Fifty years ago, in 1966, Kawasaki introduced the W1, a touring bike powered by a 650cc parallel-twin that represented the Japanese interpretation of the most celebrated and classic British motorcycle engine. It was a good start in the world of upper-class bikes because the Kawasaki W1 quickly gained a positive reputation in terms of reliability, and also gained popularity because it represented good value for the money. It was soon overshadowed by its rocket-fast two-stroke triple relatives, but it soldiered on in dignity.
Kawasaki loved that parallel-twin design, and in 1998 developed a modern classic, the W650: again an air-cooled parallel-twin, but featuring crankcases with a much more modern design, and a touch of “Ducatism” in the choice of a bevel-gear shaft to drive the single-overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder. The mix between a classic design and state-of-the-art technology paid a big dividend because the W650 became an instant success, at least in Europe (in the US it was never a big seller).
Contrary to the tradition of hot Kawasaki performers, the W650 was a smooth, gentle, civilized bike that became the commuter of choice for city slickers. Its long-stroke engine (72mm bore x 83mm stroke) delivered good, easy torque, and was ideal for fending off the aggressions of urban traffic. When Kawasaki realized that its appeal was declining, it bored it out to 77mm (stroke was unchanged) for 773ccs of displacement in the 2011 W800.
At this time, the engine received extensive attention in the induction department, with the carburetors being replaced by digital-fuel injection, which enhanced the manners of the engine and produced 48 hp at 6,500 rpm, and 44.25 pound-feet of peak torque at a low 2,500 rpm. The W800 was offered in various special editions, the 2015 Black Edition being among the most graphically attractive. It was also offered in a sleek cafè racer edition, featuring a classic looking top fairing. In its iridescent orange coloring it looked a lot like the BMW R90S of yore. But that was part of the retro game the bike always played, after all. And now, the Kawasaki W800 goes down Sunset Boulevard in a Final Edition featuring an exclusive Candy Brown and Candy Sunset Orange paint scheme. Three cheers to yet another old friend, forced to leave the scene by the tightening emission rules.