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Kawasaki W800 Ends Production With “Final Edition”

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Kawasaki W800 Final Edition

When Kawasaki introduced the W650 back in 1999, MD told its readers that the Japanese firm was making a British twin. We even ran a brief ride review in 2000 written by an MD reader who had purchased a W650. The W650 was a charming, functional retro that came with a kick starter.

Unfortunately, the W650 was a sales flop in the United States, and was quickly discontinued in this country following the 2001 model year. Overseas, the model continued to be available, and in 2011 it was replaced by the W800 that was in many ways similar but with a displacement boost to 773cc.

Although the W800 never became available in the U.S. market, MD highlighted a couple of cool customs based on the model, including a Scrambler (shown below) and a stripped-down version.

Modern emission standards are reportedly the reason for the demise of the W800, but don’t expect Kawasaki to ignore the market for retro-styled machines. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Kawasaki introduce a new retro standard for the 2017 model year. Stay tuned.

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Modified W800 Scrambler


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64 Comments

  1. SDFilmFan says:

    I just had my 2001 W650 out for a nice ride yesterday. While I have a bigger bike for longer rides, the W is perfect for bopping around local. Light, easy to handle, not too fast, but not too slow, either. It still gets looks when I park it. And the kick starter is nice when surrounded by Harley guys dressed like something out of a Brando movie. It’s the bike I want to keep for when I’m an old man.

    I used to see another W riding around San Diego, with a dog in a special bed on the gas tank.

  2. rider33 says:

    in 2001 I was in the market for a classic standard. I rode the W650 and the then new Hinkley Bonnie. The Hinkley bike was a modern bike styled to look like a classic and at that point was a little rough around the edges (pre-T100 retro polish). The W650 was polished to jewel level and as Peter Egan said in a review at the time, “it was the better Bonnie imitator”. I bought the W and put a lovely 15,000 miles on it, a truly great bike, not the fastest, not the best handling but it was always one of those bikes that you just enjoyed riding & always looked back and smiled at when you walked away. I would have bought another one but Kawi has dropped it in the states by then. At the time I had to call around to find one & ultimately drove 150 miles to find it covered in dust & buried behind a sea of Harley wantabees. The sales guy didn’t even have the model number right. The PR was ok but the dealers had no idea what to do with this bike. The irony is that the Hinkley bike went on to a 15 year run and represent about half of Triumph’s sales, the W ran 2 years in the states and never was a major seller elsewhere for them either. ‘Pretty sure it they had just made the bike and let so body else distributed it it would have done just fine. It would have been easy to drop an aging twin into a retro frame but Kawi went to the trouble of building a jewel of a little engine with bevel gear drive and kickstart to boot. ‘Clearly there engineering prowess was light years above their marketing talent. So here’s to a beautiful little bike that was ahead of its time and damned by poor marketing. In the right hands it could have done quite well, ask Triumph.

  3. Butch says:

    I owned a 2000 W for a couple of years.
    Counter balanced to the point of sterilization.
    I ran the snot out of it and nothing ever broke.
    Love the kick start, which was omitted from the 800 version.

  4. RD350 says:

    That is what a proper scrambler looks like. I love that bike and this one:
    http://www.bikeexif.com/w650-tracker

  5. Lars N. Jensen says:

    Had a W800 SE (special edition) 2013 model here in Norway for about a year. Nice ‘nostalgic’ brit-bike to look at, but with some issues from the good old days. My first bike was a Triumph Speed Twin back in 1970, and it had all the flaws of older UK bikes. The W800/650 will give you the authentic feeling and look of an old bike, but made with modern quality. The issues with the W800/650 is the soft frame on twisty roads, and the brakes. Both will give you the feeling from the ‘good old days’ if you prefer that.

  6. DCE says:

    Well, let’s see – if you take the Versys 650, strip off the fairing and install a single round headlight, offer a version with spoke wheels as well as cast (a la Ducati Scrambler), you would have – a better scrambler-type bike that has retro styling touches but modern everything else. Maybe what Kaw has up its sleeve. Wrenchmonkees did it.

    • Dino says:

      I just don’t get why the manufacturers havent figured that out… Now Suzuki has the new SV650, headed the right direction..

      Hopefully more models to follow!

    • KenHoward says:

      When I think about what Kawasaki might come up with as a standard/classic bike, I see a new version of their legendary Z1.

  7. Skybullet says:

    The US market was not ready for the W650, now the Triumph vertical twins have proven it is ready. I always liked the looks of the Kawi, they have the tooling to produce a batch to test the US market.. Why not?

    • Kent says:

      Sorry – I hit “report post instead of reply. My error – there’s nothing wrong with your post.

      I had a W650 for a bit, and in all honestly, it wasn’t a great bike. It had a really short range, and I actually hit reserve at 120 miles on one trip. That makes the bike less than useful (to me) for commuting, or anything other than an occasional ride in the hills.

      The other things that I didn’t like were the lack of power (I ride a 650 V-Strom). I never felt really comfortable in high speed traffic because it just didn’t accelerate strongly, especially if it was going 70+.
      The suspension was really soft, and would just stop working over a series of big bumps.

      It was beautiful & reliable, but just not a serious bike for how I ride. I’m not surprised it wasn’t a big seller here.

  8. Bill Silver says:

    I am on my third W650 and they have been one of my all-time favorites, after owning over 300 cars and bikes in the past 50 years. The 2000 models had some difficulties which were remedied with the 2001 versions. I have a 7k mile 2001 W650 now and can’t think of much of any other bike that would please me more.. everyone things it is a Triumph when they first see it. The bike just looks right, sounds right and gives that retro feel with non of the oil leaks and engine thrashing of the old Brit twins.

    • mickey says:

      300 cars and bikes in 50 years? Geezalou, that’s 6 different vehicles a year, every year, for 50 years. How would you know if something is good? You don’t keep anything long enough to find out.

  9. Martin B says:

    I spent an afternoon riding two bikes to decide where to put my money. I tried the W650 first. The motor was wonderful, smooth, torquey and refined, just lovely in traffic. The seat was comfy and low, all was good. Then I hit the highway and went over a mountain road. Things were not so good a higher speed. There were bits scraping in the corners, and the frame felt a bit like it had a hinge in it, but that may have just been the too soft suspension. And over time, the fine tingles through the bars made my left hand go slightly numb. The low seat created cramp in my hips, and the longer I rode it the worse it got. And it cost double what I wanted to spend.

    The next bike was a Suzuki Freewind, a sort of Adventure version of the DR650, with 19″ front wheel and an actual, comfortable seat at a reasonable height. The motor had a dual carburetor and had very little bottom end torque, but countered with a satisfying mid range rush, almost as good as the W650. And the chassis was amazing, unlimited cornering clearance and extreme comfort, oodles of suspension movement. It was just a beast on the mountain road, faster than the W650 due to the better chassis, and there were no tingles sending my hands to sleep. Although the W650 would have been better around town, I had no regrets buying the Freewind, and at half the cost (though higher mileage) it remains one of my best ever motorcycle purchases.

    • azi says:

      The W650/800 has very basic suspension that lets it down once the speeds pick up. It also has vintage geometry, which makes it handle like an old bike (both its blessing and curse). Once the suspension is ‘fixed’ it is much better. I installed cartridge emulators and revalved Ikon shocks on mine and it made an appreciable difference. The W650/800 is also a relatively small bike and suits smaller riders.

      As for the Freewind: not really a fair comparison as it’s a completely different class of bike. It’s a good bike though, with the most powerful factory tune of the DR650 motor.

    • Flubbles says:

      But you ended up with a motorcycle that looks like a Suzuki Freewind.

  10. Paul says:

    I have a W650. Fun bike not trying to just look like a retro but feel like one too, in a good way. If you want to buy them in the states, nice clean ones pop up every once in a while on craigslist or ebay.

    As for Kawasaki’s future plans, maybe the rumors of a new retro type Z900 will come true. That should satisfy the performance crowd.

  11. mechanicus says:

    Nice bike, but I never saw a single one on the road, at any bike event, or for that matter in any showroom. Ghost bike.

  12. takehikes says:

    I would have liked a 650 but could not find one new. Dealers did not stock them in my experience. 800 would have been even better but such is life.
    I’ve been lusting after the CB1100 with making some changes to it….retro the hell out of it. Put an original CB750 tank and side covers on it and other ancillary parts to make it a quasi replica in the proper color too. Could be fun to do.

  13. Curly says:

    Beautiful bike that really looks like a motorcycle should. Look what 16 years has done to the market. Now that bike would go over well in the current market but in 2000 you had to sell full on race replicas and cruisers to make any impression. Now us oldsters can’t ride a supersport much further than around the block before we want to get off, cruisers are collecting dust in the dealerships and old fashion standards like the W800 are what we want.

  14. KenHoward says:

    Yes, everyone here today just loves this now-departed model, but if Kawasaki brought one here again, I can just hear the complaints about its relatively-poor performance being a deal-killer. I remember reading a comparison review of the W800 to a Bonneville, and while the Kaw was appreciated for its beauty, the Triumph easily outperformed it in every way. And then, there’s the younger crowd certain to shout, berating the retro trend as being “for old people stuck in the past,” or the bike maker having run out of new ideas. I have sympathy for manufacturers’ marketing guys (sometimes) for having to try to figure out what people really want. Personally, I think Triumph – and their Street Twin, in particular – decisively trumps this W800 for someone wanting to actually buy (rather than just give an opinion about it) a classic-looking “standard bike” (I don’t think we’ll see bevel-driven cams again).

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      The only new (produced within the past few years) “retro” I’ve seen a lot of is the Ducati Scrambler, which I don’t really consider retro but whatever. Anyway, all of the riders have been relatively young, say maybe mid-30ish and younger. I think Ducati have the right formula – iconic European brand, pretty good performance, classic lines, no frills – for that particular kind of buyer. Yes, if the W800 came to the US today, I suspect it wouldn’t make much more of a splash than it did 15 years ago.

  15. Vrooom says:

    I thought the W650 looked better than the Bonneville Triumph was making at the time. Not knocking the Triumph, and it’s appearance improved, but this was gorgeous.

  16. Gary says:

    Everyone’s loss. Too bad they couldn’t allocate the funds to engineer some EURO4 compliance without destroying what makes this bike so desirable. Triumph managed to do a reasonable job.

  17. PN says:

    Oh, too bad. I wanted to buy one in 2002. The dealer just looked at me blank. I love that scrambler version. Bevel drive was so Ducati. Genius. And the W650/800 always looked better than any Triumph.

    • teelee says:

      I agree with PN about ugly Triumph’s made in Thailand, Kawasaki looks better and dealers every where.

  18. sliphorn says:

    I’m sorry to see it go. Lovely motorcycle.

  19. TexinOhio says:

    The W650 is the one bike I regret never buying when I had the chance. I didn’t start to get into motorcycles until 1996 when I was 18 and by that point it was all about GSXR’s and ZX7’s.

    Now in my late 30’s, I have started to have an appreciation for bikes like the W650 and the above W800. I know there are a lot of other companies that still make this type of bike for sale here in the US but I’d really love to have a Kawasaki. If I ever find a W650 for sale in great condition I won’t think twice about getting it.

    As complex and odd looking as my Z1000 is, I’d still like to have something a little more simple and traditional in the garage as well.

    • tom brand says:

      I have a W650 for sale on phoenix craigslist.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “If I ever find a W650 for sale in great condition I won’t think twice about getting it.”

      I’ve seen a few pop up for sale around here over the past few years. It is a rare bird and one that many owners get delusional over. Asking price might be anywhere from $4K to $15K depending on what the owner has been smoking.

  20. Neal says:

    There’s just something about a bevel driven cam…

  21. MGNorge says:

    Scrambler reminded me of the old Avenger Scrambler other than the engine

    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/e8/c8/a4/e8c8a41db041639dc8eac757b3e2ae02.jpg

  22. oldjohn1951 says:

    Thanks a bunch, Kawasaki! Maybe your marketing people can go work at Harley Davidson and do whatever they damn well please as they did with this bike. It was never, ever marketed properly; always an “orphan” machine in Kawasaki’s powersports lineup. The W800 started life as a Meguro-built made under license BSA Shooting Star and Kawasaki never capitalized on the bike’s pedigree and lineage. That was foolish and now it’s gone.

  23. Derek Smith says:

    Owned a 650 for a while. Great bike for New Zealand backroad riding and very lovely but I got the hankering for a single and now own a Royal Enfield C5 Classic. Gorgeous, reliable and practical.

  24. dualaportjoe says:

    Definitly my favorite Kawasaki but unobtanium here in the US unfortunately. They were certainly early for the retro craze that is going on now. I’d buy two of them, one for the living room to admire and one for a daily rider. Come on Kawasaki bring it on!

  25. Geoffrey Hill says:

    I have been waiting for them to bring here so I could buy. Bite me Kaw. No wonder my last Kaw was an 89Klr. Wanted a 650 but my wife said no as I had just bought a Goldwing for her.

  26. todd says:

    Of course it flopped in the US. The only way people found out about it was if they happened to go to a Kawasaki dealer. A little marketing goes a long way, Kawasaki.

    • Pacer says:

      100% correct.

    • Paul says:

      I call BS on that. The internet was in existence at the time and the moto mags all covered it, too. You would have to have lived in a dark cave somewhere to have missed it. But ya, it feels better to throw blame on somebody other than yourself for not buying one when you could have. The U.S. is infamous for ignoring good offerings when it comes to motorcycles.

      • Fred_M says:

        Paul: Absolutely spot-on. The W650 was reviewed on motorcycle(.com) and motorcycledaily(.com). It was reviewed in Motorcyclist, Cycle World, and Motorcycle Cruiser magazines. It was on the cover of the Feb. 2000 Cycle World. Kawasaki had print brochures for it. I have no idea how any active U.S. motorcyclist could not have known about it.

        • Dave says:

          I think an active/shopping enthusiast would know about it, but it’d be easy enough to miss for everyone else. For instance, I’ve been riding for many years and I hardly ever set foot in a dealership.

          The Mazda 5 has sold though it’s North American allotment every year, without $1 of marketing investment in the model but they have also sold enough of them that you see them on the road everywhere. Part of why the W650 didn’t do well is that the motorcycle industry is small in the US so a niche model would’ve been brought into the market in very small numbers. Even if they sold out, chances are you’d rarely ever see one in the wild.

          • Fred_M says:

            Short of riding a new model from one home to the next, knocking on doors, I don’t know what more a motorcycle manufacturer can do. Kawasaki put out press releases. They got the bikes into hands of print and online motorcycle journalists. They got them on the cover of magazines.

            If someone seldom reads motorcycle magazines, seldom visits motorcycle websites, and seldom goes into motorcycle dealers, then any new model is easy to miss.

          • joe b says:

            …so your saying if you are shopping for a bike, going into a dealership is a good idea? Huh, sounds ok to me.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I don’t think the W650 was marketed any more or less than any other motorcycle at the time. It was reviewed in all of the print and online publications of the time just like every other motorcycle.

      I think its primary downfall was that it was ahead of its time as mentioned by many and wasn’t as “authentic” as a new Triumph. For guys like me at the time who appreciated the aesthetics, it just didn’t have enough kick for it to be my daily rider.

  27. Doc says:

    Never thought I’d own a Kawasaki until I bought a new 2000 W650. Loved it. Then I did a dumb thing and sold it. Bought a used W650 in 2010. The bike loads of character, timeless styling, and was fairly light weight. If Kawasaki had tried selling them here again, I know they have sold at least one. To me.

  28. steveinsandiego says:

    love the bike but hate the spokes.

    • Scottie says:

      Hate spokes? What do you not understand about this bike’s styling?

    • Fred_M says:

      The W800 is a retro bike that emulates the Kawasaki W series, three models that were produced from 1967 to 1975, all of which had spokes. How are you going to make a bike that looks like the W series but does not have spokes?

      Your comment is like “love the scale model of the Saturn 5 rocket, but hate the top being pointy.”

  29. Hot Dog says:

    Wow! I think that this bike is beautiful! How cool with the clean lines, and the scrambler is awesome! I wish they’d bring it here.

  30. Jeremy in TX says:

    I am not one who generally likes putting around lazily on a motorcycle. But I really enjoyed putting around on a w650 the few times I was able to do it. It is a bike that is more than the sum of its parts.I’m sure it lost none of that charm add is grew into the W800. The best classic Triumph will be missed.

  31. Tim says:

    I suspect they would have sold a lot more of the 800’s had they brought them here. The 650’s developed a bit of a following after they pulled them from the market here. I just believe the timing was all wrong for the 650.

  32. tla says:

    wow, that scramber is gorgeous!

  33. John says:

    My favorite Triumph is a Kawasaki.

  34. azi says:

    I’m glad that I’m one of the lucky few with a W800 in the garage. It has been one of the most enjoyable bikes I’ve owned, serving regular duties as a daily city commuter and weekend traveller. The only other modern motorcycle I can think of that captures the elemental vintage spirit with modern engineering would be the Moto Guzzi roadster series. In my opinion the Triumph Hinckley Bonneville was always a modern bike pretending to be an old one.

    • VLJ says:

      What about the Honda CB1100?

      • azi says:

        Good call. CB1100 deserved a mention. I think the styling’s a bit strange though, with the square edges on the tank and sidecovers. Like someone put a 70s CB750, a Bold’Or, and a Hornet 900 in a blender.

  35. tuskerdu says:

    I regret not buying a W650 16 years ago. I hope Kawasaki does follow through with a new 2017 retro (that is available in the US).