Naked Kawasaki bikes are some of the most popular motorcycles available. Taking all the best bits of their fully faired Ninja sportsbikes, stripping them down for a muscular look that’s backed up with epic performance.
So why are the naked Kawasaki bikes so popular? The Kawasaki Z series has styling that offers all the great performance and power of their Ninja siblings but with an upright riding position making them much more comfortable and better suited to both longer rides and about town.
Let’s run through some of the best naked Kawasaki motorcycles available today.
Learner Class Naked’s
Launched in 2019 the Z125 has been very popular for Kawsaki and is currently sold out in the UK until the bike can be restocked.
It was launched alongside the faired Ninja 125 and was the first time in 25 years that they had entered the EU & UK learner 125cc class.
After seeing high demand for 125cc motorbikes, they put their best foot forward in releasing two of their most popular models as small capacity beasts.
The Z125 offers a super relaxed, natural riding position, with an average to low seat height, wide bars, wide comfortable seat, and mirrors that are effective (unusual for any motorbike really).
While the model is obviously significantly cheaper than the leading Z H2, the baby Z does have a tubular steel trellis frame modeled off the big bike.
It is very light, easy to throw around, agile around town but feels stable when increasing speeds on something like a dual carriageway.
Suspension is a little basic, but when you are just learning to ride you don’t need a dozen settings to mess with, you just need to focus on riding, and the suspension does enough to soak up any uneven road surfaces and speed bumps etc.
It is as user-friendly as it gets, and you can see that Kawasaki’s R&D team have thought through exactly what learner riders want, expect and need from a 125cc.
Aside from all of the fundamental good stuff, it is also just a really good looking motorbike, riders of any age won’t feel silly learning on this lightweight Kwak.
Who’s it for?
With the Z125 the company hope to catch learners at the beginning of their biking life and hopefully develop some brand loyalty from them.
There is a particular focus on those in the UK and EU where licensing restrictions means that learner riders are restricted to 125cc motorbikes, unless they are old enough to go ahead and take their full license tests immediately.
It is priced fairly and competitively (cheaper than all the other leading Japanese models) to pull in young new riders and is an attractive package looking bigger than its capacity.
The Z125 is not available in the US.
The Kawasaki Z400 is no longer in the UK and Europe. It was up until 2020, however, it has since been removed from the lineup. Once the Z650 became A2 licence compliant (with a dealer restrictor fitted) demand for the Z400 in Europe dropped.
However, it remains present in the US and it is a very traditionally styled supernaked, screaming for attention, showing off its chassis with aggressive overtones such as the sharp headlight casing.
The model is very well balanced, compact, and yet built to be comfortable. You will want to ride it all day long and have so much fun doing so.
The seat height is nice and low, the seat itself wide, and scooped, which cradles your lower back, you sit into the Z400 as opposed to on top of it.
This puts the handlebars at a natural position in front of you and wide apart for maximum control when steering.
While the seating position is upright, you have the ability to hunch over and throw yourself around a little when your confidence increases, so you can really turn into those bends and shoot out of them.
It is an aggressive lightweight bike that will tackle your commute then take you straight up into the twisties for as much fun as you squeeze out of the 399cc twin-cylinder motor.
Who’s it for?
Much like the Z125 is in the UK the Z400 is aimed at new riders in the US.
The Z400 has enough power to keep up on fast roads in the US but not too much for new riders to struggle with.
The Kawasaki Z650 and Z900 are firm fixtures in biking history and for 2022 Kawasaki Motors Corp have released both a Z650 and Z900 50th anniversary edition.
If you have an affinity with Kawasaki’s racing pedigree, the two anniversary editions are well worth checking out. The Firecracker Red shown above is pretty awesome.
With the Z650 comes a step up in premium features that are missing on the smaller capacity bikes. LED lighting, TFT display and rider aids are all standard and there to make every ride that little bit better.
UK buyers get ABS as standard whereas the US version it is available as an extra.
There are also a host of accessories which mean you can turn yours into either a performance focused machine or an urban practical street bike.
You can now connect up your smartphone wireless via the ‘Rideology’ app, which allows you to access cool features and use sat nav etc effortlessly.
Another pretty cool touch is the economical riding indicator, that will come on when you are riding most favorably for good fuel consumption.
Who’s it for?
The Z650 is a middleweight and one of the best in its class; it is for newer riders that are moving up to something bigger and is A2 licence compliant for EU and UK riders.
Equally it will suit riders who have been riding liter bikes and fancy something more comfortable and easy going, with enough power to get the job done.
The Kawasaki Z900 is the pinnacle of the Z range, with the only exception being the off the wall, supercharged Z H2 which we will take a look at shortly.
It steps up a level again from the Z650 with integrated riding modes which allow the rider to set traction control and power delivery for the perfect combination in whatever circumstances they find themselves in.
There are three settings: road, rain and sport, which you can manually adjust.
There are new additions all round for the 2022 model with new tires, new LED lighting all round, smartphone connectivity and the TFT display is new too.
You can select from two power modes of full or low power. The low power mode sets the maximum power delivery to 55% of its full capacity, which is a handy feature to help manage the throttle in those occasionally tricky scenarios such as in the rain or when your Dad wants a go.
The general design of the Z900 has remained unchanged. However, it has been revisited to make it sharper than ever. The stance is crouched like a tiger ready to pounce, head position low, tail upswept, tank is bulky and shaped and all the angles are sharp and crisp.
It is one good looking motorcycle that is for sure.
The bike handles well, it is smooth, balanced, precise, everything that you expect from a Kawasaki of this caliber. In this regard it gives bikes like the Yamaha MT09 and and the Triumph Street Triple a run for their money.
Who’s it for?
The Z900 therefore is for those who want the best supernaked around (at least that is according to the manufacturers).
It isn’t a small capacity machine with 123 horsepower plus, it is a bike to be respected and handled carefully, so it is not one for the novices.
Naked Kawasaki Retro Bikes
The newly released Z650RS is the latest addition to the naked line up and follows the Z900RS in being a naked retro. It is one of the best looking middleweight naked bikes on the market.
The model draws inspiration from 1970’s motorcycles such as the original KZ650 and that is seen in the minimalist bodywork and color choices. It is without a doubt visually spectacular, just like its bigger sibling.
Packing modern day sports performance into a retro body, the Z650RS celebrates simple traditional UJM’s without sacrificing modern functionality.
A great example of this is the twin-analog instruments joined together by an LCD screen.
The seating position is relaxed, upright, comfortable and complements the idea that the Z650RS will accommodate a variety of riders.
The seat height is actually taller than the Z650, but most of that height is from the seat, which is pretty squishy and so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue to reach the ground comfortably for most riders.
The Z650 and RS share the same chassis with few changes, so despite the retro dress, handling is as modern, practical, agile, and precise as the Z650.
The two bikes also share the same parallel twin motor and it is tuned and geared in exactly the same way.
In terms of the motors performance it is actually better suited to the RS, as it has some quirks that suit a naked retro more so than a sports based naked bike.
When you compare the Z650 for example to the MT07 it feels a bit lumpy and lackluster; however riding around with that exact same motor in the RS, it feels just right and exactly how a retro should feel.
Sure, the gears are a little clunky, but the mechanical feel adds authenticity to the retro vibe; the clutch is light, and the midrange is perfect for blasting the day away on the back roads.
Who’s it for?
The Z650RS is suited really to any rider who wants a modern retro; anyone who appreciates traditional motorcycling but also favors modern riding practicality.
There is enough power for experienced riders to enjoy, so for those stepping down in CC size you won’t feel shortchanged by opting for the 650 over the 900.
However, the power delivery is also non-threatening so for newer riders perhaps moving up to a bigger bike, the Z650RS is a really good choice.
I saw the Z900RS when it first came out and I was blown away by two things; the first being how it closely resembled the original Z1 and two how meaty and pretty it was.
The company have paid enormous attention to detail in the design of the Z900RS and this has been paired with expert craftsmanship to achieve great fit and finish throughout the design.
Where the resemblance to the original Z1 900 is best noted is with the enormous teardrop tank, the paintwork, spoke wheels and the twin-dials.
Blending seamlessly is an LED headlight in a retro style round casing, and an LED taillight tucked away under the Z1 inspired rear cowl.
Again just like the original Z1, the Z900RS is equipped with a 948cc inline-four, which offers an abundance of power and ease of use.
The motor is tuned more on the low-mid range with revs building in a calm assured manner, which gives the rider confidence and a connection between the throttle and rear wheel.
It also gets KTRC, which provides two riding modes to ensure you get the best out of the bike regardless of the conditions, you also have the option to turn this system off altogether.
It has been built around a lightweight frame that is less aggressive and sporty than the Z900, however, it still offers a good level of rigidity and light intuitive handling.
Arguably the Z900RS is the best naked retro currently available.
There is also an SE version and 50th Anniversary edition available for 2022, with the SE (Sports Edition) being equipped with performance upgrades like Ohlins suspension.
Who’s it for?
The Z900RS is there for the rider that wants a traditional, no messing about, performance motorcycle but one that prefers original styling compared to modern options.
The bike is the reincarnation of the original Z1, arguably one of the coolest motorcycles style wise of all time, so unless you want to buy an original model, the new bike is the closest you will get to being that cool.
It is worth noting the motorcycle has around 95 horsepower so it is probably best suited to the more experienced rider.
Kawasaki Z H2
The Z H2 stands alone in its own class as a Hyper Naked motorcycle, taking all the best bits from the Z range and then sticking a supercharger on it. Unsurprisingly, it made our top 5 most bonkers hyper naked bikes available.
Let’s start with the power plant first seen in the H2, the DOHC 16-valve 998cc inline-four is a balanced supercharged engine.
The idea behind this was that when an engine’s cubic capacity is increased it usually also increases in weight and size which can counteract the benefits of any gain in power.
To combat this Kawasaki simply supercharged the engine instead. Now the power is increased and the acceleration is unlike any other standard engine around, breath-taking is the best word for it.
A specially designed trellis frame has been produced to handle the supercharged engine. It offers increased strength for high speed stability while still providing handling and agility for twisty roads. It is a do-it-all frame that is suitable for all types of riding scenarios.
Of course no top end model would be complete without Kawsaki throwing everything they have it so features include:
- Full color TFT display
- KQS (Quick shifter)
- Smartphone connectivity via bluetooth – riding modes can be remotely prepared as a result
- LED lighting
- IMU which is the key to pulling together the rest of the electronics package
- KCMF – Cornering management system
- KLCM – Launch control
- KTRC – Traction control
- Power modes
- Cruise control
The Z H2 truly is a phenomenal motorcycle that has changed the way the world views motorcycles and what can be done with them.
Who’s it for?
The Z H2 is for all the crazy people out there that want the fastest, beefiest, most insane motorcycle they can get their hands on.
It is also for the experienced riders that want a more upright motorcycle that can handle the street, compared to their fully faired, track focused sportsbikes.
Who Are Kawasaki?
Kawasaki have roots extending as far back as 1878 when Shozo Kawasaki opened up the Tsukiji Shipyard in Tokyo.
The company would then go on to be involved in the building of ships, submarines, helicopters, planes, trains and automobiles.
Kawasaki’s Aircraft division purchased the Meguro name and started producing motorcycles under that name until 1965 when the first Kawasaki W1 was produced and sold.
The rest as they say is history because it wasn’t long before they were making some of the best, class-leading, performance motorcycles that we have come to know and love them for today such as the original 1972 Z1 New York Steak.
Time and time again they have produced incredible machines that have blown wide open the possibility of what a motorcycle is capable of.
They build bikes to a high standard and listen to what the market is demanding, therefore it is no surprise they are producing a variety of naked motorcycles for all riders and budgets.