Test ride: Retro special – Kawasaki Z650RS

Nostalgia is a big seller and Kawasaki’s Z900RS is proof.

Four years after the Z900RS homage to the original Z1, Kawasaki has added another string to its 650 bow with a new retro star – the Z650RS.

It features ’70s-style bodywork and colour schemes, like its big brother, but I also like the way it harks back to an era when motorbikes were simpler. When the rider, not a suite of electronic aids and hi-tech gizmos, was in charge and felt at one with their steed.

That’s not to say the Z650RS doesn’t boast modern safety features but it steers clear of fancy frills and fussy features that many riders can live without.

And that’s what makes this magnificent middleweight so appealing.

Purists might sneer at it having only a 649cc, parallel twin engine, rather than four cylinders, but this tried-and-tested unit is a great all-rounder.

It’s surprisingly flexible thanks to 64Nm of torque at 6,700rpm, and is able to putter and pop along at urban speeds in sixth gear. Wind it over 5,000rpm and it comes alive, accompanied by a throaty exhaust note that enhances the sense of speed as the needles swing round the traditional dials.

It may put out only 68PS at 8,000rpm but every one of those horses pulls its weight.

And it’s frugal too with 65mpg in mixed riding on the test route. Good news, given the high price of petrol.

Twin 300mm front discs provide a fine blend of reassuringly powerful, well-controlled braking whatever the road conditions. The single 220mm rear disk is fine for delicate, low-speed control in traffic.

The suspension is simple too. The front forks have no adjustment, but are well damped, and you can tweak the preload for the rear shock.

The way the Z650RS copes with the bumps and lumps of urban riding but feels light and agile through the twists and turns on country roads speaks volumes for its chassis set-up.

It’s easy to ride from the off and inspires confidence with its sense of fun.

That compact engine keeps the frame narrow which adds to the sense of oneness of man, or woman, with machine and makes weaving this highly-manoeuvrable motorbike through tight traffic a doddle.

The riding position is comfortable, whether tackling traffic or fast cruising, with high bars taking the strain off your back while the footpegs are set back enough for a sporty stance without stressing worn knees!

The twin dials with central multi-function LCD display are easy to take in at a glance and a clear example of the fine attention to detail and quality feel of this motorbike.

The simplicity of the Z650RS is reflected in the prices – £7,649 for metallic spark black and £7,799 for candy emerald green and metallic moondust grey and ebony – which seem great value, given the fun factor and standout styling.

Kawasaki says the Z650RS boasts the lovingly distilled spirit of Retrovolution.

This latest modern classic is all about the pure and simple pleasure of riding a well-sorted middleweight motorbike that makes a statement for all the right reasons.

Find out more about the Kawasaki Z650RS at orwell.co.uk/kawasaki/new-kawasaki-motorcycle-range/modern-classic/z650-rs

Watch our test Z650RS test ride video