It’s Plain And Simple Retro-Styling In A No-Nonsense Package

Kawasaki draws on its very own historical roots for the newest addition to its “W” range with the reintroduced-for-2020 W800. This authentically retro ride doles out a healthy dollop of nostalgia for the 40-plus crowd, but beneath the classic veneer beats the heart of a thoroughly modern machine. An air-cooled twin delivers the goods with over 40 pounds o’ grunt and many of the ride-quality electronic features riders have come to expect to round out the package.

  • 2020 Kawasaki W800
  • Year:
    2020
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Parallel Twin
  • Displacement:
    773 cc
  • Top Speed:
    110 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    9199
  • Price:

2020 Kawasaki W800 Design

2020 Kawasaki W800
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2020 Kawasaki W800
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The W800 has much the same design as the mid-'60s W1 for an undeniable connection to the past.

To get your head wrapped around the new W800, you need to understand some history. The original W1 rolled in 1965 (’66 in the States) after Kawasaki Aircraft acquired the Meguro motorcycle manufacturing plant. You see, Meguro had the plans and license to produce the BSA A7, and so Kawasaki used that machine as the basis of the W1, hence the very British panache it presents to the world.

Fast forward to 2020 and here we have much the same design yet again for an undeniable connection to the past. It’s a standard/UJM delivering a “vintage” riding posture that allows for an upright torso and naturally-placed hands. Mid-mount controls place your heels low and close to your center-of-gravity where they do the most good. I mean, this thing absolutely screams 1960’s England with its strutted chrome front fender and laced wheel between bellows-gaiter fork boots.

A single round cyclops headlight makes another classic connection, but this time around the factory had the benefit of LED technology to make the light split the night like never before with standoff-style bullet turn signals to finish the forward lighting. Dual round housings bundle all of the instrumentation in a tidy, classic package, but it’s the 4-gallon fuel tank that really drives the point home with its chrome badges, retro striping, and proper kneepads to protect the paint from your britches.

A one-piece, tuck-and-roll bench seat does its bit to channel the sixties with just the slightest hint of a shoulder to segregate pilot from pillion. The fold-up passenger footpegs are frame-mounted for comfort with a chrome rear fender to wrap up the fling control out back. Here we find a design discrepancy with the turn signals mounted back near the taillight — the original had the back blinkers mounted on the rear fender strut – but that doesn’t really hurt the overall classic look.

2020 Kawasaki W800 Chassis

2020 Kawasaki W800
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2020 Kawasaki W800
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2020 Kawasaki W800
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You can count on a certain eagerness in the corners, but a bit tender in a crosswind.

A double-downtube/double-cradle frame on the W800 sets the stage and completely supports the powerplant with a 50 mm, square cross-section backbone as the main source of strength and rigidity. The factory took steps to limit the gussets and braces to keep weight down, and it kept the visible welds to a minimum, as well, to give the bones a sleek finish.

Nothing ruins a classic look like inverted forks, and to that end, Kawi chucked on a set of standard stems that are plain vanilla as far as adjustability goes. Out back, a pair of coil-over shocks support the rear end and tame the swingarm with the old-school, collar-style preload adjusters as the only ride-quality tweak. Yeah, it’s pretty plain in this respect, but entirely in keeping with the original equipment.

Rake and trail measure at 26-degrees and 3.7-inches long, so you can count on a certain eagerness in the corners though the 57.7-inch wheelbase makes it a bit tender in a crosswind and when negotiating the pressure waves created by the surrounding cagers and trucks on the interstate.

The factory left the drum brakes in the history books where they belong and run with all around hydraulic discs with a 320 mm rotor up front opposite a 270 mm disc. Twin-piston calipers at both ends take care of business with ABS protection as the first layer of the electronic wizardry and a level of safety the builders of the originals could only dream of. Wire wheels round out the rolling chassis and mount a 100/90-19 and 130/80-18 on the front and rear, respectively.

Frame: Double-cradle high tensile steel
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 41 mm Telescopic fork/5.1 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Twin shocks with spring preload adjustability/4.2 in
Rake/Trail: 26.0°/3.7 in
Front Tire: 100/90-19
Rear Tire: 130/80-18
Front Brakes: Single 320 mm petal-style disc with 2-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 270 mm petal-style disc with 2-piston caliper, ABS

2020 Kawasaki W800 Drivetrain

2020 Kawasaki W800
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2020 Kawasaki W800
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2020 Kawasaki W800
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Light weight and ample torque, it isn't a performance machine, but it's not meant to be.

Visually, the parallel-twin engine on the W800 is a bit of a mixed bag. The overall look is very British, and the bevel-gear cam drive on the right side is certainly old school, but the right-side case is rather generic and modern compared to the peanut case on the original. Oh well, you can only take the design so far, I suppose. One thing I’m happy to see is that it’s air-cooled, because let’s face it, a radiator would completely ruin the classic façade and there ain’t no two ways about it.

Hidden beneath the rocker-box covers are a quartet of poppets per jug with a single over-head cam to actuate them in a bid to maximize flow through the combustion chamber and keep the top-end relatively uncomplicated. In an unusual step, the factory opted for an undersquare layout with a 77 mm bore and 83 mm stroke that gives the mill a 773 cc total displacement with an uncommonly mild 8.4-to-1 compression ratio that should tolerate even the cheap gas with no preignition/detonation/dieseling.

As a bonus, such a low compression ratio gives the bottom end a break, and that should help contribute to a long service life. That long-stroke arrangement makes it a rather grunty mill with 46.3 pound-feet of torque on tap that maxes out at 4,800 rpm, so at 496.1 pounds soaking wet, the W800 will definitely get out of its own way.

Dual, 34 mm Keihin throttle bodies manage the induction, and the factory took steps to engineer a particular exhaust note with pea-shooter pipes that fit well with the classic style. Power flows through a slipper clutch for another layer of safety net that prevents excessive backtorque from breaking the rear wheel loose on hard downshifts and compression-brake actions. A five-speed transmission and O-ring chain makes the connection to the rear wheel to put the power to the pavement and top speed is estimated by the factory at 110 mph.

Engine: 4-stroke, vertical twin, SOHC, 8 valves, air-cooled
Displacement: 773 cc
Bore x Stroke: 77.0 x 83.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 8.4:1
Maximum Torque: 46.4 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Fuel System: DFI® with 34 mm throttle bodies (2)
Ignition: TCBI w/digital advance
Transmission: 5-speed, return shift
Final Drive: Sealed chain

2020 Kawasaki W800 Pricing

2020 Kawasaki W800
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2020 Kawasaki W800
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2020 Kawasaki W800
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MSRP is $9.2k for 2020 in a fetching Candy Cardinal Red.

The all-new 2020 W800 rolls for a starting MSRP of $9,199. Candy Cardinal Red is the color of choice for its inaugural release, and it sports a broad stripe coupled with a pinstripe to finish off the classic look.

Special Features: Sound Tuning
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months)
Color: Candy Cardinal Red
Price: $9,199

2020 Kawasaki W800 Competitors

2016 - 2020 Triumph Bonneville T100 - T100 Black
- image 765136
2020 Kawasaki W800
- image 868712
Both bikes have an old-school look, but the W800 it's a pretty nice bike for under $10k.

The classic British looks and old-school format of the W800 left me with little choice but to grab a bona fide Brit, so straight to Triumph I went for its timeless Bonneville T100. Side-by-side it’s impossible to not see the similarities that start in the wire wheels and bellow-gaitered front forks with a strut-style front fender to finish out the front end. Like a brother from another mother, the “Bonnie” sports a two-tone paint scheme over its fuel tank that comes with the classic kneepads and chrome badges to complete the classic look.

The T100 has a bench-style seat with a smooth cover that just doesn’t look as cool as the tuck-and-roll Kawi brings to the table but does leave room for you to shift your weight some along the longitudinal axis. Blackout treatment on the fenders and engine steer the Bonneville toward custom territory in another departure from the W800. Vanilla front forks and preload-adjustable rear shocks break even with Kawi’s suspension, and the brakes boast ABS protection to break even yet again.

As to the engine, we see a little separation as the Bonneville engine is actually liquid cooled (boo!) complete with the radiator on the downtubes. Trumpet enjoys a displacement advantage with 900 cc tucked away in its parallel-twin mill, and that comes with a concurrent increase in power with 59 pound-feet of torque against the W800’s 46.3 pounds o’ grunt. Naturally this affects the sticker, and so the Bonneville T100 starts out at $10,450 MSRP to leave a price gap of over 10-percent, and that’ll make a difference to buyers looking for a classic remake on a budget.

He Said

“Man, I’m telling you, I love the looks of the W800, and I imagine it will appeal to a range of folks including those with no idea as to the historical significance of the original model it’s designed around. To be fair, this model saw light-of-day elsewhere in the world before now and isn’t necessarily new-new, but it’s new to us on our side of the pond, and I expect it to perform well in the U.S. market. Time will tell.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I wondered if and when they would bring the W800 to our market. Sure the W800 Café is cute and fun, but it’s more than some folks are looking for and that café vibe isn’t for everyone. The W800 is essentially a W650 with a few more cubes. The W650 didn’t last long in the American market, 2000 and 2001, because the release put it up against a newly updated Bonneville and it just couldn’t compete. Will this go-round be different? I think so. The bike has an old-school look, and while the fit-and-finish isn’t spectacular, it’s a pretty nice bike for under $10k. Younger buyers are going for the retro look and are more price-conscious than their olders. The W800 isn’t a performance machine; it’s a steady-Eddie and that’s what some folks are looking for.”

2020 Kawasaki W800 Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 4-stroke, vertical twin, SOHC, 8 valves, air-cooled
Displacement: 773 cc
Bore x Stroke: 77.0 x 83.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 8.4:1
Maximum Torque: 46.4 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Fuel System: DFI® with 34 mm throttle bodies (2)
Ignition: TCBI w/digital advance
Transmission: 5-speed, return shift
Final Drive: Sealed chain
Chassis:
Frame: Double-cradle high tensile steel
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 41 mm Telescopic fork/5.1 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Twin shocks with spring preload adjustability/4.2 in
Rake/Trail: 26.0°/3.7 in
Front Tire: 100/90-19
Rear Tire: 130/80-18
Front Brakes: Single 320 mm petal-style disc with 2-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 270 mm petal-style disc with 2-piston caliper, ABS
Dimensions & Capacities:
Overall Length: 86.2 in
Overall Width: 31.1 in
Overall Height: 42.3 in
Ground Clearance: 4.9 in
Seat Height: 31.1 in
Curb Weight: 496.1 lb
Fuel Capacity: 4.0 gal
Wheelbase: 57.7 in
Top Speed: 110 mph (est)
Details:
Special Features: Sound Tuning
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months)
Color: Candy Cardinal Red
Price: $9,199

Further Reading

Triumph Bonneville T100 / T100 Black

2016 - 2020 Triumph Bonneville T100 - T100 Black
- image 765150

See our review of the Triumph Bonneville T100 / T100 Black.

Kawasaki W800 Café

2019 - 2020 Kawasaki W800 Café
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See our review of the Kawasaki W800 Café.

Kawasaki

ALLYN IMAGES: DO NOT DELETE
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Read more Kawasaki news.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: kawasaki.com, triumphmotorcycles.com

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