The Kawasaki Z900RS is getting an update for its next model year, and Kawasaki is thankfully making this new release more colorful than the last models in its retro lineup. This is a good thing, because even though I’m a big fan of the retro revival that bikes are currently enjoying, I would like to see more bike makers besides Ducati come out with splashy paint finishes.
The update to the Z900RS adds an SE to the model name, and a new “Yellow Ball” finish. It’s been announced in Europe only for now, but it could make its way to American roads. My fingers are crossed.
The Z900RS SE has a few mechanical upgrades but it mostly just looks brighter. The non-cosmetic upgrades to the Z900RS are pretty good, and have to do mostly with the suspension and the braking components.
The new bike gets Öhlins shocks both front and rear. The rear shock features rebound damping and preload adjustability, while the front gets inverted forks, sporting the cool yellow finish we’ve come to associate with Öhlins. The new Brembo brakes have stainless-steel braided lines, but the calipers aren’t in their usual bright red finish. That’s fine here, because the new wheels already come in a beautiful gold tone. No need to clash colors.
The Z900RS SE remains as well-equipped as last year’s Z900RS. The 948cc inline-four engine is still there. Rider aids include traction control and an assist and slipper clutch. Don’t forget the ABS on the Brembos. Kawasaki says that the bike features a new “tuned” stainless steel exhaust system, but the exhaust note was already good to begin with.
The engine on this Kawi series is a screamer, for sure. It scared me half to death when I rode a Z900RS Cafe earlier this year. It’s an aggressive bike with a jumpy power band, and it lets you know that you’re essentially riding a kilo-bike. It’s 52ccs shy, but you can feel the latent horses at your wrist. The bike makes just under 110 horsepower and about 72 lb-ft of torque at 6,500 RPM.
My main gripe with that bike, other than it being too powerful, was its looks. It’s bad enough that our cars have become muted blobs without having to look at café racers wearing crossover color ways, like the boring slate of the bike I rode. The new Z900RS SE’s bright tones are a welcome change that nod to the bike’s heritage. Let’s hope Kawasaki brings this “Yellow Ball” styling to U.S. bikes, too.