From every angle, Kawasaki have worked hard at its 2017 Z900 motorcycle. From the technical details to the bike’s design style, this lightweight in-line four machine has enjoyed much creative attention which should transfer to stares on the road.
‘Aggressive, condensed and elegant, this motorcycle quickens the heart rate. A longing flows through you and moves you with its Sugomi-inspired design,’ writes Kawasaki. ’You can feel the machine alive. Fall in love at first sight, introducing the all-new 2017 Kawasaki Z900 motorcycle.’
Designed for maximum riding pleasure, the new Z900 mounts a 948cc in-line, 4-cylinder engine into a new, ultra-lightweight, trellis frame. For those wondering about the design reference of 'Sugomi', wonde no more, it's a Japanese word that describes the intense aura and energy of an object that is felt in those viewing it. Translating this to the new Kawasaki Z900, it’s designed to evoke the thrill of motorcycling in those who see it up close.
Like many legendary Kawasaki 900cc-class in-line four machines before it, such as the Z1, Ninja GPz900R and Ninja ZX-9R, the Z900 motorcycle’s package delivers a sublime balance of power and handling – ideal for a supernaked model. Kawasaki wants this lightweight, nimble supernaked to redesign the large-displacement naked bike market with the crisp response of the Z900’s in-line-four cylinder engine perfectly balanced by its light, agile handling.
Power and torque
The new liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve 948cc inline four-cylinder engine offers impressive power and strong torque. Designed to complement the new chassis, with a lightweight, strong engine with plenty of torque, the 73.4 x 56.0 mm bore and stroke were chosen to create an engine design that exemplifies the thrill of acceleration.
Silky smooth response from mid-high rpm provides excellent driveability, with hard-hitting power delivery above 6,000 rpm. Good over-rev characteristics mean that power does not drop off suddenly at high rpm.
Four individual 36mm throttle bodies offer ideal mid-range power and the sub-throttles ensure smooth, sensitive throttle response. The downdraft throttle body layout creates the shortest distance possible for the fuel-air mixture, contributing to performance.
The manufacturing process used for the pistons on the Z900 motorcycle take a lesson from Kawasaki’s premiere supercharged sportbikes, the Ninja H2 and Ninja H2R. Lightweight and rigid, the pistons are formed using a unique casting process that scrapes unnecessary material to achieve the ideal thickness. This enables a lightweight piston, on par with forged pistons.
The Z900 uses “sound research” in creating the intake layout. This results in a mix of performance techniques and enhanced intake noise. Inside of the upward mounted airbox are varying length intake runners, with the two outside cylinders being longer than the inside two. This results in a tuning that helps both low and top end power output and provides an exhilarating intake noise during large amounts of throttle input. Twist the throttle and all of the rider’s senses are activated.
The exhaust system features a four-into-one-pre-chamber-into-silencer layout, with joint pipes linking the exhaust headers with headers 1-4, 2-3 linked, contributing to stronger mid-range torque for improved feeling. Silencer’s dual-chamber internal construction contributes to performance as well as the exhaust note, while ensuring noise regulations are met.
Use of stainless steel material on the end-cap and silencer cover adds a high-quality feel, while contributing to a stylish design that looks compact and light.
All this power is amplified through the Z900 motorcycle’s short gear ratios for first through fifth gears, delivering strong acceleration in the rpm range used in everyday riding, while sixth gear is a true overdrive gear.
The design of modern performance motorcycles has set the standard of not ‘if’ any technology will bleed off the racetrack but more, ‘how much’ will be seen in the everyday consumer models. The Assist and Slipper clutch on the Z900 borrows from engineering knowledge learned on the race track as well as from models like the Ninja H2R and Ninja ZX-10R. The clutch uses two types of cams, an assist cam and a slipper cam.
When the engine is operating at normal rpm the assist cam functions as a self-servo mechanism, pulling the clutch hub and operating plate together to compress the clutch plates. This allows the total clutch spring load to be reduced, resulting in a lighter clutch lever pull when operating the clutch.
When excessive engine braking occurs the slipper cam comes into play, forcing the clutch hub and operating plate apart. This relieves pressure on the clutch plates to reduce back-torque and help prevent the rear tire from hopping and skidding during quick deceleration.
Chassis and handling
Every rider interested in maximum thrills from their ride know the engine is only one part of the performance equation with the amount of mass it’s moving playing into the adrenaline-filled results.
A new, high-tensile steel, twin-spar, trellis frame design contributes significantly to the bike’s light, nimble handling. The approach to have the fewest bends and most straight lines in the frame allowed for a chassis that disperses stress extremely well. The frame design also trims all unnecessary material, helping cut down on weight.
The engine is rigid-mounted in five points on the engine, aiding in the nimble handling. Twin-tube type rear frame contributes to the bike’s low seat height with easy reach to the ground. Up front is a pair of 41mm inverted front forks which feature stepless rebound damping and spring preload adjustability. Adjustment is via the conveniently located fork top caps.
Horizontal-backed linked rear suspension positions the shock unit and linkage above the lightweight aluminum swing arm. This arrangement contributes to mass centralization, while ensuring that the suspension is located far enough from the exhaust that operation is not affected by heat. The rear shock is also adjustable, featuring rebound and preload adjustability. Settings offer both sporty performance and comfort, but most importantly offer light handling on the street and in the hills.
The Z900 features dual 300mm front petal disc brakes and a 250mm rear petal brake. This contributes to the high level of quality and sportiness. Dual opposed 4-piston calipers with resin brake pads offer a linear brake touch, facilitating control for the rider. The Z900 motorcycle is available with and without ABS.
Stylish star-pattern 5-spoke wheels contribute to light weight and quality appearance, while their high rigidity benefits handling.
There are two versions of the Z900, with ABS and without. It’s unclear why a rider wouldn’t have the widely available feature of ABS on their ride, not only is it a great safety feature but the technology eases bikers through the various learning curves of riding. Both versions are offered in the same colors;
- Pearl Mystic Gray/Metallic Flat Spark Black
- Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Spark Black
The 2017 Kawasaki Z900 ABS has a MSRP of $8,799 while the non-ABS version clocks in at $8,399.