The toys are back in town

2013-03-04 09:17

It seems Wheels24 is right on the money again. I suggested that bikemakers – certainly from the East - have lost direction by not knowing what type of motorcycle to produce next.

That particular article showcased Honda’s new CB1100, a retro machine with a hell of a lot going for it. Imagine my surprise a few days ago to received a media release from Kawasaki about its latest bike - also a retro jobbie!

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According to Kawasaki SA there’s a growing demand for brand-new retro bikes styled on machines of the ’60s and ’70s and they have just imported a few dozen machines of this type codenamed W800, an instantly recognisable descendant of the W1.

Confused? So was I so I checked back and found that the Kawasaki W1 was a licensed copy of the famous BSA A7, a 500cc machine that saw sterling service right around the globe from 1946 through to the late ’60s. Naturally enough, Kawasaki improved on just about everything , especially oil leaks. They got the bike to stop as well; fitting it with a set of decent electrics and an electric start - all things that the Beezer management should have improved on in its 26-year A7 production run.

Taking a closer look at the motor in the W800 it’s easy to see it’s a real good-looker, tucked away beneath an exquisitely finished fuel tank. The 773cc vertical twin incorporates a practical bevel gear drive from the crank to the overhead camshaft in the cylinder heads, each of which house four valves, and uses a balance shaft to iron out the notorious parallel-twin vibes. As with the earlier Kawasaki version, the crankshaft spins in roller bearings rather than the white-metal bearings that gave BSA owners so many headaches back then.

The air-cooled long-stroke engine uses fuel injection instead of carbs and there is, quite naturally, a state-of-the-art electronic ignition system to light the fire as soon as the electric starter button has been depressed.


The designers back in Japan took great pains to make the engine a thing of beauty, and finished it in lustrous silver – either clear-coated polished aluminium – or chrome plating. Again, the mudguards and side covers are made from steel as they were in the BSA A7/A10 models and classic, lightweight spoked wheels (with alloy rims) are dead right for the period.

There’s also traditionally styled instrumentation that includes an LCD screen to inform the rider what's going on in the engine room and pea-shooter exhausts to keep the noise levels down while unleashing enough of the pleasant burble emitted by a big parallel twin engine to keep riders and other road users happy.   

The Kawasaki W800 should appeal to more mature local riders who would enjoy an affordable, well-built modern classic that's built like an anvil, imbued with soul and is as reliable as any high-quality modern motorcycle is expected to be.

It retails for R109 995 and comes with a two-year unlimited distance warranty.