2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE - Performance, Price, and Photos

The retuned Z900 engine turns the Z900RS SE into a proper stoplight burner capable of solid holeshots

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Kawasaki built upon the success of its Z900RS with the new-for-2022 SE trim package that adds significant modern rider-support technology with high-performance brake and suspension components to its retro-tastic platform. This bike is a rare treat for riders with an appreciation for late-’60-through-’70s UJM architecture, but are unwilling to compromise on performance and electronics.

  • 2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE - Performance, Price, and Photos
  • Year:
    0
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Displacement:
    948 cc
  • Top Speed:
    139 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    13449
  • Price:

2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE Design

  • Iconic “Yellow Ball” styling
  • LED lighting
  • Traditional Z1 colorway
  • Relaxed riding posture
2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE - Performance, Price, and Photos
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2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE - Performance, Price, and Photos
- image 1082735
It isn't a replica, but longtime fans of the brand will recognize the Z1 influence in the Z900RS SE's overall design.

Longtime fans of the brand will recognize the Z1 influence in the Z900RS SE’s overall design. That’s not to say this is a replica, ’cause it ain’t, but the genetic markers are most definitely there. Not right up front though. The fender is a modern design, made necessary by the inverted front forks, and is shot in black in contrast to the chrome fender on the ’72 Z1, for instance.

The round cyclops headlight is a ringer though, and while the front blinkers are LED bars versus the old round indicators, their mounting position abreast of the headlight is identical. Kawi even went with dual round instrument gauges complete with the old-school bullet housing that looks so cool. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the round mirrors and tall, angled standoffs that are like a page from history.

The 4.5-gallon teardrop-profile fuel tank is likewise a blast from the past, and bless their hearts, the “Yellow Ball” paint scheme and design are dead ringers for its patron platform. Seat design is sorta’ bench like with a soft shoulder to segregate pilot from pillion, but doesn’t go full-on bench shape like its forebear.

The tip of the rear fender returns to its roots, complete with painted graphics straight off the Z1, and again we have a painted mudguard instead of chrome with a recessed taillight in the tip of the tail, well out of harm’s way. A plateholder on the mudguard mounts the tag and uses it as part of the fling coverage while an entirely-modern, swingarm-mount hugger contains the spray ahead of the rear wheel.

Back up forward, short risers and a short-rise handlebar push the pilot’s hands back to enable a relaxed, upright riding position. This is in contrast to the sportier postures associated with some of the SE’s siblings, but don’t fret, you can still assume a racer’s crouch when the occasion arises.

2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE Chassis

  • New high-grade Öhlins rear shock
  • Retuned Z900 suspension for neutral rider triangle
  • New Z H2-specced front brakes
  • All-around ABS
2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE - Performance, Price, and Photos
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2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE - Performance, Price, and Photos
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The new Öhlins rear shock gives a nicer ride and is more in line with what owners were getting by upgrading the shock on the previous models, 'cause let's face it, it needed the upgrade.

Instead of the classic downtube/cradle design of old, the engine on the Z900RS SE is used as a stressed member with a twin-tube type rear subframe to complete the Trellis-style standing structure. An extruded aluminum swingarm runs with a full yoke for strength and stability, no doubt with a skosh of lateral flexion engineered in.

The steering head is the same as the rest of the line, but there’s a 6 mm offset in the tripletree that reduces the trail down to a short 25 degrees from-the-vertical with 3.9 inches of trail to give the SE a sporty handling that’s certainly superior to the base Z900 platform. In a clear departure from the early models, a set of modern usd forks float the front end with a beefy, 41 mm inner fork-tube diameter that sports a 10-position compression adjuster alongside a 12-notch rebound-damping tweak for some pretty good control over the ride quality even if it falls short of the Full Monte.

The design separates the rear shock from the radiant heat coming off the exhaust system to prevent heat fade and provide consistent performance, which is good, ’cause you don’t want that rear end to start being unpredictable on you, especially if you’re pushing the upper edge of the performance envelope. Öhlins provides its S46 rear shock to finish the suspension. As it’s ingeniously-clever name suggests, it has a voluminous 46 mm bore, but I’m a bit disappointed that it only comes with the obligatory spring-preload adjuster given the performance bent of this particular model.

Cast wheels mount GPR-300 hoops, and I can’t help but wonder if Kawi missed an opportunity to really ramp up SE’s retro chops by not using spoked wheels. Sure, the factory says the gilded wheel design is meant to mimic the look of the laced wheels, but I don’t see it, not even in my most generous appraisal.

The brakes mark another improvement over the “lesser” brethren, however. Brembo equips the front brakes that run dual 300 mm discs and a pair of M4.32 radial monobloc calipers to provide the bulk of the stopping power. Out back we find a 250 mm, petal-cut rotor and a Nissin anchor taking care of business with ABS protection all around.

Frame: Trellis, high tensile steel
Front Suspension / Travel: Inverted telescopic fork with (13-way) adjustable compression and rebound (11-way) damping, spring preload (15-turn)/4.7 in
Rear Suspension / Travel: Horizontal back-link swingarm with stepless adjustable rebound damping and spring preload/5.5 in
Rake/Trail: 25.0°/3.9 in
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire: 180/55 ZR17
Front Brakes: Dual 300 mm discs with four-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 250 mm disc with single-piston caliper, ABS

2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE Drivetrain

  • Z900 engine retuned for low- to mid-range power
  • Thrilling acceleration
  • Traction Control
  • Assist & Slipper Clutch
2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE - Performance, Price, and Photos
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2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE - Performance, Price, and Photos
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It's the same engine as in the Z900, but retuned for solid holeshots with plenty of low-to-mid grunt for quick acceleration in an urban setting.

The four-cylinder yummygoodness, established early on, remains a staple of the overall design on the Z900RS SE. It’s mounted in a transverse fashion with a five-point mount system that ties it in structurally to the Trellis skeleton. It sports some faux cooling fins on the heads, but it’s the radiator up under the steering head that really does the heavy lifting.

In classic fashion, the four exhaust headers are placed to take lots of incoming air to wash away the high radiant heat found at the exhaust headers. This engine is the same as the rest of the Z900 family, but is re-tuned to prioritize low-end to mid-range power delivery over high-rpm operation, mainly through the use of shorter-rise cam profiles for both the intake and exhaust poppets. Additionally, the compression ratio dropped considerably from the base model with only 10-to-1 (down from 11.8-to-1) which gives the bottom end a break and reduces the octane needs of the engine.

A 12-percent heavier flywheel helps smooth out the power pulses and contributes to the torque development, which honestly isn’t bad with 72.3 pound-feet of torque that max out at a 6,500 rpm. This is reasonably low for an in-line fourbanger, and it feels weird to even tout the torque numbers on this type of engine, but here we are. This points to solid holeshots with plenty of low-to-mid grunt for quick acceleration in an urban setting. Yeah, it’s a stoplight burner.

Dual over-head cams time the 16-valve head, which is typical, but the downdraft intake and 36 mm throttle bodies help maximize volumetric efficiency of this normally-aspirated engine. Each throttle body bears an ECU-controlled set of secondary throttle plates that help smooth out the power delivery when there is an offset between rider demand and engine capability. Honda used the same production process for the pistons that is found in the Ninja H2 project, and reduced pumping losses through the use of internal ventilation in the crankcase to improve top-end performance.

Power flows through a slipper-style clutch that lends some backtorque mitigation without any electronic intervention. Kawi chucks on its proprietary two-mode Traction Control System to complete the electronic fandanglery and lend this machine a respectable amount of rider-support goodies, especially at this price point. The final drive is a tough O-ring chain and the overall drive ratio turns in a top speed of around 139 mph.

Engine: 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 948 cc
Bore x Stroke: 73.4 mm x 56.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.8:1
Maximum Torque: 72.3 lb-ft @ 6,500 rpm
Fuel System: DFI® with Keihin 36 mm throttle bodies
Ignition: TCBI with electronic advance
Transmission: 6-speed, return shift
Final Drive: Sealed chain

2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE Price

2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE - Performance, Price, and Photos
- image 1082749
2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE - Performance, Price, and Photos
- image 1082737
MSRP starts at $13.5k in the Yellow Ball graphic over Metallic Diablo Black,

There’s a lot of good stuff here, so it’s no surprise that the price tag is stuffed, as well. Honda wants $13,449 MSRP for this model in its inaugural year, and you have no choice in paint as the Yellow Ball graphic over Metallic Diablo Black is the only available package.

Engine Management Technology: Assist & Slipper Clutch, Economical Riding Indicator, KTRC (Kawasaki Traction Control)
Chassis Management Technology: ABS (Anti-lock Brake System), ERGO-FIT®, Horizontal Back-link Rear Suspension
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty, Optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months
Color: Metallic Diablo Black
Price: $13,449

2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE Competitors

2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE - Performance, Price, and Photos
- image 1082729
2021 - 2022 Triumph T120 / T120 Black
- image 986738

Kawasaki really dug deep when designing the SE, but it isn’t alone in this regard, British giant Triumph has its own storied past from which to draw, and it brings that genuine experience to bear with its Bonneville T120 from the aptly named Modern Classics category.

Triumph Bonneville T120

2021 - 2022 Triumph T120 / T120 Black
- image 986734
Triumph has a solid product and a lower MSRP makes for an attractive alternative.

Credit where it’s due, the Bonnie manages to channel the past with its strutted front fender, fork gaiters, teardrop tank and bench seat that complete the look. The 1,200 cc engine similarly mimics the look of the old mills, and I know some folks whine about them, but the mechanical-slide carburetor-looking throttle bodies are a really nice bit of eye candy and a nod to the past.

Aesthetics are nice, but the performance matters too. To that end, the Bonneville generates 77.4 pounds o’ grunt with its 1,200 cc lump for a slight advantage in brute grunt. Triumph inches further ahead with a slightly more well-populated ride-control electronics suite that adds a Riding Modes feature for quick personality changes.

The Brit has more of a genuine old-school look, while Kawi borrows individual elements from the past, Trumpet absolutely wallows in antiquity with the overall look for a much more faithful mien. The Bonnie has plain vanilla suspension to cede a slight edge to the Japanese machine in the stems, and the front forks are rwu which fits nicely with the dated look, but aren’t quite as confidence inspiring as the gold forks on the Z900.

Triumph offers its entry in a black-over-black package and a pair of lighter two-tone schemes that are as old-school as the rest of the bike for a definite advantage over the Kawi’s livery. Triumph has a solid product, and they offer it for less cheddar at $12,895 to complicate things further yet for the Z900RS SE.

Read our full review of the Triumph Bonneville T120 / T120 Black.

He Said

“While I prefer the overall look of the Brit bike, I gotta’ give Kawi credit for the abundance of Easter Eggs to be found on this new addition to the Z900 family. Seriously, if they’d have gone with a full bench-style seat, it would almost be a ringer for the original Z1. Just an observation, not a criticism.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “You know, you’d think the performance wouldn’t be that much different than the Z900, but the RS SE is like a whole different bike. The rider triangle is relaxed and just feels more comfortable now with the wider handlebar. The new Öhlins rear shock gives a nicer ride and is more in line with what owners were getting by upgrading the shock on the previous models, ’cause let’s face it, it needed the upgrade. The remapped engine produces noticeably more low- to mid-range torque bringing the new RS SE in line with the performance of the old-school ’70s bikes.”

2022 Kawasaki Z900RS SE Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 948 cc
Bore x Stroke: 73.4 mm x 56.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.8:1
Maximum Torque: 72.3 lb-ft @ 6,500 rpm
Fuel System: DFI® with Keihin 36 mm throttle bodies
Ignition: TCBI with electronic advance
Transmission: 6-speed, return shift
Final Drive: Sealed chain
Chassis:
Frame: Trellis, high tensile steel
Front Suspension / Travel: Inverted telescopic fork with (13-way) adjustable compression and rebound (11-way) damping, spring preload (15-turn)/4.7 in
Rear Suspension / Travel: Horizontal back-link swingarm with stepless adjustable rebound damping and spring preload/5.5 in
Rake/Trail: 25.0°/3.9 in
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire: 180/55 ZR17
Front Brakes: Dual 300 mm discs with four-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 250 mm disc with single-piston caliper, ABS
Dimensions & Capacities:
Overall Length: 83.1 in
Overall Width: 34.1 in
Overall Height: 46.5 in
Ground Clearance: 5.1 in
Seat Height: 32.9 in
Curb Weight: 474.1 lb
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gal
Wheelbase: 57.9 in
Details:
Engine Management Technology: Assist & Slipper Clutch, Economical Riding Indicator, KTRC (Kawasaki Traction Control)
Chassis Management Technology: ABS (Anti-lock Brake System), ERGO-FIT®, Horizontal Back-link Rear Suspension
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty, Optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months
Color: Metallic Diablo Black
Price: $13,449

Further Reading

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Source: The New 2022 Z900 SE | Dominate | Official Video

TJ Hinton
TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read full bio
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