2019 Kawasaki W800 Café First Look

How old school can you go?

2019 Kawasaki W800 CAFE
2019 Kawasaki W800 CaféKawasaki

Following the success of its retro-styled Z900RS, Kawasaki once again pulls on the nostalgic heart strings with the introduction of the 2019 W800 Café.

While the production café racer thing seems a bit played out at this point, we can’t blame Kawasaki for jumping on the bandwagon, especially since it presented an opportunity to resurrect the cult classic air-cooled, parallel-twin engine from the retired W800 (2011–2016). Kawasaki’s W650 (1999–2007) and W800 were homages to the original W1, a mid-’60s Brit bike clone that predated Kawasaki’s golden run of 1970s superbikes like the Z1 and H2. Does that make the W800 Café an homage to an homage?

If it’s all starting to feel a bit meta, here’s the hardware rundown to remind us we’re just talking about a motorcycle here. The 773cc twin-cylinder motor retains its classic 360-degree crank, bevel-drive cam gear, and fuel injection, but gets a proper sportbike-inspired assist and slipper clutch. Nice.

360-degree crank
An air-cooled parallel twin with a 360-degree crank and bevel-drive cam gear. Novel?Kawasaki

The W800 Café also gets a bespoke double cradle frame to go with its café racer looks. Up front, there’s a right-side-up 41mm fork, and in the rear, a retro-looking dual shock setup (adjustable for preload). In the braking department, the Café gets a dual 320mm disc setup in the front and a 270mm rear disc. ABS comes standard, which is a nice touch from Kawasaki. It’d be great to see more suspension adjustability, but given the price point, it’s not a surprise Kawasaki wasn’t able to give us more knobs to fiddle with.

Classic view.Kawasaki

The W800 Café’s looks are completed by front and rear 18-inch spoked wheels, clubman bars, twin dial instrumentation, and an LED headlight ensconced in a period-correct fairing. The seating position will unlikely be very severe, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Kawasaki resurrect the standard W800 for riders looking for a more laid-back retro vibe. Not much stopping them at this point.

The W800 met its end in 2016 due to increasingly stringent emissions regulations, so presumably the new iteration complies with Euro 4 and maybe even Euro 5 regulations, which will become the new standard beginning with new 2020 models.

Peashooter exhausts
Peashooter exhausts and cooling fins always look good.Kawasaki

The W800 Café has an MSRP of $9,799. It’s competitively priced compared to some of the European offerings, but for what’s essentially an updated W800, nearly $10,000 might be a hard pill to swallow. That said, it’s commendable that Kawasaki was able to pass emissions regs with an honest-to-goodness air-cooled, 360-degree parallel twin. There are bikes that tip their caps to nostalgic archetypes and those that doff their caps entirely. As it gets about as old-school as is feasible in 2019, Kawasaki seems to be trusting that consumers will know the difference.