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The Kawasaki Z650RS brings retro looks to the middleweight class

Sporty performance is combined with old-school styling

The Z650RS has all the competence of the Z650 in a better-looking package. PHOTO FROM KAWASAKI

With the big-bike market enjoying healthy growth in the retro category, it was inevitable that Kawasaki would finally offer riders a more affordable option in its Z900RS. But as lovely and capable as that bike is, there are more buyers in the middleweight market than in the liter-bike class. Just look at the proliferation of Triumph Trident 660s, Yamaha XSR700s, and Royal Enfield Interceptors and Continentals on any Sunday ride. While the Japanese firm already had a retro standard in the W800, a sportier model would be just the ticket for riders who also want performance to go with their fashion sense.

We predict many owners will be taking lots and lots of photos of their RS. PHOTOS FROM KAWASAKI

Fortunately for team green, it didn’t have to start from scratch as it already had an excellent platform to work with in the Z650 naked roadster. Using the same trellis frame and engine as that bike, the Z650RS is a retro-styling exercise that pays homage to the Universal Japanese Motorcycle bikes of the 1960s and the 1970s. A teardrop tank, hexagonal side panels, raised handlebars, a round LED headlamp, a long bench seat, and color-keyed wheels score instant pogi points. The digital dash of the Z650 is replaced with a twin-instrument pod à la Triumph Street Twin.

The engine is the tried-and-tested 649cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin that has been serving for many years now in the Z650, the Ninja 650 and the Vulcan S. It makes a decent 67hp and 64Nm through a six-speed transmission. The engine and the stubby exhaust pipe look plain as day (a big aesthetic point among retro bikes), which is probably why Kawasaki paid so much attention to dressing up the rest of the bike.

It’ll be hard choosing which color to go for. PHOTOS FROM KAWASAKI

Curb weight is just 187kg. Fuel consumption is claimed to be 23km/L, but a smallish 12L tank may mean frequent fill-ups on longer rides. Twin 300mm front discs and a single 220mm rear disc—along with nonadjustable suspension (except for preload)—are pretty basic for the class. Still, the 17-inch wire-spoke-style tubeless wheels are gorgeous. Except for ABS, there isn’t much in the way of rider aids, but that will probably be just fine for owners who want a simpler riding experience while making frequent stops for Instagram pics. Kawasaki Europe has unveiled three colors: Candy Emerald Green, Metallic Moondust Gray/Ebony, and Metallic Spark Black.

It wouldn’t be a retro bike without analog clocks. PHOTO FROM KAWASAKI

At least in the UK, dealers are pricing the Z650RS at the equivalent of P519,000 before taxes. Locally, the Z650 is priced at P415,000, but we can expect the RS to carry a premium. We have no word yet if or when the bike will be sold here, but if Kawasaki Philippines can price it well below P500,000, it may have a winner on its hands.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.