Kawasaki recently introduced the all-new Z650RS – a retro-styled, middleweight roadster that joins the Z900RS as the latest in Team Green's modern classiclineup. The marque’s calling the launch a Retrovolution. Here's what you need to know.
Z650RS – Modern Classic Background
Kawasaki was one of the first entrants into the retro-motorcycle sphere with the W650 [1999 -2006]. Later it was replaced by the air-cooled Mk1 W800 in 2011. Both were authentic-looking modern interpretations of classic roadsters.
Sadly, not only were they both visually classic but so too was their performance. After the W800's discontinuation in 2016 (due to lack of Euro4 update) the marque was absent from the modern classic sector for several years. Meanwhile, neo-retro offerings from its rivals flourished.
Returning to the sector in late 2017, Kawasaki markedly altered the perception of retro bikes (in performance terms) with the launch of the Z900RS. Seemingly, lessons had been learned from the W650 and W800 models.
The Z900RS embodies classic style paired with modern performance. It borrowed the base platform of Z900 and added a few specs beyond it. It’s an excellently executed modern take on the1970s Z1. Pleasingly, it has the performance to rival many modern naked bikes of similar capacity.
Kawasaki's approach with the Z900RS proved hugely popular. Thus, it’s this same formula that the manufacturer has used in creating the latest addition to its retro model line – the Z650RS.
The classically styled Z650RS joins the Z900RS standard and SE derivative along with the W800 (updated and relaunched in 2019) to complete Kawasaki's modern-classic roster.
Unsurprisingly, the Z650RS coopted its base platform from a more modern-looking counterpart. In this case the Z650 naked sports. Despite the same 650cc parallel-twin engine (with an output of 50.2 kW @ 8,000 rpm and 64 N•m @ 6,700 rpm), the two bikes couldn’t be further apart visually.
One bike could happily sit on the set of a Michael Bay movie – likely transforming into some sort of robot from another world. The other belongs to a bygone era that conjures up more romantic visions of motorcycling: hitting the open road for a cross-country road trip with only a map and tent on the back of the bike… perhaps.
Styling is strikingly retro, with a clear line drawn between the Z650 B of yesteryear and today’s Z650RS. That line is most notably reflected in the teardrop styling of the tank, sculpted side panels and duckbill tail section, all of which echo the 1976 Z650 B1.
An LED headlight in a classic round casing and dual analogue instruments are paired with an understated LCD unit, that displays basic info. Furthermore, the dials are housed in artillery shell-shaped casings which accentuate the retro aesthetic of the cockpit. Once again, a channelling of the silhouette of the seventies original.
However, if that’s not seventies enough, gold, cast wheel rims with flat spokes (give an appearance of wire spokes) offer an even more potent nostalgic visual. Particularly true, when combined with Kawasaki’s Candy Emerald Green finish.
A 2-1-1 exhaust setup (that’s slightly more modern-looking than it possibly should be) is the only component that's somewhat incongruous with the retro styling. A similar departure was employed with the Z900RS where a more pragmatic 4-1-1 configuration is utilised (instead of the original 4-1-4). Yet, there's little detraction from the retro motif. The same too is true of the Z650RS exhaust which blends incredibly well into the overall finish.
Despite sharing the same high tensile, steel trellis frame, the RS offers a more rider-friendly seating position than that of the Z600, as its handlebars are raised and set closer to the rider. This affability is further enhanced with a low seat height (820mm) and narrow frame (for easy flat-footing). Altogether this makes the RS an enticing proposition for the less experienced, those smaller in stature or riders returning to the fold. Undoubtedly, the marketing of the RS is aimed at all three groups.
All riders nonetheless, will find confidence in the stopping power offered by the round Nissin, dual semi-floating 300 mm front disc brakes and 220 mm rear, augmented with Bosch ABS. Additionally, riders should find the 41mm telescopic forks and adjustable monoshock at the rear capable of dealing with the urban rigmarole and weekend pootles (this machine will no doubt see).
Z650RS – Price and Availability
Much like its larger sibling the Z900RS, the Z650RS is likely to be popular when it arrives on showroom floors in November 2021. Dealers will also stock an A2 kit in the UK and Europe which will significantly lower peak power to 47bhp, making it accessible to a wider range of motorcycle licence holders.