It’s no secret that naked sports bikes are getting all the attention in most mature markets around the globe, but here in India, we haven’t really accepted them with open arms. It’s not that we don’t have enough variety to choose from. Triumph has the Speed Triple, Honda still offers the brilliant CB1000R, Yamaha brought in the MT-09 last year. BMW, MV Agusta, Ducati and Aprilia also offer their super naked exotics, and Kawasaki always had the Z800 and Z1000 in India. So, why don’t we see a lot more naked supersports being sold in India?
The dominant segments in the premium bike space in India are mainly cruisers and supersport bikes, and the reason behind this is quite simple – India has always been a country of contrasts. At one end, you have high-priced, high-performance machines, and at the lower end, you have the entry-level performance bikes. The mid-level segment of performance bikes has only recently begun to expand in India, which is still a very young market for premium motorcycles. Kawasaki knows this too, and they’ve just revamped their entire Z line-up – which now consists of the Z250, Z650 and Z900.
While I wasn’t a big fan of the Z800, mainly due to its heavy weight and uncharacteristic ride quality, it still was a great handling bike. On the other hand, the Z1000 offered you enough power to blow your mind, but it was hindered by old technology and it wasn’t exactly accessible to a lot of riders. The new Z900 offers you a lot more and will surely be a game changer in the Indian market.
The first thing I noticed about the Z900 is that its design is pretty basic. Kawasaki hasn’t gone over the top in terms of its looks, but it’s still sharp, edgy, and true to form for its Z range of bikes. The Z900 replaces the Z800, and it also takes over the flagship role from the rather redundant Z1000. It will also be the most affordable naked middleweight superbike available in India.
I rode the Z900 on some beautiful back-country roads around Lonavala, near Pune, and I have to say that the bike is phenomenal. What really blew me away was how easy and fun it is to ride. The seat height has been lowered from the Z800, the riding position is more upright and, more importantly, it’s 20 kilograms lighter. It’s much easier to manage in the city, and a lot more maneuverable. The Z900 gets fully adjustable KYB forks and a rear shock, but even at standard settings, I was very impressed with the level of feedback and control. The horizontal back-link suspension delivers a balance of sporty performance and ride comfort, and the chassis feels nicely planted and confidence inspiring even when you push the bike to its limits.
The engine has been very well engineered and is very refined. Unlike the Z800, there are no vibrations anywhere on the bike and the engine feels super smooth. The 948cc in-line four offers you 124bhp of raw fun and 98.6Nm of pulling power. There is such a great flexibility in the Z’s nature that it offers very strong linear delivery from down low all the way to its 11,000rpm rev limit. The initial acceleration is brilliant, but it’s the mid-range that keeps you smiling. Peak power kicks in just before the redline, which means that you’re rewarded for making the rather quiet engine sing. The Z900 doesn’t get ride-by-wire, instead, it uses old-school cable-operated dual valve throttle bodies, which offers fluid acceleration. There is also no traction control, launch control, riding modes, or cruise control, but I wasn’t complaining because I didn’t feel as though this machine was lacking at all – purists will surely love the Z900.
The 6-speed transmission has shortened overall ratios through the bottom five gears, and they offer you a raw feel of the bike. The slipper clutch, too, has a lightened and raw touch that feels more natural. The brakes do their job wonderfully, and the four-piston front Nissin calipers provide excellent power and feel, and you will be at ease at all times thanks to the ABS – which is standard. With all of these parts working as one, the Z900 offers you a more relaxed and fun riding experience, and you will always feel as if you’re in total control of the bike.
The Z900 surely won’t disappoint you at all. It really does excel in every department. With a very respectable power output and brilliant ride quality and engaging usability, it’s one of the best naked superbikes in India and it’ll satisfy almost any rider. With a price tag of just Rs.9 lakh, it’s the most practical and cheapest naked on offer. This makes it even more attractive, and it just might change buyer behaviour towards these kinds of bikes in India.