Out with the old. In with the older

Kawasaki W800

Similar ingredients to the F700GS, just cooked differently…

When most people replace a motorbike with a new one, they replace it with something better. Maybe something faster, something newer, something prettier. After much deliberation, hours searching online for bikes and reading reviews I’ve bought a bike with lots of the latter, and none of the former.

When I knew I’d be seeing the GS off, I was online straight away to try and find what would be replacing the highly capable, but slightly dull BMW. The issue I have with just about all things automotive is that I like a bit of everything. I understand the appeal of adventure bikes, but I love modern classics; I like naked bikes, but I love the look of 1970’s choppers. This meant my searches spanned everything from Ducati Scramblers to home cooked Harleys with sissy bars that doubled as a clothes lines.

In the end I struck what I’d call a middle ground. Fuel injection, two cylinders, heaps of chrome and a laid-back attitude. I bought a Triumph Bonneville Kawasaki W800. Some people mock the W800, calling it a fake triumph, and to a certain extent I suppose it is. However, calling something a fake generally suggests it’s not as good as the ‘real thing’, and in the case of the W800, it’s every bit as good as the Hinkley Triumph – if not better.

Kawasaki W800

With a less bulbous tank and a far prettier engine, the W800 leaves the ‘modern classic’ Hinkley Triumphs behind, pretty much everywhere.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. It’s a looker and the jewel in the crown is that 773cc parallel twin (obviously ‘W773’ didn’t have much of a ring to it). The right hand side of the motor is dominated by the beautiful bevel-driven, single overhead cam drive. The bevel drive not only looks great, but gives off a nice whir that gets louder with revs to let you know it’s there. It’s lucky the right hand side of the motor is pretty, because the left hand side is the epitome of bland.

The fact that I’ve made it this far in and not spoken of the W800’s performance is a sign that it’s, well, unremarkable. That oil painting of an engine makes a phenomenally un-troubled 35kW at 6500rpm, but relying on this power figure would be doing this engine a disservice because it’s all about the torque. The long stroke parallel twin makes 60Nm at just 2500rpm, meaning there’s no real point troubling the right hand side of the stunning tachometer, as the fun’s over at around 4000rpm.

There is another issue with that motor – it’s quiet. The lovely twin chrome pea-shooter mufflers do a little bit too much muffling, making the engine sound like a sewing machine. Not ideal. Unfortunately it’s not a simple case of swapping the stock mufflers out for a more free-flowing pair, as they’re joined to the headers. W800 specific exhausts are not what you’d call cheap, but luckily the only difference between the exhaust on the older W650 and W800 is the bung for the fuel injection’s oxygen sensor and W650 exhausts are, let’s just say cheaper.

W800 Kawasaki

Just like the good ol’ days. Everything here is metal. Side covers, fuel tank and guards. All metal.

Everything about the W800 is classy, understated and beautifully finished. The analogue dash features one of the most interesting type faces used on a motorcycle. The side covers, sprayed in glossy metallic paint, the front and rear guards, with deep flawless chrome finish are all made from weighty metal. This adds to the bike’s feeling of solidity and also its fairly substantial weight (217kg). This weight does have a few down-sides though. It over powers the measly front brake and ties the front and rear suspension in knots when the going gets…going.

So do I regret replacing the F700GS with a W800? Yes and no. I miss the solid, un-burstable and hugely capable feeling of the BMW, but the W800 trades all that in for some character and a lot of charm. I do have some plans for the W’ but in the meantime I’m enjoying getting to know the bike in stock form. It’s giving me time to make a shopping list.

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