I’ve had to explain the difference between an engine’s torque and horsepower all throughout my 40 years of riding motorcycles. Unfortunately, not everyone is technically inclined thus you could almost see the hamster wheel turning and squeaking in the recipient’s head while he tried imagining the forces involved in a wrench twisting on a nut. But there’s a simpler method to understand engine torque – just ride the 2023 Kawasaki Z900 SE.
Let’s take a closer look at the bike and come back to this in a bit.
The 2023 Kawasaki Z900 SE
The Z900 returns this year under the new Kawasaki distributor in Malaysia, Edaran Modenas Sdn. Bhd. (EMOS). It remains unchanged from last year’s model apart from the paint job.
Its four-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, 948cc engine produces 125HP at 9,500 RPM and 98.6Nm of torque at 7,700 RPM. As such, the Z900 has more grunt than Yamaha’s so-called “Master of Torque” MT-09, whose 889cc engine does 117HP @10,000 RPM and 93Nm at 7,000 RPM.
The Kawasaki Z900 SE differs from the standard Z900 by flaunting higher specification suspension and brakes. For starters, the SE has a pair of Showa 41mm fully-adjustable forks with gold stanchions. The monoshock out back is an Öhlins S46, adjustable for rebound and preload with a remote preload adjuster.
The front brake calipers are radially-mounted Brembo M4.32 monoblocs, gripping a pair of 300mm Brembo discs, backed up by a two-channel ABS. It’s available only in Candy Lime Green.
The main addition for the 2023 model (for both variants) is the much-welcomed full-colour TFT screen which allows the rider to connect to it via Bluetooth using the Kawasaki Rideology phone app. There are three riding modes, namely SPORT, ROAD, RAIN and USER.
Other specs include a 17-litre fuel tank, 805mm seat height, and 211kg wet weight. Traction control and dual-channel ABS are standard. There’s no quickshifter, though.
Oh, before I forget: That Sugomi styling may be the same, but the new colourway enhances the upper radiator shrouds, making the bike look organically muscular, if not brutish.
Jumping on the bike for the first time reveals the seating positing that’s familiar to any Kawasaki rider (apart from the Ninja ZX-6R and ZX-10R/ZX-10RR): Low seat height, short reach for the legs to the ground, high and rear set pegs, slightly long reach to the handlebars. The engine looked wide in the Z900, sticking out on either side of the fuel tank.
I selected RAIN mode and let out the clutch. Engine feedback felt rather soft, so I gave it a little bit more throt… YAAAAH!!! The engine let out a whoooop and the bike took off down the road with the urgency of my neighbour’s dog chasing the Foodpanda rider.
Down the long left after the toll plaza, I let the bike run onto the offramp in 4th. Reaching the end of the turn, I stood the bike up and gave it even more throttle and once again, the engine went “whooooop” and it blasted down the highway with such force it felt like the windblast was about to rip my head off (I was foolishly wearing a jet helmet at this point).
This, my friends, was a clear demonstration of engine torque, which we colloquially call “pick up.” It’s torque that gives you acceleration.
Riding on the highway was a calm affair with the exhaust humming along even at elevated speeds (which we can’t publish here). Inline-four bike riders swear by this engine format because it’s just so smooth between the legs. By the way, the exhaust note is specially tuned. Personally, I would keep the standard ‘zorst if I bought this bike.
Anyways, the trip from EMOS HQ at Glenmarie to Bukit Beruntung took only 10 minutes.
Divebombing the twisties
It rained during the night and the roads are still damp. Was this about to put me off? No way, uh uh. In fact, it was the best scenario to test a road bike’s capabilities because that’s the real world in which owners ride their bikes. But it also meant sticking to RAIN mode…
Nevertheless, it’s time to put the bike through its paces and what better way to try out the new SUKE highway with its many sweeping corners. However, the highway’s surface is very bumpy.
The Z900’s Öhlins monoshock returns a little too much bump action for my liking, so a couple of turns of the rebound damping solved it.
Finally, it’s the Karak Highway where I test ever bike.
The long-radius sweeping curves of Karak allowed the bike to flow. There wasn’t even a need to roll the throttle for most of the corners. The Z900 SE showed a willingness to tip into any corner with the slightest push on the handlebar, without needing to be muscled around.
The suspension dealt with the bumpy road without losing its composure and thrown off the chosen line up the pothole-strewn Genting Highland road. Helping this was the engine’s torque pulled it through corners in 4th and 5th gears! The super sharp uphill corners required only 3rd.
Reaching the Premium Outlet, I removed my riding gear and messaged my wife. She replied, “You’re already there??? You flew or what??? It’s less than 30 minutes!” It’s only then that I realized it. We can’t publish it here, but you can do a quick calculation of 63 km/30 minutes = 63 km/0.5hour. That’s the average speed.
And this was still in RAIN mode over damp roads!
The roads dried out as I prepared to head back down the mountain, so I switched to SPORT mode.
Huh? Throttle action and gear changes were super smooth in this mode. It’s usually the other way around for all the other bikes I’ve tested. The bike flowed even better through the turns too, as smoother throttle action meant the chassis attitude remained flatter (weight not pitched forward and backward).
Anyways, back down Karak Highway towards KL. I checked the time when I reached the Gombak Toll Plaza: It was only 8 minutes ago when I left Genting Permai…
The magic here (apart from the engine’s eyeball flattening torque) is you can fully feel how the Z900 SE’s chassis works. Line up the turn, countersteer, and the bike keels over and sinks into its suspension stroke as it tracks through the corners. Roll the throttle open when the front tyre pushes slightly, lift the bike up past the apex and give it more throttle up as the bike stands up. The engine’s torque hammers the rear tyre into the road and the bike slingshots off the corner, as the front waggles softly. I think a slight tug on the bar would have the bike wheelie off the corners, but nope, am not going to do that on a test bike.
I commuted on the bike on every of the five days we had the bike, covering 130km per day. Dealing with the morning rush hour traffic on Old Klang Road, and SPRINT highway in the evenings was an easy affair.
The bike steered quickly and predictably even at crawling speeds. Kawasaki had also addressed the main drawback of the previous Z800 by giving the Z900 a greater handlebar lock angle. Therefore, maneuvering through gaps in the traffic along with the low seat height was a breeze.
Those Brembo brakes scrubbed off speed with so much ease that I didn’t even have to think about it. They’re set to provide a smooth feedback, feeling a little soft during its initial pull.
And again, as in again and again, the engine’s stupendous torque allows you to pull away from dangerous situations – NOW – rather than having to wait for the engine to spool up. It felt a lot more like a three-cylinder in this sense.
The 2023 Kawasaki Z900 SE is an awesome bike: Easy to live with in any situation, sounds great, easy to handle, and entertaining when you want it to. The seat’s pretty comfortable too.
It’s a rather practical bike. You can also slap on some sidebags, tailbag, tankbag and off you go on a road trip.
So in closing, what’s torque? It’s that jump forward when you open the throttle. It’s what gives you the acceleration to the speed you want – the more torque the quicker you reach that speed. The net result being able to maintain a higher average speed, getting you to your destination quicker. It’s more practical for everyday riding. That’s what the 2023 Kawasaki Z900 SE has plenty of and more to back it up.
The 2023 Kawasaki Z900 SE sells for RM55,900, while the base Z900 sells for RM43,900. Both prices are not on-the-road.
Please visit Kawasaki Malaysia’s website for more details on this bike.
Please visit Gomoto Malaysia's website for the appropriate gear to go along with this bike.