‘Oh, *bleep*! What the *bleep* was that?!’ And just like that, it was over. I had just popped the highest possible wheelie on a motorcycle, and for those few moments, all I could see was the gorgeous metallic green fuel tank with gold pinstripes, the dual-pod clocks, and the clear blue sky. And all the while, the following train of thought tunnelled through my mind: This motorcycle is a beautiful-looking one, it’s a test bike recently added to the Kawasaki fleet, and a bunch of other journos were waiting to ride it. It was a crime I wasn’t prepared to let happen.
Call it a reflex action or muscle memory, in a split second I tapped the rear brake and pulled in the clutch lever, just avoiding starting… or rather ending my day in a very undesirable way because it would have been a 192-kg motorcycle riding me instead of the other way around. But in my defence, have you looked at this magnificent-looking motorcycle?! It has a shape that’s simply begging you to whack open the throttle and blast ahead. What I was saddled upon was the RS version of Kawasaki’s naked hooligan, the Z650. The RS tag here doesn’t apply for any extra ponies or special electronic gimmickry, but for Retro Sport that represents a timeless design that you just can’t get over. If you had to park the Z650RS besides the standard Z650, I don’t think many would accept the fact that it’s based on the bike next to it.
I had first seen the Z650RS only on screens, and let me tell you that images don’t do any justice to how this motorcycle looks in the flesh. Good-looking retro-styled motorcycles are hard to come by as every other bike maker leans towards sharp-looking motorcycles. In the case of the Z650RS, it is the absolute opposite. You’ve got exotic lines and shapes, close attention to detail, a compact underbody exhaust, a circular chrome bezel headlamp, and not to forget one of the sweetest-looking tail sections I have come across in recent times. Yes, the motor does give out vibes of a modern machine, which it is, but the overall retro design is bang on.
On the flip side, the Z650RS is a motorcycle whose purpose is to deliver the kind of joy a high-performance motor offers wrapped along with the feel-good factor of a tastefully designed machine. While I would like to believe that I have done justice above to the latter part, let me take you through the former bit, the Z650RS’s powertrain. For this aspect of the job, Kawasaki has bolted within that trellis frame its versatile649cc parallel-twin that can be seen on a bunch of other motorcycles in the company’s portfolio.
The parallel-twin unit feels unstressed at any given point of its powerband and is brilliantly tractable in any gear. It also has a very communicative throttle, which does a splendid job of translating the rider’s right wrist inputs to the motor. The delivery of power is consistent throughout the rev band thus making the motor easy to approach with no fear of any sudden outburst of power. To pair with this super-refined mill is the slick 6-speed ’box that ensures precise shifts every single time. And not to mention the effortless wheelies that one can pull on it as a bonus.
Besides the motor, the Z650RS uses the same underpinnings of its donor bike, and the suspension setup continues making this motorcycle so much fun. On a winding uphill road, even when pushed hard, the suspension doesn’t struggle to keep up. Instead, there is a continuous flow of feedback that only inspires more confidence to enter a corner a little faster the next time. But all of that would be useless if the brakes weren’t up to the mark, and I am pleased to inform you that I have nothing but praise for the anchors. For the capabilities of the motorcycle, the brakes do a fantastic job.
So, is there a catch, then? To my knowledge and for the time I got to spend with the motorcycle, none. The Z650RS is one of those bikes that exist to make us realise what a good motorcycle truly is. It’ll make you lust over it for years to come, it’s a well-balanced machine, has ample amounts of usable power, and it’ll pull long wheelies into the sunset. What’s not to like?!
67.3 bhp@8000 rpm
6.52 kgm@6700 rpm
Type: Steel trellis frame
F/R: 300-mm disc / 220-mm disc
F/R: 120/70 R17 / 160/60 R17
Rs 6.72 lakh (ex-showroom)