Recently, we had the chance to sample the 2016 Kawasaki Z800 ABS at its U.S. introduction in Palm Springs, California. I approached the bike from a unique perspective, as I had already ridden it in Europe, where it was introduced in 2013. I came back impressed with the bike during my short track stint with it, but had no idea how it behaved on the street. I figured I wouldn’t get a chance to find out, as this was one of the many bikes available in other markets that I’d never get to sample on home soil. Luckily for me, I was wrong (a feeling I’m more than used to … sigh). Kawasaki has seen growth in the American market for mid-displacement standards, and figured the time was right to bring the Z800 here. So quick were Team Green to bring the baby Zed to the States, that it didn’t even bother to tweak it for CARB compliance in the Golden State: For $8,400 Kawasaki will give you a brand new 2016 Z800 ABS and a dollar back in change. Unless you live in California, in which case you’re out of luck.
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That said, if you’re looking for a comfortable, mid-displacement naked to take you to work during the week and blast through the canyons on the weekends, the Z800 is worth a look. Unencumbered with much of the techno-wizardry seen on more and more of today’s motorcycles, the only electronic aid the Kawi features is ABS. Otherwise, you control the 806cc Four’s power with your right wrist, and no rider nannies are going to save you if you mess up.
All in all, it’s still as enjoyable a motorcycle as I remember from two years ago. The only issue is the fact that the competitors in the field – namely Suzuki’s GSX-S750, Yamaha’s FZ-09, and Triumph’s Street Triple – have either upped their game, lowered their price, or both. We’re working on getting all of these combatants together to settle the score, but for now check out the video above to hear my first impressions of the 2016 Kawasaki Z800 ABS.