Kawasaki Z900RS (2022) Review


Price: £11,385 | Power: 109bhp | Weight: 215kg | Overall BikeSocial Rating: 3/5


Kawasaki’s Z900RS harks back to what many people think of as a golden age of motorcycling – big, hairy air-cooled inline fours like Kawasaki’s legendary 1972 Z1, naked as the day it was born, with a leather jacket-clad rider, all bearded and be-tattooed, careering off into the sunset like a chip shop Bat Of Hell. You remember; the 1970s, when things were simple, like frames that flexed, disc brakes that didn’t work in the wet, suspension that didn’t work in the dry, and tyres that didn’t work in either. Life was so much better then.

Kawasaki are fond of mining their past – having built the original superbike, they were the first to build a nostalgically-styled tribute act – the range of Zephyrs in 1990 – only 18 years later. Then we got the ZRX1100 in 1997, followed by an uprated ZRX1200 that was only discontinued in Japan in 2017. So Kawasaki have been recycling history for longer than the history actually existed, which is a bit meta.

The Z900RS was launched in 2018 (seems like longer ago, but maybe that’s the point) and it’s the same bike now as it was then, with no significant updates bar colours.

Is there anything to the Z900RS beyond whimsical nostalgia? We ride the 2022 Z900RS and pitch it against the Yamaha XSR900 to find out.


Head-to-Head: Kawasaki Z900RS vs Yamaha XSR900 (2022)

Esteemed moto-journalists and seasoned BikeSocial contributors, Simon Hargreaves and Adam Child, come together to cogitate over these two retro-lookers

Pros & Cons
  • looks – it’s not even close to authentic, but it looks great anyway
  • sound – great gargling, especially at low revs
  • engine – plenty of old school grunge, and lots of top end power
  • rear grip – suspect when you’re tonking on a bit
  • stock tyres – get rid as soon as you can for a big improvement in feedback
  • looks – wish it had a genuine air-cooled motor, wire spoke wheels, rwu forks, twin shocks, a biking fairing... and cruise control and a quickshifter


Review – In Detail


Kawasaki Z900RS 2022 Price & PCP

The Z900RS comes in multiple trim specs and prices. For 2022, OTR prices are: £11,385 for the Metallic Diablo Black, or £300 more at £11,685 for Candy Tone Blue or Metallic Dark Green (the bike we have here).

PCP terms for a 2022 Z900RS in Metallic Dark Green

OTR price


35 months












 But there’s more! There are two further versions – a Z900RS 50th Anniversary edition with layered paint to mimic the colour of the original 1972 Z1, plus gold wheels and added logos, for £11,985. Or a bling option is the £13,035 Z900RS SE, with Öhlins shock, uprated forks, Brembo calipers, special colours and graphics. It’s been listed as sold out for most of 2022 (were any ever actually imported?).

For 2023, prices go up £311 to a flat £11,955 for the base 900RS in any colour, and the SE goes up £270 to £13,305. There is no 51st Anniversary edition, because that would be silly.

PCP terms for a 2023 Z900RS in Metallic Diablo Black & Metallic Imperial Red

OTR price


35 months














Kawasaki Z900RS 2022 Engine & Performance

The Z900RS has a 948cc water-cooled inline four making 110bhp at 8500rpm and 73 lb.ft at 6500rpm. Drive is delivered in a long, linear growling howl of acceleration with no discernible bumps or dips – just a smooth, elongated surge, growing in intensity until it peaks at a zillion rpm and the hairs on the back of your spuds are standing to attention (lady owners please insert equivalent anatomical reference; I wouldn’t presume).

In classic Kawasaki inline four fashion there’s a distinct ‘drawing-of-breath’ as the Z900RS motor winds itself up in response to the throttle being snapped open. It’s not a hesitation, there’s no fluffery, stuttering or snatch – but engine response is slightly muted at first; a sense of the motor waking up to get going. Most modern engines (I’m thinking parallel twins and inline triples – Yamaha’s XSR900 is a good example) tend to hit the ground running – open the gas and they’re already there, chomping at the bit and gagging to deliver forward momentum. They’re fully on it, alert and primed. In contrast, the Z900RS gathers itself up before flinging itself at the vanishing point – as if its crank and pistons take factionally longer to spin up and generate the desired hair-raising performance. You can almost feel the time it takes fuel to mix with air, pouring into the inlet tracts, swirling in the combustion chambers before burning and pushing pistons into action. It’s not a delay, not a lag – just an elongation of performance. In a way, it’s proper old school, so in that sense it matches the bike’s vibe (although if Kawasaki wanted to make the Z900RS engine properly retro, they should’ve added a choke and made it tick-over at 5000rpm when cold).

But once it’s hot and spinning, the Z900 delivers a steady increase in drive until the motor comes on cam around 6000rpm – after which it, again in classic inline four mode, it surges to a scream. And at its top end, this is a rapid engine – it has plenty of zasp in it once it’s in its stride, bringing back old-but-gold memories of hanging onto the bars for dear life as yer naked bike fires off down the road, rider flapping behind like a kite.

The Z900RS motor is a sleeved-down derivative of the 2010 Z1000 motor – same stroke, narrower bores – which is itself the same engine that powers the Z1000SX and Versys. The RS engine is also, internally, a retuned Z900 engine – lots of shared parts, dressed in different engine covers and cosmetics.

The Kawasaki’s power delivery and character is partly down to its configuration – more pistons to spin, longer crank to twist etc – but also because it’s retuned from the standard Z900 motor – milder cam timing (less lift, shorter duration, less overlap), lower compression, smaller intake valves, lighter springs and narrower headers all contrive to shift peak torque and peak power lower in the rev range. And a heavier flywheel also helps slow engine response. Which is what you’d want, traditionally, with a traditional sit-up-and-beg naked bike.

And speaking of tradition, the Z900RS features a conventional, unassisted gear-change. It’s a neat shift – bit of a ker-lunck dropping into first – but, significantly, there’s no quickshifter and no option for one (it isn’t listed on Kawasaki’s website). Z900RS stans will be quick to point out it has no place on a bike trying to imitate a 1972 Z1 – but it wouldn’t hurt visually; and so many bikes have them now, it’s noticeably disappointing not to have it.

Nice low frequency grumble-gargle from the exhaust though – when it first gets going, there’s a pleasing, off-beat warble to the sound. Not sure how Kawasaki do it – almost sounds off-beat, and not like an inline four at all. Surprisingly loud, too.



Kawasaki Z900RS 2022 Handling & Suspension

Just as the Z900RE motor is a modded Z900 motor, so the RS’ steel tube frame is also a much-modified version of the Z900 frame – with concessions for the classic shape of the RS’s fuel tank and a flatter welded subframe to differentiate between the RS’s one-piece classic seat and the Z900’s upswept tail. The RS’s frame also has pressed steel side plates; the Z900’s are a continuation of steel tubes, so the two bikes’ chassis are a long way from interchangeable. A Kawasaki bod on the production line wouldn’t get very far trying to bolt RS parts to a Z900 frame. Mind you, the aluminium swingarm is common between the two bikes, differing only in paint finish: the Z900 is matte black, the Z900RS is gloss.

At the pointy end, forks are higher spec than the Z900, with upside down 41mm KYB, fully adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping. At the back lives a semi-adjustable KYB shock. Neither are what you’d call visually authentic to the 1970s period – but we’ll get to looks later.

The Z900RS isn’t a big, hairy muscle bike – it’s not intimidating – but it ain’t no flyweight; 215kg dripping wet is a comfortable chunk, but not something you want to push around a gravel car park for too long. But on the roll the Z steers tightly, with a sharp turning circle, confident low speed balance and, up to its design pace of moderate riding, accurate, stable and controlled on the brakes and turning in. Easy to use, nothing to get a sweat on over as long as you keep it on the sensible side of sporty. Get a bit giddy, and suspension – and tyres – loosen their grip on the bike’s weight slightly.

The back feigned to slide twice on the test ride, just at the moment of picking the bike up mid-corner and getting on the gas, at a decent-but-not-indecent pace – not an actual loss of grip, but a distinct warning the limit was there or thereabouts. More of a greasy, oo-er thing. You could say it’s good the bike gives due notice without actually letting go, but it’s not the first time it’s happened to me on an RS: I noticed the same thing on a Bridgestone BT32 tyre launch in hot weather on grippy roads in Italy last year; everything’s fine to a point – and, to be fair, in the dry that point is at the outer edge of the RS’s performance envelope, past the bit you have to lick. But it arrives sooner than it does on comparable bikes in the same conditions. And the BT32 is a bloody good tyre, so we can count that out. A quick glance (well, not that quick) at the blueprints of the back end of a Z900RS and a Z900 shows everything is common bar the shock and the central swingarm linkage rod (which sets the lever ratio over the shock), and the Z900 doesn’t have the same greasy feeling in extremis – so maybe that’s where the culprit lives. Or maybe it’s in my head. But it isn’t.

But overall, the RS handles the way it looks like it should – it hasn’t got a hint of sporty in it and prefers to lounge about with an unflustered ease. Ride quality is only average – bumps and ripples in the road feed back into the chassis and give the RS a slightly gritty feel from its springs. Chances are it can be improved by sacking off uninspiring Dunlop Sportmax tyres for something with more snottiness in them.

Nothing noteworthy about the Z900RS’s brakes – adequate stopping power from the Kawasaki-branded, Tokico-made radial 4-pot calipers, mounted on 300mm discs with a radial master cylinder. Again, it’s a better brake spec than the standard Z900, which has conventionally mounted calipers.



Kawasaki Z900RS 2022 Comfort & Economy

No-one buys a Z900RS for the tank range – tank paint, definitely – but the Z isn’t thirsty: 45mpg (against a claimed 54mpg!) gives a range of 170 miles to empty, with fuel light flashing at around 130 to 145 miles and another 35 miles left in reserve.

The RS is a traditional sit-up-and-beg stance – feet under hips, back ram-rod straight, arms a nice reach to the wide bars. The seat is wide, flat, deeply padded and ribbed for extra comfort.

The result is a natural, relaxed ride – obviously, providing pace is kept under 80mph and/or the headwind isn’t too fierce. Back in the old days, before fairings were invented and all bikes were naked, hanging on for dear life was a mark of engine performance; a badge of honour – the faster the bike, the harder it was to hold on and steer it. Nowadays we have a choice; it’s not a surprise to buy a Z900RS and find you can’t easily take it high-speed touring.

When the Z900RS first appeared in 2018 it came with a substantial nose-cone fairing, the Café option. I thought this was easily the best RS version because it looked cool and added a significant layer of practicality, but no-else agreed because it was discontinued in 2020.



Kawasaki Z900RS 2022 Equipment & styling finish

An LCD dash sits between two chrome-ringed analogue-style clocks (with the same font as the original 1972 Z1). There are some basic electronics on the RS; two rider modes – mode 1 and mode 2! – switch between traction control intervention settings – 1 is the least, 2 the most so probably the one you’d use in the wet. I couldn’t detect a change in throttle response between the two. Another option is to turn the traction control off – easy long button-push – and pull wheelies galore.

The RS also comes with ABS, but that’s the limit – no quick shifter, heated grips, centre stand or cruise control. All could be fitted or available without detracting from the RS’s retro image, but aren’t.

This is the real reason to buy a Z900RS – because it looks good whether it’s on your own in the garage, out on the road drawing admiring glances, or parked up at the local bike meet pulling in conversation with strangers. It’s a handsome beast. The paint is deep and glossy, with a high metallic content (do they still use metal flake, or is it all mica-based these days?) glinting in sunlight to really ping out. Badges are authentic too, even down to the stippling effect on the white inlays in the Z900 logo.

Although there are clearly platform engineering compromises going on with so many crossover elements shared with the standard, modern-styled Z900, it’s fairly hard to spot what they are at a passing glance – Kawasaki have done a good job of making the RS appear as a bespoke, discrete model. You wouldn’t immediately guess the two bikes are as closely related as they are.



Kawasaki Z900RS 2022 Rivals


2022 Yamaha XSR900 | Price: £10,200

  • Power/Torque: 117bhp/69lb-ft | Weight: 193kg
  • Thoroughly modern inline triple with incredible engine character, blistering chassis response and quality detail touches. Retro done rad


2022 Suzuki Katana | Price: £12,229

  • Power/Torque: 150bhp/78lb-ft | Weight: 215kg
  • Previous generation GSX-S1000 in a frock, the Katana is overpriced but the GSX-R1000 engine is awesome, handling is excellent and tank range minimal. Retro done ridiculous


2022 BMW R nineT | Price: £13,480

  • Power/Torque: 109bhp/86lb-ft | Weight: 221kg
  • Old 1170cc flat twin is belter, quality hardware, bit uncomfortable, lots of versions and accessory options. Retro done rücksichtslos


2022 Triumph Bonneville T120 | Price: £11,295

  • Power/Torque: 79bhp/77lb-ft | Weight: 236kg
  • 1200cc flag-waving parallel twin thumpery in effective new/old styling. Bit one-trick, but solid and lots of custom options. Retro done royally


In terms of rivals, it’s hard to choose direct competitors because the Z900RS is almost in a class of one. Yamaha’s XSR900 is the most obvious choice, but it’s playing a slightly different game; it’s a 2022 engine, chassis and electronics package with some retro-style nods, and not reviving the look of any specific bike from the past. The Z900RS is clearly imitating a 1970s Z1. Honda don’t make an equivalent retro (the CB1100 was discontinued a few years ago), and neither do Suzuki (the Katana is closest, but it’s more akin to the XSR).

BMW’s R nineT is worth considering as is Triumph’s Bonneville T120; both retro, both modern underneath.


2022 Kawasaki Z900RS Review Price Spec_23


Kawasaki Z900RS Verdict

The Z900RS might be a bit obvious – it’s a Z1-a-like, job done – but it actually brings what turns out to be a unique perspective on the classic-styled, retro machine; for all the Japanese big-aircooled late-1970s-to-1980s history, with the passing of Yamaha’s XJR1300 and Honda’s CB1100, the Kawasaki is the last traditional-looking retro standing (does Suzuki’s Katana count in that class? No). Even if it most of it isn’t really retro.

And it does what it says; big, fast, hearty motor that revs up with a punch, fairly handy chassis that rewards riding the bike inside its performance boundary but isn’t keen on sporting it up a bit (just like the old days, come to think of it), and all the garage wood you can muster when it’s parked up and you’re staring at it with a brew in your spare hand.


Kawasaki Z900RS Technical Specification

New price

From £11,259 (£11,529 as tested)



Bore x Stroke

73.4 x 56.0mm

Engine layout

Water cooled inline four


110bhp (82kW) @ 8500rpm


73 lb-ft (99Nm) @ 6500rpm


6 speed, chain

Average fuel consumption

54mpg (claimed)

Tank size

17 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

200 miles

Reserve capacity (theoretical)

47 miles

Rider aids

Two rider modes, basic traction control, ABS, slipper clutch


Tube steel, aluminium swingarm

Front suspension

41mm usd

Front suspension adjustment

Fully adjustable preload, rebound and compression

Rear suspension

Monoshock with rising rate linkage

Rear suspension adjustment

Preload and rebound only

Front brake

2 x 300mm discs, unbranded 4-pot radial calipers

Rear brake

250mm disc, Nissin 1-pot caliper

Front tyre

120/70 R17 Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300

Rear tyre

180/50 R17 Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300




2100mm x 865mm x 1150mm (LxWxH)



Ground clearance


Seat height


Kerb weight



Unlimited miles / 2 years


First service 600 miles, then at 3750 inspection, then every 7500 miles, valves at 26,000 miles

MCIA Secured Rating

3/5 stars (Steering lock, Immobiliser and Datatag Marking but no Alarm or Tracker)




Looking for motorbike insurance? Get your Kawasaki bike insurance quote today!


2022 Kawasaki Z900RS Review Price Spec_24


What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars, based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

  • A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard
  • An ignition immobiliser system
  • A vehicle marking system
  • An alarm system
  • A vehicle tracking system with subscription

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has, and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.