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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

2020 Kawasaki W800: MD Ride Review, Part 1

We told you about Kawasaki’s new W800 a couple of months ago. We were struck by its beautiful, classic style and the photos we saw. Now, we have had one in our garage for testing for a couple of weeks, and bring you this first report.

All the details were provided in a Kawasaki press release published by MD. Inspired by Kawasaki’s own W1 from the 1960s, the new W800 is, perhaps, the modern retro with the most authentic styling and detailing.

The paint and finish on the W800 is gorgeous. The centerpiece is the bevel-gear driven vertical twin engine beneath the absolutely perfect (in our opinion) fuel tank design. The pea shooter mufflers not only look right, they sound great as well. The iconic look of the seat, accented by piping, once again seems just right — and it feels good to sit on as well.

The spoked wheel designs are correct, with a 19″ front enhancing the authentic profile. Bias ply tires, with tubes, lend further authenticity but detract somewhat from modern, sporty performance (more about that below).

The W800 is not without its modern features. The 773cc air-cooled twin is fuel injected and has four valves per cylinder. A five-speed transmission has gear spacing designed to work with the broad spread of torque available from the motor, and works well with a modern Assist and Slipper Clutch.

Disc brakes are found front and rear, and the classic-looking round headlight houses modern LEDs to offer an extremely bright beam.

The W800 is very comfortable to sit on and ride. The seat is low and broad with good support, and the bars and controls are within easy reach without making the rider feel cramped. The engine is smooth, and pulls away from a stop with a very linear power delivery.

With less that 50 horsepower at the rear wheel, the W800 is certainly no speed demon, but the relatively big twin is motivated with good throttle response and a plateau of torque that arrives just above idle.

Brakes, clutch and shifter all work well — on par with quality modern machines. Aided by the relatively narrow tires and broad handlebar, the W800 drops into corners with ease.

We took the W800 on a ride with some local, quick pilots aboard much more modern, powerful machinery. Somewhat surprisingly, the W800 kept up with these bikes on twisty roads … again, aided by the easy turn-in, and stable cornering, as well as corner exits that took advantage of the torquey powerband. Even the brakes (including the lone disc up front) worked without complaint during some very spirited riding (riding that wouldn’t normally be associated with a bike of this type). Ground clearance for cornering is decent, although we did dig a hole in the tarmac at one point with the side stand and center stand on the left side.

A rider of equal skill, of course, would have a big advantage over the W800 on a more modern, powerful, well-suspended machine … whether in the twisties or on the highway. The fundamental nature of the W800 is to cruise and enjoy the scenery. Nevertheless, we were surprised that the bike could be pushed so hard. This is a testament to the Kawasaki engineering and ride development teams.

The tires worked well enough until the pace got near the red zone. The bias ply rubber, at that point, started to show its lack of performance potential. It is not really designed for sport riding, but our “torture test” showed the rubber could hold up during any normal use of a retro like the W800.

We’ll have more in our Part 2, including action photos. Stay tuned. In the meantime, you can check out Kawasaki’s website for the W800.

See more of MD’s great photography: Instagram


  1. Grover says:

    The money they are asking for this Kawasaki would be better spent on a variety of slightly used bikes from kawasaki’s own inventory. A Kawi 900 or CB1100 with low miles would be a way better bike experience while enjoying the “retro” look. Pass

  2. Jase says:

    Get on the RE Interceptor 650. A miles better bike and much cheaper.

  3. J Wilson says:

    I’m fine that this is built to be what it is as a motorcycle, not the usual rocket-sled performance or ultimate drag-your-elbow cornering ability.

    I don’t like tubed tires, so does anyone know how you’d upgrade to tubeless radials, would it require different wheels ?

    • Snake says:

      Very few companies have ever offered tubeless-compatible wire wheels, the spokes must either be attached to an inner-diameter raised flange (doesn’t look ‘proper’) or individually sealed with rubber O-rings (labor intensive and expensive to build, tedious to repair).

      So although they are available, neither idea has really hit it off as the cure-all to make tubeless wire wheels an industry thing.

      For its expected performance range, and considering modern materials, I hope that you’ll find the tubes & tires on this bike acceptable otherwise you’ll need to change wheels.

      • Raven65 says:

        …or the spokes can go to the outside edges of the rim – outside the tire bead – as they do on my 2003 BMW R1150GS. Also would not be a period-correct look for this bike though.

  4. Dirty Bob says:

    No! For the money and looks I wouldn’t be happy with the W800 over an Iron 883 Sportster! Iron $8,999 vs W800 $9,091. Retro look is nothing. Also the kaw-wee has a 773cc and hd a 883cc.

    • Artem says:

      Yes. Honda 1100 is better. Looking at the streets.
      Now nothing about Kawasaki contender.

    • Selecter says:

      773cc vs. 883cc, and the 883 somehow manages to put a few less HP to the wheel. And have -no- cornering clearance at all. And have a stupid ass-dragger seating position. And have perhaps the most deficient suspension in motorcycling existence… and is somehow 60 lbs. heavier than the W800. And manage to not only be less roomy, but a LOT less roomy to ride!

      Hey, wait a second here… the Iron 883 is the *only* bike in existence that could prompt one to argue a pretty amazing case for buying a W800, especially from the perspective of value! Actually, the cast wheels are the single feature that the Iron has that begs in its favor. That’s it, the single and only thing that I could possibly see the 883 has having “over” the W.

      • Snake says:

        “Actually, the cast wheels are the single feature that the Iron has that begs in its favor. That’s it, the single and only thing that I could possibly see the 883 has having “over” the W.”

        Not true. The 883 series has been long-term popular with smaller riders: the W800’s 31.1 inch seat height doesn’t hold a candle to the 883 Iron’s 25.7 (rated laden height).

  5. SeTh says:

    This is the rich man’s Himalayan!

  6. Brad Kingsly says:

    Producing less than 50 RWHP and weighing slightly less than 500# puts it in the Sportster 883 performance category. I guess if you’re happy with that kind of performance then this is a bike you’ll be satisfied with.

  7. Tom S says:

    It’s a beautiful bike, and clearly not intended to be a naked sportbike. Perfect for getting out and enjoying the day.

    I am puzzled over the choice of bias-ply tube tires, though. Seems unnecessarily retro. Then again, in the olden days I rode thousands of miles on bias ply tube tires with no issue whatsoever; never even had a flat.

    Can someone tell me, other than for appearance’ sake, what’s the effect of having a 19″ front wheel?

  8. Rapier says:

    Could someone explain this to me? How is this cam running at half engine speed.

    • GT08 says:

      On a 4 stroke = in the same rotation you need (1)to open the intake valve too put air/gaz in the cylinder,(2)compress it, (3)burn it, (4)expel it via the exhaust valve.
      In this picture, we don’t see the other end at the bottom. I presume it the same as the top. So they run at the same pace.

    • Mick says:

      The gear on the shaft has half as many teeth as the gear on the cam.

    • paul says:

      I like the fact that the gear teeth are helical. Hopefully they will not whine like the gears on the Honda VFR with gear driven cams.

    • todd says:

      The gear on the crank has half as many teeth as the gear on the cam. It doesn’t matter how many teeth are on the bevel drive.

      • Bob S. says:

        That’s true if the bevel shaft rotates engine speed. To that extent, the crank gear must have the same number of teeth as the gear on the driven end of the shaft. In other words, 1:1. The final drive ratio is the product of the two ratios, and has to be 2:1.

  9. Alberto Vofiverello says:

    Not just tubes but tubes in cheap crap bias ply tires. That’s not “retro”, that’s being downright insulting to your customers, especially at this price point.

  10. Butch says:

    I had a 2000 W650 for a couple of years. Ran it pretty hard, never broke.
    Too bad they omitted the kickstarter on the 800.
    One of the things I loved about my 650.

    • Rob says:

      Would be nice to have the kickstarter. Read somewhere the other day that you can’t bump-start an injected bike. Is that correct? I hate that, I used to bump off my Kawie 305 all the time.

      • DucDynasty says:

        You can bump-start some injected bikes. I had an FJR1300 with a weak battery….it took 2 guys but we did it. Got lucky, I guess.
        On some, you can’t. It has to do with the system needing to be pressurized.

      • mickey says:

        No that is not correct. I had to bump start my fuel injected CB 1100 when the battery died that was 4 years old.

        • Ivor Rowland says:

          Thats the difference between a Dead battery and a Weak battery…If there is not enough to power up the fuel pump then it will def be a No Go…but if you are lucky to have some juice enough for the fuel pump then maybe..just maybe..

      • paul says:

        I don’t think a fuel injected bike could be kick-started with a dead battery. If the fuel pump isn’t pressurizing and sending fuel neither bump-starting or kick-starting is going to work.

  11. Rendell says:

    BEAUTIFUL! I saw one last week in San Diego.

  12. A P says:

    Kawi revives a “rare classic”…

    Back in the early 1980’s I briefly owned a 1975 KZ750 TWIN (not the triple, which I also owned after the twin)… it appears Kawi has been trying to rehabilitate this old lump several times, this being the latest attempt. The ’75 version was a total dog for power, handling and braking, and this assessment was while I was in my first couple years riding. Comfortable enough in a straight line or when ridden very sedately, but not a ride I would aspire to own long term. Hopefully Kawi has sorted out the starting/charging issues which made owners thankful the 1970s versions still had a kickstarter.

    BTW, the tank seams “look” is intentional, nearly all bikes from this era had them.

    The definition of a “rare classic”? A bike no one wanted when it was new, so manufacturers only made a few…

    • Rob says:

      Hi AP, not the same scoot–the old 750 twin was DOHC. This one is based on a bike Kawie sold in the US back in 1966. (W1 650 twin). This was based on British style bikes of the same period. Pretty sure I’m correct on this. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Last 750 (seventies era) twin I saw Kawie make was an LTD semi cruiser with belt drive, which was a total surprise. I remember seeing one at the dealer here in Birmingham. The 750 twin DOHC mill is pretty unmistakable.

    • Selecter says:

      As Rob mentioned… this new W has nothing to do with the KZ. The old W had nothing to do with the KZ. Charging systems on Kawasakis from the 1970s have nothing to do with charging systems on Kawasakis sold now.

      Not sure where the idea Kawasaki is “rehabilitating this old lump” is coming from. At best, you can link the W800 with the W650 from the early 2000s. That’s about as far as it goes. Otherwise, it’s a styling exercise. It shares nothing on common with a W1 or a KZ750, other than having two wheels and two cylinders…

      • A P says:

        Good to know Kawi has learned something since the KZ750. But the current offering is still underpowered and overweight, and bias ply tube tires? I “get” building to meet a price point or to hit a styling niche, but given all the tech thrown at this model (slipper clutch, EFI, 4-valve heads, bevel drive) it should deliver more than 50HP (claimed, which usually means taken at the crank).

        The KZ750 2-valve/cyl DOHC/hyvo-chain twin produced 55HP and was at least 15 pounds lighter, about the same peak torque. So maybe not so much “new and improved” as the marketing dep’t may want us to believe…

        • Selecter says:

          Hey, you’re preaching to the choir with those things. I like the look of this bike. But it’s not worth the money, and as you point out, it’s mostly built down to a pretty low spec with some truly mystifying “features”. I’d rather have tubeless radials and some decent forks and shocks than a slipper clutch!

      • bob says:

        I think that the W650 and W800 are OHC operated by towershaft and the original W1 was OHV with pushrods. The old and new engines share nothing except general layout and cylinder count. The new bikes are intended to have similar aesthetics to the old ones.

        That being said, I like the quirkiness of the towershaft design.

  13. Freddie Brenneman says:

    Good looking bike, I am looking for a low milage T-120 for about half the price. I care less about tube tires, carry a tube with you if you fear flats.

  14. Ivor Rowland says:

    The tank symbols stick out like Gecko’s eyeballs.. Does anyone know what the “W” stands for?

    • mickey says:

      It’s a W(-800) model Kawasaki or you could say its an homage to the W-1 this model was derived from. Take your pick

  15. Old Guy says:

    Cool bike, very timeless. Having had a Street Twin, and now a T120, these pseudo Brit bikes hit the right notes. Kinda makes me wonder what Triumph will do as a response, if a response is even needed. For those of you who pick at the niggles, you weren’t going to buy anyway! As for me, I dig tank seams, they give a lovely finished look, like a beautiful painting in a frame!

    • Neal says:

      Triumph doesn’t need to respond. The Triumph retro twins are superior to this bike in every way, including value.

      • Fred_M. says:

        You say that they are “superior in every way,” yet the W800 is a far better looking motorcycle than any of the Triumph “modern classics,” which are almost like caricatures of the original T120.

        If I want a bike that looks like the original T120, then I want the classic headlight bucket with the built-in gauges, not a generic headlight bucket and separate gauges that look like they could have come off of any UJM from the 1970s. I want the chrome rack on the fuel tank as well as the big Triumph chrome badge that they had in 1959. And give me a the original fuel tank shape, not an over-inflated, bulbous caricature of it that appears on the modern T120. Also, I want open space around the engine like the 1959, not something that looks like someone tried to shove too big an engine into too small a frame.

        If you like the retro Triumphs, you might also like the PT Cruiser.

        • Bob S. says:

          I like the retro Triumphs and the PT Cruiser. I ride a retro Triumph twin, as well as a handful of the lovely old Meriden models. However, I mostly just sit and admire the old ones nowadays. At 70 years of age, I’ve grown fond of oil tight engines, effective brakes, reliable electric starting, lights that always work, and modern fueling systems. Those attributes were never found in the “original” Bonneville and it would never have looked like it did then if they had been. Burden the originals with radiators, huge batteries, efi pumps stuffed in the fuel tank, catalytic converters in the exhaust, and huge turn signals and see how they’d look and what they’d weigh. Can’t have it both ways. I’ll always like the appearance of the old ones, but I wouldn’t give up the advantages of the new one because it isn’t a clone of a Meriden Bonneville.

      • Anonymous says:

        and Fred_M’s response is a perfect example of what I meant when I said on January 2nd :

        “It’s really hard for some of you to believe that light weight and high horsepower doesn’t necessarily mean everything to everybody. Looks plays a big part in the decision process. For a generation, this and bikes like this, look like motorcycles should.”

      • mickey says:

        Fred_M’s response is exactly what I meant when I said on January 2nd:

        It’s really hard for some of you to believe that light weight and high horsepower doesn’t necessarily mean everything to everybody. Looks plays a big part in the decision process. For a generation, this and bikes like this, look like motorcycles should.”

  16. Peter says:

    Purchased a new W800 when they first hit Australia. Fell in love with the looks, and as there were none avaiable for test rides, took the punt.

    The day I picked it up it was pouring with rain and I had a 150 k ride to get home. Enjoyed the ride but knew it was not a keeper, the suspension was poor and it could not deal with the crappy roads we call highways.

    As I live in the country and have amazing roads to ride on the bike was just not capable dealing with the poor road surface/ Loved the motor and the looks, but that was not enough. It was soon up for sale and as there were not many new ones in stock soon sold/

    I look at this one and again I love the looks, but put twin discs and decent suspension, tyres on it and I might reconsider. But Triumph do that anyway with their new Bonneville so I think they will get my money.

    • Jim H. says:

      Doesn’t sound like the Bonneville or W800 is the bike for your Australian outback. I would imagine both are fine for normal roads. I like both, but agree with those that opine that this Kawasaki has the best looks. I don’t mind the shortfalls. Got to ride a W650 a few times, back when they came out, and really enjoyed it for the type riding for which it is designed. This is one of the few bikes out, at this moment, that I would actually like to own. Regardless of price, horsepower, tank seams, or what not.

  17. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    Now that I have stopped riding, do not worry about flats anymore. In 54 years of motorcycling street and dirt had one front tire flat, after night shift, and found that staying above 30 mph allowed me to get home in the dark. The best part of this little story is how wonderful it feels to get rid of all those out of date tube repair kits, tire irons and spare tube that filled my kit.

  18. Harry says:

    An added 400cc cylinder would have made it the W1200 triple think about it.

  19. Rob says:

    Beautiful bike. The tank seams are there on purpose. They look fine. Go back to your Transformers and Robots and Bugs if they bother you. (Starting to turn GREEN) This is JUST “”ONE””” MOTORCYCLE FOR THOSE FEW OF US WHO DON’T LIKE MOTORCYCLES THAT LOOK LIKE TRANSFORMERS AND ROBOTS AND BUGS!!!! TO US, THOSE ENTIRE BIKES LOOK LIKE TANK SEAMS!!!! CAN’T WE HAVE JUST “””ONE””” MOTORCYCLE FOR US????

    • Rob says:

      We have an embarrassment of riches now, as far as motorcycles. I like some of the modern bikes. But I love the old-school look of this type of scoot. I must admit I have made remarks about the beaks on the adv bikes, to be fair. Honk!

    • G Hill says:

      BUT it doesn’t have the waspy super high ass in the air, come do me look.

  20. Mick says:

    I think that this site has been hacked. I have been betting really strange screens dropping over it.

  21. G Hill says:

    I remember looking at the W650 when they were new. Was paying off a new GoldWing, and couldn”t afford it. Sold my ’66 Tr6C Triumph about 8 years ago, and this is electric start. 65 with a bad knee. This I could ride. Need to get rid of my 1700 RoadStar first. Still don’t know why it weighs more than Kaws 900 retro.

  22. ATBScott says:

    While I admire some of the styling of these older-looking ‘retro’ bikes, and think this one is particularly nice looking, I wonder why they have to have:
    1) Sub-standard performing suspension
    2) Single-front rotors
    3) Low horsepower
    4) Bias-fucking-ply tires (REALLY?!?!)
    5) Tube tires on the street (Come on – bicycles have kits to mod the wheels to tubeless at much higher pressures than motorcycles run at. The systems work great).

    Some of these things make for less enjoyment potential, and a few of these things can downright be a HUGE liability in an emergency-avoidance situation. With 46 HP I am betting there are a number of ‘run of the mill’ sports sedans that can beat it to 80 mph. Part of the plan for riding in traffic is being able to accelerate out of a situation. For an 800cc twin, fuel-injected motor, there really is no reason this isn’t making around 60 or more HP, is there? How about making a bike that has the retro looks, large, comfortable seat, with good, modern suspension, brakes, power and handling. I’d be willing to bet the price wouldn’t be that much higher (10-15%?) for a bike that would probably be a decent seller – no praying-mantis styling, comfortable ride, and still able to haul some ass on a nice stretch of road. Even be able to do some light touring. Tubeless wheels and real tires, hell, I might even buy one.

    • mickey says:

      Ever hear of the Kawasaki Z900rs, or Triumph T 120, or Honda CB 1100?

      All 3 everything you described except I think the T120 has spokes and tubes. All have between 85 and 100 hp, all have triple disc brakes, ABS, 6 speed trans, all handle well, all have comfy ergos, flat seats.

      • Fivespeed302 says:

        I’d consider the CB650R over this Kawi in an instant.

        • mickey says:

          Although more competant, the CB650R is hardly a retro and would appeal to a different crowd.

          It’s really hard for some of you to believe that light weight and high horsepower doesn’t necessarily mean everything to everybody. Looks plays a big part in the decision process. For a generation, this and bikes like this, look like motorcycles should.

        • Tom K. says:

          Red (which looked more orange under streetlights) or green? I had the red. After a couple of years, I put K&N’s and (Denco?) chambers on it, the music it made was wonderful. I always used Yamalube synthetic in it, and the smell of that on a cold fall evening was finer than any perfume available. Maybe I would have spent more time with my girlfriend (her biggest complaint) if she dabbed a little behind each ear. I’d pay real money to be able to rent one of those for a day now.

    • Tom K. says:

      While I would agree that 60hp is better than 50, and 70 is better than 60, and….(you can imagine where this is going), 50hp is still enough to get your license heavily punished (if not yanked) in most places faster than it takes to read this sentence.

      I had the most fun in my riding career on a 1976 RD400 with what, 35hp? Different age, different times, and yes, different bike, but I’d bet on the W800 against one in a quarter mile. Bottom line, you’ve got a pretty quick street car if you’re able to run in the 13’s, which is where I’d expect this to land. I agree that there are better choices for the money (I agree with Mickey on that), but this iteration still looks like a fun bike you won’t get tired of staring at, and will likely garner compliments from other riders, even those riding something resembling Optimus Prime’s swimsuit area.

      • George says:

        43 HP…my first bike, May 1975, 76 model.

        • mickey says:

          lol my first street bike 50cc 2 stroke 3 speed Aermacchi probably made around 4 hp May 1965. Would run 55 mph top speed and got 100 mpg.

        • Tom K. says:

          Red (which looked more orange under streetlights) or green? I had the red. After a couple of years, I put K&N’s and (Denco?) chambers on it, the music it made was wonderful. I always used Yamalube synthetic in it, and the smell of that on a cold fall evening was finer than any perfume available. Maybe I would have spent more time with my girlfriend (her biggest complaint) if she dabbed a little behind each ear. I’d pay real money to be able to rent one of those for a day now.

  23. Anonymous says:

    A creative person might paint the tank seams black.
    – Joe

    • DucDynasty says:

      On my old 2001 Bonneville, I just applied black door edge trim along the tank bottom to hide them. Did the trick.

  24. Kermit says:

    Yep, I’m buying one. I had two W650s, both 2000 models and they were a blast. A great example of less is more. If I wanted more power, I wouldn’t buy this or a Triumph. Its about more than just power. Its about character and personality and this bike has it in spades. And style. More than any Triumph. Black plastic fenders on a T100? C’mon, really? Is the W800 high priced? Maybe. But I bought my first W650 20 years ago next month thanks to this site and Cycle World. That bike listed for $6499. This bike is $2700 more but you do get some upgrades. Bigger motor, ABS, fuel injection, rear disc, and a bit more chrome. Also probably made in Japan, unlike the engine on its UK competition. I hope these sell like hot cakes. If you don’t buy one, you’re really missing out.

  25. azicat says:

    Happy new year Dirck and team at MD

    I can’t believe this blog has been going for so long… has it been over a decade now (perhaps 2 decades)? I remember reading VFR800 and R1 reviews here when they were new models.

  26. Dave says:

    I have been riding for a long time and along the way I have picked up a nail on occasion. I have not had a flat on a tubeless tire and every time I had a nail in a tube I had to get my bike hauled home to fix it.

    • azicat says:

      My W800 is a nail magnet! I’ve had 3 rear punctures on it over the last 5 years. It might be because it’s such a fun bike to ride and it gets taken to roads that it probably shouldn’t be on 🙂

      Pro tip for previous model: try and find a tube with angled valve for the rear tyre when replacing it. The spokes and drum get in the way of a regular bicycle floor pump attachment.

  27. Tank says:

    Many will love it, few will actually buy one (including me).

  28. Ivor Rowland says:

    Every time I read about this Retro Kawasaki I hear about the similarities to the original BSA or Triumph…seems to me it’s just a basic no frills motorcycle with it’s own bevel gear engine design that doesn’t even look like the original British bikes.If you want it to look and sound like a Triumph then why not buy the Triumph?..Kawasaki produce excellent products, but I don’t see this as being a blockbuster hit even with the reviewer’s attempt to silver line the obvious underwhelming performance. Sorry Kawasaki ..A select few will buy this product and tell the world it’s the best thing since sliced bread…time will tell.

    • Bob S. says:

      The new Triumph twins no longer sound like old Triumphs since they all use 270 degree cranks now. The Kawasaki, on the other hand is still a 360 and sounds appropriate. The 360 degree crank is one reason I’ve kept my 2008 Bonneville. It just sounds right.

  29. clasqm says:

    Does anyone actually remember the Kawasaki W1? It was pretty much an obscure Japanese-market-only model that never took off in either Europe or the US. Let’s just call this what it is: a BSA-inspired retro.

    • todd says:

      You are mistaken. The W1 was available in the US and was not obscure. If someone doesn’t know of the W1, they are likely the sort of person who thinks BSA are a bunch of neo-military kids.

      • Selecter says:

        Exactly. A retired local airline tech that spent retirement working on bikes still has his W2SS. I’d told him if he ever wanted to sell it to drop me a line. ’60s W bikes are definitely out there. They never had the numbers of the Bonneville or even BMW R-bikes, but they’re definitely around in the USA.

  30. Jeremy says:

    It’s a pretty bike. I prefer the look of the “cafe” version, but I imagine the ergos are better on this one. That is certainly the prettiest engine on any modern motorcycle.

    That said, I’d spring for a more powerful Triumph or R12 if I were going to go retro.

  31. Jay says:

    What are tank seams? . I’ve been riding for over 25 years and grew up in India and never heard this term In the magazines except on this website or online recently. Thanks in advance for the explanation.

    • mickey says:

      Jay, it’s the edge around the outside of the tank where the inner and outer tank are joined. Look at the second pic down from the top and you will see it.

      Some people object to the look.

    • MGNorge says:

      In the U.S., tank seams have become the equivalent of having the tag show on your underwear. 🙂
      I don’t generally even think anything of it…the seams that is!

  32. todd says:

    So, my 1972 BMW R75/5 is lighter and more powerful – and more classic. It’s value is also increasing whereas you lose your money as soon as you ride out of the dealership with this one, beautiful or not. I agree, I’d get a 650 Royal Enfield instead.

    • mickey says:

      If BMW sold brand new R75/5’s today for $9K I’m sure they would sell a boat load of them.
      I’d buy one.

    • Dave says:

      The BMW R75/5 is a classic but with carbs & drum brakes from 1972 I’d rather ride this Kawasaki day to day. I don’t think anybody buys a new motorcycle as an investment. Surely nobody knew which bikes would or wouldn’t gain value back in the 70’s.

      • mickey says:

        well yea, BMW would have to update the R75/5 with fuel injection, disc brakes and ABS to sell them today. But if they did and sold them for $9K I’d buy one. I think they were great looking bikes. But I’m not going out to find a 38 year bike to buy to ride, with like you said carbs and drums and 38 year old rubber parts and electrics etc. I’d rather ride than wrench.

        I too would rather ride this Kawasaki day to day vs a 72 model anything.

  33. mickey says:

    Nice looking motorcycle.

    Looking for a W650 is how I got my 2003 T-100 Bonneville. Looking for more power and better brakes is how I got my 2013 CB1100. Some flashy upgrades is how I got my 2014 CB 1100 Deluxe. Nothing wrong with bikes is this class if you are aware of their limitations vs modern (non retro) bikes.(less power, more weight, etc). But they are imo better looking and have better ergos, and have no problems out running normal traffic or keeping up on the freeway.Certainly more powerful than a Grom or 350 class twin that everyone says has plenty of power.

    As far as flats for some reason I didn’t get any in 30,000 miles on my T-100 tubed type wheels, but I have gotten several in the last few years on my tubeless mag type wheels. No connection, just bad luck.

  34. ralph glorioso says:

    I wish my Honda CB-500F could look like this. The W-800 is a beautiful bike in every respect. Most Asian motorcycles resemble insects with broken backs, non-visually integrated parts, headlights looking like the face of a praying mantis. I hope this bike sells very well. Sheer performance and quarter mile times are not everything..

    • Pedro says:

      Tell you what – your cb500f is twice the bike this will ever be. Agile, fun, and will run all day every day. Kawasaki has been putting out this thing for years which is soft even by retro standards. Bias plys – seriously? what dank basement did they find those in.

      If I wanted a bike that sort of looks oldish, but still has truly modern performance – Kawasaki Z900rs.

      • todd says:

        I have a number of bikes with biased ply tires and am able to out-run all sorts of modern bikes that have radials. I also have some bikes with radials and, honestly, I could not tell you the difference between biased ply and radials. There are definitely differences in handling between bikes but some of the old ones can eliminate chicken strips just as easily (sometimes easier) than the new ones. What is your experience?

        • George says:

          All these bikes that you constantly claim you outrun. I have to wonder – are these people aware that they are racing you?

          • todd says:

            You must be one of those that think a faster bike makes a faster rider.

          • George says:

            Ha! No. Cute that you came to that conclusion, though.

            No, a faster rider is a faster rider, but just because you can catch and/or pass some other guy on a public road, in traffic, doesn’t mean you are faster. It may just mean that you are willing to take more chances tham him. There’s no way to know it the other rider is riding at his limit.

            Unless you are riding on a closed course where everyone can ride at 100%, there’s no such thing as “faster”.

  35. Gary in NJ says:

    The last story of the year! Happy 2020 to the Motorcycle Daily community. This is by far the motorcycle site I enjoy the most. A big thank you to Dirck for the great content, your time and effort. Looking forward some great stories and lots of comments about tank seams, bikes that look like bugs and the area between the rear tire and the seat (the “teat”?).

  36. Bill N says:

    Reminds me of my BSA I rode in the 60ss when I was 17. If I was still 17, I would buy one of these.

  37. falcodoug says:

    Great job at making an old bike.

  38. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    After first blush with the retro appearance, the numbers are underwhelming. Without comparing to Triumph, this has about 46ish hp, the same numerical torque, weighs 496 pounds with full fuel and fluids, and costs $ 9200. OK fine? Not when I can spend a lot more and get good performance with a T bike that looks right if slightly less retro. So , there you have it, a pokey 360 crank mid compression ratio heavy cruiser. Will relative price save the K bike? I don’t think so.

    • Selecter says:

      I’d gone on about this before, but that’s more or less how I see it. The W800 Cafe got ripped when it was released here. It caught hell for being overpriced, underpowered, with bottom-feeder components. With a simple styling change, suddenly it’s gorgeous and lust-worthy… oh, wait, it’s still overpriced, it’s still gutless for an 800 (even an air-cooled one), and the brakes, suspension, tires, and frame are consistent with a $6000 bike, not a $9000+ one.

      I don’t hate this bike, I just can’t see the styling as making up for a bike that will be 1/10 the fun (for me, at least, YMMV) as even something like an SV650, and will cost significantly more, to boot.

  39. Rocket says:

    At the age of 63, through my lens of perspective, this is one beautiful bike, however both the useful purpose, and customer target are somewhat limited. l currently ride a 2004 FJR1300 which l have owned for 16 riding seasons. It does everything you ask of it so well l hate to part with it even for an afternoon ride down memory lane.

  40. Tommy D says:

    With the 2020 Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 costing around $6K, I’d be hard pressed to purchase the Kawi even if it lasts for a 1000 years with only oil changes. Sorry but the looks of the RE ContiGT out pace the Kawi. Plus you get the full nostalgia treatment with the RE with your expertise on what tools you carry.

    • My2cents says:

      Don’t take this personally but I found the build quality of the RE’s to be very poor. They are a lower price for a reason and worth every cent. Kawasaki quality is far better and also worth every cent. But if every motorcycle decision came down to money the world would be plenty boring.
      Dealer network definitely makes the Kawasaki a better choice. But if authentic British bike feel is what your going for the RE is your choice it gets a the vibes of the era with the correct headaches.

      • Ron says:

        I rode the W100 cafe and decided the W100 Std. should suit me fine if the RE INT650 left me wanting more. The RE managed to tick all the boxes for me. After 57 years of riding [and probably thay many bikes] The INT650 was a perfect fit. I didn’t wait. I saved many $. Make your choice and be happy.

  41. Mick says:

    I failed. I saw that there were 16 comments and I thought that seven of them would contain the word “seam”. But even including the guy who posted the word “weld”, I was way off.

    I think that my boomer card must be in jeopardy. I see this thing and think hipster. A retro rig that is ugly somehow and all up in my grill. A motorcycle to be parked out back next to the basement door.

    • Curly says:

      Sounds like somebody needs to go for a ride.

      • Mick says:

        A storm just hosed the lake but good. No ice race track until after some serious weather therapy.

        I am going skiing though. Nice dump of snow in the mountains.

        Time to go listen to New Englanders whine about having to ski on ungroomed snow. Weirdest bunch of skiers ever.

    • Neal says:

      Hipsters don’t have money or credit for new bikes, that’s why they rely on the complexity of their facial hair and the obscurity of their t shirts for status. I think geriatrics will be buying this, plenty of room on a bench seat for a grandpa or grandma butt.

      • Curly says:

        Agreed and they also won’t buy it because it has a front and rear fenders, a comfortable seat and doesn’t have huge Firestone Servi-Car tires on it.

      • bad Chad says:

        I get the feeling there are more hipsters with money than most old farts want to believe.

      • Mick says:

        Computer science hipsters make about $125kK right out of school. More than enough to buy the retro rig of my nightmares.

        You might have noticed that I’m not in to retro rigs. I’m a tomorrow’s bike today guy. I don’t get the yesterday’s bike tomorrow thing at all.

        I bought my last new off the rack street bike in 1994. If they won’t make tomorrow’s bike. I have nothing to buy.

  42. Jay says:

    What a beauty. If I wasn’t in love with my cb1100 I would have truly enjoyed the w800 in the stable. Definitely going to get one in the future when the CB goes to my son when he’s ready to ride

  43. Bill Silver says:

    I have owned three W650s in the past 12 years, two 2000 and one 2001. The green/cream 2001 tank with the Triumph-looking tank emblems were classic designs and would look better on the new W800 IMHO. People used to think that the 2001 bike was a Triumph all the time. The 2001 models had some good improvements over the 2000 models and I enjoyed mine, apart from the lack of horsepower when you really wanted it. Otherwise, it was a great cruiser and handled well with some new shocks and fork springs added. Kawasaki only sold 1500 W650s in the US in 2000-2001, mostly due to the release of the “new” Triumphs and the higher price of the W650. Unfortunately, the price has almost doubled with the new editions, so I doubt that there will be much higher sales this time around than the first time. I would think that much of the tooling costs are now absorbed by the company, as many of the parts appear to be the same as the original versions. When the W800s came out, the forums suggested that W650 cams would pep the W800s up, as the 800s were tuned for more low down torque than outright horsepower. Wait a few years until they come back into the used bike market at a lower price point, then BUY! I am on a $1000 2008 Bonneville with 66 HP and all the torque I need for easy riding now, but have a soft spot in my heart for the W650s of the past.

  44. My2cents says:

    What a beauty. Looks like a perfect Sunday afternoon spin motorcycle. I have had three motorcycles with tubes and one flat, a blow out actually and at 75 mph. Needless to say I gained valued experience and kept it upright. Most or all d/p motorcycles are tubes and honesty a flat street side is way easier than 30 miles into a trail ride. As far as making tubeless spokes you can by either moving the contact point of spoke and rim to the outer edge of the rim or by having a gasket installed between the tube and spoke ends to seal the rim. The first idea would simply ruin the look of retro and the second is costly because at tire change time the tire, seal, and tube all should be replaced.
    Beyond that how cool is the bevel drive for the camshaft? Completely cool.

  45. Peter says:

    I think they got lazy and stuck the 900RS tank on it. Doesn’t look anywhere as good as the earlier tank. Too bulbous…

  46. Nick says:

    I always read comments from people complaining about tube tires and how flat prone they are. All my bikes have tubes, I ride predominately off-road, and don’t have issues with flats. What are you guys doing to get so many flats on the road? Not trying to be a jerk, I’m just curious how wide spread of a problem this really is.

    • Buzz says:

      It’s the same group that always warns about belt drive motorcycles. The belts almost never fail but that doesn’t stop the milk crate brigade.

  47. RichBinAZ says:

    Just a reminder that this series of bike did start life as a BSA A7 (500cc) and diverged about the same time as BSA came out with the A10 (650cc)

    So if you see similarities – you do.

  48. beasty says:

    Beautiful bike.I’m not crazy about the tank seams, but if you’re gonna do a retro Japanese bike, they pretty much have to be there. I like the peg position too. Like a real Standard. I’ll go to the showroom to look at this one.

  49. Jon says:

    LOL! I thought I might have a chance at being the first with a comment on the tank welds, but no – beaten to it by a better man! Happy New year to you all at MD.

  50. Mark says:

    Two things would make this bike appealing to me.
    1- The engine needs to be 60-65 rwhp.
    2- The wheels need to be tubeless spoked types. Cast would be great.
    Nothing like ruining a day of riding getting a flat with tube tires.

  51. tuskerdu says:


  52. Rene says:

    Nice Bike! But a 19 foot front wheel! 19′ = 19 feet. 19″ = 19 inches 🙂

  53. Skybullet says:

    For the way most of us ride, most of the time, this should be a sweet ride. Ok, when you want a full throttle power rush you would need to adjust your thinking. Nice going Kawasaki, bring back the good ol days!

  54. MItch says:

    I find the older I get (66 at the moment) the more I love these retro bikes. Of course, to me , they are not retro. They are what I grew up admiring so perhaps I have a bit of bias towards those which fall into the era I learned to ride. A beautiful example of craftsmanship in motion on 2 wheels!

  55. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    Now this is what a motorcycle should look like. The tank badges remind me of my ole BSA star badges. Hope it is not too short/low for a full scale adult, and radial tires would help a bunch. HooRay for Kwaker !

  56. DucDynasty says:

    Looks very nice. Happy to see Kawasaki bring this back with improvements. Will it sell?
    But those tank seams……shame.

    • Reginald Van Blunt says:

      The tank seams are air fences to stabilize mid section air flow at high angles of attack during high g banking and hold the fuel inboard most times. Can also be useful to highlight seepage and offer a convenient landing point when the tank is removed for periodic maintenance. Tank seams for democracy !

    • mickey says:

      every time someone mentions tank seams, I have to go back and look at the pictures again. Without them being pointed out I honestly never notice them

      • Fivespeed302 says:

        I agree, they don’t bother me at all. I only started noticing tank seams when I realized that so many people hate them.

        • todd says:

          I honestly can’t stand valve stems on wheels. Valve stems have been on motorcycles and bicycles for over a hundred years, nothing makes a wheel look more dated. Plus it just ruins the circular lines of the wheel, sticking up like a sore thumb. Jees.

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