Test Kawaaki W 650
Kawasaki as the keeper of British heritage: the W 650 plays with everything that made the Twins from the island desirable. And to top it off, there is the bevel.
Argue soberly. Do not allow yourself to be dazzled and spend too long on the outside when writing to the W 650.
It is sensational that this retro bike also indulges in British dynamism. An active motorcycle that takes the streets as they come, hums elastically from every bend and doesn’t make big bumps on waves or anywhere else. Yes, and actually this test story is already over now, but it had to be brought forward immediately, with impetuosity, because everyone who has been allowed to drive the W 650 so far sighs so strangely relieved: “Wellcome back, we’ve waited a long time for that. Much too long.”
Triumph Bonneville, BMW R 75 or Yamaha XS 650 – it really was time to revive the tradition of these calm twins. So just medium-weight motorcycles, for which mediocre top performance but decent torque is enough to delight for years. Who give so much that the desire for advancement is nipped in the bud. Because that’s enough. Kawasaki has now razor-sharply recognized that such a concept not only appeals to eternal purists, but also offers itself as a quick alternative to cruisers. Ergo with chrome and accessories could not be stingy. From which a technical whole grew, in which there was just as little space for the water cooler and cast wheels as the central spring strut and the bridge frame. But it does – and this is what distinguishes the W 650 fundamentally from its original style, the Bonneville T 120 – bevel shaft and four-valve cylinder heads. Friends of elaborate, even meaningless mechanics can therefore unabashedly join the target group W..
Nobody needs the bevel shaft. But it glitters so beautifully and hums funny and does no harm and: It is unique today. In addition, the W 650 camshaft drive is neatly designed, easy to dismantle and also to adjust. The crankshaft and the lower angle drive are connected via a spline. The basic adjustment is carried out using extremely thin discs. The vertical shaft is divided and also coupled via a spline, so that the upper angle drive can be easily and completely lifted off. A fine thread each at the top and bottom of the protective tube allow fine adjustment of the hypoid-toothed bevel gears. In case it rattles. Basically, however, the German Kawa technicians swear, this vertical shaft is as maintenance-free as a cardan drive.
The heavy rotor of the alternator and an extra pack of steel on the crankshaft serve as additional flywheels for typical British concentricity, typical British vibrations of the synchronous twin are minimized by a balancer shaft rotating at crankshaft speed. On the two equal pressure carburettors, the searching eye discovers the choke lever (classic) on the left and a throttle valve sensor (modern) on the right. The latter supports the problem-free throttle response in the lower engine speed range because, thanks to the black box, its data lead to an adapted ignition point. On top of that, the latter briefly hikes in the late direction if you accelerate in the first three gears.
How good that all these little helpers work in secret. Like the connecting rods with spray nozzles, from which oil shoots against the bottom of the pistons that are 72 millimeters thick and 83 millimeters whizzing up and down. Thanks to better internal cooling, it should never ring again. But clearly visible, a massive kick starter calls for respect: attention, men’s motorcycle. So that nobody risks their shins, the ignition current breaks down immediately when the crankshaft is turned back.
And that’s why we can start now. Pedal once or twice without fear, and the engine is already running. Briefly pressing the button on the tricky but authentic dashboard achieves the same effect, but in view of this vehicle it only works as an emergency solution. First course. The clutch is as smooth as butter, and the 360-degree twin pushes the load forward at barely more than idle speed. Second, third, fourth gear – shifting made easy, and the fifth is already in town: this 650 runs out of the basement so smoothly and unencumbered by all the pitfalls of throttle response and load changes that it can handle the high gear well under 2000 tours.
What does it mean to tolerate? That usually means that it works somehow. No, this is where the structurally defined working range begins just above 1500 rpm. Something happens, a rubber band pulls gently out of the corners, then more and more energetically. Between 3000 and almost 4500 revolutions there are entertaining and gentle vibrations. Just so that W 650 drivers can also have a say at the English get-togethers. The best connection for the next higher gear is available just below 4000 rpm, but – and this is really astonishing – the long-stroke engine also turns quite lively up to the red area at 7700 rpm.
What would be around 200 things in top gear, and therefore this statement has to be related: In levels four and five the twin has a hard time getting out of the top, in fifth it is even really sluggish on the highway. A full-grown pilot in a thick textile jacket has trouble keeping Tacho 160 behind the high handlebars because the gear ratio was obviously very long again with regard to noise tests. At least it can be said that the W 650 only oscillates very slightly, even at its top speed.
It can wobble a little, it can scratch with its notches in corners or serpentines and rock gently through undulating fast curves. Because it always remains predictable. Thanks to foolproof steering behavior and solid directional stability, it cuts a fine figure even when changing lean angles quickly. And although 215 kilograms are not exactly likely to hit with a full tank, the Kawasaki always looks really agile because of its narrow tires. That in turn brings the brakes into play, and savings have been made: the lonely double-piston caliper at the front struggles really hard, copes with normal touring demands. She can expect little support from behind during sports lessons, because the drum looks primarily good.
The required delay in solo operation is not enough to force the soft, appealing and comfort-oriented fork to block. The struts play well on bad roads, their rebound damping could be a little tighter there for fast driving and the response behavior a bit more sensitive. On the other hand, the upholstery of the well-formed bench is happy to help: Half a day on the W 650 is completely painless. At least for soloists. The bench is a bit short for the pillion rider. The chassis copes quite well with the additional load.
I.In any case, a day with the W 650 goes by eventful. Rarely have so many stories been spread after test drives. Most of them revolve around motorcycling as such. A few about outward appearances. Either way: welcome to the W 650.
Conclusion – Kawasaki W 650
Anyone who has seen Bonneville and Co. in person will be taken by storm by the W 650. But even all those who approach this retro bike from a critical distance quickly admit that it has created an eye-catcher that, thanks to the vertical shaft, arouses interest even from a technical point of view. Kawasaki used mediocre components for the trimmings – and that’s exactly the right thing to do: The chassis is enough for brisk tours, clicks, clacks and knee pads don’t fit here anyway. Playful enjoyment, however, is what the W 650 offers every kilometer in everyday life. There is nothing missing, at most a more effective stopper.
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