You don’t always get a second chance in life so full marks to Kawasaki for going back to the future with the Z900RS - its tribute to the legendary Z1.
The king of cool in the ’70s, the Z1 was the most powerful Japanese four-cylinder, four-stroke motorbike (with a whopping 82hp!) when launched and achieved cult status.
In its heyday I was a fresh-faced Yamaha ‘Fizzy’ rider and - while there was no way I was going to be able to insure, let alone buy, one - it was my dream bike.
So, nearly 45 year later, I could not resist living my dream and riding the Z900RS. It was everything I hoped it would be… and more.
While inspired by the Z1, the Z900RS is a modern motorcycle, with fuel injection, liquid cooling and electronic rider aids, but its retro roots are clear to see. It pays homage to the Z1 and the attention to detail is superb as it strives to innovate rather than imitate the ‘70s superbike.
Fire up the 948cc, four-cylinder and the exhaust note sounds full of promise, especially with the optional Yoshimura end can, while the ‘fake’ fins hark back to its air-cooled ancestor.
I was expecting a rev-hungry sports bike but was pleasantly surprised by the 111PS engine’s flexibility with 98.5Nm of torque at 6,500rpm. It has been tuned for better low and mid-range torque delivery so pulls happily at 3,000rpm in sixth gear, picking up cleanly as you wind back the throttle.
Make use of the slick six-speed gearbox and light assist and slipper clutch and the Z900RS really comes alive, responding instantly as the revs rise but never feeling strained. It makes for a relaxed cruiser and a raunchy sports bike.
It’s also compact and reasonably light at 215kg which aids agility. It steers effortlessly so is fun flicking through twists and turns. The adjustable suspension, with single rear shock rather than its predecessor’s twin set-up, is firm enough to hold the Z900RS tight through corners but well damped to keep the ride composed on poor country roads.
I’m only 5ft 8in tall but felt quite confident holding the bike up when stationary with the 835mm seat height but there’s also a lower 35mm option too.
The riding position is well set up, with higher bars than the bubble fared Z900RS Café version and footpegs just far enough back to make you lean forwards slightly. So you could happily cover long motorway journeys on this naked bike without too much wind buffeting.
I was also sold on the modern take on traditional clocks. It’s a treat watching needles rising and falling rather than digital displays which are reserved for the central clock, trip computer, temperature and fuel gauges and gear indicator.
So I might finally aspire to my dream bike in the Z900RS, especially in the new metallic green and yellow finish.
It will do everything I want of it and hopefully wind a few years off my clock too. But would a topbox be wrong and give away my age!
And they’re also set to be cool cult classics.
Find out more about the Kawasaki Z900RS at orwell.co.uk/kawasaki/new-kawasaki-motorcycle-range