Kawasaki Z900 [2017-2018] Review
This is the most economical way to get that four-cylinder hum from Team Green in this market. It isn’t merely an evolution of the Z800; it is a new motorcycle. How far does it raise the bar?
What is it?
The replacement for the Z800, meaning the entry to the CBU Kawasakis in India. It also means that this is the most economical way to get that four-cylinder hum from Team Green in this market. It isn’t merely an evolution of the Z800; it also gets a steel trellis frame to the 800’s beam frame. Also, the motor is a Z1000 block with a smaller bore, and not an evolution of the frankly more-than-adequate 800cc mill. In effect, it is a new frame mated to a downsized Z1000 motor.
How does it ride?
The Z900 isn’t as intimidating to sit on as it is to look at. It keeps you fairly upright, with little weight on your wrists. That makes it easy to ride around in the city. Out on the highway, this becomes a little hard on the neck because of the speeds it is capable of – but crouching is quite easy, too. The handlebar is a little too high for a completely committed position while hanging off in the corners, but it is not uncomfortably so. Getting on and off this bike needs you to be capable of a decent split – and you’ll need to leave those tight pants at home if they aren’t stretchy. That pillion seat cowl raises the rear to a significant amount; so much that everyone who swung a leg over the Z invariably kicked the cowl at least once.
It almost makes the desire for a Z1000 redundant. The Z800 had precious few negatives, but those included a kerb weight that exceeded that of its elder sibling. Not any more; the Z900 is 20kg lighter than the Z800, weighing in at 211kg. That isn’t supersport light, but it is a full ten per cent less than before. The motor displaces 948cc and offers 12 more horses compared to the 800. The focus has been on torque, which has increased by 17Nm. The absolute figures read 125bhp and 100Nm, that latter figure coming at 7700rpm. Surprisingly, the throttle is a cable-operated one. The gearbox is a six-speed unit with shorter overall ratios compared to the 800, but the top gear is a true overdrive. The clutch is a slipper unit and also has the assist function. The brakes have reduced in size, from 310mm to 300mm dual discs up front.
Those were the facts. What it feels like is your friendly neighbourhood pooch when you’re pottering around town, only to turn into a trained attack dog should you explore the midrange and above. The motor is flexible enough to accelerate without complaint from 50kmph in top gear, but the meat is in the midrange. Anything over 4000rpm will have you going faster than the usual traffic, and once past 6000rpm, you’re making serious progress. If you have the cojones, a slight pump of the throttle around that mark will have the front wheel rising in the first three gears, too. The cable throttle doesn’t offer any jerkiness – just a good, old-fashioned mechanical feel to the throttle that is much appreciated by us. Hauling it down from speed is also an easy affair, the brakes don’t require much effort, and the slipper clutch makes it so easy to just bang down through the gears instead of worrying about rear wheel chatter or hop. Handling isn’t as instant as, say, a Ducati Monster, but what you get in return is a machine that has no bad habits at all. It is eerily refined here – expansion joints, changes in camber, ridges… none of these things seem to matter to the Z900, and that is a tradeoff that we’re willing to live with.
Anything else I should know?
That ‘induction noise’ shtick sounded like a load of bull when we read about it, but it is true. You can’t hear much of the exhaust but on the bike, the induction roar makes up for the lack of exhaust volume. It isn’t unpleasant, and it is the right volume for most situations.
This bike also doesn’t have an electronics suite. There’s the ABS, and nothing else. You’re supposed to do the rest. That can be a deal breaker at the asking price, but the Z900 for the Indian market has a number of accessories that are fitted as standard. These include a radiator guard, shroud slider, tank pad, 12V power socket, that rear cowl and a larger instrument cluster cover that has touches of carbonfibre.
Why should I buy one?
Because you need this kind of fun in your life. The Z900 has the size of the Z800 but the fun of the Z1000 at a price that, well, the Z1000 used to occupy. It is also one of the few four-cylinder machines that is truly easy to live with in our conditions – it will deal with the surprises the road throws up with composure, and it won’t heat up very much in traffic. In the right (calm) hands, it will even make it to nearly 320km on a single tank of fuel, which is quite amazing.
Where does it fit in?
The Z900 has some very big names to contend with. The Benelli TNT 899 offers true old-school European flavour and character but the design shows its age now. The Ducati Monster 821 offers the same in a more modern, twin-cylinder package. The nearest true competition to the Z900 is the Yamaha MT-09. However, it is more expensive by Rs 70,000 at the ex-showroom level, making the Z900 the streetfighter to pick today. However, once the new Triumph Street Triple launches, that might change.
1. Arai Astro-IQ Second in the Arai street models hierarchy, the Astro-IQ is a comfortable, stable helmet at any speed. Price: 50,000
2. Alpinestars T-GP R Air A textile jacket that is a good middle ground between the protection of a textile jacket with the cooling of a mesh jacket thanks to the well-designed airflow, the T-GP Plus is one of the better jackets for an Indian summer. Price: Rs 16,500 (T-GP Plus Air)
3. Cortech by Tour Master Injector gloves These full-length gloves are a cross between a touring glove and a racing glove. This pair has moulded plastic for knuckle protection, a leather back and perforated leather in between the fingers for ventilation. A fleece liner will keep you warm during the winter - but is surprisingly good during the summer as well. Price: Rs 8700 before shipping and duties (Impulse RR)
4. Joe Rocket Phoenix 2.0 pants Mesh is a wonderful thing in our heat, and the Joe Rocket Phoenix mesh pants manage an ideal combination of protection via the removable armour and airflow. Price: 9600 (Phoenix Ion)
5. Alpinestars SMX-6 boots A full-length road-going boot, the SMX-6 has perforations all along the front of the boot, giving it great ventilation. It is comfortable enough to wear all day long. Price: Rs 21,500
Photos by Kapil Angane
Kawasaki Z800 ride review
Kawasaki Z1000 ride review
Full Review-Hide Review