Raw, Refined Performance - Kawasaki's Z650

Raw, refined and performance are all words used to describe Kawasaki’s 2017 Z650 motorcycle, wrapping up years of Z engineering for this streetfighter designed to amplify fun and performance.

The stripped down body work, slim lines and exposed engine and suspension components resonate the bike’s raw theme, where only the necessary parts remain. It’s a purpose-built motorcycle with tight body work and a light curb weight.

The Z650 carries on the sugomi styling of the recent Kawasaki Z series, last seen in the pages of Clutch and Chrome with our look at the new Z900. Sugomi describes the intense aura or energy given off by a person or object of greatness and felt by the viewer. In this definition, someone, or something, possessing sugomi inspires awe, leaves an indelible impression, is daunting in stature or ability, and commands respect.

‘The Kawasaki Z650 motorcycle is designed to engage your senses: your sights with its raw and refined look; your touch with the chassis’ feedback to the rider; and your hearing with the specially engineered tune of the exhaust and intake, the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer writes. ‘The open cockpit design allows you to experience your surroundings, hear the sounds of the city or country road and feel the wind.’

Excited yet?

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Kawasaki feels its Z650 is the performance bike made for everyday riding. While influences from the generations of KZ and Z models have made this Z650 what it is today, it’s still very much its own model, a new-school performance motorcycle for the all-around rider.

The highlights of this entry-level performance bike is its Trellis frame, Linkage-rear suspension and if readers haven’t noted yet, its minimal, slim bodywork. Covering a wide segment of this particular area of riding, the Z650 has been designed to suit a range of motorcyclists, whether looking for a real performance motorcycle that’s comfortable and capable of lightweight handling or a smooth, lightweight streetfighter, that’s fun and easy to ride.

The Z650’s headlight cowl and meter visor help form a slim, flowing line from the top of the fuel tank for an aggressive appearance. Following this design theme, engine shrouds have a sharp shape with minimal overhang add to the flowing design while contributing to a condensed, lightweight look.

Add to this the bike’s sharp front fender design and compact, upswept tail cowl contribute to the dynamic, sporty image as well as the LED taillight lights up in a Z shape, Kawasaki have obviously put a lot of thought into the design and engineering of the Z650.

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Engine

Kawasaki’s 650cc parallel-twin engine design has been a proven performer on the track. The new 650cc found in the Z650 however, is purposely tuned for street motorcycles to give the motorcycle a more even and steady torque curve.

The engine features a slim intake and throttle body ports which allow for finer atomization of fuel and improved engine airflow. Camshafts have reduced overlap and less duration, allowing for better mid-range power. The engine ultimately has a smooth off-throttle power delivery, with a steady climb to max output.

Every part of the Z650’s performance has been optimized, even the low to mid-range systems. An optimized intake port shape helps boost low and mid-range response and performance while the exhaust system features a short header and the sleek muffler’s internal construction to do its part.

Found in larger bikes, Kawasaki’s Air Management System (KAMS) radiator fan cover helps direct hot engine air down to the ground and away from the rider.

Keeping the overall shape sleek and minimalist, the compact parallel twin engine helps reduce the dimensions of the entire motorcycle to keep it small and nimble. Triangular crank and transmission shaft layout makes the engine very short from front to back, a semi-dry sump oil system reduces overall engine height, while the narrow pitch of the chrome composite plated aluminum cylinders also help reduce engine width.

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Handling

The high-tensile steel trellis frame uses the engine as a stress member, bringing engineering development from performance bikes to a lightweight, entry-level platform. Minimized bends in the frame cut down on stress-points and result in a lighter chassis. The rear section of the frame is a twin-tube, carried from the backbone of the frame, for added rigidity and improved carrying capacity.

The all-new high-tensile steel trellis frame has optimized dimensions and wall thicknesses to reduce frame weight and contribute to extremely light handling. Further engineering cleverness, three-point rigidly mounted engine and footpeg stays are used as stressed members to contribute to weight reduction.

Kawasaki engineers developed a new gull-arm swingarm with a pivot width similar to the wheel axle, creating a straight line from pivot point to axle, increasing leverage and strength of the rear suspension. Utilizing a horizontal back-linked rear shock with linkage makes for easy tuning, improved comfort and a progressive character.

By having the linkage placed atop the swingarm, it helps make room for the under-engine muffler for better mass centralization. To this point, the rear shock is further away from the exhaust so that its operation will not be affected by exhaust heat. A final feature in this area of the Z650, the Gull-wing swingarm also allows clearance for the muffler while contributing to light, natural handling.

But how does it feel?

According to Kawasaki, the naked bike ergonomics feature the best of both worlds, in terms of a comfortable and an aggressive stance. The seating position and foot placement is low and forward, but with upright handlebars which allow for comfortable riding. The handlebars also increase leverage for adept, precise handling.

Reportedly, much thought was placed into the positioning and angle of the handlebars and grips, positioning them in a natural position for the rider’s wrist, aiding in comfort and control. The narrow handlebars increase confidence and ease of use when making slow-speed corners.

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While not strictly an ergonomic feature, Positive Neutral Finder, a Kawasaki exclusive user-friendly feature that allows the rider to easily shift from first gear into neutral when the bike is at stop and makes a ride that much more enjoyable.

The 5-spoke wheel design adds to the lightweight handling characteristics. The wheels are wrapped in Dunlop Sportmax D214 tires that are constructed with improved wet weather performance. ABS-equipped Z650 units are available, which utilize the Bosch 9.1M unit that has been calibrated to work on the lightweight chassis to assist braking.

Nissin brake calipers have a sporty image and contain brake specific pads; the front providing strong initial bite and the rear offering optimum control and high overall brake force.

The ‘Streetfighter Cockpit’ design is built around a slightly-forward handlebar position provides sport riding potential. Low, forward footpeg placement helps keep the rider’s knees open for increased comfort and ease of operation while the Z650’s fuel tank is positioned relatively low on the chassis and its slim design helps riders to reach the ground and inspire confidence. Helping keep the feet planted firmly on the ground when stopped, the seat is slim at the front.

Looking at comfort, rubber-mounted handlebar reduces vibration and the motorcycle’s five-way adjustable brake and clutch levers can accommodate a variety of hand sizes for increased comfort.

Thinking about company, the Z650 motorcycle features a comfortable passenger seat and comes standard with passenger pegs, for easy two-up riding.

Instrumentation

The instrumentation features an LCD display, a major plus for performance-conscious riders is the tachometer/shift light that flashes when reaching a user-selected rpm. The cluster is stacked for an easy-to-read-layout.

The analog tachometer numbers on a brushed-aluminum panel are indicated with sweeping LCD needles to provide a modern, high-tech look. Speaking of looks, LCD display with white letters on a black background covers information for speedometer, odometer/tripmeters, clock, fuel level, fuel consumption, external and coolant temperature, and Economical Riding Indicator.

Walking riders through the perfect, smooth acceleration, the Z650 is equipped with a shift-up indicator that flashes the tachometer when the user-selected shift point is reached.

The Z650 is available in ABS and non-ABS versions with both offering the color of Pearl Flat Stardust White / Metallic Spark Black. The only MSRP Clutch and Chrome had at the time of publishing this article was $7,399 for the ABS version, but readers could figure on knocking about $500 off for the non-ABS version.

At the time of publishing no date of availability was given.

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