Suitable Part­ners

Kawasaki V800 Café Ural Sa­hara

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Test Jim Scaysbrook Pho­tos Sue Scaysbrook

Hap­pily, re­ports of the W800’s death were pre­ma­ture. When Kawasaki cir­cu­lated in­for­ma­tion that pro­duc­tion would cease in 2017, the rum­ble from around the world con­vinced them to per­form the nec­es­sary up­dates to en­sure the con­tin­ued ex­is­tence of a hugely pop­u­lar and prac­ti­cal mo­tor­cy­cle that be­gan life as the W650 20 years ago.

Apart from the ca­pac­ity in­crease in 2011, not a lot has changed, un­til now. The very lat­est model, the 2019 W800 Café, sports an en­tirely new frame as a cure for the twitch­i­ness of the ear­lier ver­sion, which af­ter all, was only re­ally ev­i­dent when it was be­ing ex­er­cised very briskly. The new frame is more heav­ily braced around the swing­ing arm pivot area, and di­men­sion­ally dif­fer­ent else­where. I couldn’t fault it. Whereas the ear­lier W800 came shod with Dun­lop K81 tyres with a 19 inch front, the Café has 18 inch both ends with Dun­lop K300 GP tyres. This pat­tern it­self is 40 years old but the

more rounded pro­file and modern rub­ber mix work in per­fect har­mony. Flick­ing the W800 about in cor­ners is easy and pre­dictable, but you’ll still scrape the footrests (or at least, the warn­ing knobs) fairly eas­ily. When we tested the then-new W800 in 2011, it came with a drum rear brake, but to­day’s com­pli­ance rules dic­tate ABS all-round so there’s now a disc at both ends. De­spite their min­i­mal ap­pear­ance, the brakes work in to­tal symmetry with the rest of the bike; no more than you need, and no less. The front fork and rear end have both had an in­crease in travel and are firmer. The big­gest change, ob­vi­ously, is the styling. The café cul­ture is hot right now and the W800 makes an ideal plat­form, how­ever, the mods are ac­tu­ally quite min­i­mal. Up front is the bikini cowl­ing which looks the part but ac­tu­ally does very lit­tle in terms of rider com­fort, with the air stream over the top aimed di­rectly at chest level. But that’s re­ally only an is­sue at high speeds, so not very of­ten. Com­pared to the old dual seat, the Café’s perch is nar­row and firm. Han­dle­bars? I haven’t seen a pair like this since the days of Bryl­creem and side­burns. And hair for that mat­ter. Ace Bars we used to call them (prob­a­bly orig­i­nat­ing from the Ace Café cul­ture), and they were on ev­ery big road burner as well as quite a few mid­dlers and tid­dlers. The set on the W800 is wide and quite com­fort­able, match­ing the seat­ing po­si­tion very well, how­ever I found the tank knee rub­bers were too far back to ac­tu­ally con­tact my knees. Maybe they’re just for ef­fect…

Oth­er­wise, the pack­age that made the orig­i­nal W800 is still there, and still a treat to ride. Just the ex­haust note is enough to trans­port you back to the days of the Pon­derosa Café at Car­ing­bah (or its equiv­a­lent in any town or city), for this is still a 360 de­gree crank, fir­ing the way the old Bri­tish twins al­ways did, whereas vir­tu­ally ev­ery other twin on the road to­day uses a 270 de­gree lay­out. Thanks to the in­built bal­ance shaft, the ride is vir­tu­ally tin­gle-free ex­cept at high revs, but there’s am­ple power where it’s needed, es­pe­cially around town, and power de­liv­ery is silky smooth and lin­ear thanks to the EFI. In­stru­men­ta­tion ap­pears not to have changed much, and com­pared to other 2019 mod­els, is a wel­come ex­er­cise in sim­plic­ity; no en­gine maps or modes, no switch set­tings, no fuel gauge, just an LED odome­ter/trip me­ter/clock, a pair of eas­ily read di­als, and a few lit­tle lights. I like that. Nat­u­rally there is a range of gen­uine ac­ces­sories avail­able, in­clud­ing heated grips.

The over­all fin­ish of the W800 Café is very im­pres­sive, the metal­lic bronze paint deep and lus­trous. Far from dis­ap­pear­ing, the W800 is back with a bang, and Kawasaki Aus­tralia say they are con­fi­dent the Café model will be joined in 2020 by the stan­dard trim Street model which is cur­rently ex­clu­sive to North Amer­ica. That sim­ply means a dual seat, higher bars, and no cowl­ing. Watch this space.

Cap­puc­cino, here I come.

ABOVE Smooth, torquey en­gine. LEFT Rear disc with ABS re­places the old drum. TOP RIGHT Ace Bars, no less. RIGHT Seat is nar­row and firm.

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