Who’s keen to go fully retro in the 21st Century? By retro, I am referring the term specifically for motorcycles, not cars, fashion or even cameras, so to speak. Apparently, the market for retro lookalike motorcycles are getting quite popular globally, Malaysia included, which brings us to Kawasaki Motors Malaysia’s (KMSB) latest offering – the Z900RS Café.
The new Z900RS Café is based on the original Kawasaki Z1 motorcycle from the 80s era, which took American racer Eddie Lawson to several AMA Superbike victories (before he signed up with Yamaha to race 500cc Grand Prix). Like the original Z1, the new Z900RS Café is equipped with an inline four engine, albeit at a slightly smaller capacity – 948cc vs. 999cc for the Z1.
For the Z900RS Café, yes, it used the same 948cc engine that is derived from the 1,043cc variant which Kawasaki had utilised for several 1,000cc models – Z1000, Z1000R, Ninja 1000 and Versys 1000LT. The 948cc engine is now used for 5 different motorcycles in Kawasaki’s line-up – Z900 STD, Z900 SE, Z900RS STD, Z900RS SE and the afore-mentioned Z900RS Café, which is the main focus model for this review.
So there are five variants of motorcycles using the same engine in the line-up? What makes the Z900RS Café extra special than its four siblings, one might ask?
For starter, it’s the only one in that group which is equipped with a head cowl; with the other four variants being Streetfighter types aka naked sports, in both retro and modern designs. It’s also the only one featuring Kawasaki’s Lime Green colour option, which is not made available for the rest.
Does the addition of the Lime Green option and the cowling to the Z900RS Café has any effect to its overall performance? Yes and No, to be precise.
Yes in the sense of reducing the strong wind pressure when riding the Z900RS Café at high speeds. No as in the Lime Green colour option boosting the bike’s performance to the rider/owner but sure did make the Café more attention-grabbing as compared to its four Z900-series siblings.
Wind pressure reducing function does help in boosting economic fuel consumption as the lesser resistance the Café faces would allowed for better fuel mileage at higher speeds, an ability which is also possible via the Z900 SE in comparison against its Z900 STD sibling, which had higher fuel consumption from lacking a windshield that the former has.
When it comes to the on-road performance for the Z900RS Café, the smooth powerband it has provides superb acceleration, much like its two other RS-siblings. But neither the Z900RS Café nor its two Z900RS siblings possess the “bite” as the Z900 SE variant, thanks to the 125hp it has over the three RS-series models, which top out at 115hp, 10hp less.
On its own, the loss of 10hp may not be felt immediately if the rider/owner has never rode the Z900 SE before. There’s an obvious difference in the acceleration pace which the Z900 SE possess over the Z900RS Café, which is simply incomparable. While it may lack the utmost acceleration, the Z900RS Café made up for it with a sensational handling and performance for a retro-based, modern motorcycle.
However, that 10hp reduction in maximum power output did have another limitation – top speed performance is sacrificed further to boost the midrange torque for better touring and cruising capabilities. It has a slightly higher torque via its 5th/6th gears, which could be utilised for maintaining the riding momentum without the need of downshifting to either 3rd or 4th.
How much is the reduction of top speed did the Z900RS Café had to give up to boost its midrange torque? Well, the Z900 SE has a top speed of 252km/h from our review with it back in 2017 while the Café made do with just 230km/h while chasing down/trying to keep up with a Ninja ZX-636R at Karak Highway.
For the twisty segments of said highway, the Café had no issue in keeping up with that Ninja but once the latter reached the straighter segments, it’s more or less “Gone With Wind” for that particular Ninja. However, the Café was proven to be much stable than that Ninja on the twisty segments as we could see it shaking and twitching the rear wheel at the same time of ensuring the former won’t be able to overtake it.
There was never a plan of overtaking that Ninja ZX-636R, we just wanted to see if the Café could keep up with it. It sure did, at least until the end of the twisting segments. In terms of riding comfort, the Café was much better than most supersport bikes even when riding it at higher speeds, this was due to the extra weight it has over most supersport bikes.
Which led us to the final question – which of the three RS-series model is worthy to be purchased?
Our money goes to the Z900RS Café of course. It‘s more expensive than both the Z900RS STD and Z900RS SE but it’s also much cooler in appearance than both models.
For our reviews on the other Z900-series and Z900RS models, you can access them from these links: