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Kawasaki Z 900 RS and BMW R nineT in comparison test

The duel of the retro bikes

After choppers and cruisers, the retro department whistles for higher, faster, further. Is it enough to just look old? The BMW R nineT and the new Kawasaki Z 900 RS prove the opposite. Which retro bike has the edge in the comparison test??

VS.ruisers do it, choppers do it, and now retro bikes too. They let the demands of higher, faster, further slide down on you like a Teflon pan does a fried egg. While every square millimeter in the cylinder head is polished to a high gloss in super sports enthusiasts or travel enduros want to create the multifunctional arc between the lunar module and the submarine, the long forks and purists simply lean back and shout: Without me. For some time now, the retro department has been snapping its imaginary suspenders and smiling goodbye to the competitive society. Those who pretend to be old are relieved of the pressure. Who cares how many kilometers per hour the Guzzi V7 or the Bonnevilles and Thruxtons from Triumph were missing in the applause curve?

Kawasaki Z 900 RS and BMW R nineT in comparison test

The duel of the retro bikes

BMW R nineT most successful retro bike

It seems like a countertrend on wheels. The illustrious circle of the good old days bikes has been growing steadily for years. Meanwhile, the wave of nostalgia sloshes with full surf. So far, nine manufacturers with a total of 22 models have jumped on the retro steam locomotive. In 2017, a total of 11,000 classic bikes were sold in this country, every ninth new machine! But something is happening in the area of ​​the previously carefree, unconditional livelihood of humans and retro machines. Right from the start, the BMW R nineT went its own very successful path. Perhaps because right from the start it did not borrow from concrete historical models, with its upside-down fork and the not-so-old air-cooled four-valve boxer, it wrapped the latest technology in a mottled gray ambience. Last but not least, this approach is likely to have given the Bajuwarin her success. Its successful appearance may also play an important role, but ultimately the nineT also has a technical edge. In terms of driving dynamics, it makes the neo-seniors look even older. And last but not least, probably also in the sales room: a third of all retro fans reach for the nineT or one of its sisters (Pure, Urban G / S, Racer).

From 0 to 100 km / h it takes 3.3 seconds for the BMW and 3.5 seconds for the Kawasaki.

Success is inevitable for Kawasaki’s retro restart too. The Japanese want to sell 1,700 pieces of the Kawasaki Z 900 RS and another 350 of its Cafe Racer derivative in Germany in the premiere year. Those numbers would be enough for a top ten spot on the sales charts. The new old one also relies on modern technology under its venerable Z1 shell. Therefore: Welcome back! Welcome to the realm of acceleration, torque, steering precision, ABS control behavior – and the 1000-point rating. The two do not go into the race completely inexperienced. The BMW R nineT already had to be counted by MOTORRAD in 2014, the Kawa only recently fought for points (MOTORRAD 3/2018), leaving behind the Honda CB 1100 RS and Yamaha XSR 900 in comparison. So what’s left? No less than the final showdown in the Masters category.

Sound of the BMW more powerful

The BMW R nineT trumpets its boxer sound, giving an idea of ​​what is acoustically hip when the exhaust flap switches to open at higher engine speeds. We want to refrain from fundamental discussions, keyword “loud is out”, but the soundscape of the Flat Twin is subjectively borderline open-meshed in any case. The Kawasaki Z 900 RS remains more moderate in this regard. Although it blows straight out of its highly polished muffler in the lower rev range, it guides its exhaust gases through the front muffler on higher tours. In both driving situations, their tone remains throaty and rough, but warm – and quieter than with the BMW.

The Kawasaki is extremely easy to steer.

Who already reminds of their past with the first brief burst of gas. You can clearly feel the BMW R nineT leaning to the right. Ah, old boxer. Equipped with more flywheel than its lively successor. And the Kawasaki Z 900 RS? Tingles gently in the handlebar ends. No sandpaper tingling, which is typical of the four-cylinder, only perceived in the long run, but a sign of life that the technicians consciously staged with an incompletely balanced balancer shaft. Head for the battle line right away? No, first empathize. Because again the two are fundamentally different. You reach down relatively deeply to the handlebars of the BMW, the upholstery stretches thinly over the seat. Involuntarily, you get the feeling of sitting on one of the trendy custom roadsters, of traveling with FUEL instead of MOTORRAD. Alright, after all, the R nineT should convey exactly this feeling.

Sitting position on the kawa is more relaxed

And the Kawasaki Z 900 RS is probably what the Z1 drivers were looking for in 1971. High handlebars, low footpegs placed quite far forward, flat tank, little contoured but plush seat. Precision landing with the spirit of the 70s. The very special ergonomics of the two borders on brainwashing for the pilot. It is impossible to suppress these irrational aspects. We wanted to score soberly? OKAY. It sits more relaxed and with a more open knee angle on the Z. Plus points. And catastrophic on the passenger seat of the BMW R nineT. Lots of negatives.

We are gradually getting into a jury mood – and the street is in a party mood. Right, left, right, the asphalt railway winds through the pine forest in the south of France. Before we digress, a few facts. Retro freaks should be familiar with the fact that the Kawa history researchers put a tremendous hand on the basic Z-900 when designing the Kawasaki Z 900 RS. Just one more time in fast forward: Camshafts with tamer control times, lower compression, more flywheel mass, 20 HP reduced peak power, anti-hopping clutch, changed gear ratio – all this has been donated to the engine, which has been provided with a new cylinder and housing design. Fully adjustable fork, longer wheelbase, radial brakes and a higher front and a lower rear were given to the chassis. And of course the icing on the cake: tank and rear bumper in the legendary Z1 design. All in all, it makes an almost new bike – but at a tariff of around 12,000 euros, i.e. almost 3,000 euros extra on the basic 900.

R nineT is significantly more expensive

Before we take the next turns a little more diagonally, that’s enough for the news on the BMW R nineT. Because almost unnoticed, the Bavarians sharpened the nineT, which cost a good 16,000 euros, last year. Brake and clutch fittings are now from Nissin instead of Magura. An at least 1.3 degrees flatter steering head angle as well as the eleven millimeter longer wheelbase and the five millimeter larger caster should obviously bring a little more calm to the agile chassis. Just like the new fork. This comes from the Superbike S 1000 RR, was adapted to the more moderate purpose with softer springs (8.0 instead of 9.5 N / mm) and less damping. What does moderate mean here? It’s hardly enough to look at the newly designed instruments. Now it’s really about points.

The Kawa is almost 3,000 euros cheaper.

It’s great how easily the duo can be folded in an inclined position. Nobody likes to swear that the weight difference (BMW R nineT 222 kg, Kawasaki Z 900 RS 216 kg) is really noticeable. Rather, the Kawa‘s strikingly easy steering behavior is a source of enthusiasm. A good part of the praise is probably due to the newly developed Dunlop GPR 300. Whether fast curves or tight corners – the Z with the new tire always stays neutrally on course, it grips well, stands up only minimally when braking in an inclined position and ultimately pleases all along the line. The very last groove will still remain unused. In left-hand bends, the side stand scratches the asphalt quite early, while turning to the right the front silencer scratches the road. For the lively line, however, the angle is definitely sufficient up to the touchdown.

And the now slightly longer BMW?

Drives like before without a direct comparison to the previous version. Which is quite a praise. The Bavarian woman draws her lines precisely and sportily on the Metzeler Z 8, can be angled much deeper than the Kawasaki Z 900 RS, benefits in the corners from the pressure on the front wheel generated by the flatter handlebars and is only a bit more awkward when handling. Does the sovereign BMW R nineT really need its steering damper? One might doubt it. The nineT driver should keep a sensitive hand when braking. Because the coverings bite hard into the windows. Helpful for the braking distance in an emergency; more indulgence would be more pleasant in everyday life. As with the Kawa. Real pressure point, progressive braking force – the new radial brakes convey a good feeling. More. As with the suspension. It is wonderful how the fully adjustable fork soaks up every asphalt wrinkle, the monoshock at the back is taut, but still bounces properly. The new fork of the BMW may now dampen more smoothly, the nineT cannot match the comfort of the Japanese, especially due to the still tight rear. Minus points.

Station wagon on the Kawasaki: round instruments with chromium rings encircle the digital world.

Yes and? The boxer speaks up. The 1170 flat twin with its strong sound and character self-confidently pushes itself in, shakes itself a little in the lower rev range, and then starts to spur. The cozy humming, the pressure in the middle of the speed and the air cooling fit perfectly with the sporty retro concept like the pastis for a French dinner. The fact that the BMW R nineT also accelerates the Kawasaki Z 900 RS may be a pleasure, but in the harmonious arrangement it remains a pleasant side effect. A lot of pluses.

The retro scene has a new boss

Nevertheless, the engine of the Z 900 RS inspires. From as little as 1,500 rpm, the early riser puts the tension on the chain and can therefore be driven as typically lazy as almost all of his colleagues in a row. The fact that it lacks 20 HP on the standard Z-900 in favor of a somewhat fuller mid-rev range at the top rarely bothers. Actually never. The coarse-grained tingling sensation in the handlebar ends dominates the historical environment. It even plays over the super-smooth clutch, the precise shifting and the pleasantly uncomplicated nature of the foursome. Minus points? That’s why one doesn’t like to forgive. At most for the excessively high idle level of 3,000 rpm in the extremely long warm-up phase. Do we now have to lash luggage, determine consumption, measure draft? Yes. Not just because the 1,000-point rating wants it that way. But because these two convince with nice words even without the transfiguring fog. Anyone who pretends to be old doesn‘t have to stay out of everything. May be assessed and measured. Which at the end of the day brings a surprising result to light. The retro scene has a new boss: the Kawasaki Z 900 RS. 679 points. Congratulations.

MOTORCYCLE test result

Kawasaki Z 900 RS

Just the sensitive fork and the powerful brakes noticeably enhance the classic version of the Z 900. The Kawasaki Z 900 RS simply delivers the successful 70s look. A curtsy to the new queen of retro bikes.

BMW R nineT

The puristic concept is a success factor. But the relatively firm suspension, the snappy brakes and the lean equipment cost the BMW R nineT many points. Nevertheless: The air-cooled boxer remains a stunner.

All tests and news about the Kawasaki Z 900 RS

All tests and news about the BMW R nineT

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