New retro-styled RS version of the Ninja 650
Kawasaki got it spot-on when it launched the Z900 RS a few years ago. Using the foundation of its naked Z900 roadster, it built a modern homage to the legendary Z1 and Z900 range from the early 1970s, and riders snapped them up.
Adding a retro-shaped fuel tank and sidepanels, matching up the old-school paint schemes, hiding the modern fuel injection and water-cooling systems away as best you can, and fitting a round LED headlamp all seems simple enough. But no one managed to do it as well as Kawasaki did with the Z900 RS, and the later Café version with its natty early 1980s nosecone.
And now the firm has done the same trick with the Z650, to give us the new Z650 RS. The original Z650 was a naked middleweight roadster that used an inline-four air-cooled eight-valve engine, conventional roadster forks and brakes, and twin-shock rear suspension.
It was a fairly standard machine of the late 1970s, and nowhere near as revolutionary as the Z1 or Z900s that came before it. Nevertheless, it has a strong place in many riders’ hearts, and even today, is still a very handsome-looking piece of design – and led to the later Z750, 750 Turbo and GPz750 models.
The new Z650 RS is a very different beast of course. It has the parallel twin engine out of the current Ninja 650 and Z650, putting out around 67bhp. It’s the same powerplant as used in Supertwin races worldwide, as well as at the Isle of Man TT, and is a well-sorted unit. It will also be available from Kawasaki dealers with a 35kw restrictor kit to create an A2 compliant machine.
The engine is bolted into a steel tube trellis type frame with 41mm conventional front forks and Kawasaki’s horizontal link rear suspension, with a pre-load adjustable shock. Braking is taken care of by a pair of twin piston front calipers acting on 300mm discs and a single piston rear caliper with a 200mm disc, plus Bosch advanced ABS.
Kawasaki claims the new bike is designed to evoke memories of the classic 1977 Z650-B1, with faithfully-reproduced paint and pinstripes, the iconic “duck tail” tail unit, and classic-styled side panels. Even the seat’s stitching pattern is designed to echo the 1970s machinery from the big K.
Up front there is, of course, a round LED headlamp with dual analogue style shaped clocks mounted on top just like the 1977 machine, though the 2022 bike also includes a digital centre panel for rider information.
Available from early November, the 2022 Z650RS will be available in three colours:
– Metallic Spark Black (£7,549)
– Candy Emerald Green (£7,699)
– Metallic Moondust Grey / Ebony (£7,699)