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2024 Kawasaki Z900: First Ride Review

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Rishabh Bhaskar

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Introduction

It is the unmistakable sound of an inline-four engine that’s filling up my eardrums as I pin the throttle for as long as I’d dare. The rise in speed corresponds to the spike in my heart rate as the Kawasaki Z900 makes a dash to the horizon. It's one of the most invigorating feelings that one can experience atop a motorcycle. In moments like these, it becomes apparent why the Z900 is such a popular pick in India among those who are buying their first “big bike”. But wait, the Z900 isn’t a one trick pony and after spending close to a 1000km riding one, we’ve a clearer picture of what makes it such a special bike.

Kawasaki Z900 Right Front Three Quarter

The visuals

Ask a majority of first time shoppers of big bikes about what they desire in their machines and road presence would figure quite prominently on the list. The Kawasaki Z900 checks this box quite convincingly.

Kawasaki Z900 Left Side View

Kawasaki’s Sugomi design language works well in giving the Z900 an air of aggression, evident in the low placement of the LED headlight, the beefy fuel tank and contrastingly slender tail section. Even the tank extensions are neatly integrated. That being said, I’m not entirely sure about the snake’s fang shaped LED DRLS or Kawasaki’s choice of colours. In black, the cuts and creases on the Z900 are a tad too muted and I personally think this bike would look better in metallic green.

Kawasaki Z900 Front View

The quality, fit and finish of the parts used is par for the course and there are no complaints as such. However, I would have liked to see a little more attention to detail or use of more premium materials like aluminium in some places, like you see in the Triumph Street Triple R and RS.

The package

The feature list on the Kawasaki Z900 is decent at best. You have a colour TFT display with smartphone connectivity that lets you access a range of information about the bike. In terms of safety, the bike has two power modes - Low and Full, with the former limiting the available power to 55 per cent of Full. Adding to the safety net are four ride modes - Rain, Road, Sport and Rider a.k.a the customisable mode. Each mode tempers the power delivery and the engine’s responsiveness. Traction control and dual-channel ABS rounds off the list of safety features but we feel the Z900 is lacking in a few areas.

Kawasaki Z900 TFT / Instrument Cluster

Afterall, it is 2024, so, it is about time the Z900 gets lean-sensitive traction control and ABS. The lack of a quickshifter is another sore point, especially since the competition gets these features for not a lot of extra money.

As for the ergonomics, the way the rider is seated is more on the sportier side. It makes you look cool but I found the footpegs to be a touch too high and rear-set. This could cause some aches and pains if you plan to go riding over long distances. And, if you want to carry a pillion along, the small, slim seat isn’t very comfortable and is best reserved for short rides in the city.

The ride

The Z900’s engine is the star of the show and it only takes a few kilometres of riding for one to heap praises on it. From the moment you fire it up to the times when you let the rev bar bounce off the limiter, the sensations you feel as this inline-four engine goes about its business of shrinking distances leaves you grinning from ear to ear.

Kawasaki Z900 Engine From Right

The meat of the performance is from the mid-range onwards and there’s a serious uptick in pace as you move to the top of the rev band and bang up through the gears. As I’d said earlier, a quickshifter is missed as it would’ve made this experience of acceleration fluid. Nevertheless, performance is good enough to keep both newbies and experienced hands entertained for a long time. More importantly, despite all that firepower, the Z900’s power delivery always felt measured and controllable rather than spikey and scary. This is true even in the most aggressive mode - Sport.

The Z900’s friendly demeanour is a big reason why the Z900 is so popular. While the performance is good, it hasn’t come at the expense of tractability. Let’s not forget that this is a 948cc engine that makes 125bhp and 98.6Nm. But, the way it doesn’t mind being ridden at city speeds in fourth or even fifth gear is astonishing. One barely needs to downshift to pick up the pace as and when the opportunity presents itself in the city.

Kawasaki Z900 Right Side View

What also left me impressed is the engine’s incredible heat management. There were times when I was riding the bike in choc-a-bloc rush hour traffic in Mumbai and despite the temperature gauge sitting on the wrong side of 100-degrees, I barely felt any heat. This has to be one of the biggest advantages that the Z900 possesses as a big bike and the clever packaging of the engine head by tilting it away from the rider is what helps the Z achieve this feat.

Complementing the engine is a well-judged chassis. In the classic case of not judging a book by its cover, the Z900’s 212kg kerb weight shouldn’t let one believe that the bike is a handful. Sure it will take a little effort to move it around in the parking lot but on the move, the bike is easy to handle. In fact, you will get comfortable with the Z’s size and weight in a matter of few days and from then on, you’ll find yourself maneuvering through traffic as if it were a smaller machine.

Kawasaki Z900 Front Suspension Preload Adjuster

The ride quality is well judged in stock settings and while there’s the scope of adjusting the rebound and preload of the suspension at both ends, I didn’t feel the need to tweak them over Mumbai’s poor roads. That said, more adjustability would be welcome. Even the brakes, though adequate, could do with more bite and a less intrusive ABS system.

Lastly, the Z900’s handling is predictable and it rarely gets upset with undulations and mid-corner bumps. The traction control system adds that extra layer of confidence in the machine but I’m certain that grippier rubber than the Dunlop Sportmax Road Sport tyres would unlock a little more of the chassis’ potential.

Should you buy it?

Kawasaki Z900 Right Rear Three Quarter

Throughout my time with the Kawasaki Z900 the one constant I felt was peace of mind. The Z900 didn’t throw tantrums while being ridden in heavy traffic or over poor roads. This, while ensuring that I never felt the need for more power or better handling dynamics. This has to be one of the easiest big bikes to live with in India. The cherry on top is its Rs 9.30 lakh price tag which makes it the least expensive bike in the class. It hardly is a surprise that this is the best selling inline-four engine equipped motorcycle in the country. Hence, as a package, the Kawasaki Z900 is unbeatable and then there’s the intoxicating sound of an inline-four engine, which in my books never gets old.

Photography by Kapil Angane

Gallery

Kawasaki Z900 Right Front Three Quarter
Kawasaki Z900 Right Rear Three Quarter
Kawasaki Z900 Front Suspension Preload Adjuster
Kawasaki Z900 Right Side View
Kawasaki Z900 Engine From Right
Kawasaki Z900 TFT / Instrument Cluster
Kawasaki Z900 Front View
Kawasaki Z900 Left Side View
Kawasaki Z900 Right Front Three Quarter
Kawasaki Z900 Left Front Three Quarter

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