3 years of owning & maintaining a Kawasaki Z900: Likes & dislikes

The low-speed behaviour of the bike is really great and the bike is happy to go at 55 km/h in 6th gear.

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Let me just start off by saying that this post has been delayed by 3 years. I wanted to do an initial buying experience thread and had written down a detailed thread in the assembly line but it has languished there for the last three years since I never found the motivation to click good pictures of my bike. As I am typing this now I am fearing the same might happen to this one (EDIT: it did languish for about 5 months but I decided to just publish it anyways and add some pics later). Luckily my initial review still holds and a lot of this is actually copy-pasted from the old one.

It was 2004 when I was 13 years of age when my parents bought a Kinetic Honda. I immediately took a liking to it and started using it around my very large apartment complex when my working parents were off trying to pay my excessive school fees. Fast forward to 2009 when I completed my first year of engineering, I asked my parents for a bike, hoping that the Rs. 36000 I had saved by tutoring for the 2 summer months would be used to good effect. My father graciously agreed to pay half and alas my partner for the next decade appeared, a brand new Yamaha FZ16. It has now completed over 1 lakh kilometres and still going strong. I love it, the reliability, the comfort, the handling, ease of maintenance – everything. On 31st May 2019, I got my FZ16 serviced properly to celebrate its 10th birthday and decided that I want a new bike.

The bike had to have reliability, daily usability and speed. I didn’t care much about the design as long as the bike wasn’t particularly ugly. I didn’t have a budget and I wanted to see what was on the market trying to see the least I could spend to get what I wanted. I tried the lower end first, hoping that I would like something. I tried the:

  • Bajaj Dominar -very unrefined, poor build
  • KTM RC/Duke 390 – liked both, and was almost ready to buy the RC390
  • Yamaha R3 – liked it very much good but I was done with Yamaha’s awful everything after sales
  • BMW 310 – very expensive, under-powered

After wasting a few weekends, testing these bikes, I decided that what I wanted most was more power in these bikes. I do not upgrade often and I was buying something that would get me through the next decade so I shifted to the next tier thinking that I would regret it if I didn’t buy a properly fast bike now. The number of bikes that were up for sale was overwhelming, more than 50. I removed the cruisers, the super sports and the adventure touring motorbikes as what I wanted was a daily bike.

Here is how I went about choosing the bike I wanted

Anyways, let me get the meat of the post out of the way,


  • The Gearbox is not confidence inspiring and lacks feel on the up-shifts. I have gone into false neutrals when I did not up-shift with the required force. It is not like it is dangerous or un-driveable but it never feels good in normal driving. When ridden hard and I up-shift at 6k+ RPM, it feels alright. The gearing is a bit short in my opinion.
  • The Hyderabad service centre is atrocious and that is an understatement. During the first service, they forgot to put the seal on the oil filler causing oil leaks and a repeat visit. I got a few accessories installed with the first service, one of them being the Zana crash guard. While installing the guard, they stripped the nut due to negligent use of the power screwdriver. I only found that out when I got them removed a few months ago. My clutch cable was frayed and when I complained, they just put it in the most extreme adjustment and the cable snapped on one of my rides only a few weeks later. I had to ride close to 100 km clutchless, it was a nightmare. They are just a bunch of incompetent and useless baboons.
  • The suspension settings seem to change on their own somehow. I have no proof that it isn’t some sort of mischief but every 6 months I find myself re-adjusting to my preferred settings, especially on the front which becomes stiffer and the rear which becomes softer. I verified it by counting the clicks of the screw of the damping.
  • The engine vibrations became worse since I bought it. There is a marked improvement once it is serviced. It gradually degrades till the next service but on the whole, it is not as buttery as when I first bought it. However it is still smooth compared to its rivals.
  • There is a big problem with the idling which gradually reduces over time. This causes engine overheating issues, poor ride-ability and jerkiness. This issue has been confirmed by multiple people in their respective Z900s making it EXTREMELY common in the Z900. Using high-octane fuel didn’t help at all.
  • The Indicators are poor quality. Three of the original indicators (both rear and one front) have broken off around the same time (July 22). I got them replaced with the OEM indicators one of which broke again. So I decided to replace them with the Honda CB 350 RS indicators.
  • Now that the issues I’ve faced over the last 3 years are out of the way, let’s get back to the review.


  • Excellent engine – both low and high speeds are a blast
  • Good handling and adjustable suspension.
  • Excellent price
  • The ride is pretty good and the ergonomics are well thought out
  • Build quality is great (in general, other than the indicators)
  • The engine doesn’t overheat
  • Wheelies
  • Surprisingly fuel efficient (22 highways, 17 cities)
  • The after-market scene is pretty good


  • The gearbox, especially up-shifts. The gearing is too short.
  • The rear brakes are utter crap. Front ABS comes on too early, ABS is non-switchable
  • Luggage mounting is hard
  • Lack of traction control
  • Stock tires are very slippery when wet. Even mild dampness requires caution
  • The stock rider seat is only good for short riders
  • The Hyderabad service centre is just a scam and they have no idea what they are doing.
  • Here are some personal opinions about the various aspects of the bike


A very smooth and linear engine that has very good low-end torque and easy driveability. The low-speed behaviour of the bike is really great and the bike is happy to go at 55 km/h in 6th gear. The top end of the engine is really something as well and unless you are coming from a 200 BHP supersport, you won’t have any complaints. The only thing I would have liked more would have been a higher red line as I find myself hitting the rev-limiter often when I am accelerating hard, especially in the first 3 gears.

Fueling is spot on at all RPMs and there are no jerks rolling on/off the throttle but there is a little snatch in the very beginning which I thought was an issue with the throttle free-play but seems like I’ll just have to live with it. There is a slight buzz above 7k RPM but it is much more refined than the Suzuki 750 or the Triumph ST RS.

Vibrations and low-end jerkiness have come into play since year 2 but the low-end jerkiness is solved by using XP95 fuel. The vibrations are somewhat solved after a full service.

Rating – 9/10.


The worst part of the driving experience is up-shifts – which are very clunky and lack feel. The bike hates lazy up-shifts. Even when shifting quickly, there is a profound jerkiness. Downshifts are smooth but lack a good feel. It really takes getting used to the shifting and if you don’t shift exactly the way the bike wants it, the bike will make its displeasure very very apparent to you.

The clutch is both slipper and assisted making it extremely light, probably the lightest clutch on any bike. However, I think having a hydraulic clutch instead of the assisted clutch would have been better.

The ratios are quite short and I am considering going up a tooth on the front sprocket.

Rating – 5/10 (I would have given it a 4 but I reserve ratings less than 5 for dangerously bad gearboxes which upset the handling of the bike. The gearbox is bad but far from dangerous.)


The bike has a slightly vague front end at stock settings but with some tweaks later, the bike seems good. Lean-in is quick and responsive. At the limit, the bike does not punish you but loses grip gradually. I have tried slamming the brakes mid-corner and the ABS kicks in to stop the rear from skidding and the front from washing away. However, I think that people who are not deliberate with their counter-steer might find the bike to be lazy. One concerning aspect is that the stock rear tire is very bad in the rain. Even in slightly damp conditions, the rear tire starts spinning at 1/3 throttle. In the dry, there are no complaints. The bike can corner at any speed in the dry at massive lean angles.

Another thing to note is that the bike wheelies a lot. It is stupidly easy to wheelie the bike, dangerous even. If you have a pillion, do not go over half throttle or else your heads and wheels will exchange positions quickly and spectacularly. I like it now but it was scary at first.

Rating – 8/10


The front brakes lack initial bite but are progressive which makes it easy to use in city riding. The rear brakes are utter crap and make gymkhana-style riding difficult. Under 10 km/h, the rear brakes make a very disturbing noise if you use too much pressure. ABS kicks in early, especially at the front. At the limit, the brakes are not confidence inspiring and have a slight vagueness to them. Everywhere else, it is adequate and does its job. Threshold braking is easy but it is hard to get a good feel for trail braking and mid-corner braking if the need ever arises. I would have definitely loved an ABS off switch to get a feel of the brakes without ABS and explore the limits of the bike even further. Apparently, you can turn off the ABS by removing the fuse but I’ll leave that for another day.

Rating – 6/10


The ergonomics with the tall seat are very good and comfortable. Small bumps and flyover joints are soaked very well. I had the unfortunate experience of having to ride over a dog at 60 km/h. The worst day of its life for the dog, but the bike did excellent. The body position is slightly sporty which I like. I may install riser bars in the future for more comfort. The mirrors are amazing with great visibility, and the quality of the glass is exceptional. Engine heating isn’t an issue. Overall, a great package for me.

Rating – 8/10

Accessories I bought

Accessories I initially thought of buying but decided against:

Accessories I would like in the future:

I get my bike serviced at home by an FNG and thought that you lot might be interested in some naked pictures

The first step almost always is to remove the side panels and fuel tank so that the air filter and throttle body can be accessed. Here the rear fenders have also been removed to replace the indicators. Oil is drained by opening a nut in the bottom of the engine.

Basically, the list of work items are:

  • The chain is adjusted, cleaned and lubricated
  • Clutch is adjusted
  • The oil and oil filters changed
  • Throttle body cleaned
  • Air filter cleaned
  • Brake callipers and pads cleaned
  • Coolant flush and refill
  • Checking error codes from the laptop using a Kawasaki device of some sort
  • Suspension reset to factory settings
  • A general check-up on the nuts/bolts and for anything unusual

It is quite expensive at Rs. 18000 (parts and labour) but going to the service centre is even more horrifying. The indicators replacement cost of about Rs 6000 is extra this time.

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