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Retro Kawasaki has genuine pedigree

Published Dec 20, 2012


Kawasaki Motors SA, noting the success of the retro-styled Triumph Bonneville and Speedmaster models in South Africa, has also released one of the few Japanese retro machines with a genuine pedigree - the Kawasaki W800.

And that pedigree is also the story of how Kawasaki got into motorcycles in the first place, because Kawasaki, like Italy's Piaggio, is actually an aircraft company.

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In 1960, Kawasaki bought into a struggling motorcycle company called Meguro, which had a licensing agreement with BSA to produce a clone of its 500cc A7 twin, but didn't have the capital to put it into production. The Kawasaki investment solved that problem and the resulting bike was sold in Japan as the Meguro K.

By 1963 Kawasaki had completely taken over Meguro and was looking at export markets, particularly the United States, where the bike boom of the middle Sixties was just getting started. The Meguro K, however, was a bike of its time (the BSA A7 on which it was based was designed in the middle 1940s) and it needed a radical makeover.

The result was the Kawasaki W1.

It was bored and stroked to 624cc and delivered 37kW at 6500rpm, with sporty styling and decent brakes. It and its successors, the W2 and W3, stayed in production until 1975, outlasting the notorious two-stroke triples that were intended to replace them, until they were overtaken by the Z1 and its four-cylinder progeny.

And, when the retro movement took off about two decades later, Kawasaki came to the party with the updated, unit-construction W650 - which is now the W800, with a 773cc, long-stroke parallel twin and classic Norton-style bevel drive to a single overhead camshaft.

Electronic fuel-injection, digital ignition and four valves per cylinder keep the Pollution Police at bay, and a balance shaft smoothes out the characteristic parallel-twin vibration, while the crankshaft and big ends spin on roller bearings rather than the white metal of the classic Britbikes.

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And of course, there's an electric foot to get you going. Kick-starting is so last century

The styling, however, is pure 1960s, with the engine gleaming in polished aluminium and chrome plating, chromed steel mudguards, 'pea-shooter exhausts and neat spoked wheels with sporty aluminium rims.

The instrumentation is also dead right for the period, if you ignore the little LCD screen in the speedometer face that displays modern info such as trips, time and how far you can still ride before the bike runs out of fuel.

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Retro fans love the look and feel of the 1960s classic twins, without the hassle of constantly fettling a 50-year-old machine, and the W800 is design to appeal to riders who enjoy just such a modern classic, built like an anvil and finished to show standards.

It retails for R109 995 and comes with a two year/unlimited distance warranty.


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Engine:773cc Air-cooled parallel twin.

Bore x stroke:77 x 83mm.

Compression ratio:8.4:1.

Valvegear: SOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.

Power:52kW at 6500rpm.

Torque:60Nm at 2500rpm.

Induction: Electronic fuel-injection with two 34mm throttle bodies.

Ignition: Digital electronic.

Starting: Electric.

Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.

Transmission: Five-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.

Front Suspension:39mm conventional cartridge forks.

Rear suspension: Dual hydraulic shock absorbers adjustable for preload.

Front brake:300mm disc with Tokico dual-piston floating calliper.

Rear brake:160mm single leading-shoe drum.

Front tyre:100/90 - 19 tube type.

Rear tyre:130/80 - 18 tube type.


Seat height:790mm.

Kerb weight:216kg.

Fuel tank:14 litres.

Price: R109 995.

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