ing air­box in­duc­tion note that height­ens with the ad­di­tion of revs. And once those revs have joined the party, the ex­haust’s boom kicks your ears’ back­doors in with no apolo­gies or grace.

But it’s not all huff and puff, as the power that’s be­held by your fin­ger­tips is of equal mag­ni­tude to the au­ral ex­trav­a­gance on tap. From the very bot­tom of the rev range, the Kwacker pulls like a Peter An­dré looka­like at a bach­e­lorette party. It’s in­sa­tiable stuff, with the only po­ten­tial lull in drive com­ing if the rider de­cides to bot­tle it and re­lease their grasp on the smooth func­tion­ing throt­tle.

Speed is very much the Z900’s forte, made all the sweeter by a slick gear­box and rider aid-free de­liv­ery. The bike is sur­pris­ingly techno­pho­bic con­sid­er­ing its size, out­put and stance, with no trac­tion con­trol, power modes or any such jazz, but that’s re­flected in the model’s ad­mirable pric­ing. Be­sides, why would you want a joy-de­stroy­ing al­go­rithm to scut­tle the sim­ple plea­sures of a wheelie, which are all too easy to en­joy on this an­ar­chic in­line-four? In say­ing that, if there was one bit of tech that would’ve been very much wel­comed by all it would’ve been a quick­shifter. Hoist­ing wheel­ies and click­ing from one gear to the next was all very doable, but it could have been so much eas­ier with that one sim­ple ad­di­tion.

An­other area where the bike was found want­ing was in the bends. Not through the fast stuff, mind. The Kawasaki’s a very sta­ble beast, well suited to rapid sweep­ers and is oblig­ingly pre­cise when you get hard on the gas and in­tend to hold a line. It’s not too bad at chang­ing di­rec­tion ei­ther, thanks to its wide ’bars and rel­a­tively short wheel­base. But the Achilles Heel was the bike’s lack of sup­port at ex­treme lean, of a knee­down na­ture. Fa­gan didn’t com­plain of the same is­sues, but I did more miles on the bike than any­one and found it de­ci­sively un­der sup­ported at the very bot­tom of the forks’ stroke. This way­ward sen­sa­tion would come through the ’bars and pro­voke a batch of ‘Hail Marys’ as I an­tic­i­pated the front end go­ing walkies. It never did, but I don’t think it was too far off the cards. With no ad­justa­bil­ity to the forks, it was a case of putting up and shut­ting up.

That aside, it was hard to knock the Kawasaki. It was comfy, punchy and as fru­gal as my brother when it’s his round at the bar. A bit more char­ac­ter wouldn’t have gone amiss, but that’s the na­ture of a four-pot.

There’s been a rise in orange- clad men so­lic­it­ing lately.

This sounds sweet on the boil.

The Kwak felt un­der-sup­ported at ex­treme lev­els of lean.

What more do you want?

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