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Buzzy Betty: 2019 Kawasaki W800 Cafe

John L. Stein rides Kawi’s latest retro motorcycle, the Kawasaki W800 Cafe twin, and gives his impressions.

| January/February 2020

2019-kawasaki-w800-cafe

2019 Kawasaki W800 Cafe

Engine: 773cc air-cooled SOHC parallel twin, 77.0mm x 83.0mm bore and stroke, 8.4:1 compression ratio, 46.4lb/ft torque @ 4,800rpm, 46.2hp @ 6,200rpm
Fueling: Multiport sequential electronic fuel injection
Transmission: 5-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: 12v, electronic ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Dual downtube steel cradle frame w/steel swingarm/57.7in (1,466mm)
Suspension: Telescopic fork front, twin shock absorbers with adjustable preload rear
Brakes: Single 12.6in (320mm) disc front, single 10.6in (270mm) disc rear, ABS
Tires: 100/90 x 18 front, 130/80 x 18in rear
Weight (curb): 489.5lb (222kg)
Seat height: 31.1in (790mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4.0gal (15.1ltr)/42mpg (observed)
Price: $9,799

Although it’s a bit wordy for today’s synthesized Twittersphere and nanosecond attention spans, I still like the old phrase, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Particularly in terms of the current market segment of retro bikes, it is absolutely the case. For proof, consider Kawasaki’s new W800 Cafe twin. Designed to mirror the Kawasaki’s star-crossed W1 and W2 twins of 1965 and later, it attracts both veteran riders who remember the good old days, and new riders with old souls. And it looks the business too, with a low-set Clubman handlebar, bikini fairing, peashooter mufflers and other ’60s and ’70s design cues. However, despite a half century with which to perfect the basic goodness of a parallel-twin, dynamically the W800 Cafe rather falls short — an ironic throwback to the grim realities for British bikes of yore, and why riders gladly left them behind. Grade it a “C” or perhaps, magnanimously, a “B.”



2019-kawasaki-w800-cafe-handlebars

Before we dive into the Abyss of Reason, let’s look at the challenges of rekindling Kawi’s quinquagenarian into new form. For starters, in the mid-1960s the W1 (single carb) and hotter W2 (dual carb) 650cc twins were spinoffs of BSA’s 650cc A10 pushrod twin, which was a formidable enough bike in its day. Kawasaki was on the move at the time, attempting to leap up-market from its origin — like most if not all postwar Japanese bike-makers — as a practical “transportation” company. The 250cc A1 and 350cc A7 two-stroke twins launched around the same time, and with rotary valves and Grand Prix-proven engineering, they were blisteringly fast giant killers — exactly the kind of bikes that could and would smoke (sic) BSAs and Triumphs on the street and track.

IronHorseman
3/15/2020 1:11:07 AM

What a hatchet job! I own a 2019 W800 Street and it's not buzzy at all. Just smooth torque with a bit of throb. My Street W800 surpasses my expectations every time I ride it. The test W800 Cafe must have had a loose engine mount (or a very biased reviewer). At least the review saved me some money. I was going to get a subscription to Motorcycle Classics then read this rediculous review. I miss Peter Egan, retired from Cycle World. He would have loved this bike.


Jim
2/9/2020 11:21:04 AM

Did I miss something here? Did you intentionally ignore the W650 in this article? W1 and W2 are mentioned, although they are not really related to this new bike, but the W650 would seem to be the real predecessor. Why was it ignored?


pumps
1/12/2020 9:43:36 AM

I was looking for a 69 Bonneville to but and then realized I already have a lot to wrench on. So I thought about a new Bonneville but something about it didn't grab me. I didn't lust after it like a beautiful woman. Something about the lines. Lo and behold I became aware of the W650 and searched until I found the one I wanted a 2000 low miles model. It looks great and does everything I want. I might have been interested in the W800 that was the next W but I don't think it ever came to the US. The new W cafe , for me, doesn't quicken my pulse.




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