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Kawasaki's W800 retro bike is here in time for Christmas.
In the beginning there were just motorcycles - oily, smoky, unreliable machines that captured the imagination of adventurous types because of the sense of freedom they offered while shaking their riders' fillings out. Those slowly evolved into sophisticated superbikes, adventure bikes, cruisers, scooters and streetfighters that all fill their allocated niches perfectly. There's a growing demand, though, for brand new retro bikes styled on the machines of the '60s and '70s, and KMSA has begun importing one of the very best of its type, alongside the very popular Moto Guzzi V7 and Triumph Bonneville offerings. The Kawasaki W800 is recognisably a descendent of the Kawasaki W1 of 1967 that was in turn a licensed copy of the famous 500cc BSA A7 that dated back to 1946. The modern bikes are completely different to the older BSAs and Kawasaki copies in every aspect except styling.
Firstly, the engine. The W800 has an absolute gem of a power plant tucked away beneath its exquisitely-finished fuel tank. The 773 cc vertical twin incorporates a beautiful-looking bevel gear drive from the crank to the overhead camshaft in the cylinder heads, each of which houses four valves, and uses a balance shaft to iron out the notorious parallel-twin vibes. As with the earlier Kawasaki version, the crankshaft spins in roller bearings rather than the white-metal bearings that gave old BSA owners so many headaches. The air-cooled long-stroke engine uses fuel injection instead of carburettors and there is, of course, a state-of-the-art electronic ignition system to light the fire as soon as the electric starter button has been depressed. The designers took great pains to make the engine a thing of beauty, and finished it in lustrous silver - either clear-coated polished aluminium, or chrome plating. The mudguards and side covers are made from steel as they were in the '50s and '60s, and handsome lightweight spoked wheels with aluminium rims are dead right for the period.
Traditionally styled instrumentation include an LCD screen to keep the rider informed as to what's going on in the engine room, and pea-shooter exhausts keep the noise levels down while unleashing enough of the pleasant burble emitted by a big parallel twin engine to keep riders and other road users happy.
Kawasaki has put a lot of effort in investing the W 800 with a very high quality look and feel. The paintwork is superb and the chrome and aluminium components are all very highly polished. There have been no short cuts taken and the use of steel and aluminium rather than plastic pays off in a really solid, built-to-last feel.
The Kawasaki W800 will appeal to riders who enjoy an affordable, well-built modern classic that's built like an anvil, imbued with soul and is at least as reliable as any other high-quality modern machine is expected to be. It retails for R109 995 inclusive of VAT and comes with a two year / unlimited distance warranty.