2017 Kawasaki Z900: MD First Ride – Part 1

Okay, so I left the press launch without receiving any action photography. I am also exhausted from a very long day, so this short report will have to suffice until I have more photos and more energy.

Thank you for posting all the questions yesterday and earlier today. I will discuss several of those in Part 2, but for now I just want to talk about what it was like to ride the new Z900. Keep in mind as you read this that this is now the “flagship” naked in Kawasaki’s U.S. line-up (the Z1000 is gone). Priced at less than $9,000, that is a remarkable fact in itself.

Sure, this bike doesn’t have all of the latest electronic rider aids, such as traction control and selectable ignition maps. It is available with or without ABS, sort of like most “flagships” 5 years ago, or so. Frankly, we still think the price is remarkable because the Z900 is a fantastic motorcycle to ride.

The styling apparently remains controversial with our readership, but it is toned-down from the Z1000 (something Kawasaki specifically mentioned earlier today). We will talk about styling more in Part 2 — again, let’s just talk about riding this motorcycle. Frankly, what most of Kawasaki claims proved true during our first day testing. That is, that this bike is very fast, but simultaneously easy to ride and provides a sense of calm — I don’t know any other way to put it.

For an inline-four, vibration levels are very low, and throttle response is just about perfect when it comes to delivering the nearly linear (there is a bit of a “hit” at 6,000 rpm and up) power band. Kawasaki also spent a remarkable amount of time tuning the intake sound, and it is indeed fantastic. Almost intoxicating, in a sense. It doesn’t really sound like the intake noise coming from any inline-four we have ridden in the last few years. It has that same refined, smooth sense about it that the engine exudes as a whole.

This bike handles like a much smaller bike. If you jump on a Z900 after riding a cruiser, or even another naked with more relaxed steering, it could actually feel a bit nervous. This bike changes direction right now, but after you are calibrated to its nature, it can prove to be an asset for most riders. We did not experience any instability whatsoever, and the Z900 tracks where you point it without moving off line involuntarily.

As we noted with the Z650 we recently tested, we believe the Z900 benefits from the steel trellis frame. Steel has a much different vibration characteristic when compared with aluminum (if you ride bicycles, you might be aware of this), and both the Z650 and Z900, despite their quick handling, have a somewhat more organic feel than much of the competition. By this I mean excellent feedback (feel) though the frame from everything happening on the bike — from the tires’ contact patches to the engine response.

Did I mention the Z900 is fast? A certain, cocky Aprilia RSV4 rider I encountered earlier today could testify to the fact.

We will delve into all the technical details in Part 2, and directly address a number of the questions you have posed to Kawasaki. We did interview the Project Leader for the Z900, Seiji Hagio, although he had to speak through an interpreter. Stay tuned.

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