The lure of the A16’s best bacon butty proved too much for Wilson and Lang to resist. And provided a fair excuse to give two new long term test bikes a blast out…
KTM 790 Duke and Kawasaki Z900RS, buying cruisers, Star Wars and a Guzzi.
KTM’S 790 Duke is a good reason to get out of bed early. It’s flippin’ brilliant. The combination of hearty power output, sweet handling and light weight makes it hilarious. It’s almost impossible to ride the KTM slowly, so even jaded old lags who need their beauty sleep take the long way to work. The electronic safety net afforded by anti-wheelie control and TCS cossets you until the bark from the high level stainless pipe has fully woken you up. It doesn’t take long. I’ve been waiting for this bike. I loved the riding experience of KTM’S 690 Duke but to me a big capacity, highly tuned road single makes no real sense. A twin is more tractable at low speeds, and easier to tune for high speeds. It’s less stressed and only marginally bulkier and more expensive to make. Adding an extra cylinder and 100cc makes the 790 a better bike in every way. Today’s 7am twisty roads diversion via Casey’s Cabin (on the untwisty A16) for bacon butties and tea is in the company of Bike’s art man Paul Lang who’s riding our Kawasaki Z900RS long term test bike. Both machines have almost identical 100bhp power outputs, but the Kawasaki is carrying an extra 30 kilos. The KTM is far friskier, but it can also perform effortless feet-up U-turns in the layby while Langy is paddling about doing three pointers. Though if we were travelling far I might be jealous of the Kawasaki’s plusher looking saddle. Downsides? The small script on the dash makes time, temp, trip and range info along the bottom of the screen impossible to read for people who need +.2 reading glasses. Fuel light comes on around 125 miles (at least I think that’s what the trip said) and filling up at 142 miles swallows 13.33 litres. That’s 48mpg, when most of the 142 miles was covered in Race mode (ho,ho). Though the bike’s readout claims a massively optimistic 71.9mpg. I’ll keep an eye on that. There is no suspension adjustment beyond rear pre-load, though the ride quality is acceptable, and Maxxis tyres are presumably here because they’re cheap. But none of that really matters because the fundamentals are right. Less weight makes a bike better, more so than adjustability or fancy rubber ever can. Hugo Wilson Editor Been riding for: 41 years Owns: 3x Moto Morinis, a 1948 Matchless and a 1965 Mobylette.
‘The combination of hearty power, sweet handling and light weight makes it hilarious’
THE KAWASAKI Z1 was born in 1972, and so was I. Forty six years later I have been handed the keys to the Z1’s grandson, the new retro themed Z900RS. Straight away you can detect the original’s DNA. Teardrop shaped tank, ducktail cowl and the Candytone Brown and orange paint. No wonder it gets so many ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahs’ from senior bikers. ‘Let’s take the long way to work tomorrow Langy,’ said the gaffer. Which is why I’m saying, ‘hello,’ to the postie at 6:30am. ‘Nice bike mate,’ he says. Does everyone love the Z900RS? Will I love the Z900RS? Turn the key and the rev-o-metre jumps to 1500rpm, then 2000rpm, then settles for a minute or two at 2300rpm. It’s as if someone is playing with a manual choke. Kawasaki’s fiendish retro plan at work? I’d like to think so. Pulling away and the throttle feels a little snatchy, thanks Euro 4. Onto the first A-road and I snap it back and the 108bhp 16-valve inline four fires me forwards rapidly but with no drama. I prefer engines with more character but the deep exhaust note is compensating very well indeed. I’m sat in a perfect upright position that feels comfy and familiar. You can feel the ridges on the plush wide seat through riding jeans. It all says classic. And I love that the clocks feature the same font as the original Z1 but set in a stunning milled circular background, aside from the modern LCD dash in the middle. You can’t get much more retro than that. The Zed has the same bhp as the KTM the gaffer’s riding today, but it’s a very different weapon. It’s a pleasant bike to be on and feels like an Yamaha XJR1300 or Suzuki 1200 Bandit, but with plusher suspension, great brakes, traction control and neat design touches. Kawasaki have learnt a lot the past 46 years, but they still remember their past. Latter in the week I was chatting to the guys at Corby Kawasaki while the Z900RS was having its first service and they were saying the waiting time for Candytone Brown bikes is around three months. So it’s not just me who likes the Z900RS then.
Total focus and ne form: en route to Casey’s Cabin Playing the retro card: Z900RS snis out the bacon bap