The (Kawasaki) retro bikes. The new classics?


The fascination of the retro style motorcycles started with the Honda GB500 and the Kawasaki Zephyr, both first produced in Japan as 400cc models. These models evoked nostalgia for the looks of the motorcycles from the time when motorcycles looked like… Motorcycles.

Back in time: The Kawasaki W650

Kawasaki wrote: “How far do you have to look back to see
what the future offers? "

Towards the end of the 1990s, Kawasaki designed successors to the Zephyr series based on even older generations of twin-cylinder motorcycles. In 1999 new retro bicycles were released, the V-twin Drifter and the W650 with its standing twin and royal gas-driven camshaft. In contrast to the W-series from the sixties, which was very much like a BSA but was technically considerably better, the W650 of 1999-2007 was a very own 'modern' engine design. But the looks were 100% classic English. The W800 2011-2013 continued with the W-line and was expanded with special models. Models that then had to be replaced by designers had lost a large part of their authenticity. This friendly tribute to the old days stumbled afterwards over the new emission requirements.

Is retro fake?

If you are a fetishist for years: Yes. If you are a motorcyclist who does not want to sit on a modern motorcycle made entirely from plastic, electronics and power, it is not so bad. Retro-bikes and their relative sales successes are in any case proof that marketers sometimes just listen to what the market wants. Kawasaki was early in recognizing that trend. Too early. The Kawasaki Estrella was more than endearing. But too European taste too early and with its 250 cc too 'light'.

The W650 has a pedigree

The W650, which in turn was a descendant of the 650 cc BSA clones that Kawasaki made, was and is a much more mature engine. For a 650 cc machine it is classically slim. And his 48 hp proves to be more than sufficient in reality. The entire sitting position is person-friendly, the ground clearance is sufficient, just like the brakes. And on modern tires he drives just as well as a British twin from the sixties. Think of the use on roads. For the people who go for more customization there are a number of suppliers who supply all the goodies with which such a W650 can be flavored.

The primal father

For the hard core enthusiasts there is always the possibility to score a primal father of this tough endearing twin. The W line from the sixties? that they are, after all, flawless classics! But for such a really classic Kawasaki 650 parallel twin, you now pay a lot more than for its little nephew. You can no longer go to your friendle neighborhood dealer for the parts supply.


Real 'new old stock' is still available at specialists such as And funnily enough, those rescued really old warehouse stocks that come to Lelystad from all over the world are often cheaper than OEM (Original equipment manufacturer) reference parts for globally sought after engines.

But whether you choose The Original or The Tribute, a Kawasaki 650 cc twin is one thing you can have a lot of fun with. And the W800's? That they are just thicker W650s because 'the market' now thinks that 650 cc is really too little. The 650 have two Keihins. The W800's have fuel injection


"And they just looked away from Ducati!"


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