The 2022 Kawasaki Z650RS is one stunning looking bike, somehow made even better by the 50th anniversary livery. Zane took one for a spin, check out what he thought... Photos: Impact.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a form over function bloke. Even when I was cruising around on my BMX, I would have white walls and a low seat that made it hard to ride but it looked tops. The Z650RS proved that you don’t have to sacrifice function to have form. 

"The 2022 Kawasaki Z650RS proved to me that you don’t have to sacrifice function to have form."

“The 2022 Kawasaki Z650RS proved to me that you don’t have to sacrifice function to have form.”

The Z650 story starts way back in 1977, using an inline four 652cc air-cooled DOHC engine, it was an absolute weapon for a 600cc bike. One of these will set you back some good money now and if you’re not mechanically minded, you’re going to have a hard time maintaining it. What about something that has modern tech and reliability but retains that spectacular classic Kawaka look? Well Kawasaki have finally copied the ways of the Z900RS and offered the Z650 in a retro look…



Every now and again, motorcycle manufacturers seem to tick all the boxes or so it seems. Some of the best bikes I’ve ever ridden look absolutely dreadful, it’s always too much of something… too much plastic or too many LED’s etc. The 2022 Kawasaki Z650RS, on the other hand, seems to do everything in terms of styling relatively flawlessly.



That spectacular 50th Anniversary Z colour scheme didn’t do much for me when I saw photos of it, but in the flesh, it is absolutely amazing. There’s a tonne of flake mixed into the Diamond Brown that explodes when the sun hits it. Plus those signature gold wheels and the long seat with a subtle cradle to it really round off the whole bike nicely…

"Obviously, the elephant in the room is that spectacular 50th Anniversary Z colour scheme. It didn’t do much for me when I saw photos of it, but in the flesh, it is absolutely amazing."

“That spectacular 50th Anniversary Z colour scheme didn’t do much for me when I saw photos of it, but in the flesh, it is absolutely amazing”.


Check out our review of the Z650 here…


It has been quite a while since I had ridden a Z, I believe the last one was the 2019 Z650, so I was eager to be refreshed on the model. The Z650 hasn’t had any major updates since the revival of the famous model name back in 2017 aside from styling and dash upgrades, yet despite being mildly outdated on paper, it still seems to outperform some of its closest rivals. In late 2021, we saw the release of this stunner, to join the big brother, the Z900RS. Now we have two Z650 models here. 

Despite being mildly out-dated on paper, Zane says that the Z650RS is still awesome to ride...

Despite being mildly out-dated on paper, Zane says that the Z650RS is still awesome to ride…

The Z650RS is one of those bikes I find myself wanting to ride just for the fun of it. At first thought, I believed it is because of how it looks, but it is much more than that. Comfort is seriously impressive for a LAMS bike, I could easily use this thing as a daily commuter without my usual “numb ass” complaints. But it really goes above being just an A-to-B machine, it’s a genuinely enjoyable bike to ride, rewarding but forgiving…


“The Z650RS is one of those bikes I find myself wanting to ride just for the fun of it. At first thought, I believed it is because of how it looks, but it is much more than that.”


Mid-sized parallel-twin powered bikes are what I spent most of my LAMS days on, I always felt like I was mature enough to be out on a machine that was stupidly quick for a learner approved machine. Funnily enough, the other side of my P-plater days were spent on some of the worst handling, old café racers that I’d thrash way past their mechanical ability, until I ended up under a car with my adored SRV250. Yeah, maybe I wasn’t as mature of a rider as I thought. Nevertheless, I was eager to see what a combination of the two styles of bikes I’ve put the most km’s on could do… 



Kicking the engine over for the first time and heading up the long driveway at Kawasaki, I am pretty surprised to instantly pick up how different Kawasaki’s rendition of the 650 parallel-twin is to others in the segment. Most mid-size twins love to throw their front wheel up in the air, shifting up pretty low in the rev range for max drive. The Z650RS, however, begs to be revved all the way to the 10,000rpm redline and rewards you with plenty of go until you shift up into the next gear. While max power is at 8000rpm, the drop off isn’t noticeable and you find yourself taking it to redline anyway.

The Z650RS absolutely loves being revved out to it's 10,000rpm redline. A pleasant change from others in the same category which fall off hard up top...

The Z650RS absolutely loves being revved out to the10,000rpm redline. A pleasant change from others in the same category which fall off hard up top…

The major change in rev characteristic can be attributed to the shorter stroke on the Z650RS. It makes the Kawaka noticeably easier to ride at low speed, it really doesn’t feel like one of the most powerful LAMS bikes available until you really start to crank it. It’s not slow to reach the redline either but I kept having to let off the throttle way before I hit max revs because the speed limit would approach much faster. You sure this bike is learner approved, Kawasaki?



It’s no lie that it’s been pretty cold in NSW lately, but I found it super strange that a bike with EFI runs rough for a minute after start up. It pops and misfires for a little bit until it decides it wants to run smooth again. I haven’t heard anything like this since the days of carby bikes and even some of the later carb models had a better cold start compared to the Z650RS. Weirdest part was that it wouldn’t be every time, just sometimes…

You'll have to jump on the 50th anniversary edition Z pretty quickly. We didn't get a heap here in Australia!

You’ll have to jump on the 50th anniversary edition Z pretty quickly. We didn’t get a heap of them here in Australia!

Clutch-wise, a few more revs than usual are needed to get the machine moving. I’ve been having a bad run of stalling bikes lately with both the MT-10SP and Z650RS catching me recently. What made it worse was that I stalled as soon as I got on the bike at the Kawasaki HQ… Bit of a red-face moment. Once you get used to giving it a few more revs than usual, it feels great with the slipper and assist system, something Kawasaki have always been good at. The bike would’ve suited a quickshifter to make those high rpm shifts even more exciting.



The front suspension works quite well despite being unchanged when it arrived in 2017 on the Z650, retaining a conventional setup instead of inverted forks, but they suit the styling of the bike. They have plenty of travel but don’t feel too soft nor want to dive excessively under heavy braking. It loves to soak up the bumps as well and it does its job without complaint but didn’t go above or beyond. Overall a good compromise up front.

The front forks were responsive yet comfortable. The rear end had the same formula of just doing its job right without making a fuss.

The front forks are responsive yet comfortable. The rear end had the same formula of just doing its job right without making a fuss.

The rear end has the same formula of just doing its job right without making a fuss. Having an absolutely awful back in my early 20s has given me a sixth sense when it comes to feeling out a bad shock, so I was stoked to feel that my back had no real complaints about Kawasaki’s set-up. It has the typical preload adjustment, despite me weighing in at 80kg, I didn’t have to adjust this at all.



The suspension ties in really well with those big, sporty Dunlop Roadsport 2 hoops. They were pretty much brand new when I threw a leg over the bike and were sketchy for a little while but once I scrubbed them in, they had heaps of grip. Aside from looking awesome with fat, sporty hoops, the Z650RS has plenty of lean angle! It would be awesome on a tight course like Pheasant Wood circuit, such a forgiving bike would fit a learner rider perfectly. 

"Aside from looking awesome with fat, sporty hoops, the Z650RS had plenty of lean angle!"

“Aside from looking awesome with fat, sporty hoops, the Z650RS has plenty of lean angle!”

The frame is awesome, Kawasaki have used plenty of points as stressed members to increase overall rigidity and decreasing weight. It just falls onto its side so easily but will pick up without me having to muscle the bike into the next corner. The Z650RS didn’t demand that I work hard to ride, it just went where I wanted to go and I just had to ask politely…


“The Z650RS didn’t demand that I work hard to ride, it just went where I wanted to go and I just had to ask politely…”


When the Kawasaki staff pushed the bike out for the first time, my first thought was “Damn that colour looks good.” But my instant second thought was, “holy cow the bike is small”. It really is a tiny bike, the rider triangle didn’t do any favours to make it feel bigger either as at my height of 180cm I sit really high and the headstock seems to sit relative to the seat.



It isn’t uncomfortable to ride at all and the small feeling was matched with feather weight figures, but on long rides I started to get some cramps in my knees. When I got home and looked at the photos, I laughed at how dwarfed the bike looks with me on it. I have no idea how Kawasaki crammed a 650 into that compact frame – it makes the bike more of a weapon!

If you're a taller bloke, you'll look huge on this bike! Zane is 183cm tall and looks mammoth on it.

If you’re a taller bloke, you’ll look huge on this bike! Zane is 183cm tall and looks mammoth on it.

Brakes are sorted by two dual-piston Nissin calipers with 300mm discs up front, which are more than enough for the bike. Plenty of heavy braking through the twisties with zero brake fade and no lock-ups from the Bosch 9.1M ABS either! The rear brake is a 220mm single piston that has plenty of feel to it, making low speed riding super easy.



The dash setup is basic but retro styled. Kawasaki does a really good job of TFT’s dashes and interfaces, and I understand that a TFT wouldn’t have suited this application, but the plastic surround and fake chrome rings aren’t my cup of tea! It would’ve been cool to see them done in metal. The LCD displays bits of info and ties in well to be hidden between the retro dials.

"Most of Kawasaki’s lower and mid capacity all suffer from the same fate of feeling a little bit cheap. It’s a shame because they really are great looking bikes."

“For me, the Z650RS has no competition, it’s just so good looking and everything about it in terms of styling has been done right”…

Truth be told, the bike really isn’t different from the Z650. That’s not a bad thing at all, they’re both absolutely fantastic bikes but it’ll really come down to which bike you like the look of best. For me, the Z650RS has no competition, it’s just so good looking and everything about it in terms of styling has been done right to recognise the old days.


The RS is the perfect option for riders who love retro bikes but don’t want the up keep of one.


The RS is the perfect option for riders who love retro bikes but don’t want the up keep of one. Kawasaki have also done an awesome job of making a bike that’ll welcome riders into the Kawasaki brand without breaking the bank.

You can throw a leg over one of these for just $13,188 rideaway. That's quite a bargain for a brand new bike like this.

You can throw a leg over one of these for just $13,188 rideaway. That’s quite a bargain for a brand new bike like this.

The Z650RS is an interesting one, it does everything it’s supposed to do but doesn’t necessarily blow away the competition. The price is definitely right though, starting at $13,188 rideaway it has some serious competition. It sits at just a hundred dollars less than the XSR700 but is a few grand more expensive than the less sporty Royal Enfield 650 twins.



There’s really no contest for the Z650RS besides maybe an XSR700. They both go about being some of the most outrageous modern day LAMS bikes available in different ways. If I was looking into buying a brand-new, retro inspired, fast and cool learner bike it would really only be between those two. Do you want to just do wheelies everywhere? Buy the XSR. Do you want a cranky, rev monster? Buy the Z650RS. Personally, I just can’t get over how the Z650RS looks, I’d be forking over the cash for it.

Want a rev-hungry, learner approved 650? You seriously cannot look past the Z650RS or even the Z650!

Want a rev-hungry, learner approved 650? You seriously cannot look past the Z650RS or even the Z650!

You really can’t complain about the price and what you get for it. I think with a few small modifications, you’d have the perfect bike you’ll most likely carry into your full licence. I love the direction that brands are heading in, adding more and more of these retro styled bikes to their line-up. The Z650RS handles so bloody well and is seriously one of the easiest bikes to ride fast and slow, ever!

Tech Talk
The liquid-cooled, DOHC, 8-valve 649cc Parallel Twin with fuel injection delivers smooth, responsive performance, especially in the low and medium rpm ranges. The strong low-end focus translates to rider friendly power characteristics.



A slim airbox uses a single air intake hole and intake funnels designed for strong low-mid range performance and response. 36mm Keihin throttle-bodies contribute to strong low-mid range performance and response. Sub-throttles ensure smooth, sensitive throttle response. Fine-atomising injectors delivering 75μm droplets, ensuring the ideal fuel-air mixture needed for the low-mid range focused engine. Intake and exhaust cams with short operating angles and overlap also move the torque curve toward the lower end of the rpm range.


SMSP

The open-deck aluminium die-cast cylinder contributes to light weight and the plated, liner-less cylinder bores enable a narrow cylinder pitch to enable a slim engine width. The triangular layout of the crankshaft and transmission shafts also makes the engine very short front-to-back. The 180° crankshaft drives a balancer shaft for silky smooth engine operation.

An auto-fast idle system simplifies starting and ensures the catalyser reaches optimum temperature quickly. A simplified cooling system routes coolant through the engine cases to the cylinder and head to reduce external plumbing, while hot air off the radiator is directed down under the bike.

An assist and slipper clutch has also been added and uses two types of cams (an assist cam and a slipper cam), offering two new functions not available on a standard clutch. When the engine is operating at normal rpm the assist cam functions as a self-servo mechanism, pulling the clutch hub and operating plate together to compress the clutch plates.

This allows the total clutch spring load to be reduced, resulting in a lighter clutch lever pull when operating the clutch. When excessive engine braking occurs – as a result of quick downshifts (or an accidental downshift) – the slipper cam comes into play, forcing the clutch hub and operating plate apart. This relieves pressure on the clutch plates to reduce back-torque and help prevent the rear tyre from hopping.



The rigid-mount engine is a stressed member, contributing to the frame’s idealised rigidity balance. Even the footpeg stays are used as stressed members, further contributing to the frame’s rigidity and light weight. With the swingarm, similar to the frame, the line from the pivot to rear axle was made as straight as possible.


Harley

The lightweight design of swingarm at 4.8kg also contributes to the bike’s light, natural handling. A short wheelbase (1,405mm) and tight turning radius (2.6m) contribute to the Z650RS’ manoeuvrability. The angle of the rear frame (less upswept than that of the Z650) helps to achieve the Z650RS’ flat, even tail design.

The lightweight design of swingarm at 4.8kg also contributes to the bike’s light, natural handling.”

41mm telescopic non-adjustable forks handle suspension duties up front and a horizontal Back-link rear suspension offers a progressive character with preload adjustability. The rear suspension positions the shock unit and linkage above the swingarm for mass centralisation and to ensure operation is not affected by heat, same as the other 650 twins.

Dual 300mm front petal disc brakes and a 220mm rear deliver plenty of braking power while contributing to the bike’s sporty image. Dual-piston front calipers, master-cylinder and brake pads offer controllable braking performance. A Bosch 9.1M ABS is also standard fitment on Australian models.

The RS features spoked wheels similar to what was seen on the original Z900 to give it a retro appeal.

Original cast wheels like those of the Z900RS feature flat spokes designed to look like classic wire-spoked wheels. Designed using Kawasaki’s advanced analysis technology, the wheels offer a balance of light weight and stylish looks.

Wide, flat handlebar contribute to the retro sport styling while offering a wide grip to facilitate control. The upper-triple clamp is positioned 20mm higher (thanks to longer fork tubes), contributing to the higher handle position and a more upright riding position than the Z650. Relative to the Z650, the handle grips are 50 mm higher and 30 mm back (closer to the rider). A wide 35° steering angle facilitates low-speed manoeuvring.



The low seat height and the bike’s slim overall design help riders keep both feet firmly on the ground when stopped, an important consideration for many riders. An 800mm seat height accommodates riders spanning a wide range of heights, enabling them to ride with confidence. Footpeg position offers a relaxed knee bend, contributing to rider comfort. (The slighter taller seat height versus the 790mm of the Z650 contributes to even more leg room.)



A blend of retro and modern designs, the 130mm LED headlight casts a bright, white light. Slightly smaller than that of the Z900RS, it features two chambers (low-beam/high- beam), both with position lamps to ensure the whole lamp appears lit, like a retro-style bulb headlight.. A retro-style fuel tank design uses edges dividing the top and sides of the tank to emphasise its compact size. Unlike the upswept tail of the Supernaked Z650, the tail of the Z650RS traces a horizontal line. The tail is shorter than that of the Z900RS.

 

Simple but effective dash set-up for the Z650RS. Eliminating the TFT set-up seen on the standard Z650L.

The analogue-style speedometer and tachometer dials are complemented by a multi-functional LCD screen, balancing retro-style looks with modern functionality. Bullet-shaped dial cases are a fitting touch for a retro sport model, while the modern typeface used on the dial faces add a contemporary touch. The LCD screen features a negative display (white letters on a black background), adding to the instrument cluster’s sporty, modern appearance.


UMI 2
 

2022 Kawasaki Z650RS Specifications

kawasaki.com.au

Price: From $13,188 rideaway
Claimed Power: 37.8kW[50.7hp]@8000rpm
Claimed Torque: 59.0Nm[43.5lbs-ft]@6,500rpm
Wet Weight: 186kg
Fuel capacity: 12L


Engine: Four-stroke, two-cylinder, DOHC, four-valve, 83.0 x 60.0mm bore x stroke, 649cc, 10.8:1 compression, Euro4, EFI with dual 36mm Keihin throttle-bodies
Gearbox: Six-speed
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate slipper with cable actuation


Chassis: Trellis frame, high-tensile steel
Rake: 24.0°
Trail: 100mm
Suspension: 41mm telescopic forks, 125mm travel, horizontal back-link with adjustable preload, 130mm travel
Brakes: ABS, 300mm semi-floating rotors, dual piston calipers (f), 220mm rotor (r), single-piston caliper
Wheels & Tyres: 17 inch wheels, 120/70ZR17 (f), 160/60ZR17 (r)


Dimensions
Wheelbase: 1405mm
Seat height: 800mm
Ground clearance: 125mm
Overall width: 765mm
Overall length: 2065mm
Overall height: 1115mm


Instruments: Analogue speedometer and tachometer. LCD panel.


Editor’s Note: If you are reading this article on any website other than BikeReview.com.au, please report it to BikeReview via our contact page, as it has been stolen or re-published without authority.


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