Live With It: 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder

June 19, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

We knew it would happen sometime, and last week, the email arrived. It’s time for us to return our much-loved 2018 Yamaha Star Eluder. Dang. The Eluder has been a popular mount with the MO staff and has performed a variety of duties in the more than 3,000 miles we’ve racked up in the time it has graced our collective garages. So, as we prepare to say farewell to the Eluder, I’ve decided to look back on our time with it.

2018 Yamaha Star Eluder Review – First Ride

Big Dam Tour: Seven Baggers For Seven Brosephuses

Nothing has really changed since the first ride: The harmonized notes emitting from the dual exhausts still puts a smile on my face. The grunty engine still allows for the rider to run a gear higher than usual. Our complaint about having an overly short first gear has been adapted to by our muscle memory. Almost as soon as the bike gets underway, the clutch is coming in for the shift to second gear. It’s almost automatic, meaning the rev-limiter rarely gets tapped in first gear anymore. Not that it was a big deal in the first place.

Yamaha Star Eluder

The Eluder excels at gobbling up miles with minimal fuss.

We’ve done just about everything you can do on a bagger with the Eluder. We’ve toured on it – where it placed second in our 7-bike shootout. (Or you could say it won first place in the more traditional V-Twin class of the current crop of baggers since the six-cylinder BMW won’t appeal to traditionalists.) We’ve commuted on it. (Well, Ryan Burns, who managed to eschew the draw of motojournalism and find himself a real job with an office to commute to and everything, put the Eluder through the daily bump-and-grind for a few weeks.) We’ve shopped for groceries with it. We’ve even gone on a canyon ride with Eddie Lawson, no less. (Although he did tell me later that he had to pass me to get away from the sound of dragging floorboards. Yeah, that’s why he passed me…) For the last few weeks, I’ve loaded up the left saddlebag with foam pads and made the Eluder my photo mule for hauling my camera and lenses to shoots.

While this extended time with the Eluder has made me appreciate how competent the bike is, it isn’t without flaws. When we initially tested the Eluder, the weather was cold, but now summer temperatures are starting to creep into the mix, and well, the Eluder puts out significant heat on the rider’s left leg – even with the vent in the lower fairing open. So, there’s that. Also, contrary to my initial assessment, the seat hits me (and only me out of all the riders) in a funny place on my coccyx so that it is quite sore at the end of a long day in the saddle.

Yamaha Star Eluder Seat

While the seat padding feels quite comfortable, my tail bone was often quite sore at the end of a long day. Nobody else had this issue.

Finally, there’s the complaint I had about the infotainment system not playing well with my iPhone. Here’s what I said in my First Ride Review:

”My iPhone 6, when in the storage compartment with the USB charging port, caused the GPS to crash repeatedly. The GPS screen would completely disappear from the system screen. Only turning off the Eluder and restarting it could bring the GPS back. Additionally, when the GPS was having issues, the buttons on the handlebar control behaved erratically. At first, I thought I had a bad test unit, but after I changed to a new bike to ride home from the event, the symptoms reappeared.”

Yamaha Star Eluder Instruments

Once I updated the infotainment system’s firmware, the GPS and my iPhone paired nicely together.

I’m happy to report that after applying a firmware upgrade to the Eluder in the comfort of my own driveway, the issue has vanished. Although the instructions said the process would take 45 minutes with the bike either idling or connected to a battery charger, the update completed itself in just 25 minutes, and the system has been flawless ever since. My extended time with the Eluder’s GPS has, however, led me to crave an autocomplete feature when entering an address in the GPS. Why would engineers think I should have to type out the entire state name when it’s obvious I want California after only a couple of letters? Other than that nuisance, I found the GPS to be intuitive to use.

But enough about what I think of the Eluder, let’s hear from some other MOrons:

John Burns: “What can I say? The Eluder’s a great bike, a Big Twin that runs along as smoothly as a Gold Wing somehow or other. It’s got its own unique Darth Vader style that the kids dig – but for me, it simply lacks the performance chops of both the K1600B it lost out to in our Big Dam Tour, and now there’s a Honda Gold Wing in my driveway that needs a bath. Because all I do is ride the thing everywhere. It’s every bit the appliance the Eluder is, but lighter, faster and just as everything else. Though maybe not quite so cool looking…”

2018 Yamaha Star Eluder Engine

Crazy smooth and ready to rumble with a mellifluous exhaust note, the Eluder’s engine has only one flaw, the extremely short first gear. Spend a little time in the saddle, and you’ll instinctively ride around it.

Ryan Burns: “‘Hey man, what is that thing? A Yamaha? Damn, you lookin’ all spec-ops n sh*t on that thing, bout to take off in the air and sh*t!’ – (Man at Red Light)

“I am a big fan of the styling of the Eluder from all angles. It looks aggressive and sharp, but not in an overly buggy way which I feel has taken over a lot of Japanese bikes these days. Yamaha straddled the line here very well. With that aggressive look, you’ll be thoroughly disappointed in the oddly low rev ceiling. Say hello to 2nd gear sooner than any other bike you’ve tried to rip away from a light on. Beyond that complaint, the Eluder cruises for days, handles well, is equipped with the right stopping power for the job, and comes with the extra features and storage to make me a happy camper in the days I spent with it.”

On my last weekend with the Eluder, I decided to take it on a fun ride up the Angeles Crest Highway for a Sunday breakfast (and a little MotoGP viewing). This famously twisty road isn’t exactly where you’d think I’d want to go for my final ride with the Eluder before the freeway slog back to Yamaha HQ, but the bike is so pleasant on a winding road. Put it in third gear, and you’re good to around 70 mph before the rev-limit forces you to shift. So, with the exception of some longer straight sections, I just kept the Big Twin in third from the base of the mountain to the Newcomb’s parking lot – and back. The gobs of torque and the well-sorted suspension had me smiling the whole ride as the floorboards casually skimmed the pavement, adding their rasp to the bass of the exhausts.

Thinking about that ride makes me want to jump on the Eluder and do it again. Yeah, I’ll miss this bike. If you’re in the market for a bagger, take a long look at the Eluder. While the $23,999 MSRP isn’t cheap, you get a lot of bike for the money, and you can’t go wrong with that.

Yamaha Star Eluder

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New Rider: How To Take A Sharp Turn From A Stop

June 7, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

Have you ever seen a rider who pulls away from a curb, crosses one (or two!) lanes of traffic before easing his way back into the right-hand lane that he originally pulled out into. You know what he was when pulling across traffic and then back into the right lane? A target. Although this is a skill that is so basic that it is taught in motorcycle safety courses, we’ve seen enough near misses that we believe many riders do not know how to make a sharp turn from a stop.  Hopefully, this article will do a small bit to help remedy this problem.

New Rider: What Is The Friction Zone?

The best place to practice this maneuver is in an empty parking lot. You can use the lines for the parking spaces to demarcate the lane you’re trying to stay within

Sharp turn from a stop on a motorcycle

Begin with your bike perpendicular to the road’s curb. Put the transmission in gear.

Sharp turn from a stop

Turn the handlebar to the right. With practice, you’ll learn the correct amount, but this is not a full-lock turn.

Sharp turn from a stop

Lean the bike to the right. Shorter riders may want to put their left foot on the peg and take a step away from the bike with their right foot.

Sharp turn from a stop

Ease out the clutch into the friction zone and pull into the right-hand lane while maintaining slight pressure on the right grip. Notice how the rider is sitting upright and allowing the bike to lean underneath him. Finally, be sure to look where you want to go.

You don’t want to practice this exercise on a street. Go to an empty parking lot and use the parking space lines to stand in for your parking spot and the lane you want to pull into. Just start with your rear tire on perpendicular to the line as you would with the curb. That way, if you run wide, you don’t risk running into opposing traffic. Don’t be surprised if it takes you a while to master this task. It is a fairly complex mix of clutch and throttle management plus body position while the bike is at its least balanced state.

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MO Tested: Bell ProTint Photochromatic Visor Review

June 5, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

Photochromatic visors are the ultimate convenience when it comes to helmet visor technology.  They eliminate the need to carry extra visors or have complicated internal visor mechanics built in to a helmet to account for changing light conditions. Since their introduction, photochromatic visors have gotten progressively more versatile in their reactivity time and percentage of tinting that they provide. While still priced considerably more than regular visors, their utility makes them great items for daily riders. With the ProTint visor, Bell has become the first helmet manufacturer to develop its own photochromatic shield technology. 

MO Tested: Shoei CWR–1 Transitions Shield Review

Designed to fit any Bell helmet that features the Panovision viewport, the $149.95 ProTint is compatible with the Pro Star, Race Star Flex, Star MIPS, and SRT-Modular helmets. The visors react to UV light and vary with its intensity. This translates into a visor that quickly darkens in bright light yet offers clarity for riders in low light. Bell also claims that the color of the tinting is more neutral than with other photochromatic visors, which means that riders’ eyes don’t have to go through an extra step to discern colors. According to Bell, the ProTint achieves 80% of its darkening in just 20 seconds and can go to full dark in a minute.

My experience with the ProTint visor over the course of a month of frequent use is that I hardly notice it’s there. Occasionally, after going from cloudy conditions with a relatively clear visor to bright sun with the visor darkened, I’ll flip up the visor at a stop and be surprised by how bright it is. The reverse is also true; the ProTint changes from dark to clear so seamlessly that I frequently don’t notice the change – even when going in and out of varied light.

Bell ProTint Visor

The constantly varying tint of the ProTint visor makes it ideal for everyday riders.

The optical clarity of all of the Bell Panovision viewport visors has always been perfect. I’ve never noticed even the slightest distortion when the visor is closed. 

My time with the Bell ProTint visor has made me grow increasingly fond of it with each ride. If you are a frequent rider who has one of the Bell Panovision helmets listed above, I highly recommend you spend the $149.95 for this visor. You won’t be disappointed.

You can learn more about the Bell ProTint visor at the Bell Helmets website.

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Urban Electric Motorcycles: BMW C Evolution Scooter And Zero DSR

June 5, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

Once upon a time, electric motorcycles had such short range and high MSRPs that only the most devoted of early adopters had a reason to consider owning one. Well, in the past couple years, improvements in range have resulted in electrics now being a viable option for riders who are looking for a greener alternative to internal combustion engine (ICE) motorcycles, which are relatively dirty compared to four-wheeled road users. So, we’ve taken the 2018 BMW C Evolution scooter and the 2018 Zero DSR as representatives of two different approaches to urban electric motorcycles to see how they stack up for everyday use. Note: This is not our typical comparison where we try to determine the best motorcycle out of a pairing. Rather, we are looking at two different electric bikes to determine their viability as urban transport.

2018 BMW C Evolution Review

2018 Zero DSR Review

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While the price of electrics is still comparatively high compared to fossil fuel-powered motorcycles, the range electrics are capable of achieving has improved to the point that they are viable for urban use, particularly as commuter vehicles. The 2009 US Census lists the average commuter time as being 25.1 minutes, which would translate – even at a sustained 70mph – at well below the range of the two electric motorcycles featured in this comparison. Even if we looked at what the Washington Post listed as “long distance commutes,” which are a more than 50 mile route each way to work, we’re still in the range of our two competitors. Calculate in charging time while at work, and the range of an electric as a commuter option gets extended even further than just the round trip from home. 

So, how do the C Evolution and the DSR compare in the urban jungle? Read on and find out.

urban electric motorcycles

Commuter duty

Since all of the MO staff work from their homes, making our daily commutes walking distance – no travel mug required – we had to replicate what it would be like commuting on these two bikes. Around LA County, that’s easy, just get on the freeway at any time during business hours, and you’ll encounter traffic that mimics rush hour in many other cities. The same is true of the surface streets around city centers.

Both bikes feature the quick off-the-line acceleration that characterizes electric vehicles. Having maximum torque available as soon as you twist the throttle is a boon for putting the cagers behind you. When compared to ICE scooters, the BMW gets a head start at stoplights, squirting away from all but the most assertive car drivers. However, at a claimed 49 lb-ft of torque, the C Evolution has less than half the instantaneous twisting force available as the DSR. So, the Zero can dust any comers in the stoplight grand prix. 

urban electric motorcycles - Zero DSR

The Zero’s upright ergos and supple suspension make it ideal for urban duties.

Here’s what Ryan Adams had to say: “For me, one of the fun things about electric bikes is the opportunity of near instantaneous torque. Both the BMW and the Zero offer enough acceleration to blow the doors off of the odd family sedan around town, but the DSR brings more than two times the torque of the C-Evolution to the line: 116 lb-ft of torque (claimed) ain’t no joke.”

Moving up the entrance ramp to the freeway, both the BMW and the Zero have the chops to accelerate up to the speed of the traffic flow with authority. While the C Evolution is limited to 80 mph, it comfortably mixes with the rest of the fray. The Beemer’s 15-inch wheels never feel twitchy at highway speeds, but they don’t feel as stable as the Zero’s 19/17-inch pairing. The Zero’s triple-digit top speed means that it is more than capable of holding its own on highways like those around Los Angeles where traffic, when moving, can exceed 80 mph. However, those higher speeds really suck the battery power.

urban electric motorcycles – BMW C Evolution

With nimble handling and quick off-the-line power, the BMW C Evolution makes for fun, functional urban mobility.

When it comes to lane sharing, the BMW, with it’s amazingly balanced chassis (the bulk of the claimed 606 lb weight is carried low in the frame) is able to crawl between cars when things get narrow – something that happens frequently because its mirrors are the same height as many car mirrors. The DSR, with its upright riding position and high bars/mirrors, needs less space.

In city traffic, the BMW’s nimbleness is much appreciated when it comes time to dodge potholes or other road debris. The DSR is no slouch when it comes to maneuverability, but in this case, the C Evolution is just slightly better.

The practicality of under seat storage is hard to beat.

Those everyday errands

Not all urban motorcycles are used solely for commuter duty. Frequently, they are used for short-hop chores, like grocery shopping. While the BMW sacrificed about half of its under seat storage to the battery pack, it still has enough to buy food for dinner for two but little more. However, the practicality of a storage compartment can’t be overstated. For the couple of weeks I had both the BMW and the Zero in my garage, I found myself running more errands on the Beemer. It was just too convenient. If I went shopping, I could store my helmet under the seat and not have to carry it while off the bike.

Once Ryan stole the DSR from me, he didn’t let its lack of storage stop him from running around town on it: “In terms of practicality, it would be easy to say the BMW gets the nod for having a trunk, but running errands on the Zero didn’t stop me from picking up a dirtbike stand, strapping it to the back, and slicing my way home through traffic stealthily.”

When riding around town, one becomes aware of how high the BMW’s seat feels for a scooter. You know it’s odd when a bike with a seat height listed as 33.2 inches doesn’t feel as tall as one that’s supposed to be three inches shorter. “Don’t be fooled by the spec sheet stating the seat height is 30.1 in.,” notes Ryan, “the girth of the C-Evo contributes to the seat feeling much taller than it is.”

Avoiding anxiety

Range anxiety is a catchy term to describe the limitations in how far electric motorcycles can travel, but both of our contestants came with Level 2 chargers built-in. Although the BMW’s 220V charging system is a standard item, the Zero’s is a $2,295 option that both Ryan and I feel is absolutely necessary for an EV. Many shopping malls and parking structures are adding charging stations at a fairly rapid rate. This means you can top off – or at least partially fill – your battery while you enjoy a cup of coffee or see a movie. Being able to add to your range when you stop goes a long way towards reducing range anxiety.

urban electric motorcycles – BMW C Evolution

While this Level 2 plug is standard on the BMW (shown here), it’ll cost you $2,295 to have the Charge Tank included with your Zero DSR purchase.

Opines Ryan: “The fact the the BMW C-Evolution comes standard with level-2 charging as well as a 110 V adapter seems like it should be commonplace for electrics, but that simply isn’t the case. On the Zero DSR, you have to pay $2,295 for the option to charge at a level two station. That makes the BMW’s MSRP of $13,750 look like a bargain next to Zero’s $16,495 (+2,295 Charge Tank).”

Despite the frequent critiques from the gasoline-addled peanut gallery, we think that electric motorcycles have finally reached the tipping point, particularly in around town use. The BMW is capable of a claimed 99 miles, while the DSR is claimed to go about 20% further. This is far enough for your typical everyday motorcycle use. Still, we acknowledge that most people won’t want to tour on an electric bike – though some people have ridden them across the continent. 

Escaping the jungle

Both the C Evo and the DSR are capable of short jaunts up winding roads, and they are a blast to ride. However, the differences between a scooter and a motorcycle are the primary defining characteristics of a canyon ride. The BMW’s lightning-fast turn in makes it a blast on a really tight, technical road, whereas the Zero, with its 19-inch front wheel, takes a little more effort to snap into a turn. However, those bigger wheels translate into more stability at velocities that leave the speed-limited C Evolution behind. 

urban electric motorcycles - Zero DSR

The Zero’s off-road-ability adds to its fun factor.

Suspension is another place where the Zero outshines the BMW – both in and out of the city. Potholes are swallowed by the DSR’s 7 inches of travel. It simply has more to work with when handling even smaller road imperfections. So, the BMW’s ride comes off as sportily stiff until it gets overwhelmed. Then it just feels harsh. The Zero is both plush and sporty. 

Ryan defined their canyon capabilities thusly: “The Zero’s Showa suspension components are tuned really nicely for the duty it’s meant to handle, soft enough to take small hits on the trail or torn up asphalt, yet never feeling wallowy. The C-Evolution is set up fairly sporty which is kind of fun. Strong brakes, firm suspension, and rapid acceleration mean you can have your commuter cake and and enjoy it too.”

urban electric motorcycles – BMW C Evolution

The BMW’s weather protection could win it fans in cooler climates.

Ryan’s comment alluded to one characteristic where the bikes absolutely diverge, off-road riding. The Zero DSR has the suspension and the tires for light-duty – read fire road – dirt riding. I’ll defer to Ryan’s expertise and let him take it from here: “Riding the Zero off-road (mainly huge gravel lots so I could play) is so good. The gobs of torque allow you to break the rear tire loose with a slight blip of a throttle. Drifting power slides are addicting and being able to spin up the rear MT 60 in a straight line at any moment by goosing the throttle lets you know you’re on a serious machine.” Just don’t get carried away and try jumping the DSR, as that could create issues with the belt. But big, crossed-up slides? Have at it!


Both of these bikes offer features that don’t fit neatly into any category. First, the BMW’s Reverse Assist saves a lot of effort. “The C Evolution is too tall and heavy to push backward on your own,” notes Ryan. “I never noticed the 606-pounds of heft on the BMW until I tried pushing it backward out of a parking space. Thankfully, it has Reverse Assist, and I was pleasantly rocketing at full throttle backwards in no time. Easy with the wrist when reversing. It can get dicey.” 

urban electric motorcycles – BMW C Evolution

The BMW’s instrumentation is modern and full of easy-to-read information.

Then there is my favorite feature – once I figured it out – of the C Evo. Where ICE motorcycles consistent engine braking, the BMW, when set in Dynamic mode, allows the rider to control the amount of deceleration generated by the regeneration with the throttle. 

Here’s what I said in my review of the C Evolution: “Essentially, I controlled braking that the regeneration applied with my throttle-hand without touching the brakes themselves. If I needed to slow down slightly for a corner, I just dipped out of the neutral throttle zone. A tighter corner received a more aggressive roll-out of the throttle. I had so much fun doing this that I ended up trying it on the Interstate to similar results.”

urban electric motorcycles - Zero DSR

The Zero’s instrumentation looks dated compared to that of the BMW. However, all the information the rider needs is available at a glance.

The Zero also has tunable regenerative “engine braking,” only you use a smartphone app to dial in the amount you want when you roll off the throttle. Not just the regeneration is tunable via the app. Almost every other facet of the engine has a slider to fiddle with. 

Reaching a conclusion

As noted at the beginning of this comparison, we’re not here to tell you which of these machines is the better motorcycle. Rather, this is an overview of two different approaches to urban electric motorcycles. In the end, which of these is the right bike for you depends on what you plan on doing with the bike.

urban electric motorcycles – BMW C Evolution

Despite its diminutive looks in this photo, the C Evolution is a maxi-scooter.

If you plan on running errands around town – or school, for that matter – the electric scooter lifestyle may suit you better, and the BMW C Evolution won’t let you down in this regard. For those who have commutes consisting of largely surface streets rather than highways, I would still give a serious look at the BMW – particularly since it comes with the Level 2 charger as a standard feature.

However, while the BMW does just fine on the freeway, I think I’d be inclined to select the Zero as my highway commuter mount. It has longer range, but more importantly, it feels more like a full-sized motorcycle. The rider is more upright and had a clearer view of the road ahead. Let’s also not forget the option of mild off-road riding, too. 

urban electric motorcycles - Zero DSR

While the Zero DSR is significantly more expensive, it is also a much more versatile mount.

Neither of these urban electrics are cheap. The BMW weighs in with a $13,750 price tag, while the Zero starts $2,745 higher. If you want a Level 2 charger on the Zero, add an additional $2,295 for a total of $18,790. So, the prices still put the bikes in a relatively niche market. Still, you get a lot more for your money than you did a few years ago.

Here at MO, we’re pretty excited by what has been happening in the electric market, and power, range, and price will only get better as the technology progresses. The future is occurring now, and we’re excited to be here witnessing it.

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2018 Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe Review

June 1, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

2018 Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe

Editor Score: 89.0%
Engine 17.5/20
Suspension/Handling 12.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 8.5/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.5/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 9.5/10
Value 9.0/10
Overall Score89/100

I’ve been in the motorcycle biz for over 20 years, and it takes a special bike to wow me. Kawasaki crafted a great modern yet classically-styled machine when it created the Z900RS, and I’ve enjoyed it every opportunity I’ve had to throw a leg over one. Still, the Z900RS was just another nice motorcycle. I wanted a little something extra. From the moment I pulled onto the road on the new 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe, I had a pretty good idea that I’d found the bike I’d wanted to ride every time I was on the Z900RS.

2018 Kawasaki Z900RS First Ride Review + Video

Live With It: 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS Long Term Review

First Look: 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe

Kawasaki Announces Z900RS Cafe For US Market!

How could a bike that is only minimally different be so much better? I’m glad you asked.

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe

The style’s the thing

The inspiration for the Z900RS Cafe came from none other than Kawasaki’s 1982-1983 KZ1000R that Eddie Lawson rode to two consecutive AMA Superbike championships. Take a look at the KZ1000R that Kawasaki brought to the Cafe’s unveiling, and the resemblance is clear. While the Kawasaki racing green remains the same, every other component – from the bikini fairing to the ducktail (or is it duckbill?) rear fender – of the Cafe is transformed to a more modern version of the original. Where the KZ1000R was angular, the Cafe is all subtle curves and swoops. The unfortunate inclusion of the KZ-spec tank seam is the only real miscue on the Cafe’s updated style.

Kawasaki KZ1000R

The Kawasaki KZ1000R, the inspiration of the Z900RS Cafe in all its air-cooled, big-wheeled glory! Photo by Julia LaPalme.

To go with the racier lines of the Cafe, the handlebar gets a bend that moves the grips about 1.5 in. lower and slightly forward when compared with the RS. Add that to the seat that Kawasaki says is 0.8 in. taller at 32.3 in., and you end up with a slightly more aggressive riding position. To me, this slight change makes the Cafe a more fun ride when the road gets twisty but doesn’t extract a toll on the lower back when navigating the more mundane urban grid. Additionally, the riding position coupled with the bikini fairing makes the Cafe less taxing on interstate highway drones. With the RS, I always felt that the riding was a little too upright once the city streets were left behind.

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe action

The broad torque curve makes the Cafe tons of fun when the road gets twisty.

Improved EFI

Although Kawasaki’s press information doesn’t list any mechanical differences between the Cafe and the RS, something has clearly changed in the Cafe’s power delivery. With a bore and stroke of 73.4 x 56.0 mm, the liquid-cooled inline-Four has its 948cc tuned for mid-range joy, and every staff MOron who has ridden the RS has said that the loss of the top-end horsepower has not been a compromise – if you’re keeping the RS within its intended riding envelope. Yeah, it’s a motorcycle, so someone’s going to hop one up and trick it out to be a full-on retro racer. (Just ask Brent what he wants to do to the RS.) Still, the RS’ and, hence, the Cafe’s torque curve is the very definition of broad and flat, which means that what the engine lacks in top-end rush it makes up in smile-inducing grunt.

Why Did Kawasaki Detune The Z900RS, Why?

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe engine

Though mechanically unchanged, the Cafe’s engine receives blacked out engine covers. The intake and exhaust sing the song of my people.

However, as we’ve previously noted, the Z900RS did have an issue with abruptness on off- to on-throttle transitions. While it could easily be ridden around, it was occasionally a nuisance. Happily, that has been completely exorcised from the Cafe. In fact, the difference was so pronounced that we ran the Cafe on the dyno to see if there were any other changes in the power output. There weren’t. What you see in the Cafe’s horsepower and torque curves are almost exact duplicates of those of the RS that we tested in April. 

One morning, I rode from Big Bear Lake, CA back to Los Angeles via the Angeles Crest Highway for almost 100 miles of sinewy pavement, and the linearity of the power delivery can’t be understated as I frequently had a choice of two gears available. Maintaining neutral throttle throughout corners was a breeze, and when the pavement straightened out, that torque was only a wrist twist away, accompanied by the intake and exhaust serenade!

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe shock

The shock is adjustable for preload and rebound while the fork is fully-adjustable.

Brakes and suspenders 

While the Cafe can be pushed to an extremely aggressive, peg-scraping pace, it seems happiest when ridden up to an 8/10ths pace – which is fine with me. Any faster, and the ride becomes too much like work and probably should be taken to the track. But say you still decide to notch up the pace an additional tenth or two, the Cafe (and the RS) begins to lose a little bit of its composure. G-outs make the suspension go boingy-boingy, and rippled stutter bumps become a little too much for the fork to handle, forcing the bike wide if encountered mid-corner.  Neither of these is terrible. The bike is just letting you know that it is no longer in its happy place. 

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe front brake

Strong, drama-free brakes makes trail-braking a snap.

Braking is handled by a pair of radial-mounted four-piston calipers embracing 300mm discs. They work well and offer excellent feel for confident trail-braking. Since I’m not a huge late braker, I never pushed the binders to the point that the ABS felt it had to intervene. So, I would say that the level is set such that it is available to save your bacon in the wet or a panic stop situation but not interfere with your good time.

Limited production

During the Z900RS Cafe’s product unveiling, the Kawasaki reps said several times that the Cafe would be a limited release for 2018. Judging from the responses I received during the brief time I had the bike around Southern California, it has struck a nerve with the riding public. What appears to initially attract riders is the bike’s good looks. While I did get comments from some younger riders, the vast majority of those who were enamored with the Cafe were in the north of 40 set that remembers the era the design hearkens back to. With my age being in the mid-50s, I guess I, too, fit the profile.

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe instruments

Sandwiched between the speedometer and tachometer, the LCD screen displays all the information a rider needs, from traction control setting to the remaining fuel.

So, back to my introduction. It’s not very often I ride a bike that makes me think I would want to spend my own money on one, but that’s what has happened with the Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe. The styling appeals to me, and the bike’s functionality hits the sweet spot for what I would like in a sporty, do-it-all motorcycle. With the MSRP checking in at $11,499, the Cafe is only $300 more than the top-of-the-line Z900RS. The fairing alone is worth that cost increase. The new riding position is gravy. If you’re at all interested in buying a Cafe this year, I suggest you get yourself to your Kawasaki dealership before it sells out.

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe instruments Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe rear fender Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe beauty Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe action Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe review Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe action Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe front brake Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe shock Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe engine Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe rear wheel Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe exhaust Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe fairing Kawasaki KZ1000R

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MO Tested: Bell SRT-M Helmet Review

May 30, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

Bell SRT-M Helmet

Editor Score: 84.75%
Aesthetics 8.0/10
Protection 8.5/10
Value 9.0/10
Comfort/Fit 8.5/10
Quality/Design 9.0/10
Weight 8.5/10
Options/Selection 8.25/10
Innovation 8.0/10
Weather Suitability 8.5/10
Desirable/Cool Factor 8.5/10
Overall Score84.75/100

I am an unabashed fan of modular helmets. Once I discovered the freedom they allowed while riding, I began using them for the majority of my street rides. The option to flip up the chin bar at stoplights or gas stations makes communicating much easier. Then there’s the relieved look that convenience store clerks have when they realize they can actually see your face as you walk into the store to buy a bottle of water. Bell Helmets recently hosted the moto-press on a ride to sample the company’s newest entry in the modular helmet market, the Bell SRT-M. While quick, reasonably accurate opinions can be made after just a few hundred miles in a new helmet, I was fortunate enough to be given advanced access to a SRT-M for several weeks before the event, allowing me to become quite familiar with the new lid.

MO Tested: Bell Race Star Flex Helmet Review

Bell Helmets DOME R&D Lab Tour

The SRT-M features a lightweight fiberglass composite shell in one of two sizes, XS-L and XL-3XL. The EPS protective liner has an oval head shape that comfortably fits my long-oval XL noggin. Inside the protective layers, the anti-bacteria comfort liner is removable and washable to help prevent helmet funk that can develop in hot weather riding. The liner is also eyewear compatible, which means you can wear your prescription glasses or your favorite shades without pain. The fit for my glasses is just snug enough to keep them from sliding down my nose if I hit a bump while in a sport riding position.

Bell SRT-M Review

The Bell SRT-M helmet (shown here with the optional photochromatic ProTint visor) slices through the air without any lift or jostling at speed.

As with many helmets currently in production, the SRT-M has speaker pockets molded into the EPS liner so that one of the many helmet communicators can be easily fitted. However, unlike some manufacturers, the speaker pockets are located exactly where my ears are, making optimal speaker placement possible. 

At the top of the helmet’s main body, an internal sun shade drops down for on-the-fly adjustment. The shade is operated by two cables and a sliding lever on the lower left edge of the helmet. The shade action is fluid and easy. However, the sun visor did occasionally droop a quarter inch or so into my field of view if I didn’t make sure to slide the lever into the full-open detent.  Unlike some sun visors, the SRT-M’s comes down to fully cover my face, leaving no room for glare to reflect up off the road and under its tinted protection. Finally, the lower edge of the internal visor has a lip that looks like it will help guide the airflow to prevent fogging in cold/wet weather – neither of which I’ve experienced here in SoCal lately. 

The sculpted comfort padding at the base of the helmet provides a good seal from the wind, but the chin curtain could be a little larger. Note the red chin bar release lever. The communicator mounted on the helmet is part of a future product review.

The SRT-M’s wide visual field comes from Bell’s class 1 Panovision Shield. For the most part, the Panovision Shield and the helmet body makes a solid seal with the helmet’s and chin bar’s gaskets. However, the portion of the shield that is closest to the visor/helmet pivot point has a slight gap. While this may allow water into the helmet during rain, the gap is well out of the rider’s field of vision. Although I didn’t get to test the visor’s anti-fog coating (which, according to Bell, passes the stringent ECE standard), the visor can be cracked open slightly above the locked position to allow shield-clearing airflow when needed.

Bell SRT-M Review

The chin bar openings offer plenty of airflow.

Venting from the SRT-M comes courtesy of two chin bar ports just below the visor and one centrally-located opening at the top of the helmet. Operating the vents is easy to do with a gloved hand. Hot air is pulled out into the low pressure zone directly behind the helmet at speed via two always-open vents. The venting was good and didn’t increase the helmet’s noise level when open. 

The chin bar opens easily by pressing a lever under the front edge forward, which meshes nicely with the natural motion of lifting it open. In the fully open position, a detent prevents the chin bar from falling closed if you are one of those people who likes to ride with an open-face helmet at times. Additionally, there is a small gray sliding lock at the left temple that further prevents the chin bar from falling down, though I rarely used it. 

Bell SRT-M internal visor

Unlike some helmets with internal sun visors, the SRT-M’s visor comes down low enough to prevent glare from sneaking in from below.

Donning the SRT-M is easy with the chin bar up, and as you close it, the cheek pads give a comforting squeeze as the helmet locks closed. The interior of the helmet has the premium feel of one costing hundreds of dollars more. 

Bell SRT-M Review

The internal sun visor operated via cables and this slide on the bottom left of the SRT-M.

Once underway, the helmet shape keeps the SRT-M from interacting with the wind in any way – even during head-checks before changing lanes. In fact, the only place where I felt the SRT-M was a bit lacking was in its propensity for wind noise. Starting at about 45 mph and getting more intense at higher speeds, the noise level was noticeably higher than the Shoei Neotec II that I frequently wear. This comparison is important since modular helmets are usually noisier than full-faced helmets. 

Bell SRT-M top vent

The top vent is easy to operate with a gloved hand.

However, I accidentally discovered a way to dramatically lessen the noise. I noticed that, when I installed the latest CardoSystems PackTalk Bold communicator (for a future review), filling the pockets in the EPS liner with the speakers (and additional spacer required to get them as near to my ears as possible) pressed the helmet’s comfort liner close to my ears, resulting in a much quieter fit. So, SRT-M owners can fill this space with soft open-cell foam padding and reduce the helmet’s wind noise!

Over the course of the last month, I’ve ridden quite a bit in the Bell SRT-M helmet and have come away impressed – that was even before I knew what the MSRP would be. When I received the press release that listed the retail price as $349.95, I was shocked. I fully expected the helmet to come in at the $500 range. Also, that price is for all the SRT-M styles, not just the solid colors, like the white one that I tested. Really quite impressive. I have more good news, too: The Bell SRT-M will be available to the public in just a few weeks. At the end of June, dealers nationwide will begin selling this new offering from Bell. 

Bell SRT-M action


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Best Motorcycle Earplugs

May 18, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

Since hearing usually plays second fiddle to vision when riding motorcycles, people sometimes forget how vulnerable their ears are out there on the road. The sound of your helmet traveling through the air at highway speeds is more than enough to damage your hearing over the long term – or even the short term if you’re wearing an open face or half-helmet. While it may go counter to your initial thoughts, wearing earplugs can actually help you hear better. When your ears aren’t completely overwhelmed, you have the ability to hear more sounds.  

Motorcycles And Hearing Loss

Until recently, your primary choice for protecting your ears was the faithful foam earplug. The good news is that, when properly inserted, they work better than just about anything else at lessening the intensity of the sound reaching your ears. However, they have some shortcomings. First, if improperly inserted, their effectiveness is radically lessened. Second, many riders feel that the uneven damping of frequencies make sounds muffled and unclear.

Currently, we’re experiencing a Gold Rush of new earplugs directed towards powersports and other noisy activities. These new generation earplugs have actually been tuned for the frequencies they attenuate, making it possible for riders to protect their ears and still be able to carry on a conversation at a stoplight. 

Read on to find what earplugs are available for riders.

Pinlock Earplugs

motorcycle earplugs

Many riders are familiar with the Pinlock anti-fog visor inserts, but few know about the company’s earplugs. Constructed out of medical grade silicone-free materials the flanged earplugs are inserted into the ear canal to form a seal. Pinlock claims the earplugs are all-day comfortable thanks, in part, to the two sizes included in the product box. The protection comes from an “advanced precision filter” that limits the wind noise that can damage hearing while still allowing the frequencies that deliver important information – like sirens, horns, or other road users. Riders should also be able to hear conversations with these plugs in place. Even with those capabilities, the filters are rated at a CE certified 24 decibels of suppression. 

Pinlock earplugs retail for $26.95. Learn more about them at the Pinlock website.

Eargasm Earplugs

motorcycle earplugs

Eargasm earplugs have been around since 2015. As with many of the earplugs that utilize attenuation filters, the big selling point for Eargasm plugs is their flat frequency response that leads to the sound not being muffled despite the 20 decibel drop in volume. The packaging and the included aluminum carrying case add to the premium feel of these earplugs.

Eargasm earplugs retail for $29.88 and are also available in small sizes. Visit the Eargasm website for more information.

Hearos Earplugs

motorcycle earplugs

Welcome to Old School hearing protection. Just because Hearos foam earplugs don’t use fancy filters to damp the sound intensity doesn’t mean that time has marched on, leaving them behind. If you’re looking for the highest amount of noise-reduction you can buy, Hearos claims a rating of NRR 33, the highest attenuation in this buyer’s guide.  A word of caution, though: The protection offered by foam earplugs is highly dependent on proper insertion in the ear canal.

Hearos are available in a wide variety of color and softness options. The package shown features 56 pair of earplugs for $14.99. Learn more at the Hearos website. 

NoNoise Motorsport Earplugs

motorcycle earplugs

NoNoise earplugs claim that their filters are “precisely tuned for optimum attenuation at the frequencies required by motorsport enthusiasts, particularly motorcyclists.” The ceramic filters are directed at the frequencies where motorcyclists can potentially suffer the most damage from wind and road noise, while still making important things like conversations and sirens unmuffled. According to NoNoise, the earplugs feature an “independently measured mean sound attenuation (EN352-2:2002) is 29.6dB at the higher (most damaging) frequencies.”

The silicone-free flanged NoNoise earplugs retail for $29.95. The NoNoise website has more information. 

Alpine MotoSafe Race Earplugs

motorcycle earplugs

Alpine MotoSafe Race Earplugs allow riders to hear important information, such as traffic, intercom systems, and the motorcycle’s engine, while still providing high attenuation of potentially damaging sounds. The earplugs themselves are constructed of silicone-free AlpineThermoShape material that molds to the ear canal as it warms under use, delivering a comfortable fit. Alpine claims that MotoSafe earplugs are the only ones on the market with soft filters for better fit in ears and under a helmet.

The Alpine MotoSafe Race Earplugs offer approximately 20-dB of noise reduction for a $19.95 retail price and ship with a zippered storage case. Learn about the MotoSafe line of earplugs at the Alpine website. 

Etymotic ER-20XS High-Fidelity Earplugs

motorcycle earplugs

Etymotic is widely known within the music industry for making high-fidelity earplugs, earbuds, and ear monitors for much longer than many of the other filtered earplugs now on the market. (I have been riding with them for years since I was never happy with how foam plugs fit in my ear canals.) The Etymotic ER-20XS High-Fidelity Earplugs are a new form-factor that sit closer to the ear and work much better with helmets than the previous model. Each earplug reduces the sound intensity by 20-dB across the spectrum of frequencies that the ear can detect. Essentially, you hear everything the same – only quieter. The flanged earplugs are available in standard and large fit to accommodate different ear canal sizes.

Etymotic ER-20XS High-Fidelity Earplugs are priced at $19.95. Learn more about their products at the Etymotic website.

Custom Molded Earplugs

At many motorcycle events, you may have seen people getting brightly colored goo injected into their auditory canal. Custom earplugs will only fit the unique ear shape of their owner, giving them easier insertion and a perfect fit for maximum attenuation of noise. Like with foam plugs, some people feel that these solid custom plugs mute the sound too much, making it hard to hear things that riders want to hear, such as approaching traffic or conversation at a stop. Still, it’s hard to argue with earplugs made specifically to fit your unique ear canals.

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Z1R Releases Jackal Helmet

May 17, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

The Z1R Jackal Helmet is the company’s newest entry in the street helmet market.

Begin Press Release:

Z1R introduces the all new Jackal Helmet

Janesville, Wisconsin – May 14, 2018 – Janesville, WI – Maximum airflow is the name of the game with the all-new Z1R Jackal helmet. The DOT/ECE certified Jackal helmet features an aerodynamically shaped shell that creates a quiet and stable ride. Ultimate temperature control is provided by the adjustable chin and top intake and exhaust vents with channeled dual density EPS. Visibility a concern? The scratch resistant, anti-fog face shield and interchangeable drop down sun visor provide versatility in all lighting conditions. Available in sizes XS-3XL, 3 different shell and EPS sizes allow for the perfect fit. Suggested retail: $149.95

About Z1R

Z1R produces helmets and apparel for the street, off-road, and snow enthusiast. For more information visit us at  You can also follow us on Z1R Facebook.


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New Rider: What Motorcycle Gear Do You Need?

May 16, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

Welcome to motorcycling! Maybe you just bought your first bike or are about to do it. Either way, you’ve probably realized that you’ll need to buy more than just a motorcycle. Motorcycle gear can get really expensive really quickly, but you don’t need to spend a fortune (which you probably don’t have since you just bought your first bike) to keep yourself comfortable while riding or protect yourself in a mishap. While all motorcycle safety gear is important, there is a hierarchy of necessity. Since the assumption of this article is that you’re short on cash, we’ll work our way down the list.

DOT-Legal Helmet

If you only buy one piece of motorcycle gear, buy a helmet – even if you live in a state that doesn’t have a helmet law. Nothing does more to protect you in a crash than wearing a helmet. When it comes to buying a helmet, only two factors are absolute: DOT certification and a proper fit. Ascertaining the DOT status of a helmet is easy. It has a sticker saying it qualifies. For fit, you want the helmet to be snug but not so tight that it causes hot spots on your head. Also, consider that helmets break in over time, making its fit get looser. You don’t want a helmet that bobbles around on your head at highway speeds because it is too big after a couple months of riding. 

Helmets range in price from less than $100 to over $1000. You don’t need to break the bank, but don’t automatically go for the bottom of the barrel either. Pricier helmets will have more features like better ventilation and a quieter interior, though. Here’s a selection of quality helmets for less than $200:

10 Best Motorcycle Helmets Under $200


You may be surprised to see gloves second on the list, but when you consider that it is virtually impossible to avoid putting your hands out in a crash and then look at how fragile hands really are, riding with gloves makes a lot of sense. Riding with a pair of $20 leather work gloves is better than nothing, but there are many gloves available for less than $100 that will protect your hands much better.  

You’ll want to look for some kind of restraint that keeps the gloves from falling off in a tumble. Also, extra layers of leather or other protective material in areas more prone to abrasion is also a good thing. As you climb up the price range, you’ll start to see additional armor for the knuckles and other parts of your hands

Take a look at these gloves:

10 Great Motorcycle Gloves For Under $100

Armored Jacket

While tons of old-timers will tell about how they grew up riding in jean jackets or classic leather jackets without armor, you don’t need to suffer like they did. Technology has progressed to the point that you can get tremendous impact protection at your elbows and shoulder – and sometimes even a back protector – for a remarkably low price. 

In the bargain price range, you’ll most likely be looking at textile jackets instead of leather. However, in recent years the availability and variety of textile riding gear has exploded. While inexpensive jackets usually lack premium features like waterproofing and removable liners, you can get a stylish jacket that will last you several years for just a couple hundred dollars (or less).

Warm-Weather Jackets And Pants Buyers Guide

Motorcycle Boots

You may wonder why boots are before riding pants since knees are just as vulnerable as elbows. The honest answer is that this is really a toss-up protection-wise, but boots also connect you to the ground when you’re at a stop. Riding in a pair of cowboy boots with leather soles may look cool; however, if you put one down in bit of oil at a gas station, you may find yourself picking up your bike. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)

Motorcycle boots typically have grippy soles that help keep your feet in place on both the ground and the bike’s pegs. Additionally, they are much sturdier than sneakers and provide abrasion protection (and often armor) for your vulnerable ankles in a crash.  While motorcycle boots that look more like high-top sneakers are gaining in popularity (and are frequently available at attractive prices), the height that the boots rise up your leg protects your shins from the surprisingly common impact from stones out on the highway. 

Look to these boots for inspiration:

Warm-Weather Boot Buyers Guide

Riding Pants/Jeans

Blue jeans and black leather jackets have been the unofficial motorcycle style for generations. While denim does offer a modicum of abrasion resistance, they do absolutely nothing in regards to protecting your knees from impacts. The number of riding jeans – complete with Kevlar abrasion protection and CE-approved armor – has blossomed over the past two or three years, and we motorcyclists can now protect ourselves without looking like we’re wearing a space suit out to dinner with friends.

Riding jeans aren’t the only kind of protective pants you can buy. Textile over pants have been around for a long time. Then there’s the racy look of leather pants – though you will look silly stopping by the grocery store in them. 

Search for riding jeans.

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Kawasaki Announces Z900RS Cafe For US Market!

May 14, 2018 Evans Brasfield 0

From the moment that the Kawasaki Z1-inspired Z900RS was announced in October of last year, enthusiasts have been saying they wanted the model to go even further into the retro-racer styling. Just a month later, large portions of the rest of the world received the word that their dreams had been made real in the form of the Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe. Naturally, riders in the U.S. market wanted to know why they weren’t going to be allowed to own this strikingly-styled version of the RS.

First Look: 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS

First Look: 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe

2018 Kawasaki Z900RS First Ride Review + Video

Live With It: 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS Long Term Review

Well, according to this press release, the wait is over, and the Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe will soon be available in limited quantities in the American market for $11,499 – that’s only $300 more than the top of the line Z900RS. We don’t know the exact import numbers, but consider this to be a warning that, if you want to buy a Z900RS Cafe in 2018, you better put your money down sooner rather than later.

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe

The Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe gets this spiffy brushed stainless steel exhaust.

Just a quick reminder, the Cafe is mechanically the same motorcycle as the RS with some additional parts. While the bulk of the changes are strictly for styling, a couple could combine to affect the rider. 

The styling changes begin with Kawasaki’s Vintage Lime Green paint scheme that features a retro white stripe from front to rear. Even the black cast wheels receive a cosmetic upgrade in the form of a green stripe. The 948cc engine receives new case covers, and the exhaust sports a brushed stainless steel finish. The retro-inspired bikini fairing straddles the style/function divide, creating the biggest visual change on the Cafe while providing wind protection for the rider.

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe

This photo shows the differences in the cockpit between the Z900RS (red) and the Cafe. While the seat is slightly different, the most noticeable change will be with the location of the grips.

The functional changes are the stepped seat and the drop-style handlebar. While we only have numbers for how the Cafe’s seat height differs from the RS (32.3 in. versus 31.5 in., respectively), they don’t match what the provided photo which overlays the Z900RS and the Cafe, showing the RS seat being higher. We surmise from the photo that Kawasaki sent us with its press release that the grips are roughly 1.0-1.5 in. lower and slightly forward of the RS’ position. The sum effect should be a slightly sportier riding position that angles the rider’s upper body forward. Other than that educated guess about the riding position, we’ll have to wait until we actually get a chance to ride Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe to tell you what it’s really like. We hope it will happen soon!

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe

This swoopy bikini fairing is what the Z900RS has been crying out for since its introduction.

Begin Press Release:



The all-new Kawasaki Z900RS CAFE motorcycle, produced in limited quantities for 2018, adds a classic front fairing, stepped seat, and black low rise handlebars to the nostalgic Z900RS adding another inspired design to Kawasaki’s retro style line of motorcycles.

In building the Z900RS CAFE motorcycle, Kawasaki has once again meticulously crafted one of the most authentic retro-styledmachines in appearance and design, paying homage to an era of motorcycles that shaped the Kawasaki brand. The Z900RS CAFE takes styling cues from iconic Kawasaki models including the Kawasaki Z1-R, Eddie Lawson Replica KZ1000R, and GPz models, all while tastefully incorporating modern technology and features.

Developed for riders in search of a well-rounded bike that is not only rich in history and character, but also packed with modern technology and handling. The Z900RS CAFE is powered by a 948cc in-line four engine, features a modern trellis frame, and modern suspension components that bring an unmatched level of performance.

By blending the sleek sweeping contours of the Z900RS with Kawasaki’s classic caferacer styling and class-leading performance technology, Kawasaki has yet again created another truly authentic motorcycle. The Z900RS CAFE received the same meticulous attention to detail in its construction as its predecessors did, from the Z1 inspired teardrop gas tank to the simple uncluttered engine design, all the way down to the sporty vintage inspired fairing and tail section.

The newest addition to the Z900RS lineup, the Z900RS CAFE, is packed with technologically advanced components and features, including the 41 mm inverted front forks, assist and slipper clutch, Kawasaki TRactionControl (KTRC), and a fully tuned exhaust note. New features appear as well including a brushed stainless steel exhaust system, black low-rise handlebars, stepped seat, fairing, and new engine case covers.The Z900RS CAFE is available in Vintage Lime Green.

Retro Styling

A few of the eye-catching features of the Z900RS CAFE are the beautiful sporty front fairing, black low-rise handlebars and iconic four and a half gallon teardrop fuel tank, which were inspired by the styling of the Kawasaki Z1 and the Z1-R. The entire frame was designed around positioning and showcasing the beautiful cafe-raceraesthetics of the bike. The retro vibe also influenced much of the look of the front end as well, such as the large 170 mm LED headlamp, which blends old school looks and modern designs.Position lamps in the high-beam chambers ensure the whole lamp appears lit, like a retro-style bulb headlamp; a convex lens and chromed headlamp ring add to the high-quality finish and appearance. The iconic Kawasaki styling of the 70’s and 80’s inspired theflowing design of the seat and rear cowl on the Z900RS CAFE. The oval design of the LED taillight also pays homage to its Z1 lineage. Unlike standard LED taillights that appear as a collection of dots, the surface-emitting LED taillight lights up as a solid surface. An analogue-style speedometer and tachometer give off the retro vibe for the gauges, which is contrasted by a multi-functional LCD screen with an easy-to-read black and white display that continues the theme of blending retro styling and modern technology.

The simple, uncluttered engine design was very important to Kawasaki engineers when building the Z900RS CAFE. Its engine has its own unique look and features all-new black stylish engine covers. The engineers wanted to capture the air-cooled & carbureted feel, to make the bike stand out in an age where electronics have become increasingly popular in the engine bay. The stylish engine fins were cast onto the cylinder head to create the image of an air-cooled engine. The long, flowing 4-into-1 stainless steel header design mates to the short, low hanging megaphone silencer ties together the vintage image of the Z900RS CAFE

The cast aluminum wheels chosen for the Z900RS CAFE feature flat spokes designed to look like classic wire-spoked wheels. The wheels offer a balance of lightweight and stylish looks, contributing to both handling and a design suited to the retro category.

Strong, Smooth Inline-Four Engine & Transmission

The Z900RS CAFE, features a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve 948cc inline four cylinder engine. Its design and configuration offer a great balance of power and manageability, delivering strong low and mid range torque that provides all riders the reassuring feeling of control. Several engine components played a crucial role in achieving the smooth, reliable, consistent power needed for the Z900RS CAFE. Utilizing the downdraft positioning of the 36 mm throttle bodies was crucial in allowing intake air to travel in the most direct route to the combustion chamber, which is all complemented by ECU controlled sub throttles that provide silky smooth throttle response.

To facilitate smooth shifting the gearing ratio of the Z900RS CAFE was designed to have a short first gear, making it easier to launch. It also features a longer sixth gear for improved ride comfort when touring or cruising at highway speeds and also allows the engine to operate at lower rpm, which in turn results in improved fuel efficiency and reduced engine vibration.

The Z900RS CAFE features a high-quality clutch with assist and slipper function working in unison with its transmission. Additionally, the back-torque limiting slipper function of the clutch contributes to stability by helping to prevent wheel hop during downshifts.

Kawasaki’s Precision Tuned Exhaust Note

While the Kawasaki inline-four cylinder engines have been historically known for their great-sounding exhausts, Kawasaki has used sound research to craft an ideal exhaust note. Sound tuning on the Z900RS CAFE was focused on the initial roar to life, idling, and low-speed riding where the rider is best able to enjoy the exhaust’s deep growl. To ensure both performance and the desired sound were achieved, every aspect of the exhaust system was scrutinized: exhaust pipe length, collector design, where to position the bends, even the density of the glass wool fibers in the silencer. More than 20 renditions of the system were tested before finding the perfect match. Clever internal construction of the pre-chamber achieves a balance of sound and performance, and at low-rpm, the exhaust escapes in a straight line, while at high-rpm the exhaust is routed through an additional passage.

The high quality stainless steel exhaust system features a 4-into-1 collector layout.  The header pipes and pre-chamber are built as a single unit. The exhaust headers feature a double-wall construction, which helps to minimize heat discoloration and provide protection from the elements. The compact stainless steel megaphone-style silencer contributes to the retro appearance of the Z900RS CAFE. To ensure the highest quality finish possible the header pipes are all treated with a special three stage buffing process:the first is done as individual parts, the second is done once the exhaust is assembled, the third stage is a final buffing process.

Lightweight Trellis Frame

To achieve the desired weight, handling characteristics, and appearance, the Z900RS CAFE received a high tensile steel trellis frame. The lines of the frame were made as straight as possible, only utilizing bends when necessary, which has created a frame that disperses stress extremely well and enhances handling. Also aiding in the pursuit of lightweight and performance handling is the rigid-mounted engine, which is connected at five points to the frame: front and rear of the cylinder head, behind the cylinder, and at the top and bottom of the crankcases. Its minimalist design has helped to trim all unnecessary weight while showcasing its retro styling.

The Z900RS CAFE has a laid back and relaxed design, which was achieved by raising the front and lowering the rear.


Complementing the ride comfort of the all-new performance designed trellis frame is a 41 mm inverted fork and Kawasaki’s Horizontal Back-Link rear suspension design. The high-grade fork features fully adjustable 10-way compression and 12-way rebound damping, enabling riders to find their precise settings to suit their preference and riding style. Enhancing the performance of the rear is Kawasaki’s Horizontal Back-Link rear suspension design. The rear shock features fully adjustable rebound damping and preload.This arrangement contributes to mass centralization while ensuring that the suspension is located far enough from the exhaust that it is not affected by heat.


Handling the stopping duties of the Z900RS CAFE is a full disc brake setup featuring modern ABS.The radial-pump front brake master cylinder commands a pair of 4-piston radial-mount monobloc calipers to grip a pair of 300 mm brake discs, providing plenty of stopping power. The rear brake features a single piston, pin-slide caliper gripping a 250 mm disc.

Kawasaki TRaction Control (KTRC)

The Z900RS CAFE is equipped with Kawasaki TRaction Control (KTRC), which has two performance settings riders can choose from: Mode 1 prioritizes maximum forward acceleration, while Mode 2 provides rider reassurance by facilitating smooth riding on low-traction surfaces.

When selected, Mode 2 utilizes the same logic and control as Mode 1, but enables riders to better negotiate both short patches of slippery terrain, such as train tracks or manhole covers, and extended stretches of other less predictable surfaces. Wheel spin is also limited when starting on a low-traction surface. However, when excessive rear wheel spin occurs, Mode 2 switches to three-way control, which governs the ignition timing, fuel delivery and airflow, and engine output is reduced to a level that helps the rear wheel to regain grip. This fine control results in a very natural feeling with smooth engagement and on/off transition. Riders may also elect to turn the system off to enjoy the raw feel of riding.


The 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS CAFE is available in Vintage Lime Green


Z900RS CAFE $11,499


Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. (KHI) started full-scale production of motorcycles over a half century ago. The first Kawasaki motorcycle engine was designed based on technical know-how garnered from the development and production of aircraft engines, and Kawasaki’s entry into the motorcycle industry was driven by the company’s constant effort to develop new technologies. Numerous new Kawasaki models introduced over the years have helped shape the market, and in the process have created enduring legends based on their unique engineering, power, design and riding pleasure. In the future, Kawasaki’s commitment to maintaining and furthering these strengths will surely give birth to new legends.

Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. (KMC) markets and distributes Kawasaki motorcycles, ATVs, side x sides, and Jet Ski®watercraft through a network of almost 1,100 independent retailers, with close to an additional 7,400 retailers specializing in general purpose engines. KMC and its affiliates employ nearly 3,100 people in the United States, with approximately 250 of them located at KMC’s Foothill Ranch, California headquarters.

Kawasaki’s tagline, “Let the good times roll.®”, is recognized worldwide. The Kawasaki brand is synonymous with powerful, stylish and category-leading vehicles. Information about Kawasaki’s complete line of powersports products and Kawasaki affiliates can be found on the Internet at

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