ON THE ROAD: KAWASAKI Z900 RS CAFE

BY TUMELO MAKETEKETE

 

Introduction

I should stop giving my numbers to these mountains. They are ruthless in their timing and have neither respect for family time nor creature comforts. To them everything is about play and adventure. It so happens that I have a very soft spot for these two lifestyle options. And so, when they called I had to respond, as usual.

The horse of choice came out of the Kawasaki stable. A thoroughbred stallion fully matured at 900 cubic centimetres. To the untrained eye he looks simple and meek, but on start-up he hinted a little streak of arrogance, very eager to carry out the job at hand.

 

Rain clouds had gathered, and destination already decided, as both horse and rider headed for the Mountain Kingdom, officially known as Lesotho. These mountains were getting impatient for attention. The actual ride to the border was nothing short of exhilarating with the Z900 gulping huge amounts of fresh air and converting it into an absolute thrill. I felt confident and somewhat untouchable. At the Maputsoe border post the officials were also at their best behaviour, with the whole encounter lasting no more than ten minutes.

 

One of the little things I live for is having the African sun on my back. As I headed east along the A1 motorway, the warm rays were now behind me, exactly what the doctor had prescribed for my chronic adventure sickness. The ride past St. Monica, Matukeng and Hlotse was very relaxed and brought back so many fond memories of being home. And also, my upbringing.

Appearance

Except for the hooded front, the Kawasaki Z900 RS Café is essentially a naked street bike, only in retro guise. A tiny visor comes helpful on windy rides and below it, is a state-of-the-art round LED headlight, complete with daytime running lights. An ancient look is brought back to life and modernised even more by the inclusion of LED indicators. I love the blend of colours and how they complement the entire look of the bike: green hood, green front wheel arch (attached to black folks on detailed black attachments and held in place with chrome nuts). In the midst of all this green and black, four chromed exhaust manifolds allude to the athletic abilities of this Japanese stallion. The dials have an ancient rounded look to them, but there is nothing outdated about them. At the flick of a user-friendly selector switch, the rider is able to choose whatever they want displayed, from outside temperature, fuel economy, fuel range and fuel capacity in the slim-design 17 litre tank. Overall mass of the bike is a mere 216 kilograms, with an acceptable ground clearance of 130 millimetres. Overall height is a comfortable 1 190 millimetres.

The nakedness nature of the design shows off a well-crafted black engine, with brushed silver cooling fins on either side of the head – the actual heartbeat of the Café Racer. The four outlet manifolds eventually become one, neatly tucked below the engine.  And from there a silver, gorgeously moulded factory exhaust pipe is on display to the right of the bike. If I did not know any better, based on the looks and sound, I would have said it was an after-market unit.

 

In true Kawasaki tradition, a thin green circumferential line draws the eye to expertly crafted black mag wheels, with the rear wheel even more exposed, thanks to the dwarf wheel cover. From the rear he is all just lean muscle, unapologetically athletic, with a short neatly trimmed tail. Two LED indicators flank either side of the LED taillight, even an LED light for the license plate. Some brands are still left behind when it comes to the latter.

Performance

With a maximum power of 82kW available at 8 500rpm, it makes it difficult to wipe the naughty smile off the rider’s face. A torque figure of 98.5Nm at 6 500rpm ensures that the smile actually never comes off, as long as there is still fuel to feed this stallion. All this power and torque is delivered to the driving wheel through a 6-speed, constant mesh, return shift transmission via a chain. A wet multi disc clutch is full-time employed for this task.

The A1 route after Hlotse heads towards Butha-Buthe, which is another buzzing town in the tiny kingdom. The roads are infested with slow driving, non-caring taxi drivers, even slower heavy haulage long distance trucks, and the odd Mosotho man going on about his daily routine, on horseback. Riding here needs not only to be vigilant, but patient too, despite all this power rumbling below between the rider’s thighs. It is the patience bit that forces one to suck in the rural smell of this kingdom, to appreciate the simplicity of life and the beauty of nature. Further down the road it will be quiet and lonely, with more curves and tricky bends in the road than those of an affluent Jozi slay queen. These are the bits I have been waiting to explore – now the adventure portion of my solo ride was about to start.

 

Heading towards ‘Moteng these curves are literally lethal. Riding is right on the edge of the cliff, which does not allow one to either fart nor blink by mistake. The capabilities and agility of my horse came in very appreciated here. He was eager to please and the constant grip of the tyres gave for even more rider confidence. All this, while listening to the beautiful roars of a caged lion through the exhaust pipe. Our horse was at home in these mountains.

The Verdict:

The Kawasaki Z900 RS Café makes for a comfortable daily ride. A relaxed sitting position, similar to that of an adventure bike, and allows for endless riding pleasure. The 900 CC powerplant is more than adequate for a long-distance weekend getaway, though cushioning of the seat dictates for regular rest stops, especially for those of us with limited natural cushioning. The retro looks, though classic, are very modern and appealing to the eye, beautiful and inspiring to look at, and show off.

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