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2020 Kawasaki W800: MD Ride Review, Part 2

In Part 1 of our review of the 2020 Kawasaki W800, we enthused about this classic looking motorcycle after our first few rides. Having tested the bike further, our opinion is largely unchanged.

This motorcycle was never intended to offer massive horsepower or arm-ripping acceleration. With power at the rear wheel limited to roughly 47 horsepower (delivered at close to 6,500 rpm), the W800 has to rely on other qualities. Fortunately, it has those other qualities to recommend it.

First, and foremost, the styling is unique, and authentic, even when compared to most other retro-styled machines available today. Sure, it has that beautiful gas tank, fenders and wheels – things we discussed in Part 1 – but the real style star is that upright, bevel-driven vertical twin. It really catches the eye, and, perhaps more than any other retro engine design, makes the W800 look like a meticulously restored, decades-old machine.

Turns out the look of the engine doesn’t mean power delivery mimics that of an ancient classic. The eight-valve head, coupled with fuel injection that is tuned to perfection, provides for smooth, linear power that you won’t find in any restored machine. Although peak horsepower is certainly modest, the torquey twin has power everywhere above idle.

Vibration is felt by the rider at most rpm levels, although it is quite pleasant, rather than annoying. Riding along, the W800 feels smooth, responsive and composed. Kawasaki clearly tried to balance the character of an older twin with modern power delivery and vibration levels. We think they did an excellent job.

Other modern touches make the W800 much easier to ride than a restored, older bike. A slipper clutch makes clutch-pull easy, and downshifts smooth. With only five speeds in the transmission, the flat torque curve nevertheless spreads the power sufficiently to make a sixth gear all but unnecessary.

Handling is a surprising plus, as well. As we pointed out in Part 1, the short stature of the bike, wide handlebars, narrow tires and upright seating provide plenty of leverage for changing direction. Although the tires limit corner carving to some extent, the chassis is otherwise willing (ground clearance is pretty decent, as well).

The W800 also maintains good stability at higher speeds in a straight line. The non-adjustable suspension (aside from spring preload in the rear) does an adequate job – again much better than an older restored model would. Not as supple as some, more advanced cartridge-style units, the fork does a decent job of handling small chop, and big bumps.

One weak point, although it maintains the authentic, retro theme is bias-ply tires. The Dunlop K300 GPs represent good performance for this category of tire, but they can’t hold a candle to modern, tubeless radial designs.

Rain grooves on Southern California freeways don’t play well with these tires, which tend to follow the grooves and make an otherwise pleasant traveling experience seem, occasionally, less than comfortable. Nervous, even. You could experiment with different tire pressure levels in the front tire, but ultimately this may require different tires, and different tread patterns to resolve.

Braking performance, as we noted earlier, is surprisingly good. The brakes haul the W800 down with authority and good feedback. Try that on an old, restored British twin with drum brakes!

In the end, we really like the W800. Comfortable, easy to throw a leg over, it is a bike that always draws admiring looks at gas stations and cafés. Delivering roughly 50 mpg, it is also relatively economical with a U.S. MSRP of $9,199.

There are several perspectives from which one can view the W800. How about this one – try to find a vintage British twin, restore the cosmetics to perfection, and bring the chassis and motor up to modern performance standards (convert drum brakes to disc, for instance). You won’t be able to do that, and certainly it won’t happen for $9,199. The W800 is a turnkey, ready-to-ride classic with modern performance features (including that bright LED headlight).

Take a look at Kawasaki’s web site for additional details and specifications.


  1. Azicat says:

    I’ve had the older W800 for over seven years. It handles highway/freeways just fine. In fact the vibrations smooth out somewhat in the 110-120km/h zone.

    It’s also one of the most reliable and cheap-to-run motorcycles that I’ve ever owned.

  2. Gimli Son of Gloin says:

    Few, if any, are saying it’s not good looking, reliable and good enough to ride but really, tubed bias-ply tires?

    And to add insult to insult, it’s over nine grand. The mechanical content just isn’t there. A bike like this is made to pull at the heart-strings hard enough to get the wallet out but you really have to have a ton of memories related to the time this ride pays homage to to give up that much cash.

  3. fred says:

    Beautiful bike. I’m less pleased with tube-type tires and the price, but I hope it sells well for them.

  4. Skybullet says:

    If you are looking for a comfortable, easy to ride, low maintenance (except for the chain) bike you won’t be tempted to get too sporty on, this could be the one. Pleasing to the eye and probably a much better choice than a old Brit bike for all the above reasons. Sometimes it isn’t about high performance. Or if it is; is it more fun to ride a fast bike slow or a slow bike fast? Think about it, how often do you corner, accelerate or brake at the limit on your bike?

  5. Artem says:

    4 cylinder Honda

  6. JR says:

    Hey.. bmbktmracer and Nick.. my write up regarding the so called retro Kawasaki W800 has to do with what they ask you to pay.. and what you actually get. It’s clearly overpriced. I am also 72 and have owned 16 machines since 1970. I owned a 1966 Triumph Bonneville 650 which had the front end boots and they did look like crap after awhile. I’m not interested in the new Bonneville’s or any other motorcycle where you need to disassemble the top end just to make routine valve adjustments with shims. I am all for retro machines that look like the past, but carry improvements that work for reliability with ease of maintenance. That’s why rear belt drive machines work great. Think about what the motorcycle manufactures are attempting to peddle off here. They can do better.. especially when they are demanding over 9 grand for what sold for about 12 hundred in the 70’s with mainly the same hardware.

    • Reginald Van Blunt says:

      In balance, (W)ay over priced compared to anything, however far better build quality, therefore more reliable than a Chinese or Indian product. Belt drives are not the cat’s meow all the time, as on some designs the trans output bearings are constantly over loaded by the need for heavy belt loading, and dirt/rocks play havoc with the belt and the sprockets. To me, looks more like a BSA with a (W) wall wart on the tank, and (W)ay over priced for a pleasant Sunday motorcycle ride with no performance aspirations. 73 yrs, 13 bikes, two of which were Triumphs, one a BSA.

    • tuskerdu says:

      $1200 in 1970 = $8,179.54 today.

      • Jim H. says:

        Funny how certain nice examples of Z1’s and Kawasaki triples will bring more than $8,179.54. I agree with those who say its worth what folks will pay. I don’t see this as grossly overpriced. Sheesh, everything is overpriced! I am considering one, myself. Worked for many years in motorcycle dealership, and have owned one or two myself. Got a second year W650 serviced to ride on some charity rides and stuff, back then, and really loved that bike. I’m a 55 mile an hour rider. The older 650 would cruise comfortably at 65. I would imagine this would do a fine job at speeds, save for lack of wind protection. Sweetest retro, in my opinion.

      • Pushrod Pete says:

        … which also gets you ABS, fuel injection, reliability, etc….

    • todd says:

      So, a belt drive on a BMW F800 needs to be replaced every ~20,000 miles (less than two years) and costs over $400; plus labor, if you must. Might as well have a chain that lasts longer and is easier/cheaper to replace.

      • mickey says:

        The factory chain on my CB 1100 went 37,000 miles, but it also cost $400 (parts and labor) to replace chain & sprockets with another OEM set.

  7. mickey says:

    Yesterday I test rode a Moto Guzzi V7 Stone. About the same hp as the W, and about the same price (maybe the Guzzi is really a $6K bike too? but it’s priced $3 above that).

    I’m pretty sure I’d rather have the Kawasaki.

    • Selecter says:

      I had a V7, a 2015 Special. I actually bought mine for $6000, new-old-stock. And no, it wasn’t even really a $6000 bike even then. Awful suspension, only passable brakes, flexy chassis… The engine was fun to use and the gearbox was surprisingly good, and it looked pretty nice, but not near enough to offset the fact that a 450-lb (NOT 410 like Guzzi would have had you believe) bike was a far poorer handler than one would hope.

      Funny people mention the W being a $6000 bike on here. $6200 is about the going rate for a leftover ’19 W800 Cafe around these parts. Given the choice between the W800 and V7 for a bit over $6000… I’d go buy an MT-07 or GSX-S750 on clearance instead. Cast wheels, radial tires, real chassis… the GSX-S even adds really shockingly good brakes to the mix, too.

      Looking good is really super and all, but nothing disappoints like a great-looking bike that rides like a truck.

  8. Kermit says:

    I like it and will probably get one after things return to normal. Couple things though. The bike does have ABS and a center stand. Someone in the comments mentioned it didn’t. Also, since everyone loves the Triumph, and is hung up on specs, along with my strong curiosity, I checked the websites for both. While the W800 is heavier by 26 lbs, it also has a larger fuel tank by .2 gal, steel fenders(Triumph plastic), steel side covers(Triumph plastic), a center stand(Triumph none) and larger 19/18 wheels(Triumph 18/17). The Triumph makes more power with its extra 127cc, 55 vs 47 but the W800 is air cooled which I think is a big plus. But the biggest difference may be price. The Kawasaki is $1300 less than a T100. The Royal Enfield is a nice looking bike and sounds great, but I’m just a little skeptical of it at this time. Time will tell though.

    • mickey says:

      Don’t cloud up this discussion with facts Kermit. They just get in the way of pre- conceived prejudices.

  9. Dirty Bob says:

    Not for freeway! This bike isn’t practical for riding anywhere. You must be a collector to purchase this bike.

    • mickey says:


      top speed of Kawasaki W-800 110 mph

      Top speed of Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 105 mph

      Top speed of Kawasaki Ninja 400 105 mph

      Top speed of Honda CBR 250 92 mph

      All will cruise at freeway speeds

      • Dirty Bob says:

        I’ve been riding bikes for more than a half century, most all of the brands you’ve listed, but wouldn’t ride faster than 60mph on any of these foreign things again. You can’t ride these bikes at highway speeds in Cal long enough to get anywhere. Ride at your on risk!

        • mickey says:

          “but wouldn’t ride faster than 60 mph on any of these foreign things again”

          Gee let me guess what super fast bike you ride…….

          • todd says:

            Every one of the bikes you mentioned is faster than a majority of non foreign bikes. I’m really perplexed how this person thinks being faster is somehow less capable of obtaining high speed.

            I guess, if you weighed over 400 lb yourself, you’d be skeptical of a bike that weighed less than you too.

          • Dirty Bob says:

            Thank you Todd! When you said: I’m really perplexed how this person thinks being faster is somehow less capable of obtaining high speed.
            The simple answer is: Sustained speed. Every vehicle has a limit. Example:One probably wouldn’t travel cross country with any of these small bikes.

        • Selecter says:

          Can’t agree. Not even in the slightest. I ran Dayton to St. Paul in a single day. Twice. Once on a Ninja 250R. While I was pretty beat at the end of the day, the 250 had no issue with it. Little of this was below a real 75MPH. It was loaded up with a full complement of soft luggage, too… never missed a beat.

          So, this has to be one of the goofiest things I’ve ever read here. I have to imagine that this would be a much more relaxed way to cover miles! I’m not the biggest proponent of the W, but there’s no doubt it’s a solid piece of machinery, and will get you where you’re going to go, even if that’s very, very far away. At supra-freeway speeds, even!

          There’s simply not a shred of empirical evidence that this bike isn’t suitable for doing so.

          So I’ll echo mickey’s sentiment. “Ridiculous.”

          • Ken Howard says:

            “…been riding for more than a half century.” – I think he’s still mad about Pearl Harbor.

    • Peter says:

      Its a pretty closed mind that thinks the only riding to be done is to straddle an 800lb 80hp tank and head for the nearest freeway. My W650 will happily run all day long, very relaxed, at 75mph+. Not that riding a freeway is any sort of fun what-so-ever. I’ve ridden all over CA, and the freeway is only necessary maybe 5-10% of the time. I hate riding freeway even on much more modern CC equipped touring bikes.

  10. My2cents says:

    Beautiful motorcycle and probably one of the purest forms. Elegant with excellent quality finishes and bevel dive cam, just the sweetest of rides. Kawasaki has certainly done the best retro motorcycles and given riders the opportunity to relive the passion. Maybe it’s what you owned or wish you bought back in the day. Take note Honda and Suzuki this and the 900 cafe are how you translate a customers desire into product and meanwhile Yamaha can’t find the seat of it’s pants with both hands when it comes to retro.

    Let the good times roll!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Unless things change, I’ll be getting one. And I’m basing my decision, not on a spec sheet, but with experience with not one W650, but two. I took a look at the Royal Enfield at a dealer in KC and liked the bike. Sounds really good too, much like a Ducati. I would say it sounds better than the W800. But this is what I was waiting on. Would like to see it in person though as I notice the bar is slightly different. And lastly, one person said, among some of things it should have in his laundry list, is a centerstand and ABS. It does have both.

  12. Gary says:

    I like the way it looks, but with 47 horsepower, I could probably physically jog down the road faster … especially if there was a Guinness waiting for me at the end of the run.

    • bmbktmracer says:

      Do remember that this is a great second bike. It’d be very good for teaching a newb how to ride. Or for something to ride around town. There are jobs for which this tool ideally serves. And, as Dirck pointed out, if you really long for a vintage bike but don’t want to suffer spindly forks, finicky carbs, rusty spokes, etc, the W (Windsor?, Wellington?) isn’t a bad way to go.

      • Irveyo Bartoluccissini says:

        Newbs tend to drop motorcycles. No way I’m letting them on anything that I have paid for unless it’s a literal rolling pile of junk. The W800 is a rolling on bias ply crap tyres work of art.

        And too expensive for what you get. I already have memories of this STYLE of motorbike. A ride on most any motorcycle will stir those memories. Yes. The W800 is pretty.

        Pretty overpriced for what you get. Too bad.

  13. Lawrence of Suburbia says:

    1967 Triumph Bonneville T120TT weighed 363lbs;
    2020 KawasakiW800 weighs 489.4 lbs
    2020 Triumph Bonneville T100 weighs 469lbs
    2020 Royal Enfield Interceptor weighs 445lbs
    One would think that with the availability of modern materials, that today’s manufacturers could bring the weights down to 1960’s levels. All of these modern retros seem overweight, particularly in light of their modest power output. An extra 100lbs is a lot of weight! If this Kawasaki weighed 350lbs and had some more up-to-date suspension it would really be something special. Instead they must assume that anyone wanting a classically styled bike must be a slow old punter who only cares about mellow cruising in a straight line. News flash … boring never sells, no matter how good looking.

    • Provologna says:

      T120TT weight is listed as “dry” which may not even include the battery. Add about 45# for similar rating, or 408#. Still the W is 61# heavier. I would posit that the 61# directly correlates to commensurately greater longevity, the remainder of the weight penalty being attributed to emissions regulations including noise and carbon.

      • Jeremy says:

        We’ve actually weighed an old T120 on a shipping scale. 417 lbs. with its 2.5 gallon tank nearly full. Still a light bike, but also pretty noodle-ish chassis that I’m pretty sure I could bend with my bare hands. And if you’ve ever ridden one, you’d realize it could use an extra 60 lbs of reinforcement everywhere.

        • mickey says:

          Can you imagine the comments here if a modern 650 street bike had a 2 1/2 gallon fuel tank lol

    • todd says:

      But the W probably has a substantially superior/stronger, more rigid frame and likely handles noticeably better. The T120 I’ve ridden was a little scary at speed and in corners and especially over rough pavement.

    • Bob S. says:

      If you want to make comparisons to a 53 year old bike, at least pick a street legal version with lights and mufflers. The Triumph T120TT had neither. Add lighting, mufflers/catalytic converters, turn signals, anti-lock disk brakes, an electrical system and battery big enough to support electric start, stiffer frame, and the T120TT isn’t as light anymore. I bought a new W650 in 2000, and would consider a W800 as an addition to my 2008 Bonneville as it was such a pleasant, relaxing bike to ride.

    • Mick says:

      This is exactly why street bikes are so heavy. For every one person who brings it up, there are several who are eager to make excuses.

  14. Neal says:

    When people look back on the 2010’s, the decade will be remembered for its obsession with everything retro, like the 80’s is remembered for neon, spandex, and pointy designs. I’m ready for the trend to be over with, retro things make me feel like I’m playing dress up, but everyone seems to like them.

    • Chris says:

      I had two SUZ TU250’s and they were great machines. Just not enough for the freeway. So this KAW seems like a great bike. Simple is good. Just get on and ride. I am thinking about an NC700X only bc my commute is lots of stop and go and I need a bit taller ride on these New England potholed roads. But if I were younger I would buy this W in a heartbeat.

  15. Pushrod Pete says:

    Genuine question for those recommending Royal Enfields instead: Does anyone have first-hand ownership experience with them?

    I’ve considered them but am concerned with reliability, especially on the older “Classic” models that appeal to me the most.

    No such worries with the Kawi…

  16. Shoeman says:

    Kawasaki builds the W800 at its Akashi Japan facility. This is the plant Kawasaki uses to insure the highest quality. The Z900RS, Z900Cafe, H2 family, etc. are all built in Akashi. Kawasaki uses it’s Thailand plant when cost is the primary driver. Thailand produces the Z900, Z400 and many other lower cost models there. Not a bad strategy. If you’ve ever seen the paint quality and build quality of a Z900RS, H2, and W800, you can appreciate the attention to detail.

  17. JR says:

    Regarding this retro Kawasaki W800 if you want to make it to sell? Then..
    It’s needs up to date front fork leg seals, not cheap boots.
    Replace the rear chain drive with maintenance free belt drive.
    Install mag wheels with tubeless tires.
    Remove cheap looking W from the fuel tank sides.
    Install automatic hydraulic valve adjusters.
    Now make the bike easy to afford.
    As is, it’s not worth the well over 10 grand it will cost with all the other,
    charges such as.. tax, license/registration/dealer prep.. transportation etc.
    Word to manufactures.. the motorcycle riding public overall, are not stupid.

      • paul says:

        Ya, but too bad the Triumph has that big-ass slab of a radiator hanging out front. Ugly and only a non-gearhead would be fooled by the fake fins, if they could even see past that ugly rad. The Kawi engine is a work of art compared to the Triumph lump.

    • Nick says:

      Sorry, but that’s ridiculous comment. The whole bike is meant to look retro, and appeal to retro-inclined bikers. To suggest that the ‘cheap boots’ on the forks cover inadequate seals is laughable. As it happens, several of my bikes are fitted with boots because they are very effective in preventing damage/corrosion to the stanchions. OK, they aren’t to everyone’s taste but the target market for this bike will be very comfortable with them and appreciate their value. Also, no retro bike ever had belt drive: if you want that, buy a retro Harley; ie most Harleys ever produced.

      Despite my age (72), the W800 does nothing for me because I like an element of excitement in the design and performance of my bikes. Which is not to say I don’t ride and smell the roses at the same time, but I want to be on something I admire. None of Kawasaki’s W series has ever managed that for me.

    • Chris says:

      I don’t think it “needs” anything. It’s Japanese retro. That’s the point. Mag wheels are 1980s. Been there done that. Hydraulic valve adjusters add weight and or complexity and or price. Belt drive is not retro and BMW and Harley have it so there are choices. My TU250 was a great ride and it just got smaller under me on a ride. Little more wheelbase and motor: W800.

    • Ramish Rambarran. says:

      Only 1 valid point………”…..make the bike easy to afford”.

    • Jan Janowski says:

      Had Boots on my late 60’s Triumph Thunderbird… Never got to see if they lasted, as it was stolen from me… But, Seeing that I replaced Fork Seals in 1986 Goldwing, and 1993 Goldwing, and 1995 Ace 1100, I can tell you that I would EMBRACE Boots over Fork Seals, as they prevent bug shells from cutting the Seals!!!

      Wish it had a Tank Rack as the Thunderbird did!

      I wish I could try the W800, it reminds me of the Thunderbird I so miss. (EXCEPT FOR RIGHT HAND SHIFT!!!)

  18. Fredboe Fartzollotti says:

    At the asking MSRP, the bike should come with triple disc brakes, ABS, a centrestand, a SEAMLESS 5 gallon tank, tubeless spoke wheels running modern rubber in (period sizes if possible)and the freakin’ kick-starter put back on!

    A cherry on top would be a belt drive like on Harley’s Sportsters. If it were the same version/part #, at least buyers would know they would have access to belts for, if not eternity, at least a few decades.

    As it currently sits, I’m in agreement those here that say it should run around $6,000 or so. The manufacturers know what we say we “want” and then usually find a way to deliver less and charge more than what the product is worth.

    • Dirty Bob says:

      This bike’s could only be for a collector. Practically no one could use this on a freeway. Yet it could be used on streets in India very well where traffic is very slow.

      • todd says:

        People ride Sporsters on the freeway too. With the same power but 50% more weight – or do you think that’s a “girl’s bike”?

  19. Ericbeer says:

    This bike looks good from both sides. Most published bike photos pick one side because it looks better and then repeat it. The engine is pleasing and interesting from either side. I do agree I think the w on the tank is a mistake. Kawasaki should be proud of the brand and place the full name there. Maybe an enterprising company will make a replacement badge? My first bike was a 1969 BSA lightning and this new bike really resonates with me. The BSA was a vibration monster and not reliable…but that was 50 years ago.

  20. Tom R says:

    I might buy one of these just for the seat alone. It reminds me of that of one my first bikes, a 1980 Suzuki GS850. Wide, flat, with all-day comfort.

    Looks far superior to the current trend of stink bug, canted-forward, testicle-crushing seats of far too many bikes these days.

    • The Anonymouse says:

      Well written sir! Descriptive language at its finest! 🙂
      I had a Vetter equipped 1980 GS850G. Great bike with one of the finest saddles ever.

    • Chris says:

      Indeed. Everything for the longest time had to have a sport tail for some ungodly reason. If you want to ride near the tank then do it but don’t force it on us. Push the forks up a little in the triple clamp if you really need more weight over the front and use renthal ultra low bars.

  21. Rendel says:

    I saw one at the dealership about four months ago. I have been pondering whether to get one. After reading this I will pull the trigger and purchase the W800 because it just looks like something I would use to cruise the coast or go up the mountains in SoCal to get away from it all at a casual and relaxed pace. This will make a great second motorcycle.

  22. Stuki Moi says:

    It’s beautiful. Has a really pleasing engine vibe, and is comfortable at sub-blown-off-the-back speeds. But bias ply tubed tires is really, really far from optimal for current day US “roads.”

  23. frank says:

    This is a sweet bike. But right now the Royal Enfield is a better value. Lose the tank ornaments… please, paint it gloss black, and put on some modern rubber. Oh, and drop the price by $2K. This should help to give potential buyers looking for this type of bike two great choices.

  24. paul says:

    I love this bike. Beautiful and has a look of its own. I would love to own one.

  25. bmbktmracer says:

    It’s a nice-looking machine, but the giant W on the tank ends it for me. I can just hear every conversation I’d have about the bike involving what a “W” is and where it came from. Just dumb.

    • Pushrod Pete says:

      If it’s like the W650, the badges are attached with double-sided adhesive.

      A piece of fishing line will slide under and cut it right off. The tank is painted underneath, and you’d never know a badge was ever there.

      Won’t stop the “what is that?” conversations tho….

      • gsbeliever says:

        Pete speaks the truth. On my W650, the “Kawasaki” on the back of the seat wiped off with paint thinner and the tank badge came off clean with dental floss.
        Really cracks me up reading the opinions of the nay sayers. Obviously this bike wasn’t designed with you in mind. Hopefully it won’t have to become a cult bike, like my 650, before it becomes sought after.
        After I got done riding the crotch rockets, this became the perfect bike for riding the “invisible” back roads that proliferate our rural area.

        • Pushrod Pete says:

          Ha! I wiped the seat ‘label’ off too.

          And also mounted an incredibly underdamped ammeter gauge in the headlight shell (like you mention below). That thing mostly just bounced side to side unless you were at a light, and then it STILL bounced side to side, but at least in rhythm with the turn signals….

  26. Ricardo says:

    Bias ply tyres? At this cost? Cheapass Kawi.

  27. Artem says:

    Honda – better

  28. Van Jordan says:

    The sad thing about this bike, and, to some extent, the CB1100, is that they’re so overpriced that they won’t sell in this market, at which point Kawi and Honda can once again say, “See? We gave you what you claimed you wanted, and you didn’t buy it. ‘Retro this…’ and ‘Upright-standard that, yada yada…’ you say, but when we deliver the product, you don’t buy it. It’s not us, it’s you. You’re all talk.”

    Build it (and don’t overcharge for it), and we will come. It’s a two-part equation. You keep forgetting the all-important second part.

  29. BOB says:

    I get it that some guys love these retro bikes, I’m 66 and I love them too. But Kawasaki’s own Z900 is a couple of hundred dollars CHEAPER. The Z900 is an awesome contemporary machine. The W800 might be a great bike for $6,000 but not $9,199.

    • VLJ says:

      “The W800 might be a great bike for $6,000 but not $9,199.”

      Agreed. Too little bike for the money. At that price point you’re well into T100/Street Twin territory, or even something every bit as retro-authentic as this Kawi is, and a whole lot more capable, the CB1100. Drive a good enough bargain and you could see you way into the retro-flavored Z900RS, not just the more modern Z900.

      Beauty and Kawi build quality or the two main selling points of this bike, and Kawi doesn’t have a monopoly on those qualities among all the retros available today. That bike will not sell well, at least not in the U.S., not at that price.

    • mickey says:

      Motorcycles are worth what a buyer is willing to pay. Is a CVO Harley worth over $40K? To some they are.

      Everyone who rides one of these that I have talked to loves them. For 1/4th the price of the Harley.

    • Anonymous says:

      BOB, I’m gonna disagree with your assessment of the Z900. The Z900 I owned was an absolute piece of crappe. It’s in my top three of the worst bikes I’ve ever owned.

      • Neal says:

        What aspects of the Z900 did you not like?

        • Anonymous says:

          This is just my perspective of course. The suspension.One of the worst. Mushy front, hardtail like rear. Adjustments in name only. And let’s not forget the broken shock mount bandaid recall. Garbage. Now couple that lousy suspension with some of the worst stock tires. Gearing. I was always looking for a higher gear, a proper top gear. Bike should have had a 7th or 8th gear. The ergonomics were terrible. I’m not crazy about riding with the ‘nads crushed up against the tank, so I was always pushing back which caused shoulder, elbow and wrist pain. Couldn’t ride more than 25 minutes and I had to get off. The overall package was garbage. I did like the engine(not the gearing, just the engine). And that clutch was excellent and was the main reason I bought the bike since I’m developing arthritis in my left hand. I got rid of it and bought a Z650. Very nice bike.

    • todd says:

      Have you actually sat on or seen a Z900 in person? The proportions of the tank and seat are ridiculous. I was considering one until I saw it in person. It’s almost comical, definitely laugh-out-loud-able how poorly the design was executed. I ended up getting the 690 Duke since it had better performance and ended up looking better to me, and I have a long string of classic bike ownership.

      • mickey says:

        todd..describe performance
        690 Duke 73 hp
        Z900 Kaw 125 hp

        but I agree with you on looks of the Z900 retro, but not sure the 690 Duke and it’s Spy vs Spy looks any better. At least not to me.

        and I agree with VLJ that the CB 1100 is the best of the lot, and for whoever said they sent them (retros) and we didn’t buy them, well I bought 2 CB 1100’s. I put my money where my mouth was. Price vs “stats” was not in the decision process. The CB 1100 looked great, had great ergos, sounded great, rode great and have been worth every penny I spent buying them. Best all around motorcycle I have owned out of 31 street bikes going back 55 years and I owned most of the classics..GT 750, CB 750, KZ 1000, GS 850G, GS1100E, FZ-1, T-100, XLCH 883

        • VLJ says:

          mickey, yes, you bought two CB1100s, and I bought one, but there can be no arguing that the model was a sales flop in the U.S., and that its lack of success on the sales floor was largely down to its perceived performance vs value imbalance.

          Your original 2013 model was the new kid on the block, and sold reasonably well, all things considered. The 2014 Standard was one of Honda’s most conspicuous sales flops of all time. It was so bad that they only offered it for one model year here, and new units still languished on showroom floors six years later. Your 2014 Deluxe was offered in such limited numbers that there really is no way to determine whether it sold well, or perhaps it was just that the very limited supply met the equally limited demand. For a company as large as Honda, does selling 500 or so units really constitute a sales success?

          We’re not talking about a boutique, unobtainable, $100K homologation special here. Nope, just a regular, every-day, $11K CB1100.

          After that, Honda dropped the bike from its lineup for two more years, before bringing it back in 2017 in EX guise, which also proved to be a major sales flop.

          Excessively high cost. Lack of performance. Those have long been the complaints levied against the model. Advocates of the 2014 Standard now rave about the bike, but only after purchasing it at a firesale price five years after it first appeared in their local showroom. At its original msrp, or anything close to that, buyers simply did not see the value.

          The same story has held true with this retro Kawi. They keep bringing it back, it keeps being too slow, cheaply equipped, and wildly overpriced, and it always dies a slow, laborious death.

          It’s already happening again. This new model was not selling, even before the COVID-19 lockdown. Local dealers couldn’t give them away. If they were able to sell one, it was precisely because they almost literally gave it away.

          It’s a $6K bike, new. That’s how it should be priced. It doesn’t carry the history or name cache of all those overpriced Harleys you mentioned, so they can’t afford to overcharge for it the way Harley overcharges for their low-value relics.

          • mickey says:

            VLJ you made many valid points but you know as well as I do from the forum that none of the early adopters of the CB 1100 regretted paying what they did and many say it’s the best bike they have ever owned. BTW the CB Dlx’s were sold out by April that year after being intro’d in March. Does Honda realize people wanted the fancy versions? No. They bring out the CB all blacked out/murdered if you will. Nobody wanted them till they went on sale. I would say the CB was not a great seller in the US but world wide it has sold enough that Honda has made it and sold it 11 years in a row now, in various guises. I’d say it’s been a great success for Honda. Just not here.

            The US is the only place that thinks everything should have 145 hp and weight 350 pounds to be worth $10K.

            It also doesn’t change the fact that everyone that has bought a W 650 or 800 that I have ever heard, at whatever price has been delighted with the bikes.

            Hey you know me, I’m not a high horsepower low weight kinda guy, and I don’t think a W-800 would satisfy me, but the guys complaining about the weight and horsepower are not the one that would buy them, even at $6K. Not enough hp, too much weight, ugly (beautiful) chrome fenders, ass end not stuck up in the air, old round headlight, fork gaiters for petes sake. Nope, they wouldn’t be buyers at any price.

            Are $6995 Royal Enfields really rolling out the door? I have never seen one. I have seen W650’s and imagine I will see W 800’s too.

          • SquintBilly says:

            What $6995? I bought my new RE INT 650 last September for $5800, and couldn’t be happier. Sure, it’s not as quick or taut as my old SV650, but performs much like the W800… little less power but lower weight. I agree the Kawasaki really ought to be a $6000 bike, too. Perhaps us “early adopters” who’ve seen the new RE twins up close and aren’t afraid to commit, will pressure the Japanese and Euro makers to respond with lower priced bikes. Meanwhile, I’m livin’ large…

          • mickey says:

            Tell me a model from ANY manufacturer that has been selling in big numbers in the last few years. How many have they sold?

          • mickey says:

            Please tell me the model of bike from ANY manufacturer that is selling in big numbers. How many have they sold?

          • Dave says:

            I’ve wondered if the CB 1100 missed he “retro” target customer by a little bit. The original bike was the new, modern marvel that vanquished the twin cylinder bikes like this W800 and the old Triumphs. It was bikes like this that eventually resulted in the Harley tariff on bikes over 700cc’s. Maybe it’s not “retro” enough in the eyes of he nostalgic customer?

          • VLJ says:

            mickey, don’t fool yourself. Price matters. You can’t go by what owners on a message board tell you. What are they going to do, go on a public message board and say, “Yeah, well, I overpaid. I hate that I overpaid. The bike isn’t worth what I paid, but I paid it anyway.”

            Nope. Either they’re like me, and they overpaid because they had to in order to get what they wanted when they wanted it, rather than wait forever for the price to come down, or they waited years and bought it at a firesale price.

            The proof is in the pudding. For everyone who bought the bike and enjoys it, there are at least ten others who didn’t buy it, for all the aforementioned reasons. Honda sold out of the 2014 Deluxe only because they offered it in such minuscule numbers, plus the existence of the relatively drab, ABS-less Standard made the Deluxe seem that much more appealing. Had Honda offered the Deluxe in similar numbers to the 2017 EX, it would have suffered a similar fate.

            I can tell you that had this Kawi 800 come out when I was in the market for such a thing, I would have definitely considered it…but not for $9,199. Oh, hell no. Even for me, that’s a bridge too far. My ability to suspend credulity has its limits.

            The CB1100 EX was special. You know why. You know what went into that thing, R&D-wise. This little Kawi is nice, but it is not special. It offers nothing that can command a premium pricetag. As such, it will not sell here, or, at best, it will only sell once the dealers are forced to slash the price down closer to where people know it realistically ought to be.

          • mickey says:

            When someone agrees to a price on an object they want, in this case a motorcycle, whether it is $60k for a fancy Ducati, $55 k for a full on custom S&S V twin, $40k for a CVO Harley, $35 k for an Arch or an Indian bagger, $21k for a Norton 961, or $9k for this, a CB 1100, or a V7 Guzzi… is the object not worth it to the person giving the money in exchange for the object? If not, why did they agree to the price? Many won’t think so, but those wanting and getting the object will. Desire carries it’s own inflation rate. Price only matters when it exceeds the desire to own the object.

            The proof is in those who have posted here saying they intend to buy one, and those that already have purchased one, knowing full well the price and specs of the bike.

            If the price is indeed too high for some for what it offers they won’t sell any. For others, it’s perfectly reasonable, and they will be buyers.

          • VLJ says:

            mickey, there’s a wide chasm between “selling any” and “being a successful seller.” Sure, some people will buy this bike, just as some people bought our CB1100, but the vast majority of punters simply voted with their wallets and stayed away. That’s why there were so many leftover models that had to be sold years later at firesale prices.

            You say that an item is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Fair enough. That being the case, when too many of your customers are not willing to pay the price, and your bike goes unsold for years, then you have probably overvalued/overpriced your product. You eventually come to this realization, and lower the price.

            Voila. It finally sells.

            The market will speak, and what it’s going to say is that this bike is not worth $9,200. Unless Kawi produces only a very few units, the supply will far outstrip the demand. This bike’s price will end up having to be adjusted accordingly in order for all the leftovers to sell.

            That’s the proof in the pudding.

          • mickey says:

            How many units does a mfg have to sell of a particular model in order for it to be considered a successful seller?

            You go into any dealership of any mfg and you can find left over models, some several years old. Even those of the perceived “popular models”. One here mentioned getting an old new V7 Guzzi. Another is contemplating an old new Z900. I can go into any dealer and find left over ’16 and ’17 models. It’s not surprising you would find leftover niche bikes like CB’s and W’s when there are leftover main stream bikes. The motorcycle industry as a whole is hurting and no one is selling any particular model in big numbers.. touring bikes? Sport touring bikes? liter sport bikes, 600 sport bikes? Japanese cruisers? Are any of those selling in big numbers?

            and I again ask since no one has answered it in 6 days now:

            Please tell me the model of bike from ANY manufacturer that is selling in big numbers.
            and how many have they sold?

          • VLJ says:

            BMW R1250GS. Honda Monkey. Triumph Speed Twin. Yamaha R3.

            Don’t know the raw numbers. I know BMW does not struggle to sell their very expensive GS models, and they aren’t in limited production.

          • mickey says:

            Exactly don’t know how many were sold. You imagine the Monkey and the Speed Twin and the R3 are good sellers, for some reason, even though you have no numbers as proof, yet I have never seen any of those 3 on the street. I have seen quite a few Groms, R6’s and Bonnevilles. Never seen a Indian Scout on the road which is supposed to be their biggest seller. never seen a Ducati Scrambler, supposedly their biggest seller.

            I’ll give you the GS is a good seller for BMW, I have seen GS’s on the road. But how many do they sell in the US in a year? Would those numbers constitute a good seller for Honda?

            What kind of numbers does Honda need for a model to be successful? How about Suzuki? Suzuki’s top model might only sell a few thousand units.For Honda that could be considered a slow seller but for Suzuki a rousing success.

            How many of those new 890 KTM’s do you think KTM expects to sell in the US this year?

          • mickey says:

            and besides who knows how many W-800’s (or any other model) Kawasaki has projected to sell this year. If at Kawasaki they say “this is a niche bike and we are selling to a niche market in a down time in the economy, so we might be able to sell 150 of these, and then they sell 200, is it a good seller? a rousing success? O r a failure because they only sold 200 of them?

          • VLJ says:

            mickey, that’s why I added, “and they aren’t in limited production.” No, I don’t know the raw numbers, but I do know that the GS, R3, Monkey, and Speed Twin are regular production motorcycles for those brands, unlike your very limited-production ’14 Deluxe.

            Go to a showroom, and you will see more than one Monkey or GS or R3 or Street Twin lined up. When those units sell, they are quickly replaced.

            Regular production. All stores have a decent allocation. A lot more than 500 units offered across the entire U.S.

          • mickey says:

            I’ve never claimed the CB 1100 was a great seller in the US, although I believe it was a good seller world wide. Like I said Honda first brought it out in 2010 and it has been sold as new year models every year since..11 years in production. If it were a poor seller for Honda I don’t think they would have kept it in production. Think Rune or NM4 or various other models that had 2 or 3 year model runs.

            The same with the W-800. A decent seller worldwide with a 6 year model run, then a break and then reintoduction in 2019. I imagine a pretty slow seller here, although guessing I’d say Kaw will sell more of these than RE will sell of it’s 650 models. If it wasn’t worth it for Kawasaki to bring them back, why do it?

            It may not be tech enough for many but Dirck seemed to like it alright, and so do the people that buy them.

          • VLJ says:

            You’re talking worldwide. I’m not. I specifically mentioned U.S. sales. I don’t know how well all these bikes are selling worldwide, or whether they’re priced more competitively in other markets. I do know that the GS is BMW’s top seller worldwide.

            Here in the U.S. the CB1100 was a sales flop, in large part due to the price being perceived as too high for what the bike offers. Here in the U.S. the Kawi W models have been sales flops, and this new one will surely be a flop as well, at $9,199. It simply will not sell in any decent numbers at that price. It will have to go the firesale route, as did the CB1100s.

            Perceived value. It’s all about what you think you’re getting for what you’re being asked to pay. The SV650 and CBR600 sold like crazy for many years, because they were perveived as offering great bang for the buck. Same with the FZ-07 and FZ-09.

            This Kawi W, and the Honda CB1100, here in the U.S.?

            Not so much.

          • mickey says:

            although having nothing to do with the USA, Australia does track and report by model sold. Here is some interesting info from there by type and model and overall sales by model


            see pdfs lower left corner …kinda eye opening

        • todd says:

          I thought we were talking about the retro Kawasaki Z900RS. It’s 140 pounds heavier and only 111hp. Thankfully, I got to try one out. It didn’t accelerate and harder than the Duke but felt like a massive, heavy pig when I was negotiating it through the SF streets during the test. The Duke was like riding an extremely powerful mountain bike. I really wanted to try the CB650R but it was too new.
          I agree with you about the spy v spy looks of all the other Dukes with the new LED headlight but the 690 Duke has a unique light that is more flat like a flat track number plate. Much nicer looking. If you ever get a chance, try a 2016+ Duke 690, it will blow your mind and will be nothing like any thumper you have ever ridden before with performance up with the larger class bikes. It’s too bad it was dismissed by most people as an expensive single without ever trying it.

  30. Grover says:

    Reminds me of my first bike I owned 45 years ago, a HONDA 350. I’ve moved on since then…

  31. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful. I’m a Motog Guzzi guy, but love the looks of this. If I was wealthy….

  32. DucDynasty says:

    Nice to look at but I can’t think of a reason to own one. There are so many other great choices, with modern features and performance. That “W” tank badge is not attractive. Just my opinion.

  33. Butch says:

    Spooned on some Bridgestone Spitfires and Progressive Springs with preload spacers. It transformed my W650 into a decent handler.

    • gsbeliever says:

      Agree totally on the fork spring replacement, ended the front end dive.
      Here’s what else I did to mine:
      Superbike bars
      S&W Shocks
      mini turn signals
      Deep red paint
      Retro voltage guage mounted on top of headlight.

      Yes, I did take pleasure in watching people try to identify it.

      • Butch says:

        I did the Superbike bars as well. Striped the tank and painted it gloss black. I also ditched that hideous plastic tail light for a metal one. My favorite comment was “nice restoration”. The kick starter was a big plus.

  34. RD350 says:

    This is the best looking retro on the market. It is way better propositioned than the RE and Triumphs. If it weighed 400lbs rather than 500lbs I might be tempted. If it hand higher end suspension I’d write the check. Why do manufacturers assume retro buyers don’t care about performance?

    • Chuck Chrome says:

      It is interesting how differently people can perceive things. I checked out this bike at the Progressive show a few months back and the first thing that came to mind is how disproportionate and weird many of the features were when seeing the bike in person. Sure it is a good bike but there was just too much “off” about the styling. All subjective. I ride a Speed Triple which fell off the top of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down so what do I know anyway?

  35. Shoeman says:

    Had the opportunity to test ride this bike at a Kawasaki demo ride. “Charming” and “calm” are the words that best describe riding this gem. For those fortunate to have multiple-bike stables, this is worthy of consideration.

    Dirck: I trust Kawasaki provided a ZH2 for you to test when returning the W800. Would love to read your thoughts on the 197hp naked supercharged bike.

  36. VFRMarc says:

    For all your platitudes, and yes, it’s a nice looking bike, do these things actually sell? Have to assume so, otherwise Kawasaki wouldn’t be resurrecting them every ten years.

  37. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure Kawasaki’s target demographic for this bike is enthusiasts who are considering buying a classic British bike and restoring it. Yeah, sure…

  38. Gary in NJ says:

    Direck, I know you don’t do shootouts, but I’d love to see a head to head comparison of this bike, the RE650 and a Triumph. I think the results would be surprising.

  39. Ivor Rowland says:

    I’m sorry, people keep trying to resurrect this Kawi telling us to forgive the mediocre looks and performance..even down to tubed mentioned check out the new R.Enfields…I will keep my faithful 2009 Triumph 900 Bonneville s.e. thankyou…At least I got the real deal and make no has been one fine motorcycle for 11 years needing only normal replacement parts and only failed me once when the battery went south..

    • todd says:

      Your “Triumph” is no more authentic than this Kawasaki. They are both resurrections of old models. At least in the Kawasaki’s case, it’s from the same company as the original.

      • Ivor Rowland says:

        Ha ha are you kidding me?…Triumph were building motorcycles at the turn of the century and their “modern”twin motors were originally stationary generators setting in air force bombers for electricity …Kawasaki came to light with their “heavyweight” design only when they copied the BSA Twin design..

        • todd says:

          Which Triumph motorcycle company are you referring to? The Triumph Motorcycle Ltd. company that designed this bike has only been around since 1983. Heck, it’s not even Made in England!

          • Ivor Rowland says:

            I’m sorry, but I can’t reach out to you if you are not willing to understand the foundation of Triumph motorcycles..You don’t want to know that the modern Triumph factory in Hinckley U.K took over all the Original holdings from the Original Co. which had indeed been in production from the turn of the century.The Triumph is not manufactured in is and was Assembled in Thailand as is these days almost everything that you could put your hands on..seeing as my particular Bonneville has the benefit of modern cast wheels along with tubeless tires …a 360* crank and other remarkable features such as the TRIUMPH name on the gas tank..I believe the W800 stands way back of the line behind Royal Enfield BMW etc.etc.

        • xxx says:

          yeah, they were building all of that and then they went bankrupt because their motorcycles were still based on outdated 50’s technology, they sucked compared to japanese competition and nobody was buying them. current thailand-made triumph waving the british flag all over the place is just an impostor marketing joke.

          • todd says:

            The other day I saw a “New Mini” with tail lights that look like the British flag. I thought everyone knew the car was German! Why would a German car come with British flags?!? WWII was a long time ago.

          • Ivor Rowland says:

            xxx …would this be a similar scenario with Harley Davidson having suspension and electronics from the Japanese and waving the American flag? Oh and I believe the new 500s and 750 HDs are pure asian..does it really matter?? Imposter marketing joke…No.. to survive these days you have to be global…

    • paul says:

      Is the Bonneville air cooled?

    • Rendell says:

      Real deal? Ha ha okay… Triumph Bonnevilles are manufactured in Thailand. That does not detract from them in anyway but they certainly are an Asian motorcycle too.

      • Ivor Rowland says:

        Not that it matters any..but my Bonneville was assembled in Thailand..Not Manufactured in Thailand….and it has Triumph on the gas tank..not a stupid “W”….and it has a 360* crank along with the rest of the goodies that make it stand above the Kawasaki.. like better handling..tubeless tires etc. etc…

        • mickey says:

          So, let me get this straight…they manufacture all the parts for the motorcycle in England, then box all the parts up and put them on a ship or airplane and send them to Thailand, so that all the parts can be assembled there, after which they are crated back up and sent back to England by boat or plane as complete bikes, so you in England can buy a “British made” bike?

          Interesting concept

          • Ivor Rowland says:

            In a nutshell thats about right but not all the cutting down the trees out west ..shipping them to Japan..shredding them to make toothpicks …box them up and sent back to USA and the rest of the world…

    • Rendell says:

      Ivor you must work for Triumph because keep stating false information. Triumph today is not the same company that existed at the turn of the last century. Like Indian Motorcycles, they have come and gone out of business. Ressurrected by a man who said he bought Triumph in the 90s because it was a “business decision” and not an emotional one. He also said he is not trying to knock Honda off their perch but is trying to offer an alternative. Triumph build quality has been poor until recently. Do your research because I have read that in many motorcycle magazines before they all went out of business. Your Bonny was made in Thailand. Get over it.

      • Ivor Rowland says:

        I was alluding to the fact that my 2009 Bonneville..Manufactured in UK and assembled in being compared with a brand new 2020 W800 Kawasaki. I am surprised that the performance and spec numbers are so sub par based on my 11 year old Triumph..Kawasaki, with all their past experience, attempted to enter the retro market with this model based on price weight and overall performance..Rendall..there is nothing to get my 60 plus years of riding and owning probably 200 motorcycles from AJS to Velocette I think I am qualified to cast an opinion. In order to trade the Bonneville I am looking for something pretty close to what I have, but somewhat lighter weight. FWIW Germans were bombing my home town in UK when I was born and it was very close to the Triumph Meridan I guess I am a little biased…

  40. Pushrod Pete says:

    As a former W650 owner who kicks himself for selling it, I may have to get this.

    Don’t expect anyone else to agree or understand, but for me it was a simply fun and charismatic bike.

    Too bad there’s no kickstarter anymore….

  41. advrider says:

    She’s a beauty! Need to add one of these to the stable for sure.

  42. they copied triumph

    • Bill Smith says:

      Actually the original W1 was a copy of a BSA not Triumph..
      In 1960 the Akashi-based Kawasaki Aircraft Company acquired an interest in the Meguro motorcycle company, which had obtained a license to produce a copy of the 500 cc BSA A7. Meguro had been Japan’s largest motorcycle manufacturer but in the late 1950s its models had become less competitive and it was short of money. Kawasaki’s investment enabled Meguro to launch its A7 copy as the Meguro K.[12][13]

      The BSA A7, Meguro K and their respective derivatives have an overhead valve (i.e., pushrod) straight-twin engine with a pre-unit construction architecture. All have a 360° crankshaft angle, which provides an even firing interval between the two cylinders but high vibration caused by the two pistons rising and falling together.[14]

      In 1963 Meguro was taken over one hundred percent by the new Kawasaki Motorcycle Corporation, which maintained the licensing agreement with BSA and continued to build the K model, but due to lubrication problems Kawasaki made engine modifications and the Kawasaki K2 entered production in 1965 with improved crankshaft bearings and a larger oil pump. Since the introduction of the K2, the Meguro K model has tended to become known retrospectively as the K1.

    • Bill Smith says:

      Actually the original W1 is a copy of a BSA A7 not a Triumph……….

    • EZ Mark says:

      Triumph didn’t invent the parallel twin.

  43. pedro says:

    What a cynical POS – they haul this thing out every decade and invest zero in even trying to reach the lower level of a modern MC. If you need something that looks old, get aRE 650 twin – an honest bike at a fair price.

  44. Kagato says:

    What a beautiful bike! Y’all took some gorgeous pics in it’s natural environment. Out for a putt, enjoying the beauty of Nature!

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