The Kawasaki W800’s handling compliments that perfectly. Its old school, upright riding position, cute, slim proportions and wide-ish bars blend seamlessly with the responsive but soft delivery to make the W800 ridiculously easy to just get on and ride.
Only when you start to push silly-hard does the single front disc start to seem inadequate (but the rear drum is sensitive and useful), the forks seem boingingly oversoft, the big 19-inch front wheel and chunky, deep-treaded, period-style Dunlop tyre seem to under-steer and scrabble a little for grip. The rest of the time it’s fine.
The two biggest updates to the Kawasaki W800 are the growth in capacity and switch to fuel injection. The Kawasaki W800’s five-mill overbore takes it up from 676cc to 773cc, and is thrummingly pleasant: brisk enough for this kind of bike and happy to cruise along at 80-90.
Think ‘middling car performance’ but with a bit of extra pep away from the lights and you won’t be far wrong. The Kawasaki W800’s new fuel-injection helps in this and is faultless: crisp, instant throttle response with nary a glitch or hiccup anywhere in its revs. There’s not much point wringing its neck, mind, as things start to tail off and get a bit breathless above 5000rpm or so.
The only other slight criticisms are that, if anything, it’s a little bit TOO civilised: a touch too soft, smooth and quiet. It really is crying out for a set of rortier pipes with which to bounce decibels off some village cottages. Overall, though, the new W800’s performance is not just adequate, it’s amazingly user-friendly both for retro fans and novices alike.
The Kawasaki W800 doesn’t just have the authentic specification, it’s beautifully and classily done, too: the two-tone paint is deep, the chrome good, the alloy finishes beautiful. It’s too early to pronounce on reliability yet, but on the strength of how it’s built and put together the W800 is a pretty classy act.
On face value the new Kawasaki W800, seems pricey compared to the base Triumph Bonneville. But that’s not comparing like with like. In truth, the closest rival to the W800, with its wire wheels, twin dials, two-tone paint, fork gaiters and so on, is the Bonneville T100 which is actually £100 MORE and still not as well specced. On that basis, the Kawasaki W800 is decent value. Triumph should be worried.
The old W650 was generally considered an authentic and classily-detailed ‘reproduction’ thanks to its great-looking engine, alloy-rimmed wire wheels, proper chrome mudguards, retro-style twin dials, kickstart, knee pads etc. But the new Kawasaki W800 takes things up another level. There’s a new, more ‘ribbed’ seat and lower handlebars.
The engine’s cylinders, rear hub/drum and fork sliders are now alloy finished instead of black and there are new, improved mirrors, exhaust heat shields, a different tank badge and more. It all adds up to a gorgeously – yes really – complete and authentic machine which is simply leagues above, say, Triumph’s Bonneville.