THE RE­TURN OF THE Z650

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week -

Hur­riedly re­vealed at the Cologne show last month, de­spite no bikes be­ing on show, af­ter de­tails of th­ese new Zeds leaked out – Kawasaki have now un­veiled them prop­erly in Milan.

Back to the Seven­ties

The Z650 name is well known to any­one with a knowl­edge of 1970s bikes, and this new name­sake de­scen­dant kicks out not dis­sim­i­lar power at 68bhp – although it achieves that with two fewer cylin­ders.

Ac­tu­ally the di­rect de­scen­dant of the ER-6N, it’s ef­fec­tively a naked ver­sion of the new Ninja 650 (it­self the ER-6F re­place­ment). Kawasaki claim nim­ble han­dling, rel­a­tively light weight, and wide-rang­ing ap­peal, ev­ery­thing its pre­de­ces­sor man­aged, too.

The styling un­der­lines the move away from ER family to Zed, with the new bike be­ing al­most in­dis­tin­guish­able from the cur­rent Z800.

The 649cc en­gine was not Euro4 in ER guise, but has had the same re­vi­sions as the Ninja 650 to make it so, with the fo­cus on keep­ing low-to­mid-range torque, rather than top-end power. It also gets the firm’s As­sist & Slip­per clutch, which re­duces lever pres­sure, but in­creases clutch pres­sure, and offers slip­per func­tion­al­ity.

It tips the scales at 185kg, with its tubu­lar chas­sis on show, and painted to re­sem­ble the Ninja H2’s. The rea­son­ably low 790mm seat po­si­tion is shared with the Ninja ver­sion, while the flat bars mean a more up­right rid­ing po­si­tion, bet­ter suited to ur­ban rid­ing. Just like its clothed cousin, the Zed also gets a repo­si­tioned rear shock, re­mov­ing it from the right flank to sit more con­ven­tion­ally up be­tween the swingarm and back of the en­gine.

Those wanting a sportier look can fit an ac­ces­sory seat cowl, while those seeking prac­ti­cal­ity will be pleased by the of­fi­cial ac­ces­sory 14 litre pan­niers and 30 litre top­box.

The Z900 is back

The new Zed boasts a 948cc in­line-four en­gine – nicked from the Z1000 – packed into an all-new trel­lis frame. At 210.5kg it’s hardly a light­weight, but Kawasaki claim the low seat height (794mm) and light­weight swingarm increase its flick­a­bil­ity. Power is 123.6bhp, and Kawasaki say it’s hap­pi­est higher in the rev range, partly thanks to its light­weight crank­shaft, sug­gest­ing that it’ll be the thrasher’s choice.

Gears one to five are close and short, with sixth be­ing an over­drive (some­thing the Z800 needed), while it also uses a 525 chain to re­duce drive losses – all en­gaged and re­leased by the As­sist & Slip­per clutch.

The 41mm in­verted fork fea­tures step­less re­bound damp­ing and spring preload ad­justa­bil­ity in the left tube, with the ad­justers lo­cated on the fork top cap, while the rear monoshock is also re­bound and preload ad­justable.

The spec doesn’t make it sound like a naked icon, but it ought to be a very fine road­ster.

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