The Japanese Heavyweight Offers Exceptional Renditions of Old Classics
Its no secret at Road Dirt- we love classic motorcycles. Sure, sport bikes are thrilling, ADVs are fun in the dirt, and cruisers/tourers are the way to travel. But there’s something nostalgic about old motorcycles that still rev our hearts, and we always gravitate toward “modern classics” when brands design and offer them. Heck, I love my 2017 Triumph Bonneville 900 Street Cup, and when our friend Steven Kent of Law Tigers bought a 2018 Z900RS, we had to spend a day chasing each other around Georgia Lake Country on our retro-cool, slightly-larger-than middleweights.
Steven rocking his 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS. Digging that sign behind him.
I’m not entirely sure about the psychology of it all, but I do find it fascinating and refreshing that the younger gens of riders love the classic looks and lines of the bikes from yesteryear. Maybe they remember their parents riding them, maybe in this high-tech, virtual age they want a reminder of (supposed) simpler times, or maybe the old-school look and feel is just cooler than the angular, sleek lines of modern offerings. Any way, us older gen riders are happy to see the interest, because the aforementioned reasons are why we love the classics, and the new modern takes on them as well.
Kawasaki, in my estimation, has nailed the “modern classic” niche with three models they are showcasing for the upcoming year- the new Z650RS, the ongoing Z900RS, and the returning W800. The braintrust at Kawasaki has taken aim at the likes of Triumph and Royal Enfield with these bikes, and consumers are signing waiting lists to get their hands on these fantastic looking and performing machines. The W800 hearkens back to the age of the dominant Brit bikes of the 50s-60s, whereas the Z models remind us of the cool machines Kawasaki produced throughout the 70s and early 80s.
2022 Kawasaki Z900RS. Photo by Kawasaki USA.
The Z900RS that my friend Steven enjoys so much returns in 2022 with an SE version, as well as their standard and Café renditions. The Z900RS line all recall the now legendary (and highly collectable) original Z1 900 beast, by many accounts the first true “super bike” in street motorcycling. I’ve always loved the tank, the tail, the minimal bodywork, and mostly the paint jobs of the Z1 900 inline fours and subsequent iterations over the years, and the modern versions Kawasaki offers really capture the essence of their classics from the early 70s. These always knock me out when I see them in showrooms, at bike nights and events, and out on the road. Heck, I almost sold my Bonney to get one, when Steven first rolled up to my house with his. I love this bike.
Here’s the spec page on the Z900RS bikes-
2022 Kawasaki Z650RS. Photo by Kawasaki USA.
Kawasaki has unveiled a new 650 retro twin in the form of the Z650RS, the kid sibling to the renown Z900RS. And we like it. Running a retuned version of their venerable Ninjo 650 twin powerplant, the Z650RS sports a trellis frame cradling the 649cc twin, with that beautiful tank and paint look of the Z900RS, and striking, curvy 2-into-1 pipes exiting out the right side. This bike is a beaut. Light weight, relaxed ergos, more affordable and approachable, the Z650RS looks to be a good seller to newer, younger, shorter and women riders than even the Z900RS stablemate, which itself checks all those boxes in my opinion. I’m personally smitten with the “Candy Emerald Green” livery, with it’s gold rims.
Check out more on the Z650Rs here-
2022 Kawasaki W800. Photo by Kawasaki USA.
The long-running W800 returns to the Kawasaki universe of motorcycles, and we’re quite happy to see it. The W800 is a throwback to the brand’s W Series of bikes, which saw production from 1967 to 1975, themselves being styled after the BSA A7 bikes built by the Brit brand from 1946-1962. Kawasaki first reimagined their modern W bike as a W650 twin from 1999 to 2007, then overhauled the W in 2011 as a 773cc twin. Gone were the kickstarter and carbs, and the new W800 ran until 2016 before being temporarily withdrawn for a few years. This bike drips nostalgia, stem to stern.
Find all the deets on the W800 right here-
Beautiful bikes, all. Photo by Kawasaki USA.
We applaud Kawasaki for their dedication to the modern retro market, but mostly, to their own roots. These bikes speak of an illustrious history of two-wheel pleasure, and we hope they sell these beautiful machines aplenty.
Find a Kawasaki dealer near you, throw a leg over one, and sample some retro goodness for yourself.
*photos provided by Kawasaki USA. Except for Steven, of course.