Kawasaki had launched the all-new Z900 in 2017 in India and since then, not much has changed in the MY2019 motorcycle. It is the same new trellis frame which was mated to the downsized litre block that powers the Z1000. And now it gets a few refreshing touches – especially this paint scheme that particularly stands out.
I am generally not the one talking about looks, but this matte greyish paint with the bright cherry red frame and alloy wheels, along with the tribal-art decals on the shrouds and the tail cowl are a sight to behold. The Z900 now looks like that tattooed chiselled boy in the neighbourhood, the one who you would want to be seen with.
Top notch. The Z900 is a well-built machine. The paint quality is nice and so is the packaging. The plastics are not cheap and the fit and finish is uniform throughout. Being a global product, it has been designed to international standards and it reflects in the attention to detail. For example, you can access the adjustable rear shock absorber without having to open up half of the bike.
An upright handlebar will ensure that you are always upright on the motorcycle even if you are over six feet in height. Which means, the shoulders won’t tire out and the wrists will not hurt even after an entire day of riding.
The handlebar is wide, which makes weighing on it for purposes of manoeuvring the big Z900 quite easy. Also, the lock-to-lock angle of the steering is quite wide which turns out to be a boon, especially in traffic, allowing you to access those little gaps with ease. Sure, it does have its weight and that needs to be managed, but because it is so well balanced, that too isn’t much of a worry.
The seat cushion though is quite hard and will start getting to you after an hour or two, depending upon how accustomed you are to riding motorcycles. But having said that, the large seating area for the rider does allow you to move around quite a bit to find your ideal riding positions depending upon whether you are cruising or gunning.
The Z900 is all about pure performance. First up, the 948cc mill is silken in its delivery no matter what rpm it is being revved at. Pottering around in city, it acts perfectly lazy at lower revs. Riding at 50kmph in 6th gear is doable without any knocking. Being a large engine, it does tend to heat up a little, but that is only when it lumbers around for too long.
Open it up to the mid-range – 3500rpm to 7000rpm – and the Z900 will just begin to fly, cooling down in a couple of minutes. Though it is yet to hit the power-band, it certainly gives you an inkling as to what lurks beyond 7000rpm if you dare to whack it open.
Because then, you will not have time to think. The rev-limiter will cut off power even before you realise you had to shift. Meanwhile, the front wheel has already freed itself from its duties on the tarmac. Shift into second and the whole sequence repeats itself in exactly the same way, except at higher speeds. It is only after you shift into third gear, that you can actually comprehend the exact sequence of events.
As a rider, you need to experience all of this before you try and attack a corner. Because the sheer brutality of the opened throttle will catch you off-guard otherwise. But, if you have a steady head on your shoulders, the Z900 isn’t untameable. The right gear and the apt throttle will ease the motorcycle into a corner as if it were a supersport, egging you to go faster every time with all the grip and stability on offer. The firmly setup suspension and the Dunlop rubber provide consistent grip throughout and you will not miss out on the traction control on a bright sunny day. But if it is damp or wet, you need a very deft wrist to be able to manage the traction.
The brakes do a good job of reining in the Z900 and with the ABS to aid, the motorcycle is composed even under duress. Having said that, the front brakes do feel a tad muted in terms of feedback. Overall, the Z900 is fun and insane and will reward the brave but not the reckless.
Purists have always detested technology and it seems like the Z900 is one for that kind. It has a dual channel ABS along with a slipper clutch, but it misses out on traction control which is imperative especially when you have such humungous amount of power waiting to be unleashed.
The leash of the cable operated throttle has a different appeal in its mechanical charm and takes us to the old school way of riding where everything relied on the feedback from the bum and the precision of the wrist. But having said that, on a damp rainy morning or when you suddenly encounter sand or gravel on tarmac, it is these electronics that let you ride with peace.
On the other hand, Kawasaki has done a great job of relaying all the relevant information in that little digital speedometer. It reads out everything from instantaneous and average fuel economy to time, two trip meters and distance to empty along with speed, revs, temperature and gear indicator at the same time.
At 17.6kmpl in the city, the Z900 is quite efficient for an almost litre-class motor and a bike that weighs over 200kg. And that is thanks to the shorter gearing and loads of torque always available on the tap.
Fitness of Purpose
The Z900 has been built for the urban jungle and it does blend in perfectly. The manoeuvrability, balance and accessible power make it fun to ride in the city. Out on the highway, all you need to do is hold on to each gear a fraction longer and within no time it will be cruising in three figures. It holds up very well around corners for the ‘inspired ones’ and wouldn’t hold back from popping a wheelie whenever you whack it open. Sounds fun? It certainly is.
The Z900 is the ideal hooligan motorcycle – the new paint scheme with decals, 125bhp output from the 948cc motor and the four-cylinder wail. It handles well and seems ideal but the lack of electronics is certainly worth a thought, at least at this price tag of over Rs 10 lakhs on road in Mumbai. But then, the Z900 with its looks and performance strikes straight into the heart, not leaving much for the brain to think about!
Photography: Kaustubh Gandhi