“Am I too young to own a modern retro?” Z900RS vs Katana
Sportsbike Britain is dead, may she rest in peace.
I stopped being interested in riding sportsbikes a long time ago, though I can admire the leaps in technology and get lost in the big BHP figures. It isn’t an area of the market that I keep track of now. I have slowly but surely turned into my dad.
The last couple of years have been a weird time, but with brighter days ahead (at time of writing) I have a massive urge to buy myself a modern bike. Something bang up to date, not brand new, but a year or so old, something that’s lost its new bike tax.
Over the summer I’ve narrowed my search down to two contenders. Both have a foot firmly in the past, but they are both bikes that occupy the retro space in their manufacturers brochures. The thing is, am I too young to be taking the plunge on bikes that take their styling cues from bikes that first appeared whilst I was a child?
The two bikes are the Kawasaki Z900RS, and the Suzuki Katana 1000.
“Let’s start with the Kawasaki.”
I have owned plenty of old air cooled Z900 and Z1000 models, also a few GPz1100 variations. My first Zed experience was in 1989 when I was 19. That was a Z1A which is now a true classic model, but then it was just cheap transport to get me from Dagenham to Holborn on a daily basis. I can’t remember too much about that bike, other than I lost both side panels on my maiden ride home from Catford to Dagenham.
It drank oil like Gareth Hunt necked Nescafe coffee, weaved about a bit now I think about it and sounded faster than it was through the rusty Harris 4-1 exhaust. I later went on to buy a Z1R, the angular one that splits opinions when discussed with Zed circles. Then there was a Z1000J that looked rubbish but rode ok.
The Z900RS appealed to me from the moment I saw one down at Wheels Motorcycles at a Kawasaki launch event, I’ve still got the free badge somewhere! A few years on and I can’t shift the idea of buying one.
“So what’s stopping you?”
Ahh, the other contender for my ‘forever bike’ is the Suzuki Katana 1000.
Again, it’s another case of ‘sticking a party frock on and existing’ Suzuki model, just like the original GSX1100S Katana, it wasn’t much more than a tarted up GSX1100ET. The Z900RS is also basically a cheaper Z900 base model underneath the disco bling.
I have had several ‘real’ Katanas in the past. My first was the rare 1000cc version. I was 21 and bought it to sell on again. This was back when I was out all hours buying and selling used bikes plucked from all over London. I bought it from a chap at Earls Court. The ride home was interesting. The riding position just didn’t do it for me, but being a nipper I didn’t care. I sold it to Bikewise in Southend. The guys there were emotionally involved with the Katana model, probably because they were that bit older than me. It left no lasting impression on me at all, it was just a transaction on a bike that had a heavy clutch and a daft name.
A few more Kat’s came and went over the years, mostly arriving in one piece and getting broken for parts. I can remember breaking up an ex PB mag reader’s special one once, and a mate getting the hump because of it! The very bikes that were the modern retros of the 90s are now bikes with rising values and in demand. Why can’t Kawasaki knock out a modern ZRX1100? That’d sell! I bought a ZRX1100 in 1998 and loved it. Prices for the 1200s are nigh on par with a year old Katana.
The new Katana ticks lots of my boxes, but I still find it ugly from certain angles. Make that most angles, and so far I haven’t seen anyone take one and sort it out. Sure that daft rear mudguard needs binning, and that will improve things. It needs more than that though to turn it into a bike I’d look back at.
A mate of mine writes stuff in a bike mag, let’s call him Harry Gurd to avoid any issues…. He’s been chucking any freebies he can blag to his silver dream racer, and having seen it morph from a bog stock bike into a reworked bike, I’m still not sure that it’s the bike for me, yet I still fancy one! The biggest improvement that he made visually, other than dumping the cow catcher muddy, was to fit a taller screen. It changes the face of the Kat no end and stops your retinas being attracted to the rather high handlebars. If I do go down the Katana path, I would only want a black one. The silver ones just highlight how nasty the bodywork looks, obviously a result of grafting it onto that GSX-S frame. Anyway , black Kat’s are also lucky.
“Flip a coin, see what one lands heads up.”
I hate wasting people’s time. I sell bikes day in and day out so wouldn’t want to be that dithering customer at my local bike shop. That said, they do have demo bikes available. I have ridden the base Z900 and liked it! It had that crazy Kawasaki induction roar and was proper comfy. Sadly though. it looked like an extra from a Transformer movie, and although Kawasaki are big on that look across their current range, it does fuck all for me.
Likewise, the Katana shares a motor with the GSX-S 1000, a bike I’ve ridden a few times back in my freelance journo days. The engine was great from what I remember. Riding a bike to write about it is one thing, chucking your own money down and taking one home is another thing. I have met people who’ve bought their bikes based on the monthly PCP payment! Are they stupid? It isn’t a phone or white goods you’re buying for the sake of fuck. Thankfully I have no interest (no pun intended) in buying my bike like my mum bought my BMX from Peter Craig. I will just pay my money.
Price wise, the Katana is the clear winner. I was offered an ex Suzuki press bike recently for £6,300. That is cheap. It was silver though, and ironically, the same bike that Harry Gurd bought! New pre-reg bikes are online for £8,999, well down on the list price. In Z900RS land, you’d be looking at paying that for a minty used one. I am going to get myself along to the dealers and ride one of each. I will then know which one, if any, I want to own. Watch this space.
Article provided by Scottie Redmond