Follow along on the journey as we test, tune and modify the 2017 Kawasaki Z650 to gain as much performance as possible, without breaking the bank. Almost, if not all of the parts and process on this page can also be transferred to the 2017 Ninja 650. Want to do the same thing to your bike and have questions? Email me at: email@example.com
... in the late winter month of January. I was in the market for a new bike, and had put my eye toward the new Suzuki SV650. A capable bike, agile, low seat height, and comfortable "sport" riding position. It was just what I wanted. A nice compromise between a cruiser and true sport bike. Little did I know that fate had other intentions. On the day I walked into the dealership, it was a rather cold, rainy day. Surely no one in their right mind would want to take a motorcycle home on a day like this? Oh, but there was. After spending a few minutes looking around, a saleman approached me to see what I was interested in. I informed him on what I was thinking, and he then guided me to exactly what I THOUGHT I was going to buy. Once a thorough look over, sit on, and run down of the specs were done, he asked me if I had seen or heard of Kawasaki's new Z650. I informed him that I had not. He pointed me in the direction of the all new addition to the Kawasaki stable. A nicely done redesign of the popular ER6 series of bikes that has a huge following overseas.
It was love at first sit. That feeling you get, when all feels right in the world, and two seem as one. That was how I felt. Everything just seemed to mesh to my person. The saddle nice and slim, the seat even lower than that of the SV650, and just the right angle on the handlebars. I knew then, she was coming home with me. After a short period of haggling over the price, we came to an agreement, exchanged the needed items, and homebound we went!
It wasn't long before I was already styling the bike as I wanted it to look. First was the fender elimination kit. Parts weren't readily availble just yet, so one was fashioned from a Z125 kit by manufacturer Vagabond Motorsports. After that, came bar end mirrors to open the field of view while riding, and to give the bike a more aggressive look. Night time riding lights (a green LED kit) were added for a nice Tron like effect, and added safety/visibility at night. The front headlamp also saw some love with an upgrade to 6500k LED. That alone was a huge difference to the range in which I could see at night, and in dark tunnels.
The more I did to the Z, the more I wanted to continue to improve. She was a well capable bike, with plenty of torque and mid range power, and fuel economy to boot. No mountain road could stand between us! But alas, I wanted more...
Luckily for me, the race group and super bike shop, Superbike Unlimited, is only a few minutes away... literally, five minutes from my shop. I walked in and explained to them what I had, what I was looking to do and asked if they could point me in the right direction. After discussing a few options, we decided to do a basline dyno of the 2017 Z650. The results are in the attached photo. The outcome was decent, with proof of what I had felt while riding. A smooth and linear powerband, with consistent torque at all ranges.
With the knowledge the guys at Superbike Unlimited have, (displayed by the numerous trophies on the wall, and race bikes in the garage) I was ready to listen.... With Freddy's race experience and business relationships to various vendors, it was decided to start with exhaust and give the Yoshimura Alpha a try. And the wait began.... Due to how new the Z650 was, no one had released a system yet. Everything was still in development having the kinks worked out. Not with Yoshimura. The R&D team know what they are doing when it comes to race exhausts. With already released dyno sheets on gains, and comparison video between stock and the Alpha, they were miles ahead of everyone else. It was just a matter of final production until I would have this beautiful system in my hands!
Before the Yoshimura arrived, a block-off plate was installed. This was to insure accurate air to fuel ratios could be measured, so we could determine actual changes from the exhaust. It is not a required item for upgrading the exhaust, but more for seeing how much tuning would be needed from adding the new system.
And then it came!!!! The excitement was more than I could bare. I couldn't wait to get home and throw this thing on! The installation was quick and simple. Nothing too complicated or specialized is needed to change the factory system as demonstrated in this video HERE.
This thing looks great on the bike! I went with the regular stainless system with carbon tip. I couldn't justify spending the extra money for just a little more weight loss. Afterall, this isn't a race bike. How does it sound and what are the gains? Watch the below video for my first ride impression. It made a very noticeable difference from the very moment I hit the open road. I could tell there was a bit more pick up in throttle response, and not only that, but the off throttle/on throttle was a much more smooth transition. In other words, the engine braking was reduced when rolling on the throttle making for a much more forgiving experience. I was definitely impressed with what I gained from so little investment. It was like riding a completely new bike in some instances!
The moment of truth! Is it only my imagination, or did we really see some decent gains from adding the Yoshimura Alpha to the Z650? On the released sheets from Yoshimura, they claim a 6% to horsepower and 3% to torque increase. This of course can vary from the type of break in the bike received, elevation at which the dyno was performed, along with other factors, but mostly to a very minor degree. With my hopes high, the bike was taken back to the guys at Superbike Unlimited for round number two. With the pair valve blocked off, an accurate AFR was achieved, and it also seemed the bike was running slightly cooler since the new exhaust. Perhaps the increase in airflow through the engine has had a positive effect. A video of the dyno can be found HERE for your viewing pleasure.
And now, on to the hard facts..... what was the outcome?
Holy cow!! A gain of 4.5 horsepower and 2.2 ft-lbs of torque! That is 7% and 5%, respectively, over the stock system! All from a simple exhaust swap. The AFR does show that it is running a little lean, but consistent across the entire range. But most importantly, it is not so much where a tuning would be a requirement if you wanted to use this exhaust. This of course does not speak for other brands and manufacturers. Yoshimura takes the time and effort to appropriately tune their systems, so keep that in mind when you are looking for options.
With that said, let's look at what we can now improve from this information. If we were to adjust the fueling, one could guess that on an engine this size, we could see an additional gain of another horsepower or two. If we were to then be able to adjust the ignition timing, we could potentially see even more gains, perhaps significant. From this point we have entered yet another waiting game. After contacting a few manufacturers of such controllers, we learned that it will be some months before we will see a product for this bike, except for one.........
Rapid Bike. After a few emails back and forth, we have been told that their system is availble, and in process for release to the US. This system will give us control over the entire fueling and ignition, plus a monitored O2 input that works as a fail-safe incase of an error. Sign me up!
And here I wait.... It shouldn't be long before we can have this system in our hands and will begin the next step in our tuning adventure, so stay tuned! In the mean time, please browse around, enjoy the videos, and subscribe to my social media to stay up to date on the latest content!
And finally! The long awaited Rapid Bike tune and the results! Pretty much what we thought we could gain. About 2HP through the midrange, and 2 more ft-lbs of torque as well! The power curve is butter smooth, and the throttle response is snappy and crisp! Overall the bike feels GREAT! You can definitely tell a difference. At wide open throttle the bike just launches without hesitation and pulls hard to redline. The peak HP has remained the same, as the tune was focused more for the torque and fixing the factory fuel map. The big advantage of the Rapid Bike over other competitors, is that it will constantly learn and adjust itself through future mods. Not only that, but you can go into the software and adjust the engine braking! I haven't had a chance to do this just yet, but am intent on playing with it soon. I've only had one short evening with her so far, but am thoroughly impressed! If anyone is interested in this system, and the Yoshimura Alpha exhaust, you can contact Superbike Unlimited at firstname.lastname@example.org and request the package pricing. They are rolling out a new site soon, so you won't find it just yet on their existing on. Make sure to mention Tremonte in your email so you can receive the custom dyno map with your Rapid Bike. This is only available if you actually purchase through them. This system works not only with the 2017 Kawasaki Z650, but also the Ninja 650 and the Versys 650!
Stay tuned for the next segment where I explore the software and go over some of the more finer details of what was performed in the module, and what else we can acheive!
It's time to move to the next phase.... Regearing for more acceleration! Here are the final drive ratios of the 2017 Kawasaki Z650, stock and the intended custom install. 15/46 sprockets stock, to 14/47 for nearly a 10% increase to torque and acceleration!!!. Following, are the estimated results and suspected changes that I will see with the new sprocket set installed. To experiment with your own custom gearing, you can visit www.gearingcommander.com and simply select your bike from the drop down list. I'll be back soon with more information, along with a comprehensive install video, as usual, so stay tuned!!