What new motorcycle at EICMA caught my eye

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe

The Kawasaki Z900RS Café was a new model unveiled at EICMA that I did not expect.

Every year, the EICMA show in Milan, Italy, serves up a feast of new motorcycles. We covered the most significant and relevant announcements over at RevZilla with multiple stories, even though unlike some sites, we don’t cover everything. Here, though, I’m being even more selective. Here’s what I personally found most interesting.

In September, I went to Philadelphia for one of my regular work visits to RevZilla and also spent the weekend covering the MotoAmerica round at New Jersey Motorsports Park. For the weekend, I borrowed the Kawasaki Z900 we had in-house for long-term testing and rode it to the track and back, about an hour each way, for three days. I had a great time riding the bike. It’s the kind of muscular naked motorcycle I love, sporty but still comfortable, competent but not overly complex.

There were two problems, though: After that weekend, I continued on to Maine and then back home to Ohio, and if I’d done that longer trip on the Z900 instead of my well equipped Versys, I would have been uncomfortable and struggling to find a way to pack necessities. Second, I can’t bring myself to like the Transformers-insectoid look that some of the Japanese designers are in love with these days.

Kawasaki Z900RS

The Kawasaki Z900RS was first shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in October.

Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe seat

The rounded, backward-sloping passenger seat on the Kawasaki Z900RS Café may offer the right style, but it’s not conducive to blissful two-up day rides through the country. More likely to lead to an annoying whining sound coming from the rear of the motorcycle.

Then, at the Tokyo show, Kawasaki showed its Z900RS retro, which at least solves the latter problem, because it’s a simply and classically styled motorcycle with even more tech inside than the Z900 it’s based on. At EICMA, I was surprised to see yet another variation: the Z900RS Café. It looks even better, to my eyes, though I realize that flyscreen is going to perform only minimal wind-management duties. The killer for me is the seat. I was imagining taking my bride of 23 years on leisurely country-road rides on a Z900RS, but I’d be afraid she’d slide right off the back of that stylish seat on the Café version.

Which leaves me wondering if I could put that fairing on a regular RS. Hmmm.

Meanwhile, Triumph did not come out with the RT version of the Street Triple that I’d hoped for, complete with half fairing and hard luggage. The Honda CB1000R looks nice, but it’s not the sort of thing you hang saddlebags on for a trip across a few state lines, and that’s something I really enjoy. Harley-Davidson’s new Sport Glide could do the distance but it is at least 150 pounds too heavy and, more importantly, has the feet-forward riding position that disqualifies it for anything with the name “Sport” in the title, except in that alternative universe some people live in where the only motorcycles that exist are Harleys. The new supercharged Kawasaki Ninja H2 SE is impressive, but it has twice as much horsepower as I need and will probably cost twice what I’m willing to spend, once Kawasaki floors us with the MSRP.

Kawasaki Ninja H2 SE SX

If you absolutely have to have 200 horsepower and factory, locking, waterproof saddlebags, the Kawasaki Ninja H2 SE SX may be your only choice. I understand the appeal, but I think it’s probably twice the horsepower and price to suit my needs.

As a result, nothing new came out at EICMA that offers an obvious alternative to my old Versys I’ve been wanting to replace for about two years.

Each of those motorcycles has its own appeal, however, especially the H2. I still hold out hope that Kawasaki will come through with its hints of more supercharged models and we’ll see what it can do with a 500 cc or 600 cc supercharged four, preferably at a more accessible price point.

So, even though I’m not usually into retro style, I find myself most interested in the Z900RS variants from this year’s show season. It’s atypical for me. I’m not interested in Triumph’s Modern Classics and no longer willing to make the sacrifices in performance and comfort that are required to ride anything Harley-Davidson produces. The appeal of the Z900 is that instead of copying the original Z1 that made such an impact in the early 1970s, it pays homage to it, while providing thoroughly modern running gear. It’s not pretending to be anything it isn’t. It’s just a classically styled motorcycle that will, I expect, work pretty darn well. (It also reminded me of a custom I wrote about a few years ago, so I rescued that story from the internet’s discard bin.)

In the end, as much as I may be awed by the H2’s stat sheet, it’s the lesser Kawasaki that most caught my eye this show season.


2 Responses to “What new motorcycle at EICMA caught my eye”

  1. Bill Andrews says:

    I liked it too. Maybe because if you squint, you can see some of my Sprint style there.

    • Lance Oliver Lance Oliver says:

      That’s a pretty strong squint, but I won’t argue the point. I miss bikes with half fairings, like yours. Now, for the most part, it’s either all naked or full fairing. I like the wind management of a half fairing but still being able to see the engine.