A happy-go-twisty right wrist will have you lifting up the front of the bike with a fair amount of ease.
Fully faired sport bikes are fast, so fast that they look fast even standing still. But there is a compromise there. Low set handlebars, the stiff suspension, the super-sensitive throttle, all of these make them extremely potent track bikes, but out on a normal street, they can be a bit tiresome to ride. Enter naked bikes. The street-friendly sport bike.
Now these bikes may not have the fairing to look fast, but all the essential bits from their sport cousins have been handed down to them. They are just as fast as sport bikes on the street, but with softer suspension for those bumps and ditches, a lighter throttle for smoother progression, a more upright seating position for those back aches. One such bike is the Kawasaki Z900. That's what I got to ride.
Let's talk about looks first? It takes all of its cues from the Sugomi design of the Z1000 and the Z800 that it replaces. That same aggressive styling, the angry headlamp that someone told me reminds them of an ant, and even the tail lamp that lights up in the shape of a 'Z' all come down from the other two bikes.
The chassis too gets a paint job - red or green – and stands in contrast to the rest of the bike's dark grey paint. The Z900 is not as sharp as the Z800, but with its muscular stance, it commands all the attention on the streets.
Our test involved a lot of city riding and with that comes a lot of different traffic conditions. The first thing that is apparent is the sheer amount of power available to you at just a slight twist of the throttle.
The 948cc of raw power churning out 125 horses is much more than you can ask for on streets. But the torque spread is generous – sixth gear at 50 km/h does nothing to make the engine complain. Above the 5,000 rpm mark however, the Z900 comes into its own. On a clean straight road, you can bang through the gears with the speedometer climbing equally fast. The trouble here is, you end up having to back off the throttle before your stretch of road nears the end.
What I absolutely love about the Z900 is the slipper clutch. While it makes hard downshifts less scary, it makes the clutch lever extremely light to pull. This means your forearm gets less of a work out.
Now there are absolutely no riding aids on this bike, so you do have to be careful. A happy-go-twisty right wrist will have you lifting up the front of the bike with a fair amount of ease. Around a corner too, a little too much throttle will slide out the rear. There is ABS however and the brakes do a wonderful job. Good initial bite and decent progression, but there were times when I felt the ABS came in a little too early or sometimes just a tad too late.
This also brings me to the suspension. I would say it's a little too stiff, but it's not too close to sport bike territory. A bumpy road will rattle your spine and if you have the misfortune of finding it around a fast corner, you feel a little wobble, but the bike will settle back and let you hold the line just as quickly.
The bike looks bulky and at 210 kg, it's not light. But it is 20 kg less than the Z800. The handlebars are flat and wide, and high enough that you sit right in between that sweet spot for a sporty yet comfortable ride. The bike is nimble too. It may not have the smallest turn radius, but filtering through traffic is really easy and when you have to stop, the seat is low enough to put both your feet firmly on the ground.
There is something to say about heat management too. The engine gets hot, like a 4-cylinder, but even in city traffic you do not feel much of it. Out on a highway and an open road, the heat just slips away and you can forget about it.
To keep tabs on your riding, the Z900 gets a dainty little instrument console that gives you oodles of information like fuel gauge, engine temperature, trip meter, fuel usage and range. The digital tach takes a little getting used to, but the speedometer is large enough to read at a glance and the gear position indicator is a welcome addition.
All in all, the Z900 is an easy bike to ride. But while novices have to be careful, more experienced riders will find the bike fast and fun. It handles beautifully whether you are waddling through city traffic or playing "The Doctor" on the highway. The Kawasaki Z900 may get no electronic aids, but will always plaster a smile on your face every time you thumb the starter.About the pricing, at Rs 7.68 lakh ex-showroom, it could be a dream buy.
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