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Friday 5th October 2012

PH2 ridden: Kawasaki W800

Biking like wot it used to be, only without the oil leaks



Nostalgia may not be what it used to be, but that hasn’t stopped more than a few riders looking towards bikes that hark back to a time when men were men, leather was greasy and bikes left black deposits on your driveway.

Or to put it another way, the 1960s and 1970s.

Go over 70 and you can use the mirrors
Go over 70 and you can use the mirrors
Bikes such as the Triumph Bonneville range, new Nortons, Guzzis and Royal Enfields are all styled to resemble great bikes from past years, although in the case of Enfield most of the technology is also from the 1960s (ok, yes I know they now have an electric start, fuel injection and ‘correct’ side gear change…).

For 2012, Kawasaki has rejoined the nostalgia drive with the W800 – a retro bike with modern touches, like an ability to retain oil.

What have we got?
A few years ago Kawasaki’s model range included the W650, a bike that is a bit of a hidden gem and actually had a load more character than the modern Bonnevilles it was up against.

For whatever reasons (most likely emissions laws) the W650 was dropped from the range in 2006, something that was a bit of a shame as it had quickly developed a cult following thanks to its easygoing nature and cool styling.

Now Kawasaki re-invented the W in best Mr Kipling stylee. With its air-cooled parallel twin engine (with bevel-driven cams that look like pushrods) the W800 certainly looks the part. You have to give it to Kawasaki’s styling department: the chrome mudguards, fork gaiters, twin peashooter pipes, drum rear brake and long saddle make the W800 look superb.

You may not immediately spot it as a Kawasaki though. They've replaced the Kawasaki tank logo with a ‘W’ badge, and printed the factory name on the back of the seat – which I reckon looks ace.

Parallel twins: were they ever any good?
Parallel twins: were they ever any good?
Break out the goggles…
Push the starter (no kickstart here) and the W800 rumbles into life. As with most modern bikes, the exhaust note is nothing more than a pathetic whisper (would smashing a metal bar up the pipe knock out a bit of noise deadening?) but the W vibrates with a pleasing ‘old bike’ feel as its parallel twin ticks away.

Looking at the clocks I have to say I’m not a huge fan of the styling or font used for the numbers. It seems a bit modern to me, though the use of cream rather than white as a backing colour is nice. In with the light clutch and away we go…

The W650 was never the fastest bike out there, so the increased capacity has given the W800 some welcome extra poke. This style of bike isn’t about top speeds, but the 800 can now happily cruise at ... motorway speeds. No doubt though that it is far happier on smaller roads where the punchy engine can be enjoyed.

Pottering around the back roads on the W800 is a very pleasant experience. The handling isn’t bad and the vibrations from the engine are just enough to give it character without getting annoying.

Speaking as an owner of a classic British bike I can say that the hefty vibration of a big single can really start to get annoying after a while. However, there is a slight issue with the W800’s ‘character buzz’. The vibrations from the motor make the mirrors virtually useless as they only display a blur of colour at most speeds. Oddly enough I found they cleared above 80mph (on private land, etc) which isn’t exactly the speed this bike is likely to live at.

Also, the single front brake is a little pathetic in its action, providing the bare minimum of stopping power at best. Having said that, it's certainly better than a drum brake…

They should offer Triumph overstickers
They should offer Triumph overstickers
Who will buy it?
The W800 will certainly appeal to a certain type of buyer, who I always think of as my Dad! The old boy has ridden bikes all his life, but as he is now touching 70 he has given up on his 1960 Velocette as the kickstart is a bit tricky to fire over. He'd love the Kawasaki (although he probably wouldn’t want it, as it's Japanese and not British) because it has a relaxed ride, good steering lock, electric start and looks the part.

A modern classic gives you total reliability in a retro-looking bike that can be taken out and enjoyed whatever the weather. The W800’s main competitor is probably the Bonneville and I reckon it would run the Triumph close in a comparative test. It's priced competitively, looks as cool and handles as well.

The only issue the Kawasaki has is the name badge that (isn’t) on the tank. A Kawasaki is never as cool as a Triumph – which is a shame as, snobbery aside, the W800 is a lovely bike for sunny Sunday rides.


Specs:Kawasaki W800                                           
Engine:
773cc, air-cooled, parallel-twin, fuel injection
Power: 70hp (claimed)
Torque: 76ft lb (claimed)
Top speed: 110mph (est)
Weight: 216kg
MPG: 50 (est)
Price: £6,799

Jon Urry
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Author Discussion

slevin911

Original Poster:

522 posts

62 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
Do not appeal to me but think its A great idea,should be A good market for them they make alot of sense!

Hooli

28,224 posts

86 months

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Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
I don't see the point. If you want a modern 'fake classic' at least Triumphs have the right name on.

sprinter1050

11,302 posts

113 months

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Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
That pic looks more than a little like my local windmill in N E Lincolnshire.
or am I wrong?

bob1179

13,735 posts

95 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
I was looking at one of these in the local Kwacker garage last weekend. I quite like them, look like a bit of fun. Though I have ridden the Bonneville and that was such a great little bike, I think this will be very similar.

smile

Vespid

2,549 posts

62 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
Hooli said:
I don't see the point. If you want a modern 'fake classic' at least Triumphs have the right name on.
Well Kawasaki were making the W1 650 in the sixties.


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sprinter1050

11,302 posts

113 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
That W1 650 above looks more appealing I think, though despite the number plate, still looks a U.S. style model. I also thought they were not as trouble free or nice as expected.

Does anybody else think that the way Kawasaki has done the "W" on the tank makes it resemble the old "M" for Matchless ??

Srob ?

Steve Evil

9,275 posts

115 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
I think the special edition one which replaces most of the chrome with matt parts and gold wheels looks ace:


garypotter

805 posts

36 months

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Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
variety is the spice of life, but a tough one to compete with the highly rated triumph range (as mentioned at least with the right name on it)

Blackpuddin

5,726 posts

91 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
Steve Evil said:
I think the special edition one which replaces most of the chrome with matt parts and gold wheels looks ace:

Ooh yeah that is nice actually, is that a US-only model?

Steve Evil

9,275 posts

115 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
Blackpuddin said:
Steve Evil said:
I think the special edition one which replaces most of the chrome with matt parts and gold wheels looks ace:

Ooh yeah that is nice actually, is that a US-only model?
No you can get them here, I was seriously considering one earlier in the year, but it would have to be a second bike for me really and I've not got space at the moment.

Another thing to note, Bike magazine tested one and rated it higher than the Bonneville, it's one of very few bikes they've given 5 stars to.

Phil Jay

10 posts

37 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
Classic roadsters make cracking every day bikes for anyone that wants 'real world' motorcycling AND keep their license. However, why buy a BSA copy when you can have an updated version of the real thing? I ran a Bonneville T100 for 7 years and it was a real hoot. I commuted, toured and had loads of fun on this bike, it doesent leak oil, starts on the button and guess what, it's a quality British product! I only sold it earlier this year to raise funds to complete the restoration of an Elan Sprint I made the mistake of buying to restore a few years back. Once this horrible little kit car is finished and sold, I'll buy another one in a heartbeat!

Blackpuddin

5,726 posts

91 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
Steve Evil said:
Blackpuddin said:
Steve Evil said:
I think the special edition one which replaces most of the chrome with matt parts and gold wheels looks ace:

Ooh yeah that is nice actually, is that a US-only model?
No you can get them here, I was seriously considering one earlier in the year, but it would have to be a second bike for me really and I've not got space at the moment.

Another thing to note, Bike magazine tested one and rated it higher than the Bonneville, it's one of very few bikes they've given 5 stars to.
No sign of it on the Kawa website. How much are they, do you know?

Steve Evil

9,275 posts

115 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
Blackpuddin said:
No sign of it on the Kawa website. How much are they, do you know?
Think they're £6995 new, but I've seen them on BikeTrader at various dealerships for just under 6k.

Blackpuddin

5,726 posts

91 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
Steve Evil said:
Blackpuddin said:
No sign of it on the Kawa website. How much are they, do you know?
Think they're £6995 new, but I've seen them on BikeTrader at various dealerships for just under 6k.
That is seriously tempting.

Luftgekuhlt

764 posts

76 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
They are properly lovely in the flesh, better proportions than a modern Bonneville. Beautifully finished and nicely detailed. I've got a 400/4 that I keep imagining I'd get rid of for one of these (or possibly a Guzzi V7).

That black one is cloud9

Spanna

2,189 posts

62 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
My uncle has owned his W650 for 5 years now. I don't think it was mentioned in the article, but this model uses carbs instead of injection, is a 675cc and has a kick start should you wish to use it. A very nice and relaxing ride, as pillion or the rider, even with a pillion. My uncle's is a low mileage one, but you see these for sale with big mileage having been used for touring.

Values aren't going South either. My uncle paid £2500 for his, the best ones are usually priced around £3300 and well used ones seem to fetch upwards of £2200.


podman

5,409 posts

126 months

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Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
Sod the old duffers, I spotted this much modified "bobber" Kawasaki W800 in St Tropez .

Both her, the bike and her girlfriend where beautiful.

I like the W800 but id rather have ridden the owner of this particular one.



bobberz

1,743 posts

85 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
I love these things. I also think they look better than the "new" Triumphs. I can't quite put my finger on it, they just look more "authentic" somehow. scratchchin

Whenever I see a modern Bonnie, I can tell right away it's not old. W650s, however, have made me do a double-take more than once.

Too bad they took away the kicker; it made the 650 look even more authentic.

Definitely one of the bikes I'd be considering when I get my license.

Turn7

11,000 posts

107 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
Steve Evil said:
I think the special edition one which replaces most of the chrome with matt parts and gold wheels looks ace:

Like that !

Turn7

11,000 posts

107 months

[news] 
Friday 5th October 2012 quote quote all
bobberz said:
I love these things. I also think they look better than the "new" Triumphs. I can't quite put my finger on it, they just look more "authentic" somehow. scratchchin

Whenever I see a modern Bonnie, I can tell right away it's not old. W650s, however, have made me do a double-take more than once.

Too bad they took away the kicker; it made the 650 look even more authentic.

Definitely one of the bikes I'd be considering when I get my license.
Yeah, kicker should be available as an accessory....

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