Kawasaki’s Z650RS

It’s taken us a while to get around to writing this feature, and we’re glad we did because as of right now, Kawasaki SA has dropped the price of their Z650RS. The drop in price makes it a great value option on the SA market…

Most of the guys in this office grew up in the era when Zeds were the Boss! Kawasaki made them in all shapes and sizes from the little Z200 right up to the Z900 and Z1000. And then, Kawasaki made them in different models from choppers to teardrop and “coffin” tanks and streetfighters.

The Z650 slotted bang on in the middle of the range above the little Z500 and below the 750, and although the current Z650 might look similar to the early model, it is very different.

In the seventies and eighties, emission laws were not a thing in South Africa, so Japanese factories churned out four cylinder engines by the gazillion and the original Z650 had a four cylinder engine.

A 1979 Z650

Leap forward 3 or 4 decades, and now, a fuel injected parallel twin engine makes better horsepower and meets all the laws. And we’ll bet you a piston or two that a parallel twin cylinder engine costs less to build than an inline four.

Another fact is that a parallel twin is narrower than a four, so we are getting bikes that are less bulky and more streamlined than their great grandfathers.

Open the throttle to 2023 and the latest Z650RS is collected and brought along to our spot for the team to ride.

Here’s something interesting. Just like the Z900 that we had a few weeks before, Kawasaki is looking to trade on nostalgia. We had a couple of older guys wander through who stood gawping at the bike and tales abound about “I remember these bikes, Dicky had one and he held the record for fastest up Krugersdorp hill…” and so on.

So Kawasaki has certainly nailed the look, just like they did with the bigger Z900RS.

Kawasaki's tried and tested Parallel twin.

Some Details:


The parallel twin is a tried and tested unit. You can trace its roots right back to the 2005 ER6N. It’s tough and apart from tweaks to ensure it meets emission regulations, it hasn’t changed much.

It’s exactly the same in terms of its tune and gearing as used on the naked Z650 and is well suited to life as a modern retro. The fueling is spot-on, the clutch is light (The Z, features a slip/assist clutch that offers a feather-light pull)  and the mid-range drive is great out on the streets. The six speed box is smooth. It’s just such an easy, chilled bike to ride, and the twin engine is a great match for the bike’s classic personality.

Attention to detail is what makes all the difference on a bike like this. It has a beautiful tear drop tank with bodywork in candy apple green and pin stripe finishes. Modern touches include all-around LED lighting. The round headlight and oval tail light are a direct nod to the classic Zeds . Check out the gold cast-aluminum wheels, they suit this bike perfectly.

Modern meets retro, while that Z900RS is delivered with a traditional chrome pipe, Kawasaki chose to equip the Z650RS with the same stubby system found on the Z650.

Analogue clocks with digital display.
The Z frame was altered to accommodate the tailpiece and light.
Round headlamp, but revamped for a new era of riders.


The bike’s whole personality is chilled, and to be fair, we did not do an out and out top speed run, but she is capable of the 200kph mark. Kawasaki’s 649 cc parallel twin makes its standard 67 horsepower at 8,000 rpm and 47 foot-pounds of torque, (or around 64 Nm in the old language), at 6,700 rpm. We travelled in the 120-170 KPH mark for the duration, a bike like this is not about out and out speed.

Borrowed from the Ninja 650 and Z650, the RS uses nearly the same non-adjustable KYB fork and spring-preload adjustable cantilevered shock. It’s basic and on the plush side, but it works just fine on this bike, just right for everyday city and highway riding.

The Z is fitted with dual 300mm front discs with 2-piston Nissin callipers, which provide all the braking performance you need. The single rear disc does a great job. In terms of electronics, the bike comes with ABS as standard but no other rider assists, it’s an honest, uncomplicated ride.

The seating position is comfy and overall, the bike is user-friendly for riders of all sizes.

The one thing our guys would like is a slightly wider handlebar, maybe with a straighter bend, but the position of your knees, positioning of the footrests and width and padding of the seat makes for a relaxed, comfortable ride. And bum to foot is great, shorter riders will easily get their feet on the ground.

All over the bike, there are great touches like the spoke-style wheels and chrome finished analogue clocks. It’s a case of old-school meets modern function. The analog speedo and tacho are nicely outfitted with chrome trim, and the LCD display is easy-to-read white letters on a black background. That includes a gear-position indicator, clock, and fuel gauge. Nice!

All in, this is a great, everyday bike, commuter, sportbike, sport-tourer, or weekend runabout. It might look old school, but know that it’s packed with modern tech and reliability.

Keep the chain lubed and change the oil and filter regularly, it should last you a lifetime.

And oh yes, you will draw admiring glances ‘cos this is one pretty bike.

Stubby pipe. Dunlop rubber.
The seat is plush for long journeys.

Kawasaki Z650RS Specs

Price: R149 995
Website: kawasaki.co.za
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel-Twin, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cylinder
Displacement: 649cc
Bore x Stroke: 83.0 x 60.0 mm
Horsepower: 67 hp @ 8,000 rpm
Torque: 65 Nm @ 6,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated slip/assist wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheelbase: 1,404.62mm
Rake/Trail: 24.0 degrees/99 mm
Seat Height: 800 mm
Wet Weight: 190KG

OK, we just couldn't resist!

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