2022 Kawasaki Z900 SE Review
Rennie Scaysbrook | February 12, 2022
The Kawasaki Z900 gets the SE treatment for 2022. We grabbed one for a week to see what happens.
By Rennie Scaysbrook | Photograph by Kit Palmer
In the past two years, I have tested a large number of motorcycles. Too many to remember the nuances of each bike, because only the best truly stand out.
I had a Z900 in the first weeks of 2020, just as the pandemic was starting, and thought I’d take a look at my article to see if what I said about the model still carried weight .
“The suspension action in traffic was nice and plush, providing good ride comfort and handling, but the pace and spring spec are starting to show through,” read my 2020 Kawasaki Z900 review. “Heavy braking would see the fork dip into the stroke, and conversely, trying to go fast and accelerate early would cause the shock to drop into its stroke and you would run wide.
“The suspension is designed primarily for commuting and medium-speed riding, so if you start rolling fast and aggressively, you’ll start hitting the limits pretty quickly.”
Now, I would never claim that a manufacturer listened to one of my criticisms and acted on it, so I must not have been the only one throwing a dash of shade at the Z900’s suspension.
That’s because, for 2022, we now have the Z900 SE (which I can only assume means Special Edition), one complete with a revised Showa fork and fancy Ohlins S46 shock.
On top of that, the brakes (another area I planned) have been reworked. Instead of using the old-school Nisin calipers and wood-feel master cylinder, the new SE comes with one-piece Brembo 4.32 calipers, steel lines and a new Nissin master cylinder. Huzah!
The SE is therefore the second Z900 you can buy. The price of the base model – like absolutely everything bloody in life since Covid – has gone up $200 to $9199, the SE will cost you an extra $1500 to get the upgraded suspension and brake package because in aside from those features (and the fancy KRT paint job), the bikes are exactly the same.
That means you’ll still get the 948cc inline-four engine, producing a relatively modest 125 horsepower and 73 lb-ft of torque, the same tubular steel frame and subframe, and the department’s same Sugomi styling. Kawasaki’s patented Sugomi.
Aside from the suspension and brakes, the Z900 hasn’t changed much over the years. It replaced the aging Z1000 in 2017, and while it was Kawasaki’s main naked bike until the bonkers Z H2 arrived in 2020, it was never meant to challenge naked bike bangers like the KTM Super Duke or the Aprilia Tuono 1100 V4.
You can tilt the Z900, and thus this SE model, as a middleweight, going up against the new Yamaha MT-09 / MT-09 SP and the KTM 890 Duke / 890 Duke R. And in that regard, the Kawasaki stands out. stacks quite well.
But we are not doing a comparison test here. It’s all about how the new springs roll and how the caps stop, and if the extra money paid is worth the money paid.
The new suspension is definitely stiffer when you first sit on it. It’s more noticeable in the rear, which has a much more learned feel even when stationary. However, get the Z900 SE moving and the dollar difference starts to show.
The bike I rode in 2020 would start wallowing and protesting at the mere thought of increasing the bit from moderate mid-range speeds, let alone going really hard. That’s not the case with the SE, with the rear shock keeping the ride much calmer, especially when you start to wind the power to the side of the tire.
There is no tire difference here. Both the SE and base model use Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 rubber, which is Dunlop’s mid-size sporty street tire, so the extra grip and chassis quietness is only down to the seated Ohlins shock absorber. under my butt.
The front end, while a little stiff, is an improvement over the base model I rode in 2020, but it’s not as big of a difference in shock feel. There is better resistance to hard braking in that, on standard settings, the fork won’t rush as fast as before, but overall the handlebar feel is quite similar.
Changing thinking for the brakes, there’s a lot more bite from the Brembo calipers and more feel at the lever. The difference is most noticeable at slow to medium speeds, where heavy braking isn’t really necessary. Here’s the new master cylinder which offers a softer initial bite but, much like the forks, it’s no different day or night but just a bit better all over.
As for the rest of the machine, it’s like you were in 2020. I haven’t shrunk (as far as I can tell), so I still find the overall riding position a bit cramped. With a seat height of 31.5 inches, that should put the Z900 SE in the right place if you’re around 5’10” or shorter, but for me, being three inches taller and all, I could use a little more space.
There are very few creature comforts with the SE, some of which I really would have liked to see fitted. Like cruise control. The SE is quite capable of having it, even if it should be included as an option in the accessories catalog, but alas, it is not.
You don’t get IMU-monitored electronics or quick shifting, but you do get traction control, four riding modes Rain, Street, Sport and Rider (which let you turn off the CT) and two different power modes on Full and Low. All to keep costs down, but given that the SE has already passed the magic $10,000 mark thanks to the suspension and brakes, I wish TC was at least an option.
For the money the Z900 SE is indeed a good buy, but considering it’s only $500 cheaper than the Yamaha MT-09 SP which comes with an IMU and cruise control and Ohlins, Kawasaki begins to push him, if only a little.
I would definitely take the SE over the standard model, because given the increased handling quality with the brakes and suspension, it makes the new Zee alone worth the money.NC
2022 Kawasaki Z900 SE Specifications
|Motor:||4 cylinder, 4 stroke in line|
|Valve train:||DOHC, 16 valves|
|Bore x stroke:||73.4×56mm|
|Torque (claimed):||73.1 lb-ft at 7,700 rpm|
|Frame:||Tubular Steel Trellis|
|Front suspension:||41mm inverted fork, fully adjustable|
|Rear suspension:||Ohlins S46 monoshock, adjustable rebound and preload|
|Front wheel travel:||4.7 inches|
|Rear wheel travel:||5.5 in.|
|Front brake:||Dual 300mm petal-style discs with Brembo M4.32 four-piston calipers, ABS|
|Rear brake:||Single 250mm petal-style disc with single-piston caliper, ABS|
|Front tire:||Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 120/70 ZR17 in.|
|Rear wheel:||Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2180/55 ZR17 in.|
|Seat height :||31.5 in.|
|Fuel capacity:||4.5 gal.|
|Weight (empty, claimed):||469 pounds.|
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