Kawasaki’s W800 Café was announced a couple of weeks ago, but we just got a look at this new 2019 model at the season’s first International Motorcycle Show in Southern California. If the W800 didn’t make headline news initially, maybe that’s because it packs a feature set that references the past more than the future. Simplicity and style are the name of the game on the W800, coming hot on the heels of the Z900RS Cafe with a café fairing, air-cooled engine, five speeds, spoke wheels, tube tires… You get the idea.

2019 Kawasaki W800 Cafe
The super-clean profile is highlighted by a café-style cowling and an uncluttered engine bay, with large-diameter wheels at both end.Courtesy Kawasaki Motors

The W800 Café is inspired, says Kawi, by the famed W1 of the 1960s, a motorcycle that was the most powerful Japanese motorcycle of its time. Clearly Kawasaki went out of its way to craft an authentic retro bike that pays homage to the past, but despite the air-cooled twin engine, the double cradle frame holding it is all-new, and the suspension components are likewise updated. There’s also an assist and slipper clutch, and an LED headlamp, and somehow that stone-simple (but fuel-injected) motor is even Euro 4 compliant.

But let’s face it, appearances—especially in the retro category—are everything, and kudos to Kawi for bringing smart attention to detail in the design of the W800 Café. The look of that 773cc classically styled vertical twin engine is spot-on, with a bevel-gear-driven cam adorning the cylinder head, its silver cover a nice contrast to the blacked-out engine. The fuel-injection plumbing has also been coolly concealed to make sure the engine bay looks uncluttered.

773cc classic vertical twin engine
The 773cc classic vertical twin engine is blacked out save the bevel-gear-drive cam cover, and the fuel-injection components are tucked away to keep things sanitary.Courtesy Kawasaki Motors

Kawasaki claims the twin-engine configuration (bore and stroke of 77.0mm x 83.0mm) offers a healthy amount of low-mid performance and torque, with a heavy flywheel chosen especially for that strong torque character. The bevel-gear cam drive and SOHC four-valve-per-head configuration is also said to boost power response, and the skinny twin peashooter mufflers were tuned to emphasize the engine note of the vertical twin 360-degree crankshaft configuration, also used in Kawasaki’s original W1.

The throwback theme continues on the classic lines of the two-tone gas tank, with a café-racer-y front cowl at the front end leading the way (though there is a large LED headlamp tucked within). As you’d expect, that means a sporty, forward-leaning riding position thanks to an “M-shaped” clubman-style handlebar. Old-school also applies to the large-diameter fork with rubber gaiters on the tubes, with the clean lines of the front and rear fenders sealing the deal (that rear fender is also easily removable, for simpler customization).

170mm LED lamp
Up front, a sizable cowling holds an equally sizable 170mm LED lamp to light the way.Courtesy Kawasaki Motors

Position lamps in the high-beam chambers make the whole lamp look lighted, retro-style.

The W800 isn’t all-vintage though; modern conveniences include the assist and slipper clutch to give riders a light feel at the lever as well as a back-torque-limiting function to help reduce rear wheel hop during accidental downshifts. In the suspension department, the telescopic 41mm fork gets stiff springs with a highly rigid lower triple clamp, while dual rear shocks serve up adjustable spring preload for a smoother ride. Braking is modern spec too, with a full disc brake setup featuring a 320mm front disc and a 270mm rear complemented by ABS, all working on the 18-inch wheels. Oddly enough, Kawasaki didn’t provide other key specs such as rake and trail, wheelbase or fuel capacity, so we’ll have to wait and see. We also wonder if this is the beginning of a new “W” family, since it’s not a cruiser.

W8 Café
The W8 Café gets an individual speedometer and tachometer with classic display, with a multifunction LCD screen showing an odometer, tripmeter, and clock.Courtesy Kawasaki Motors

And, yes, Kawasaki has released accessories to go along with this new ride, so riders can personalize their W800 Café. Among the option are chrome trim pieces and engine guards, a passenger grab rail, luggage rack, grip heaters, helmet lock, and a reduced reach seat.

The 2019 Kawasaki W800 Café is available in Metallic Magnesium Gray/Galaxy Silver for an MSRP of $9,799.

classically shaped tank sports
A classically shaped tank sports old-school touches like knee pads and a thick stripe with a “W” to pay tribute to the bike that inspired it. Kawasaki calls this color Metallic Magnesium Gray.Courtesy Kawasaki Motors

Tech Spec

Engine: 4-Stroke, air-cooled, 773cc vertical twin; SOHC, 4-valves/cylinder
Bore and Stroke: 77.0 x 83.0 mm
Fueling: Fuel injection with dual 34mm Keihin throttle bodies
Transmission: 5-Speed
Final drive: Chain
Front tire: 110/90-19
Rear tire: 130/80-18
Front suspension: 41mm Hydraulic Telescopic Fork
Rear suspension: Dual Shock with Adjustable PreLoad
Front brake: Single 320mm Disc with 2-Piston Caliper
Rear brake: Single 270mm Disc