2020 Kawasaki W800 | First Look Review

2020 Kawasaki W800 in Candy Cardinal Red. Photos courtesy Kawasaki.

When the sharp-looking W800 Cafe was announced for the U.S. market for 2019, reactions were predictably mixed. Yes, the cafe racer look was cool…but there was a vocal chorus of Boomers who yearned for the classic look and feel of Kawasaki’s latest “W” iteration, but could you please lose the drop-down handlebar and give us something with a “sensible” riding position? Perhaps the standard W800 the rest of the world gets?

Someone at Kawasaki must have been listening (even if it was just to sales figures), as for 2020 Team Green has announced the W800 is coming to America, with its bench seat, chrome fenders and — thank goodness! — standard handlebar.

2020 Kawasaki W800 in Candy Cardinal Red. Photos courtesy Kawasaki.

The 773cc air-cooled vertical twin with its distinctive exterior cam shaft-drive is unchanged except for the polished aluminum finish, as opposed to the blacked-out look on the W800 Cafe. Other parts are also less modernized, like the classic large, round turn signals with orange lens covers, silver spoked tube-type wheels (though now a 19-inch up front rather than the Cafe’s 18), aforementioned chrome fenders, chrome tank badging and polished finish on the gaitered fork tubes.

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Other modern conveniences carry over: standard 2-channel ABS, an assist-and-slipper clutch and a bright LED headlight. Notably, the standard W800 gets a centerstand, which was missing on the Cafe.

Best of all, the W800 is priced a bit more competitively than its Cafe sibling, at $9,199. The 2020 Kawasaki W800 comes in Candy Cardinal Red and exact availability is TBD.

2020 Kawasaki W800 in Candy Cardinal Red. Photos courtesy Kawasaki.

22 COMMENTS

  1. It’s nice, but how can it possibly compete with Triumph or for that matter, Royal Enfield? This isn’t a rhetorical question, I’d really like to hear informed opinions about Kawasaki’s marketing.

  2. W.W. makes a valid point, at least in cases where there are Triumph and Enfield dealers. But they are thin on the landscape and often not viewed as first-rate, albeit unfairly in most cases. Kawasaki dealerships are usually bigger and more willing to welcome a trade-in. The W800 has more torque than the Enfield and the cachet of a gear driven valve train (even though it lacks the sixth gear of the Enfield — and Triumph). And while the Triumph T100 and T120 models outperform the W800, those looking for blazing performance are likely going to look at Kaw’s retro 900 models or the other big Kaw four bangers rather than a big parallel twin.

    • I agree, that would be great. I know it’s not considered retro, I would have preferred belt drive rather than chain. Excellent bike though.

  3. I agree with Ironhorseman…WHY the chain drive? Belt is worth the extra $100 added to MSRP, if even that!

    I really want a Triumph Bonneville T120, but the dealer network along with a British history of the bikes being a little troublesome at times, makes me want the Kawasaki. I owned a W650, and drove it/owned it longer than any other bike, as I have purchased 41 bikes in my lifetime.

    The W800 reminds me of the W650 I owned, only a little better bike. They handle much better than you would expect them to, and have a little bit of that British character that makes them very fun to ride. Although I didn’t use the kick starter much on my W650, I DID enjoy using it when I knew I had an audience watching, and I could throw them off as to how old was my bike!

    I don’t think the price is too far off, it appears to be a beautiful bike, wish electronic cruise control would be offered, as I enjoy taking these “purist” bikes out on the open road, click it in top gear and just kick back and enjoy the road for an hour or two.

  4. I had a 1969 TT back in ’71 and loved it. M. Dempsey, chain drive? Absolutely !!!! Retro bike, retro features. With this type of bike for us old geezers, the choices are overpriced English Triumph, inexpensive Royal Enfield made in India a mere shadow of it’s predecessor , Or a Japanese up dated icon. Ill be taking the W800 thank you very much, Kawasaki has been building bikes for a long time.

    • Your right John The Enfield is prone to rust BAD!! The W650 (if you can find one) prices are going through the roof for a nice low mileage one. But you can’t have my W650 or my W800!

  5. Hello everyone, really bugs me when uninformed squids say things like, “Why not buy a real Triumph” They are similar looking but have very different features that make for a very different character and soul; simple air cooling vs water cooling, long stroke engine vs short stroke, 360 degree crank vs 270 degree crank, distinctive bevel driven cams vs chain driven cams. Ya pays ya money and ya takes ya pick, but don’t put them in the same basket.
    After thinking about the features I wanted and comparing the Triumphs, W800s and RE Interceptor, I bought the W800 Street (though I may have bought the Classic if it was offered in Canada at that time). I am absolutely delighted with my choice. It’s a really great bike that ticks all my boxes

  6. Hi,
    I’m 66 and lusted at owning a 69 Triumph Bonneville when I was a kid. I’ve owned about (40) motorcycles in my days and still have (3) and a Scooter in the Garage (2014 Honda CB1100, 2016 KTM Duke 690, 2020 Kawasaki W800 and a 2018 Yamaha xMax). In the past I have owned (2) 2000 Kawasaki W650’s and regretted selling them, that is until I got my new W800. The W800 has a power/torque curve that is so smooth, it is hard to describe. The (5) speed transmission on the bike is perfect for cruising at speeds unto 75 MPH. My modifications have been to ad Kawsak’s Electric Grips and the Chrome over the Rear Fender rack. I so enjoy casual ridding on this bike. If I want to scream through the corners, I jump on my KTM, but just for about every other type of riding, I prefer the W800. If I was limited to only (2) bikes, it would be the W800 and the xMax. My choice of the xMax may surprise some, but it is a excellent scooter, has tons of storage (mine has the optional Trunk installed) and gets 72 MPG at 70 MPH. Back to the point ……… well done Kawasaki!

    • Good read Bob, greetings from Dortmund Germany. I have also had a dozen plus bikes. Last 4 being BMWs. Fairly new R1200R sat in the garage, that’s all it does. I spend on my time on a BMW CX400 scooter (34ps). Screams from the lights and can cruise motorway speed all day, luv the automatic throttle. Thinking of trading in the Beemer for a blue Kawasakis W800, big step. Just fallen out of luv with BMW, and the W800 has caught my eye. “Ride it like you stole it”….Tony 🇬🇧

    • I to have had countless bikes over the years. I own the W650 and the W800 for a reason. They are the closest to the 60’S bikes I always wanted. (had to settle for a Honda CB350 scrambler) Norton, BSA, Triumph they were the true bad boys until the land of the rising Sun truly invaded us. I had several Z1 900 Kawasaki’s back in the day and tons of Harleys, Honda’s Suzuki’s It’s funny when ever I go to a bike cruise in the crowd is always around the W’s I have a 115th Anniversary fat boy that cost double what I paid for the W800 (sorta pisses me off all the money I could have saved) LOL Don’t get me wrong my fat boy is a great bike in it’s self but after riding the W’s in traffic the fat boy seems to be more of a lead sled.

  7. My understanding is the Triumph engineers were trained by building the W650 for Kawasaki prior to the resurrection of Triumph. There were very many similarities between the Kawasaki W650 and the new Triumph Bonneville’s that would seem to indicate the design was carried over when the Triumph started up again. I would take the Kaw any day. In fact., I’ve been drooling over it lately.

  8. Depending on how long you’ve been riding, there are motorcycles that tingle your imagination and there are the ones that bring back the good old memories of what motorcycling was all about the first time you threw a leg over a seat. Although electronic enhancements and sheer power have come a heck of a long way, most riders my age got over “the need for speed” a decade ago and now the value in a motorcycle is how is looks at how it makes you feel as you cruise on down the road. This spring I bought a 2019 Moto Guzzi V7 III just because I always wanted one. What I’ve found out is I can have just as much fun on a 52 horse power bike as my XSR700 with about 72 horse power. The W800 just looks like what my brain says a motorcycle from my youth should look like.

  9. Hi Guys, just a couple of points worth noting.

    1: This bike has nothing to do with ‘Triumph’ either past or present (Thaipoo ) – The W800 is derived from a 1960s BSA (who they ?) 500cc. A7

    2: If you weren’t around in the 60s & 70s then don’t bother….you’ll NEVER really understand !

    cheers Baz
    ( own the Cafe + 2013 Standard – It’s an ‘old geezer’ thing ; – )

  10. LOL, I’ll never understand the mentality of supposed “bike fans” who think the way to endorse one bike is to put other bikes down. The W800 is a great bike; the Enfield INT 650 is also great; I’ve owned both.

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