Kawasaki’s new middleweight modern-classic has all the makings of an appealing and entertaining motorcycle.
Published on Feb 03, 2022 03:02:00 PM
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Green colour with contrasting stripes attracts attention.
Tractable engine lends itself nicely to retro theme.
Analogue dials have a charm of their own.
Of the many designs that motorcycles wear these days, the neo-retro theme is among the popular ones out there. You see, such motorcycles have a certain charm of their own and their appeal transcends age groups. Which explains why Kawasaki has decided to follow up the delectable Z900 RS with the new Z650 RS.
The core ingredient in the Z650 RS’ modern-classic recipe is its gorgeous design. This is an area that Kawasaki had to nail and they’ve done a commendable job. Almost every element of the design shouts ‘retro’, be it the round headlight (although the illumination is modern LED), the teardrop shaped fuel tank and the way it flows to the single-piece seat to the minimal tail section. The twin-pod, analogue instrument console with a digital LCD read-out in between for fuel, trip and other information is a neat touch. Personally, I’ll never tire of seeing a set of needles swoop across the dial, from one end to the other.
The glittery green paint is reminiscent of the shade on the Kawasaki Z650-B1 of the 1970s; the inspiration behind the Z650 RS. With the lovely pinstripes and the brushed aluminium Kawasaki logo on the tank, there’s a good amount of attention to detail. Contrasting with the smashing green colour are the gold-coloured wheels. At first, I suspected that they’ll look gaudy, but after seeing them in person, they look neat. In fact, these wheels have a multi-spoke design that appear as wire spoke wheels when seen from the side, highlighting the inspiration from the past.
The overall effect of the design and the colours lends the bike a truly modern-classic look and I lost count of the number of appreciative stares and thumbs-ups that the bike garnered from other road users. If the green colour isn’t your thing, there’s a grey and black colour combo with orange pinstripes on the wheels that is relatively inconspicuous.
As Kawasaki India typically tends to do, they’ve gone overboard with the design of the grab rails and the huge saree guard. These could’ve been smaller, sleeker and not as off putting as they currently are. Thankfully, it only takes a couple of tools to take them off the bike.
Also, the round mirrors are textbook retro, but they’ve got massive blind spots and that makes them unreliable for keeping an eye on the traffic behind you.
Beneath the Z650 RS’ period-correct wardrobe is Kawasaki’s tried and tested 650cc platform. The RS is, essentially, a Z650 minus the sporty, Sugomi bodywork and conventional round brake discs instead of the petal discs on the street naked. The ergonomics are also tweaked to suit the laid-back nature of a classic motorcycle, by means of a taller, wider handlebar and slightly lower foot pegs. The single-piece seat is wider than the one on the Z650 and the seat height itself has risen by 30mm, to 820mm. However, with a narrow profile towards the tank, placing both feet firmly on the ground won’t be a challenge for most riders.
The steel trellis frame is the same as well, however, the subframe is different and doesn’t have as steep a rake as the Z650’s unit. You’ll also find the same telescopic fork and link-type monoshock, but the wheelbase and ground clearance have both reduced by 5mm. The latter is a matter of concern as the Kawasaki 650 platform, barring the Versys, already suffers with clearance issues over tall speed breakers. The Z650 RS faces a similar problem and that painful sound of metal scraping over tarmac is something you’ll have to contend with if you aren’t extremely careful.
Lastly, the 649cc, parallel-twin engine makes the same 68hp and 64Nm as the Z650, but Kawasaki says it has tuned it to offer better lower and mid range grunt.
What we were curious to know is how well does the Kawasaki 650cc platform lend itself to the idea of a modern-classic motorcycle. And over the course of this test, the Z650 RS managed to impress and how.
The ergonomics, to begin with, are spot on for that relaxed, classic motorcycle-style cruise down the road. The engine plays along with its tractability and adds to that feeling of effortless riding. Turn up the wick and the bike surges to triple-digit speeds in no time. For the record, it covered the 0-100kph dash in 4.32sec, which is pretty quick for a 650cc bike. The engine doesn’t feel strained at cruising speed of 120-130kph, with only a mild buzz in the pegs and handlebar at certain RPMs. However, the lack of wind protection makes it difficult to stick to high speeds for long periods of time.
Another thing to keep an eye out for is fuel range. A 12-litre fuel tank, vis-a-vis the 15-litre tank of the Z650, means you’ll have to stop more frequently between fill ups.
As for the ride quality, the suspension isolates you from most of the bumps and undulations you’ll find on our streets. The handling is neutral as well and given the nature of the bike, you don’t feel the need to push hard around corners. That is a good thing because past a certain point after tipping the bike into a corner, the Dunlop Sportmax RoadSport 2 tyres lack feedback. This robs you of confidence and our past experience with these tyres in the wet wasn’t great either.
Grippier, more feedback-rich rubber will help unlock the potential of the chassis, not only on the Z650 RS but also the Z650 and Ninja 650.
The Nissin brakes deserve special mention for being one of the sharpest yet progressive ones in the segment. There’s ample feedback through the lever and the 16.60m that it took to come to a halt from 60kph is proof of its performance.
At Rs 6.72 lakh (ex-showroom, India), the Z650 RS costs Rs 48,000 more than the Z650. For those who want value for money, the RS may not seem like the logical choice. After all, the Z650 is the same bike and gets more features, namely a modern TFT display with Bluetooth connectivity.
The Z650 RS isn’t for those with such a bent of mind. It is for someone who wants a motorcycle that’s beautiful to look at, packs a tonne of desirability and is still usable as an everyday motorcycle.
It is for these attributes that the RS is the better buy and worth the stretch over the Z650.
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