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Kawasaki Brings Back Classic W800 for 2019 as a CAFE Racer


Kawasaki introduced the classically-styled W650 back in 1999, which morphed into the W800 and eventually went out of production in 2016. The W650/W800 was ahead of its time, coming to market long before the retro-craze caught fire. Kawasaki is now back with the W800 CAFE here in the United States for 2019 (Europe gets this model, as well as a standard model without a fairing).

Displacing 773cc, the vertical twin engine couldn’t look more authentic, and is Euro4 emissions compliant. Modern touches such as a slipper clutch and LED headlamp are present. Take a look at Kawasaki’s press release:

A Kawasaki Throwback to the Original Japanese Big Bike

The all-new Kawasaki W800 CAFE is Kawasaki’s latest addition to our retro lineup of motorcycles. It’s a true throwback to its 1960’s predecessor, the famed Kawasaki W1. The 1966 Kawasaki W1 is the motorcycle that has come to represent the ethos of Kawasaki’s quest for speed.  It had the largest displacement and was most powerful Japanese motorcycle of its time, and inspired the birth of the legendary machines such as the Kawasaki Z1 and Ninja H2™ sportbikes.

For 2019, Kawasaki brings class-leading authentic styling, sound, and feel to the category of retro motorcycles. In building the W800 CAFE, Kawasaki has meticulously crafted one of the most authentic retro bikes in appearance and design, paying homage to the past, all while tastefully incorporating modern technology and features.

Developed for riders in search of a well-rounded bike that is not only rich in history and character, but also packed with modern technology and handling features, the W800 CAFE is powered by an air-cooled 773cc vertical twin engine, and features an updated modern double-cradle frame design and modern suspension components that bring an unmatched level of authenticity and performance to the retro motorcycle category.

The sleek sweeping contours and meticulous fit and finish of the W1 redefined the standards of motorcycle design in the 1960’s. Kawasaki has applied the same meticulous attention to detail in building the W800 CAFE, from the iconic appearance of the air-cooled bevel gear driven vertical twin engine to the elegant gas tank and muffler design, all the way down to the retro themed wheels.

The W800 CAFE motorcycle is packed with plenty of modern technology, such as the clean running Euro4 compliant engine, Assist and Slipper Clutch, Kawasaki advanced analysis designed frame, and an LED headlamp.

Highlights of the 2019 W800 CAFE:

  • Iconic W1 Inspired Styling
  • Comfortable CAFE Riding Position
  • 773cc Air-Cooled Vertical Twin Engine
  • Kawasaki Advanced Dynamic Analysis Designed Frame
  • Lightweight Sporty Handling
  • Assist & Slipper Clutch

Iconic, Powerful Vertical Twin Engine & Transmission

The W800 CAFE motorcycle features an 773cc air-cooled, fuel injected, SOHC, vertical twin-engine configuration, with a bore and stroke of 77.0 mm x 83.0 mm, which offers plenty of low-mid range performance and torque. The engine utilizes a heavy-flywheel that was chosen to create the strong low-mid range torque character. The fuel injection offers precise fuel delivery to the engine, clean emissions, as well as easy starting. A pair of 34 mm throttle bodies have been arranged to ensure a straight line from the airbox to the cylinders. Long, slim intake funnels deliver enhanced low-mid range performance. The engine also utilizes sub-throttles to ensure ideal engine response as well as aiding in reduced noise emissions. To ensure broad, widespread, responsive power a bevel gear cam drive and SOHC four-valve per head configuration was chosen. A slick-shifting five-speed transmission has a gear for any occasion a rider may encounter.

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75 Comments

  1. Bill Silver says:

    I have owned three different W650s in the past 10 years. First one was the only one on the Big Island of Hawaii. Second one came from an auto auction here in San Diego for $1200, plus fees. The last one was an “improved” 2001 model of which only 500 were shipped to the US after the sales failures of the 2000 models. There were numerous improvements on the 2001 models, including a much more comfortable seat. I had Avon touring tires on the last one and found a good improvement over the OEM rubber. Rear shocks from Hagon and some better fork springs up front kept the bike planted really well. When the W800s came out, the word in forums was to put the W650 camshaft in place of the W800 stick. They tuned the W800s for big mid-range torque and not big revs. The 650 cam lets them breathe properly. My friend at Kawasaki told me that they had spent $40 million dollars on the W650 engine design and production. Overall, the bikes are really nice. Everyone thought it was a Triumph 650, especially with the nice cream/green paint scheme of the 2001 models. Most Baby Boomers of my age bracket would enjoy the sounds, feel and overall experience of riding the W650s. It appears that Kawasaki is trying to get all they can out of the tooling from 20 years ago. Price boost is unfortunate, though and will probably again suppress serious buyers in the Retro market.

  2. Porky says:

    3.7 gallons is not enough capacity for riding in the mid-west.
    I like tubeless tires and all of my bikes have them but I have toured all over the U.S. and Baja Mexico with tube tires and never had a problem.
    Why not ‘Ape hangers’ instead of those pseudo road race monstrocities or a normal ‘old guy’ rise and bend.
    Suggested retail prices are always high on newly released bike but I have never paid retail on any bike I’ve bought in my 56 years of riding and 85 motorcycles.
    This bike would be a fun ride in a Rural setting in the ‘smell the roses’ mode that I ride in more often than not.
    I ride a 2914 Honda CTX1300D and a 2016 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom and a 2007 Suzuki Burgman 650 at this time.

    • WSHart says:

      Good post and some very nice bikes you own there! It’s good to know that Honda is still making the CTX1300D in the year 2914! 😉 🙂

      And I do mean very nice bikes. I especially envy you the Burgman! I am hoping Suzuki updates it for 2019 but have yet to see anything regarding the coming model year on the 650.

    • T says:

      Enough about me…..let’s talk about you……so what do you think about me!

  3. regan says:

    These post are unbelievable. We have a group of Jabronis who think they know more about selling product (motorcycles) than an established multi billion dollar a year company. I think the Jabronis are to stupid to know that there to stupid.

    • Spiderwatts says:

      Amen. I used to enjoy reading the comments but most of them have been from whining, complaining, supposed veteran riders, railing on about how they supposedly rode bikes long ago. I doubt most of them ride much anymore and they criticize any bike made today. Meanwhile there are so many different bikes to choose from and most of them are massive improvements from decades ago in power and reliability. These complainers are the ones who the dealerships are glad to have aging out. Enjoy all the selections we have and try to ignore the complainers in the comment section.

      • Anonymous says:

        You read like one of those people that just “love” every bike in the whole wide wonderful world. How sweet. How virtuous. How lame. I’d say more but sometimes it appears that the truth is censored here and elsewhere to protect snowfakes. Yeah. I spelled it that way on purpose.

        It’s called writing, what comes off here from certain folks is naught but Fecebook™ typing, aka virtue signaling via motorcycling.

        What a bunch of PCBS.

    • Anonymous says:

      BMW C1, Ducati Indiana, Suzuki RE5, Buell Blast, Suzuki B-King…..you’re right about not knowing when you are stupid. “to stupid to know that there to stupid” should be “too stupid to know they’re too stupid”.

      • regan says:

        Thanks for showing how few mistake were made by the motorcycle manufactures. The factories gamble on models and are correct most of the time. Oh, you forgot Hondas CB1100 a huge loser. Okay you can resume your whining now.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think the Jabronis are TOO stupid to know that THEY’RE TOO stupid.

      There, fixed it for you.

    • rider33 says:

      moto-sports marketing is not now, nor has it ever been among the top echelons of the marketing world. Also, other than Harley, very few of those multi billion dollar companies rely on motorcycles as a primary revenue stream. They make significant errors all the time and with a smaller, softer market, they are less able to absorb them.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Kawasaki knocks it out of the park. Too bad it’s a foul ball.

  5. Martin B says:

    I can relate this to a W650 I rode for one day. The engine was simply beautiful – smooth, torquey and it seemed to have a sufficient amount of power everywhere in the power band. The riding position was comfortable at first, a “gentlemanly” upright posture well suited to touring at moderate speeds and paying attention to surrounding traffic.

    This impression wavered going over a mountain range typical for New Zealand, where the road makers followed topography and sudden twists and turns abound. For a start, the frame seemed to have a hinge in the middle, when placed under pressure. Then there was the limited cornering clearance, with abrupt tweaks coming from the centre stand and footpegs at what I call moderate lean angles. So it was not exactly confidence inspiring. And on the long motorway haul back, I had some numbness in my hands from minor vibration. The upright posture that had been so pleasant to start off, had morphed into an aching cramp in my hips. So, nice motor, shame about the rest. I rode another bike shortly after, which highlighted the Kawasaki’s deficiencies with vastly superior suspension and handling, for half the price – so I bought that bike.

    I don’t know if the W800 will be any better than the W650 – reports I’ve read cast doubt on this. All the famous, bestselling Kawasakis of the past were bold, colourful and energetic. This re-entry is the meekest, most downplayed one I have ever seen, and the pricing is ludicrous. It looks as though some Kawasaki executive made a decree that this bike be released, but gave no budget for the engineers to improve it to the point where it would be worth while.

  6. Gary Turner says:

    My guess is the most likely buyer of a retro or ‘classic’ looking motorcycle like this one would much prefer a more standard looking model with regular style handlebars, more chrome, less black, a dual flat seat, more choice of tank colors. The spoked chrome or aluminum wheels are fine, anything else would look weird / modernistic on that retro bike. I drove over 100,000 miles on various motorcycles with classic styled chrome spoked wheels and never had a flat tire – lucky I suppose. The speedo/odometer also look very good (instead of the new normal digital oddities). Why call it a ‘racer’? Only thing it might race and win against might be a scooter. Otherwise, few complaints really; at least no beak and not a bunch of plastic panels slapped together in willy-nilly fashion.

  7. J Wilson says:

    After I’d long admired this on their Japanese website, wonder of wonders they finally re-consider and bring it back to America . . . . . and . . . it’s . . . .B R O W N ?!?!?!?

    Really, I mean, Really? Brown?

  8. rider33 says:

    I owned a W650, I owned a Hinkley Bonnie, I now own a V7. The W was a nice bike (2001), a bit too early for the retro thing & Kawi just didn’t support it. Now they bring it back, only in Cafe Trim (US). I really don’t know how Kawi manages to miss trends so consistantly. A classic W might have done well now, the Cafe is unlikely to. You get the feeling that their engineering department is a good deal more capable than their marketing function. Too bad really, they are capable to making some really nice bikes but as with most things in life, timing is everything.

  9. ed says:

    Had me excited till I saw the msrp.

  10. Andrus Chesley says:

    Spent a few thousand miles on a W650 and it was so much like my old Triumph
    from the 1950’s and ’60 that it was instant love. Kinda like my old XS650 Yamaha. Great bike for it’s time.
    Now days, Nada. I’ll stick with my old A14 KLR and ’07 Bandit 1250s.
    And I totally agree on the Street Version being more what I would buy.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Not sure why Kawasaki decided to offer just this one model in the US.
    The street version looks so much better :

    https://motonew2017.com/2018-2019-kawasaki-w800/

    • Dave says:

      That does look good. I think the Cafe’ is a miss for most of the people who will buy it, but it’s possible that the younger audience is larger than I realize.

  12. oldjohn1951 says:

    It’s a nice-looking bike; not for me but I hope Kawasaki gives it an honest marketing try in the showrooms this time. What I would like to see is that bike re-badged and set up as an early 1960s Meguro tribute bike . Then the bike would have its true heritage detailed right back to when it was a built under license BSA A-7 through A-10. I’d definitely pay for that.

    • SeTh says:

      I’d like to see a 1980’s Suzuki Madura Four tribute bike, actually an simple update with modern electronics, suspension parts.

  13. Pat says:

    Huh. This caught me off guard too, as someone else said.
    This bike, at least for me, has a few things turn me off from the start.
    It seems to me, that this is a ‘99 bike trying to compete with the 2019 Triumph updated Street Twin. And i think it will fail miserably, unless someone happens to like the look. (Personally, I’d be much more interested in the standard model, which won’t be sold here)
    I would have expected a price of $7000, maybe $7500. I think it’s way overpriced.
    It’s too bad, I was a fan of the original. But not this out dated model.

    • mikey says:

      I agree, guess if you wait about 2 years you can pickup a dusty leftover for around 6k. For a little more $$ I’d go with a made in the USA Indian FTR!

  14. ADS says:

    They may look “retro” but with a 5 or 6 speed tranny the sound will never be the same. Oh how I miss the sound of two 60s Britt. twins charging away.

  15. WSHart says:

    “Tube type tires offer…”

    FTN. Kawasaki just screwed the pooch with this one. All that money and cheapass bicycle wheels. A blowout waiting to happen. Unsafe at any speed.

    The engine is beautiful but the rest of the bike needs help. Forget it. Let all those that claimed to want one after the quick demise (in the states) of the 650 buy one now. They won’t.
    I don’t blame ’em!

    • Provologna says:

      I have not had tubes in my bike rims for years. I would not go back to tubes if they paid me money. I picked up about 20 “goat heads” (a Utah specialty) in my front tubeless tire, pulled them all out, topped off the pressure, done. If a tube was in there it would have shredded into oblivion.

  16. Azicat says:

    I’m surprised that the W800 is still being sold – I thought it was EOL’d due to Euro 5.

    I have a 2011 W800 (in AU) and this 2019 model looks pretty much the same as the original, with different seat, bars, fairing, and colour. Drivetrain and chassis looks unchanged. It still has the weak 2-piston Tokico front brake caliper and truly nasty retro suspension. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my W800 but it’s a genuinely retro handling experience (for better or worse). I’m wondering if this is a swan song release so that KHI can clear their warehouse.

    W800s haven’t sold that well in AU either, relatives to the Bonneville – there are quite a few old stock models sitting around in various showrooms.

  17. Andrew Hopkins says:

    I like the w650 and I use mine for desert scrambles, flat track, motocross, and daily commute. It’s been a great bike and handles awesome. I’m glad I’ll have parts support for another 10 years in the US now. Happy 🙂

  18. Denis says:

    360 degree crankshaft?!! My hands are bleeding from all the clapping.

  19. Wilbur Wolensky says:

    You’d think someone could make a retro with the weight and power of an SV650 or an FZ7.

    (Or a ZX6R…)

  20. Dana Sterling says:

    The price $ 9,799 Hah.HAHAHAHA.
    Kawasaki are you F@#$% serious?

    Kawasaki, your direct competition is a Royal Enfield Interceptor at $5,799, which is essentially the same bike. I am not super smart at math but I think I save $4,000 buying the Royal Enfield. Same 47 horsepower, a twin with a 270 crank and metallic orange paint.

    Kawasaki, you had the retro market cornered from the get-go in 1999. Unfortunately, it took twenty years for the American rider to get some taste. The original classic silver and blue was gorgeous. Now you accost us with this brown – sorry, “matte grey” – paint job. No hipster wants a brown motorcycle. If you really want brown, how about the Z900RS paint job? Now, that would look great!

    Now all you have to do to hit the trifecta is 1) NOT tell your dealers about the W800, 2) NOT run an advertising campaign, and 3) price the bikes way over market value. You’d think Kawasaki would have learned something in 20 years!

    Kawasaki, you have overthought this; it was overpriced in 1999, and twenty years later it’s still overpriced. At least you’re consistent! How about you sell it for $6,499, what it was in 1999? And with the original paint job. Now at that price, and that color, it might actually sell in 2019. Good luck.

    Sincerely,
    Dana Sterling

    • bmidd says:

      The Kawi has a 360 degree crank, there’s your price difference!

      • Selecter says:

        A “360 degree crank” is a single-pin crank on a twin like this. That’s the *cheaper* way to build the bike…

    • Jim Adam says:

      Built in India vs built in Japan. And the W800 has stellar build quality.

      • My2cents says:

        Didn’t think I’d have to get this far down the line to find someone raise the point of COO. India is ahead of China but far behind the Japanese for production quality even when those Japanese companies choose Thailand as a resource of labour. I can only assume this unit is produced in Japan at the moment. I think it would be a perfect Sunday ride.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I just read a review on the new RE. Apparently it is a quantum leap in refinement and fit and finish over the previous bikes. Only the ’80s style ABS system was worthy of real criticism. Sounded like a really good bike for the money.

  21. Andy says:

    I didn’t much care for the earlier 650 although a lot of people seemed to imagine it was a better bike than the Triumph…I am still in love with my 09 360 cranked Bonneville…I don’t see the new 800 being a huge sales hit. Seems to me Kawasaki should have been working on an update for the now defuct KLR!

    • What Triumph screwed up was the W650 had a long stroke motor like my old Trumps. The new Bonnie was a short stroke motor. More Jap than the Jap copy. Love the Ducati gear drive look cams.

  22. Jeremy in TX says:

    Well, this one caught me by surprise.

  23. Provologna says:

    Very nice!

    What is the estimated power increase (if any), from good machine work to the W800’s head and valves? (With ignition and external exhaust/intake mods if required.) Suppose the machinist personally built the AMA bike that came in a close 2nd for the year behind a guy named Ben Bostrum.

  24. Mork says:

    Why would they come out with the 800 in the US? The W650 was a sales disaster when it came out here. Kawasaki has a hit on their hands with the z900 RS.
    I see owners of the W800 becoming really bored really fast, like with the 650.

    • Bill says:

      I may be wrong but I think the reason the W650 didn’t sell was because Triumph said they would come out with a twin, so why buy a japanese copy of a Triumph if a real Triumph twin was coming out soon?

      • Anonymous says:

        I got tired of waiting for a Triumph twin and bought a W650 when they came out. When the Triumph came out, I moved to the Triumph and sold the W650. It was more of a sentimental move than anything else as I had started riding Triumphs in 1963. Actually, the W650 had a more authentic British twin feel (in a good way) than did the Bonneville, but the Triumph enjoys stronger aftermarket support so I’m still riding one. I wouldn’t go back to the Kawasaki.

    • sliphorn says:

      It did not sell well because the retro craze had not really hit the USA at that time. In fact, the W650 was released before Triumph released their new Bonneville; and people saying it was a Triumph wanna-be, when in reality the W is a legitimate descendent of a BSA. There’s plenty of info out there about the history of the W, and it is not a Triumph copy. Look it up if you are so inclined.

      As far as being bored with it? Not this guy. I rode a Triumph Sprint ST 1050 triple for over 6 years and 75,000+ miles; not exactly a slow bike. I traded it for a Honda NC700 DCT and couldn’t be happier. I love the diesel like power delivery and the long stroke motor.

      Power wise, the W800 will be similar, and for me, that’s perfect. I also think that Kawasaki recognizes a place for this type of motorcycle in the American moto buying public. I love it.

    • todd says:

      The 650 didn’t sell well because everyone I knew that would have bought one didn’t know they existed. If you didn’t read Cycle World you would have never heard about it.

      • Mark says:

        That’s true. The first time I saw one, or even knew they exsisted, I thought it was a restored Bonnie.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        It was also pretty expensive for what it was at the time. I would say the W800 is, too, but it is actually pretty well in line with other low-performance retros.

        The W650 was a very good looking bike, much more attractive (ironically) than the Bonneville that it competed with. Triumph has caught up in the looks department, but the W800 is still striking. Maybe better looking still.

  25. Doc says:

    Well this was unexpected. I’ll be looking into this for sure. But I would rather have a version done up like the 2000 model I had. I’m talking finishes and the kickstarter. But we’ll see.

  26. sliphorn says:

    I’m glad Kawasaki is bringing back the W800. Great bike! Though I think they are making a mistake by not offering the standard street version in the USA.

  27. Tommy D says:

    There are bikes that you look back on and wish you could have won a lottery and socked them away. The Ducati 916, Honda GB500 and a 1999 Kawi W650. Now that bike generated moto-lust for me. I need to go google some images of it….

  28. I like it. Wanted one back when they were selling the 650 here. Liked the non black engine better. Change color.
    Ready to sell my old sportster, not sure if I can deal with cafe set up. Anyone remember if they had counterbalancers?

  29. VLJ says:

    Yep, the standard, non-Cafe version that was introduced along with this one is much better looking, and a lot more comfortable.

  30. Bill says:

    I tried to buy a 1966 Kawasaki 650 W1 but I couldn’t find a Kawasaki dealer. I agree with all comments about fairing and seat. Still, it’s a good platform to build your own version of what it should look like. Hey, I drove a 36 HP Volkswagen so a 47 HP bike can’t be too slow.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Standard street model looks better. Don’t like tube tires. Ugly paint job.

    • steveinsandiego says:

      i don’t ride anymore due to health (tho’ my age, 70, wouldn’t keep me off an mc), but i enjoy browsing the new stuff. i don’t like tube tires or the paint, or the drooping bars on the cafe model, or the spoked wheels (a headache to keep’m spiffed up, even tho i live in year-round fair climate 😉 ). appears that the european cafe model has more upright bars, so whaddup widdat? sigh, wish i could ride again.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Having previously owned a 2k W650, I am pleased that Kawasaki has finally decided to sell the 800, Stateside.
    One of the few, if not the only 360 crank twins being produced, It will have that old British twin sound some of us old farts still find quite satisfying.

  33. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    This is one boring look at retro. Get rid of the stylishly popular BLACK wheels and engine everything, celebrate the retro era with natural metal color/chrome. A motorcycle is all about the engine, stop trying to blend it into dark. The fairing looks like a J C Whitney upgrade. Geeze Louise blah foowey uch . That is all.

  34. SausageCreature says:

    Love it! Specs I’ve found elsewhere claim only 47hp, but I suppose they had to do that to keep it Euro compliant. Pity. The styling is great though (would probably be even better in different colors). I prefer the flatter, ribbed seat to the café seat.

    A W800/Street Twin/Guzzi V7 comparison test would be an interesting read.

  35. DP says:

    This is the most credible retro on market bar none. So tempting!
    Just wish color scheme was more lively.