Kawasaki Z900 vs. Z1000

z factor mainimageKawasaki has placed their Z800 into the tomb/museum of past Kawasaki motorbikes and in steps the new Z900 in its place. So why not test ‘that’ against ‘that’ then, I hear you shout? Well two big reasons dudes and dudesses: One, the Z800 is even heavier than the Z1000 so why bother, and two, the Z900’s engine is a sleeved down version of the Z1000, not a big-bore version of the Z800, so there.

Right, that’s that dealt with quickly seeing as the Z900 is far superior to the Z800 and, some say, that the Z900 will shortly replace the Z1000 anyway. So after a quick call to Fourways Kawasaki they let us loose on two of their machines, and I mean let loose.

We decided in the interest of childish curiosity to speed test them, perform dyno runs and of course discover which one pulls the best wheelies, seeing as they’re billed as insane naked street bikes and people who own these do that sort of thing, maybe.z factor  GROUPED01

Now Kawasaki has always been associated with powerful engines so our first visit was to the Dynojet dyno to see how much power is lost from the 2016 Z1000’s 1,043cc engine to the 2017 Z900’s 948cc lump. And… surprisingly not much at all! A claimed 140hp from the 2016 Z1000 transpired into 116 rear wheel horsepower and 91Nm of torque. The more modern Z900 with a claimed 123hp makes – wait for it - 113hp and 90Nm, er, OK. The Z1000 does make a bit more torque due to capacity between 3-6,000rpm and bit more peak power over 8,000rpm towards the identical 10,500rpm rev-limiter. Pretty much the same in our minds but more impressive in the Z900’s favour.z factor  dyno

So similar outright horsepower but far from similar scale weights. The Z900 now has an all-new steel trellis frame derived from their H2 supercharged weapon and the Z1000 has that massive beam frame surrounding the engine. We much prefer the Z900 frame because it shows more of the engine and it has a better finish, as indeed has the rest of the bike and Kawasaki are making huge leaps forward in this area with all their bikes, which is nice.z factor  GROUPED02

What we have now is 223kg+ versus 200kg+, either way around 20kg is a lot of weight; ask your partner who’s on a lettuce and cabbage diet? And you certainly feel it within 100m of riding the Z900. The engine also feels so much smoother than the Z1000 and that’s not just because the Z900 is a new bike either. It feels like the Z900’s engine is full of KY jelly instead of oil. If you don’t know what KY jelly is you’re probably too young, so go ask your parents and watch them blush.z factor  middle

If the Z1000 is still available, which it is, is the Z1000 better in any way then? Well in some areas yes. The suspension is noticeably harder than the Z900 but has more adjustability, which is better if you enjoy a track day or three. We also felt the brakes on the Z1000 are much sharper due to better callipers and radial mounting, nothing wrong with the Z900 offerings though. And the clocks on the Z1000 are nicer to observe than the Z900’s, which unfortunately do look a little on the cheap side.z factor  GROUPED03

Neither bikes have any electronic intervention besides the obligatory ABS. This does keep the cost down to a very commendable R139,995 for the Z900 and Kawasaki now offers the 2016 Z1000 for R136,995, so the choice is yours but after ‘playing’ on the Z900 for a week the choice is easy and it’s 948cc please.

Anyway, back to the riding and thrashing, er, we mean ‘professional’ testing. While the Z1000 feels ‘beefy’ and butch, which isn’t surprising seeing as it has remained the same for at least five years besides a facelift in 2014, the Z900 feels like a refined motorbike from 2017. The clutch action on the Z900 (with slipper-assist to prevent wheel lock when over eager downshifts occur) is hyper-light as is the throttle action and the gearbox, well it’s filled with KY jelly, or similar. Overall the Z900 is so easy to ride that any learner can easily get to grips within a matter of minutes. It really is one of the nicest bikes currently available and you have to go and try one for yourself to become as convinced as we are.z factor  GROUPED04

That said it can instantly turn into a wild child and if you enjoy a wheelie or twelve the Z900 is one of the best we’ve ever ridden in that department. Pull it up in second, if you have the ability, and go through into fourth and at least a kilometer or more is your reward. Tremendous! We did notice that while the front wheel is pointing to the moon for a ‘pub bragging’ distance the ABS stopped working, no idea why, besides sending the ECU into very confused mode. Look the Z1000 can still lift a monster but not as easily as the Z900, less weight always wins, right? But the outright performance winner had to be decided with an acceleration test/top speed run using a Performance Box Racelogic device, accurate to within 1km/h and recording ‘real world’ figures in the process. The results can be read below and we rode them wearing normal jeans/jacket clothing and not full and slippery leather suits. Interesting results and again near identical figures. Mid 11-second quarter-mile times at our 1500m altitude are impressive, as are the acceleration and top speed figures of these naked machines. No supercar on the road will come near and their four tyres will probably cost more than these bikes, ha, have some of that Lamborghini rich boy!z factor  wheelie

The Z900 name is back from the 70s and we love it. One of the best motorbikes currently available for many reasons but the main being it’s so much fun to ride. Sure the Z1000 is still a good bike but it’s basically five years old now and we all know how that affects the cell phone world. Long live the Z!

Z1000                                                      Z900

0-100             3.4 seconds                       3.5 seconds

0-160             7.1 seconds                       7.2 seconds

Quarter mile  11.5 @ 196.7 km/h.            11.5 @ 195.8km/h

Top speed      237.1 km/h                        232.9km/h

Go to www.fourwaysmotorcycles.co.za to ride these bikes.

pics by Gareth Davidson     

z factor  lastend bike test

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