Kawasaki announced a new W800 variant, the third model in the line joining the W800 Cafe and the W800 Street (offered in markets outside the U.S.). We expected a third variant for a while now, as it had shown up in various certification documents, but what’s odd is this W800 model is supposedly the “base” model, with more retro-styling to resemble the original 1966 Kawasaki W1. To be honest, I was kind of hoping for a scrambler variant, and it’s a little curious why the W800 didn’t come out first ahead of the Cafe and Street variants. Product strategy aside, let’s take a look at the new 2020 Kawasaki W800.
Oh dear, it’s kind of like one of those deals where you nag a person to do a thing for years, then they do the thing, and you sort of wished you hadn’t encouraged them. Suggesting someone take accordion lessons. Encouraging your wife to take up the krav maga. We always asked Kawasaki why they weren’t cashing in on the “classic bike” market along with the other OEMs, given that they’ve been selling the W800 in other markets since its 2011 upgrade from W650. But now that the W800 is here I kind of agree with their decision not to import it. The W800 is a perfectly nice retro motorcycle, but it’s retro in a way things like Triumph’s “Classics” and some others aren’t: The Kawasaki feels kind of old instead of just looking that way. [Updated with video.]
Kawasaki has been on a retro kick in recent years, following up on its Z900RS and Z900RS Cafe with its new W800 Cafe and W800 Street at EICMA in November. The company might not be done, as Kawasaki has filed trademark applications in multiple markets for “Meguro.”
Last month, during EICMA, Kawasaki announced a pair of new retro bikes in the W800 Cafe and W800 Street. At the time, Kawasaki Motors Corp. U.S.A. announced the Cafe version would be coming to the States, leaving people to assume the Street version would not be making its way to these shores.
On the heels of the Z900RS and Z900RS Cafe introduced last year comes yet another retro roadster from Kawasaki. The air-cooled 2019 Kawasaki W800 hearkens back to 1966, when Kawasaki introduced the W1. In the U.S., we’ll see the W800 CAFE while other markets will also get the W800 Street sans fairing.
In my role as a moto-journo, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to ride all the latest and greatest motorcycles from around the world. It’s a great gig if you can get it, but there’s one tiny caveat: there are plenty of bikes not sold to us Yanks in the U.S. of A. The manufacturers have a number of reasons why they don’t sell certain bikes here, but the end result is, despite the unique position I’m in to ride a variety of motorcycles, there are still some bikes I long to throw a leg over. All because I live in America.