2020 Kawasaki W800 First Ride Review:
Progressive International Motorcycle Show Special
Ah, Fall in California. It’s a wonderful time of year where we’re able to still hit the roads on our motorcycles and casually gloat about it on the internet. Even better, it marks the kick-off of the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows’ eight-stop tour around the United States. There, members of the motorcycle media and enthusiasts get to check out next year’s tasty offerings, such as the 2020 Kawasaki W800, which we first saw just a month ago.
Between all the handshaking, smiles, mobile phone camera flashes, and ogling of motorcycles, I took a quick spin on the definitively retro Kawasaki W800. It was a short jaunt on the W800, but enough to get a taste of what Kawasaki is offering with its new standard machine, which accompanies the racier W800 Cafe in the lineup.
Styled after the legendary 1965 Kawasaki W1, the 2020 Kawasaki W800 offers an authentic retro experience, with none of the carburetor-induced troubles that come in tow. It is quite the head-turner in a stunning Cardinal Candy Red. Accentuated by a classic ‘W’ tank badge and glistening chrome, it can be seen from the International Space Station. There isn’t a sour angle on the W800, so if you’re vying for compliments at the pump or coffee shop, this motorcycle will do the trick.
The chromed-out air-cooled 773cc parallel-twin puts down a respectable 46 ft/lbs of torque at 4800 rpm. That’s just the sort of grunt a happy little standard needs, revving up in a dignified and smile-inducing manner. There are no ride modes—just like the good ol’ days—and with great fueling, you won’t second guess it. Thanks to the use of counterbalancers, the motor gives you a hint of old-school vibes through the chassis, leaving all the filling-rattling p-twin characteristics in the past. A slick five-speed transmission with a modern assist-and-slip clutch is part of the package, too.
When it comes to the shiny suspenders, Kawasaki employs a traditional 41mm fork and period-correct dual shocks. Featuring spring-preload adjustment for the shocks only, they’re certainly price-point oriented pieces of hardware. Cruising about city streets is a breeze as the suspension soaks up all the rough stuff – with help from the cushy bench seat.
The W800 went for the gold, striving for an authentic look and feel, utilizing 19-inch and 18-inch spoke-wire wheels in combination with old-school Dunlop K300 GP tires. Handling is composed and downright genial, gently tipping into side streets without a care. One aspect that most certainly should have been left in the past is the bias-ply tires, which tend to begin wandering on rain grooves or other rutted asphalt surfaces.
Braking components are modest—a single 320mm disc with a dual-piston caliper in the front, plus a 270mm disc in the rear. The non-adjustable front lever has a stiffer feel and, overall, there isn’t too much translated to the rider. While there is more than enough power for its scope of work, the setup leaves some room for improvement. ABS is standard.
Ergonomics are quite comfortable, punctuated by the stellar bench seat that sits at 31.1 inches. That seat height number shouldn’t frighten riders with shorter inseams, as the narrow chassis and compliant suspension will help you get your boots on the ground. A casual, bolt-upright-riding position and slightly narrower handlebars give you total command of the 2020 Kawasaki W800, without any aches or pains from excessive knee-bend.
From the dual clocks, affable p-twin, and brilliant fit and finish, the 2020 Kawasaki W800 is undoubtedly a bit of a charmer. We can’t wait to see how it does in a full test or comparison with the Moto Guzzi V7 III or the Triumph Bonneville T100. So, until next time!
2020 Kawasaki W800 Specs
- Type: Vertical twin
- Displacement: 773cc
- 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
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 57.7 inches
- Rake: 27 degrees
- Trail: 4.3 inches
- Seat height: 31.1 inches
- Fuel capacity: 4 gallons
- Curb weight: 496 pounds
- Color: Candy Cardinal Red
2020 Kawasaki W800 Price: $9199 MSRP