After teasing us with a café racer version of Kawasaki’s new Z900RS at last fall’s EICMA show, Kawasaki USA confirms the Z900RS Cafe ($11,499) is coming to US dealerships this summer as a 2018 model.
The Z900RS Cafe cranks up the volume in the nostalgia department with its tidy Vintage Lime Green front cowl—loosely resembling the one fitted on “Steady” Eddie Lawson’s 1982 KZ1000R race replica. It encapsulates the bold and bright six-chamber LED headlamp affording a racier look while also providing wind protection. It’s further complemented by a short clear windscreen.
The Cafe trades the standard RS’ chrome handlebar for a black component with a lower rise and more swept-back bend. Similar to its brother, the handlebar is mounted above the triple clamp making it more cozy for casual rides. After all, cafe racers are known for their low-rise bars and demanding riding position. Not so with this one.
It also gets a different saddle with a deeper dish. A pronounced passenger hump invokes a sense of speed while positioning the passenger well above the rider. Seat height is a hint taller (0.8 inch) and listed at 32.3 inches according to Kawasaki’s press materials.
Other changes include a brushed aluminum four-into-one exhaust (the RS’ pipes are chrome) and different engine case covers emblazoned with “DOHC”—referencing double overhead camshaft valve train employed inside the 948cc inline-four engine.
Kawasaki engineers did a marvelous job with the RS’ liquid-cooled engine. Thankfully, this configuration is the same one powering the Cafe version. Not only does it look the part with faux cylinder air fins, it’s smooth with plenty of usable torque. The kind you want when blasting past the Tesla next to you. But what really sets the RS apart from its retro competition is the mesmerizing intake and exhaust howl that has to be heard to be believed.
The 16-valve engine drinks fuel from an eye-catching and teardrop-shaped 4.5-gallon gas tank. Two-way-adjustable Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC) is standard, as is ABS. A manual six-speed transmission, slipper action clutch, and chain final drive transfers power to pavement.
Instrumentation is a mix of old and new. A pair of round-face gauges are set outside a negative LCD (white on a black background) that displays fuel level, gear position, and other assorted trip functions.
The Cafe rides on the same chassis as the RS, backboned by a steel-trellis main frame that harnesses the engine in a rigid configuration. Front suspension is handled by a compression and rebound damping adjustable 41mm inverted fork moving through 4.7 inches. Rear suspension duties, on the other hand, are taken care of by a horizontally mounted back-link shock and an alloy swingarm. The shock offers spring preload and rebound adjustment with 5.5 inches of travel. Wheelbase is listed at 57.9 inches—0.2 inch shorter than the Z900RS.
Handsome contrast-cut alloy wheels are shod in Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300 rubber (120/70-17 front, 180/55-17 rear). Braking hardware consists of twin 300mm rotors gripped by a stiff set of radial-mount four-piston calipers. A sturdy radial-pump master cylinder pushes hydraulic fluid through the system. A single 250mm disc is used at the rear.
Although Kawasaki states that the Cafe will be a limited-edition model, there’s no word on how many units it will be importing. Later today, we’ll be attending the Green Team’s official unveil in Malibu, California, where we can see, look, and touch the motorcycle. But we’ll have to wait until another time to swing a leg over it. Stay tuned…