50 Years of Z – Designing the Kawasaki Z900RS

50 Years of Z – Designing the Kawasaki Z900RS

2022 is the 50th anniversary of Kawasaki’s Z series of motorcycles. To help mark the occasion we’re looking at the development of the Z900RS, a retro-modern motorcycle that Kawasaki designed as a homage to the original Z1.  The Kawasaki Z1 is to motorcyclists what the Stratocaster is to musicians, the Ford Mustang is to car nuts or Megan Fox is to teenage boys. It’s an icon. So when Kawasaki decided to bestow the moniker on a new model it was […]

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2022 is the fiftieth anniversary of Kawasaki’s Z collection of bikes. To assist mark the instance we’re taking a look on the construction of the Z900RS, a retro-modern bike that Kawasaki designed as a homage to the unique Z1. 


The Kawasaki Z1 is to motorcyclists what the Stratocaster is to musicians, the Ford Mustang is to automotive nuts or Megan Fox is to teenage boys. It’s an icon. So when Kawasaki made up our minds to bestow the moniker on a brand new style it used to be a VERY BIG THING. They usually had been decided to make a challenge of it. They weren’t going to yank the panels off an outdated design, throw some new paint at it and shuffle off to sleep on a pile of cash (they’re now not Harley Davidson).

If the Z900RS used to be to be a real landmark free up the challenge needed to be a in reality particular motorcycle. It will need to be worthy of the Z moniker, and now not an inexpensive cash-in of the halcyon days of motorcycling. Input the elusive bike clothier Norikazu Matsumura (pictured proper beneath).

Kawasaki Z900RS Design Story

Kawasaki Z900RS Design Story

Matsumura-san and Kawasaki already had a historical past. He’d been used to move the design workforce that revised the W650 into the W800 — hiding a gas injection device so well into a unadorned it must bend over and cough to be observed. And the keen-eyed clothier used to be already a card-carrying, mask-wearing, hymn-chanting member of the Z1 cult. He’s were given certainly one of its descendants at house, the Zephyr 750, that he rides, fixes, modifies and stares at in his spare time. So what higher individual to move the styling workforce of the Z900RS?

Matsumura-san began with the tank. And whilst the teardrop design of the unique is certainly one of its maximum putting options, it’s additionally the toughest to duplicate with leading-edge era.

Kawasaki Z900RS Design Story

Kawasaki Z900RS Design Story

Trendy gas injection programs require an array of sensors, pumps, wiring and vacuums that sit down throughout the gas tank for defense and cooling. You couldn’t simply stick a gas pump device within the outdated style tank and hope to retain any roughly gas capability.

So as an alternative the brand new tank if truth be told sits down in the back of the aspect covers. This offers it the glance of being svelte, whilst if truth be told having a little bit of meat to it. It’s the shaping undies of the motorcycle international. All that cleverness offers the Z900RS a gas capability of 17 litres. Just one not up to the usual Kawasaki Z900.

On the rear finish, a redesigned subframe allowed the enduring ducktail seat to be fastened. Bam, you’ve were given a motorcycle that appears slightly like a Z1. And Norikazu will have ended it there. However the homages to 1972’s groundbreaking motorcycle are relatively a little bit deeper than you’d suppose. And that is the place Norikazu Matsumura’s eye for element got here into play.

Kawasaki Z900RS Design Story

Kawasaki Z900RS Design Story

Take the dual dials of the Kawasaki Z900RS. Positive, it’s a dual mount with a identical measurement and form to the originals. However the typeface is if truth be told the similar because the 1972 style and the needles had been modelled after the unique. It’s a tiny element that Kawasaki didn’t need to do. However they sought after to.

That continues with the end. Now not handiest does it have the difficult-to-replicate-without-getting-cancer ‘root beer’ scheme from the 70s, but it surely additionally options aspect duvet badges that experience a stippled impact beneath the ‘Z900RS’ textual content. That’s rattling arduous to make. And it’s the type of factor you’d handiest realize in the event you had been an obsessive rivet counter.

However that’s now not all. The LED taillight has the bulbs organized in this kind of manner it seems like the flare of an analogue globe within. The headlight is a damn-near reproduction of the 1972 style. And its operating gentle mode lighting up all of the unit, similar to an outdated Eastern motorcycle.

However there are omissions. Issues that individuals bitch about. They usually’re all improper.

Kawasaki Z900RS Design Story

Kawasaki Z900RS Design Story

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In the beginning, the wheels.

In darkened corners at Kawasaki HQ, arguments went again and forwards about the usage of spokes. And whilst it will had been ultimate to run a collection of heavy, pricey and difficult-to-maintain spokes, workforce inexperienced opted to run leading-edge alloy wheels. As a result of, smartly, they’re now not heavy, pricey and tough to preserve. However the spoke development is paying homage to a collection of wires, they usually’re completed with polished edges similar to a collection of 70s or 80s alloys. As a result of in the end Kawasaki sought after the Z to maintain like a brand new journey.

Kawasaki Z900RS Design Story

Kawasaki Z900RS Design Story

Because of this you’ll to find the Z900RS runs a 4-1 exhaust. Whilst the dual mufflers of the unique are no doubt a cornerstone of the design, extra weight isn’t. And the pretty usual stainless device is rattling close to a characteristic in itself.

Finally, the motorcycle is mono-shock. It doesn’t matter what the dribbling outdated bloke down the pub says about what makes a ‘real’ unfashionable motorcycle, Kawasaki made up our minds to chop no corners when it got here to dealing with. Dual surprise mounts are a heavy, vague and inefficient manner of controlling the again finish of a motorbike.

Moderately than a Triumph-like carbon reproduction or a difficult overdose on nostalgia like Harley Davidson, the Kawasaki Z900RS is a motorcycle that nods quietly to its historical past. It options all of the touchstones of what made the unique motorcycle so stunning, but it surely hasn’t sacrificed a unmarried factor to get there.

Tale by way of Marlon Slack   |   Images by way of Kawasaki Motors

Kawasaki Z900RS Design Story

Kawasaki Z900RS Design Story

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