Kawasaki’s retro W800 is set to return for 2019, with a more-or-less all-new bike that the company says should appeal to younger riders.
Originally launched as the W650 in 1999 as a fairly accurate reinterpretation of the 1960s Kawasaki W1 (which itself was a BSA A7 built under licence), the previous generation W800 went off sale last year, when the new Euro4 emissions regulations kicked in.
Despite the hiatus, Kawasaki used last week’s EICMA show in Milan to reveal not one, but two, new W800s – a traditional ‘Street’ version and the ‘Café’ which is, unsurprisingly, a café racer inspired variant.
Part of the W650 and W800’s charm has been the fact that they have always remained true to the original BSA designs, while other traditional retros – like the Moto Guzzi V7 and Triumph Bonneville – have evolved their designs.
So it’s no surprise that, to look at, the 2019 W800s are virtually identical to the versions that have gone before, although Kawasaki is eager to point out that the latest incarnation of the parallel twin is ‘90% new’.
The chassis is new, lighter and stiffer than before, as are the brakes, which now feature new fangled anti-lock systems and a rear disc for the first time. There are modern LED lights and the 773cc parallel twin engine has been seriously overhauled to get it through those pesky emissions laws. It’s still air-cooled though, and still has those neat (but fake) pushrod tubes on the side of the engine. As with its predecessor, the W800 has an overhead cam engine, but the attention to detail in making the modern bike look just like a 1950s BSA is staggering (and one of the reasons that the Kawasaki has gained such a strong cult following). Power is 47bhp, a slight drop from the earlier version, making it A2 licence compliant. There is also a new slipper clutch which should make the bike easier to ride.
As you would expect, the Café version features a café racer style nose fairing and seat unit, as well as different colour options. Despite the old world looks, Kawasaki says that it expects the W800s to appeal to a younger audience and we can certainly see them being in big demand from hipsters and custom builders.
Further details of the bikes, including price and availability dates, are expected to be announced in early 2019. Before then, you’ll be able to see them in the metal at this month’s Motorcycle Live show at the Birmingham NEC.