Kawasaki W800: A Modern “British” Classic

Kawasaki has recently introduced a new model, the W800, which is reminiscent of the British bike designs of the 50s – 70s.  This new model is actually an update to the previously available W650.

Kawasaki W800

The Kawasaki W800 has the British bike style right down to the “pea-shooter” exhausts.

The 773cc Vertical Twin Engine Provides the basic British Styling

The vertical twin engine style of the Kawasaki W800 is pleasing to look at, but I’m a little disappointed that its output is only 48 horsepower.  While it still possible to hoon with that power, I think that Kawasaki should have increased the horsepower of the Kawasaki W800 into the mid-60s range in order to rival the new Triumph Bonnevilles. 

I Think That This is the Image That the Kawasaki W800 is Trying to Capture

The other disappointing technical feature of the Kawasaki W800 is the rear brake – it’s a drum brake!  This is one feature where apparently the stylists won out over the riders in the Kawasaki design office.  This is an area where the Kawasaki W800 designers should have worked harder to provide disk brakes, while still providing the “retro” design.  Good brakes are very comforting, as it is nice to know that you can get out of trouble faster than you can get into it.

The Tank Emblem on the Kawasaki W800 is a “W”, which Refers to its Predecessor, the W650

For some reason, Kawasaki has decided not to import the W800 into the US of A.   I would not expect the W800 to be a huge seller, as my styling tastes in motorcycles are shared by only a small portion of the potential customers.  But if the bike is already being manufactured, then why not make it available to Americans?  Perhaps this explains the small horsepower numbers and rear drum brake, as these aspects might be more acceptable outside of the US of A.

The Kawasaki W800 Would Make a Great Country Touring Bike

For those of you outside of the US of A who are in the market for a “retro” designed motorcycle, take a look at the Kawasaki W800.  The styling is great!  The bikes to now look at and compare would be the Kawasaki W800, the Triumph Bonneville, and the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic.  If you like your riding a little tamer, then also include the Royal Enfield 500 on your list.

The Kawasaki W800 With Its Major Competitors – the Moto Guzzi V7 Classic and the Triumph Bonneville

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13 Responses to Kawasaki W800: A Modern “British” Classic

  1. TN Args says:

    Mixed reports on the power, some say dyno tests are yielding 50+ hp at the rear wheel. This compares with 43 hp for a HD 883 sportster.

  2. Jon says:

    The rear drum brake is easily powerful enough to lock the wheel. Anyone who relies on the rear brake to stop the bike is too incompetent a rider to write an article advising others. Also, it would be nice to acknowledge the photograph as originating from the UK MCN article…

  3. Jim Franklin says:

    Since only a small portion of a bikes stopping power comes from the rear brake, I am not so concerned with the brake for safety reasons, but it is so much more convenient to replace pads on a disk brake….you don’t have to remove the rear wheel, or readjust the chain. And, of course, you can see the pads readily, I am never too trusting of the wear indicator on a drum unit.

  4. steh-fan says:

    There has never been a W625, but a W650. The author really should do his homework much better!

  5. bruza says:

    when you quote horsepower figures you are missing the whole point of this bike.Parallel twins are all about torque not horsepower.The average rider would probably get through a winding section of road more quickly on this bike than most others because it would be easier to use the torque than to wrestle with a higher horsepowered bike.

  6. Colin says:

    Excellent bike with real world power delivery! After a buell s3 which I loved the torque on but couldn’t live with the unreliability and clunky suspension and weird rubber frame mount wobbles
    I got a gsxr1000 fab handling but too uncomfortable and lacked low rev power, the kawasaki w800 will be my next bike, comfortable, sufficient torque, enough power for 160kmh, and not about to be super ceded by another model, oh and reports are that 70mpg is achievable at normal speeds also and let’s not forget that centre stand!
    This is a fantastic bike!
    It will look great parked next to my old norton Commando, perfect for those longer rides when I want to be sure of making it home again without getting my hands dirty.

    To criticise its lack of power is maybe missing the point slightly, like the Harley sportster and triumph and moto guzzi and gt1000 Ducati this bike is about style and comfort and fun!
    Having said that bet its ok on the bumpy back roads as well.
    Still haven’t forgotten years ago fighting the bumps round a corner on my firmly sprung 97 gsxr750 with the bars shaking uncontrollably and having my companion ride round the outside of me on his r80 bmw.
    I know who was having the most fun on that ride.


  7. mandla says:

    Hi I like the bike cos it remined me of my dad honda cd 200 is it available in South Africa

    • I did a quick internet search of Kawasaki dealers in South Africa and a major South African used motorcycle site and I could not find a Kawasaki W800 for sale. Based on this effort, it might not be easy to find a Kawasaki W800 in South Africa. Good luck with your search!
      Steve McKelvie

  8. Steve Williams says:

    Kawasaki actually made a parallel 650 twin W1 to W3 from 1967 to 1974 based on a BSA A7..W650 was introduce in 1999

  9. Colin McClean says:

    What about a K 750 twin.1975 model.

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