FIRST TEST KAWASAKI Z900

FIRST RIDE 2017 KAWASAKI Z900 £8249

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Front Page - By Phil West MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

Can Kawasaki’s all-new Z900 live up to its more fa­mous fore­bear?

When you call a bike Z900, and in so do­ing cre­ate the first Kawasaki to carry the name since the orig­i­nal Z1-suc­ces­sor from 1976, it had bet­ter be good.

What you cer­tainly don’t want it to be is con­fus­ing. So, let’s get that bit cleared up straight away: the new Z900, far from some kind of retro rein­car­na­tion of a ’70s clas­sic, is sim­ply in­tended as a big­ger, bet­ter re­place­ment for its in­ter­me­di­ate Zed road­ster, the Z800.

As a re­sult, a new three-strong ‘Zed fam­ily’ has evolved out of the old ER-6N (en­try-level twin), Z800 (in­ter­me­di­ate four) and Z1000 (range-top­per) into, for 2017, the new Z650 (as we tested be­fore Christ­mas), new Z900 and the con­tin­u­ing Z1000, all of which is a bit neater and co­he­sive all round. Got it?

In other words, the Z900 name is more co­in­ci­dence than rein­ven­tion. The new bike, how­ever, re­mains hugely im­por­tant to Kawasaki. In fact, on the ba­sis of pre-or­ders, this new­comer is ex­pected to be one of the firm’s big­gest sell­ers this year.

It’s worth not­ing here that this whole in­ter­me­di­ate naked class has be­come one of the most com­pet­i­tive. Not only is there the Z900 but there’s also Suzuki’s new GSX-S750, Tri­umph’s im­mi­nent Street Triple 765 and Yamaha’s hugely pop­u­lar MT-09, not to men­tion niche ex­ot­ica such as MV’S 800 Bru­tale and Drag­ster. No pres­sure then.

Re­fresh­ingly, though, Kawasaki’s ap­proach has been quite sim­ple and straight­for­ward. The Z900’s en­gine, rather than be­ing an en­larged Z800

unit, is ac­tu­ally a sleeved-down Z1000. The re­sult, a swept ca­pac­ity of 948cc, is a big 142cc up on the Z800’s 806cc and helps ex­plain its power boost from 113 to 123bhp, the largest in the class – not to men­tion an ex­tra wodge of midrange.

The chas­sis is sim­ple, too. In a quest to cor­rect one of the big­gest crit­i­cisms of the old Z800 – weight – an all-new, tubu­lar steel frame in­spired by that of the H2R has been cre­ated which re­duces things by an im­pres­sive 13.5kg.

Else­where there’s plenty to please as well: the typ­i­cal Zed love-it-or-loatheit styling is at least soft­ened by gen­uinely qual­ity fin­ishes, tex­tures (note the crocodile skin ef­fect seat) and de­tails (both levers are span-ad­justable). There’s half-de­cent sus­pen­sion which in­cludes preload and re­bound ad­justable forks, new five-spoke al­loy wheels and a stylish new LCD in­stru­ment pod that pleas­ingly now in­cludes a gear in­di­ca­tor. Con­spic­u­ously, how­ever, and pos­si­bly done to both dif­fer­en­ti­ate the Z900 from the Z1000 and help make it cheaper (it’s £2K less than the Zthou), the Z9 has no elec­tronic rider aids, ex­cept­ing com­pul­sory ABS. No rider modes, no trac­tion con­trol, nada. Some might find that re­fresh­ing, oth­ers might feel de­prived.

What’s broadly sim­i­lar to be­fore, though, is the ride. On board the new Zed is still a slightly larger, heav­ier, more po­tent ma­chine than most of its rivals. Yes, peak power is greater, its midrange fat­ter, its acous­ti­cal­lyen­hanced howl above six thou’ more con­spic­u­ous. If you’re in the mood this is a proper street­fighter. And though lighter it’s not overtly so. When pushed, though more nim­ble, the Z900 still can be stren­u­ous through the twisties – far more so than any ri­val triple.

But that’s pick­ing hairs. There’s also no ques­tion the Z9 is more po­tent, lighter and bet­ter than the out­go­ing Z8. It’s a nicer, prob­a­bly eas­ier (thanks to a low­ered seat) and more ex­plo­sive bike to ride, yet is also a more pleas­ing piece of metal. And if all that doesn’t ex­actly make it a clas­sic Z900, it cer­tainly makes it a wor­thy Z800 suc­ces­sor.

‘Ca­pac­ity is 142cc up on the Z800 and helps ex­plain its power boost from 113 to 123bhp’

Lighter and more nim­ble than be­fore but more of a hand­ful than its triple rivals

The Zed’s look­ing like a sales hit for Kawasaki

H2 in­spired tubu­lar steel frame has shaved weight

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