Kawasaki W800 Cafe first ride: Bringing the past up to speed in the present

Officially, the Kawasaki W800 is a tribute to the 1966 W1, which was itself a copy of British bikes of the day, but nonetheless strong in its own right.“The 1966 W1 is the motorcycle that has come to represent the ethos of Kawasaki’s quest for speed,” the bikemaker says. “It had the largest displacement and was the most powerful Japanese motorcycle of its time, and it inspired the birth of the legendary machines such as the Z1 and Ninja H2 sportbikes.”So it represents the best of Kawasakis past, present and future, all in one bike. The look is decidedly retro, though, and decidedly cafe, or CAFE as Kawasaki writes the word. If you just saw it at a distance without the front schnozz, you might think it looks like a Triumph Bonneville. It does. The upright parallel twin is air-cooled with the exhaust headers poking out the front before wrapping down and then straight back like the old days, and the fuel injectors mounted on the back side of the engine look exactly like the old Triumph, Norton and BSA twin carburetors.“Creating a beautiful engine was a key concept when designing the air-cooled vertical twin,” said Kawasaki. “The classic-styled engine is lightweight, playful, simple and a joy to behold.”