Japanese retro with style and character

Kawasaki’s all-new W800 Street and Café deliver bags of character and soul, something regularly missed by Japanese manufacturers. Adam Child travels all the way to Japan to test Kawasaki’s new heritage range, which can trace its routes back to the W1 650 of 1965.

Words: Adam Child photographs: Kawasaki Japan

The burble from the twin exhausts resonates across the stunning Japanese countryside, as the bevel gear driven cam 783cc engine effortlessly propels me along the road.

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To both sides of the road are endless meticulously kept rice fields, and ahead the dramatic, snow-capped mountain region of Kirigamine, which is home to Mount Fuji.

I can feel the heat of the mid-morning sun upon my face. I’m in no hurry. I’m simply taking in the delights of Japan and the Nagaro region and Kawasaki’s all-new W800 is proving to be the perfect combination of style and comfort to explore this stunning, jaw-dropping area of Japan.

However, the discontinued now ‘old’ W800 was in desperate need of an upgrade, and no longer conformed to tighter Euro-4legislation.

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For 2019 Kawasaki have delivered an all-new W800 and there are two variants to choose from, the laid-back Street and the racier Café.

Although both bikes may appear as-like the old model they are entirely new. Thankfully Kawasaki haven’t wandered too far from the path of the successful W800, and older W650.

In a country led by technology where toilet seats are automatically warmed, they haven’t been tempted to chase horsepower, nor overcomplicate a proven recipe. Kawasaki have kept it simple, as a retro bike should be.

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The 783cc hart-plant remains air-cooled and retains the unique bevel gear driven cam engine, which Kawasaki admit was for cosmetic reasons only.

They could have opted for water-cooling and even conventional chain driven cams, which would have resulted in more power, but instead have kept with tradition and air-cooled.

Internally the engine has been upgraded, with new pistons, but essentially, it’s the same, with a quoted 47bhp at 6000rpm which means the new W800 is still A2 compliant.

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The steel double cradle chassis is all new, thicker, to improve stiffness.

The brakes have received a significant upgrade, the rear drum brake has been replaced with a more modern disc item and the front also sees an increase in the single disc diameter, from 300mm to 320mm.

The most significant change to affect the handling is the change in front wheel size.

Read more and view more images in the July 2019 issue of CBG – on sale now!

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