2019 Kawasaki W800 Cafe Review:
The Right Amount of Retro Flash
Kawasaki’s heritage-inspired range of models adds the W800 Cafe for 2019. The name reflects the spelling of the Ace Cafe in London—no accent on the e in Cafe. The 2019 Kawasaki W800 Cafe oozes retro-cool, but it also has the modern touches of friendly handling and excellent braking. Despite the old-fashioned Ace-style handlebar, it has comfortable ergos. Kawasaki has created a charismatic machine that is as easy to ride as it is easy on the eyes.
- The motor is no slouch. The long-stroke 773cc, SOHC, four-valve parallel-twin redlines at 7000 rpm and, although the peak torque claim of 46 ft/lbs seems modest, the real-world power is more than adequate. The motor has a relatively heavy flywheel, so it is smooth with excellent low-down power. However, it also revs willingly to the redline, happily producing power all the way. A modern sportbike, it is not; but if you have twisties and an open road, riding the W800 rapidly is easy and doesn’t over-stress any part of this machine. The ride is enormous fun.
- The air-cooled motor is smooth without losing its period authenticity. The balanced 360-degree firing order produces some low-frequency vibration; however, those vibes never reach the handlebars or footpegs, so they are friendly and unobtrusive.
- Trickery with the fueling, clutch, and gearbox, improve usability immensely. Oh, how the machines of yesteryear could have used these! The dual butterfly EFI allows super-smooth throttle response, even in the lower gears. Coming out of slow corners in first or second gear is a delight; there is no hesitation, hiccups, or jerky response. The assist-and-slip clutch has a locking function on acceleration that allows for fewer springs, so the lever is very light to operate with no slippage. The slipper function ensures that if you drop down too many gears when aggressively slowing, the rear wheel won’t lock. Lastly, the smooth, positive operating, five-speed gearbox has a neutral-finder function; when stopped in first gear, lift the shift lever, and it will only go into neutral. All of these features are a boon to the novice and appreciated by the veteran.
- The looks of the 2019 Kawasaki W800 Cafe motor are dramatic. From its blacked-out bevel-gear cover to its shiny air-cooling fins and well hidden, uncluttered fuel injection parts, the clean-looking engine of the W800 is drop-dead gorgeous. Not only is it a looker, but the engine also sounds cool, too. The traditional pea-shooter exhaust mufflers produce a neat rasp that gets the blood racing. A deft visual touch is the prominent OHC bevel-gear cover that helps with the period look, bringing to mind the look of 1960s Ducati singles. The 1965 Kawasaki W1 that inspires the 2019 Kawasaki W800 Cafe was powered by a BSA-licensed 624cc pushrod twin.
- The chassis handling is exemplary. A double-cradle, round-tube chassis with a hidden 50mm square-section backbone, helps the classic look, and Kawasaki’s tube thickness analysis ensures the frame is as rigid as necessary. The 41mm fork and twin shocks are non-adjustable except for rear spring-preload; fortunately, the damping is quite good. Although the suspension is soft enough to soak up urban bumps and make for a comfortable ride, it is also stiff enough to ensure neutral handling and zero wallow in the corners. The W800 Cafe flicks into corners with ease, and the bike feels light and unintimidating. I stiffened the preload to the maximum to carry a passenger, and we had an absolute blast—the Cafe’s handling remained excellent when two-up, justifying its name.
- The retro-style, sweep-hand instruments are clear and easy to read, though they lack a couple of useful functions. The two old-school round clocks work well and are in keeping with the rest of the machine. There is no gear position indicator, which is somewhat understandable. Harder to figure out is the lack of a fuel gauge for the four-gallon tank; there’s only a fuel light that illuminates when you’re low on petrol.
- The 2019 Kawasaki W800 Cafe is all about looks, so while you might expect it to be uncomfortable, it’s quite the opposite. The stretch over the short fuel tank puts the grips within easy reach, and they’re not that low-set either. Even two-up, the riding position is very comfortable. The seat height feels low, so flat-footing at a stop is easy. The footpegs themselves are well-placed, although they do touch down a little early during spirited riding. Such is the confidence this great-handling bike encourages, if you’re an aggressive rider, you will likely want to remove the long peg-feelers. That’s a compliment to the handling rather than a criticism of the footpeg placement. The two-tone seat is firm and nicely padded; it is very comfortable over distance. Overall, the Cafe’s looks do not compromise its comfort one iota.
- The 18-inch wheels look the part and help the handling. The slightly larger wheels over the 17-inch modern norm reduce tire choice when it’s time to install new rubber, and the wire-spoked wheels mean that tubes must be used. On the upside, the larger wheels and Dunlop K300 GP tires help to give the Cafe its sure-footed handling. The wheels certainly look the part; happily, the aluminum rims and spokes are coated to resist dirt and make quick-wipe cleaning possible.
- Disc brakes offer plenty of stopping power, and just the right amount of feel. The initial bite of the two-piston Tokico caliper on the large 320mm front rotor is soft and linear. Braking always feels good, even if you have to grab a panicked handful in an emergency. ABS is standard.
- A white silk scarf is not included. The 2019 Kawasaki W800 Cafe is a brilliant urban poseur with just the right amount of retro-flash to encourage multiple thumbs-up from other road users. Yet, it has the chops to make it a highly viable sporting ride that will bring a yard-wide grin to your face. Let the good times roll!
Photography by Don Williams
2019 Kawasaki W800 Cafe Specs
Type: Vertical twin
Bore x stroke: 77 x 83mm
Maximum torque: 46 ft/lbs @ 4800 rpm
Compression ratio: 8.4:1
Fueling: EFI w/ dual Keihin 34mm throttle bodies
Transmission: 5-speed w/ Positive Neutral Finder
Final drive: Chain
Frame: Double cradle w/ 50mm square-section backbone
Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 41mm fork; 5.1 inches
Rear suspension; travel: Spring-preload adjustable shocks; 4.2 inches
Tires: Dunlop K300 GP
Front tire: 100/90 x 19
Rear tire: 130/80 x 18
Front brake: 320mm disc w/ 2-piston Tokico caliper
Rear brake: 270mm disc
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
Wheelbase: 57.7 inches
Rake: 26 degrees
Trail: 3.7 inches
Seat height: 31.1 inches
Fuel capacity: 4 gallons
Curb weight: 490 pounds
Color: Metallic Magnesium Gray/Galaxy Silver
2019 Kawasaki W800 Cafe Price: $9799 MSRP