Purists may differ but, given that there is no longer a three-quarter racing class, there's no reason (other than tradition) why a 750 has to be a 750.
Thus Kawasaki - which has a tradition of muscular engines in edgy street chassis - has opened up the cylinders of its Z750 streetfighter from 68.4mm to 71mm, with plated bores rather than steel liners, giving the new Z800 an actual capacity of 806cc, and a quoted output of 83kW at 10 200rpm and 83Nm at 8000.
The new slipper pistons, however, have 7mm shorter skirts and are actually slightly lighter than the smaller ones they replace. Intake and exhaust ports have been reshaped to move the torque peak lower down the rev range and throttle body diameter is up from 32mm to 34mm, fed by longer, wider intake ducts - with the air intakes for cylinders one and four shorter than those for two and three to optimise airflow.
The gearbox, clutch, crankshaft, sump, camchain and intake valve-seat material have also all been revised for improved durability, and the engine breathes out through longer, curved headers with balance pipes (for yet more mid-range grunt) with a new short silencer poking out from inside the standard belly pan for that street-wise look.
MORE RIGIDITY IS NEVER A BAD THING
The Z800 frame is based on the 750's, tweaked and braced for extra rigidity; a new, cast-aluminium sub-frame moves the front engine mounts behind the cylinders (and closer to the centre of gravity), reducing vibration and making the steel mainframe both slimmer and more rigid.
The swing-arm is 12mm longer to prevent unexpected wheelies induced by the beefed-up low-down power and shorter gearing, and the aluminium KYB rear shock (adjustable for rebound damping and preload) with its piggyback reservoir has been moved to the left of the centreline to allow more room for the chunky silencer on the right.
Larger diameter (310mm vs 300mm) petal discs clamped by four-piston Nissin callipers and sintered pads take care of the stopping.
The 17-litre fuel tank and the nose of the new seat are both narrower than before, making it easier for the rider to grip the machine with his knees, as well as reach the ground with his feet when the bike's standing still.
The styling is even edgier than before, with the headlight/instrument pod pushed way down the forks, while the instrument cluster now includes a remaining-fuel gauge and an economical riding indicator (unlikely to see much use on a bike this aggressive, we think).
Flatter handlebars on slightly taller riders put the rider into an elbows-out, no-nonsense riding stance, while new rear-view mirrors give him a good look at the face of the loser.
A rear hugger keeps the monoshock and underseat area clean and tidy, and luggage hooks built into the rear footrest hangers and mudguard make for easy loading when you pack for the next rally.
The new Z800 is available now at your local Kawasaki dealer for R115 995, which includes a two-year unlimited distance warranty.
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Engine: 806cc liquid-cooled four-stroke transverse four.
Bore x stroke: 71.0 x 50.9mm.
Compression ratio: 11.9:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 83kW at 10 200rpm.
Torque: 83Nm at 8000.
Induction: Electronic fuel-injection with four 34mm Mikuni dual-butterfly throttle bodies.
Ignition: Digital electronic.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by belt.
Front Suspension: 41mm KYB inverted cartridge forks adjustable for preload and rebound damping.
Rear suspension: Bottom-link Uni-Trak linkage with gas-charged KYB piggyback monoshock adjustable for preload and rebound damping.
Front brakes: Dual semi-floating 310mm petal discs with four-pot Nissin opposed-piston callipers.
Rear brake: 250mm petal disc with single-piston Nissin floating calliper.
Front tyre: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 180/55 - 17 tubeless.
Seat height: 834mm.
Kerb weight: 229kg.
Fuel tank: 17 litres.
Price: R115 995.
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