Kawasaki Z900 Performance
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 In case you weren’t aware, you should know that the Z800 got superseded at the start of 2017 by this mostly all-new Z900.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?