One of the things that all adventure riders (and bikers in general) love doing is “farkling” their bike (i.e. adding bits and pieces) to make it both more functional and their own. I am no exception. So one of the first things I did was head to Sudbury to the mecca of farkling, the Adventure Bike Shop. Definitely the premier destination in the UK for all things adventure motorcycle. Cliff and Jenny, the owners of the place, are both super friendly and extremely knowledgeable about adventure motorcycling having ridden half way around the world themselves. They carry everything you could possibly need if you are going on big adventure trip on a motorcycle: luggage systems, protection for the bike, clothing, helmets, boots, camping gear etc… What makes them unique, outside the fantastic service they offer, is that they only carry stuff that they truly believe (and know) will be up to the job of what is quite a demanding form of travel. They’re stalwarts of the adventure rider community in Great Britain and for anyone living in this country or just riding through, the Adventure Bike Shop is an absolute must to visit. Add to this that it’s located in the beautiful Suffolk countryside and there is really no excuse not to go. I will detail what I bought in the next posts.
I suspected the W800’s days were numbered as it was not going to meet the new Euro IV emissions regulations coming into force in 2017. Now Kawasaki UK has officially confirmed it by presenting this W800 Final Edition version. It looks good and it’s the last chance for anyone wanting to get a new W800.
This is the promo video that Kawasaki released back in 2011 when the W800 was announced. I don’t love it as it’s pretty cheesy but you do get to see the W800 in action.
Kawasaki makes a different livery for the W800 every year. They do a standard version with chrome exhausts and polished engine cases and then they do a Special Edition (SE) version which is slightly more expensive and has everything blacked out and a specific paint job on the tank. I really admired the 2013 SE with it’s red and black tank so set my sight on one of those. As luck would I have it, I found an advert for this particular model from an official Kawasaki dealer in the Midlands who had a near mint example (1580 miles on the clock). What swung it for me though were a set of choice accessories that the previous owner put on the bike and suit what I have in mind for it perfectly. The accessories are Daytona heated grips (heated grips are for me a must on any bike), a Givi screen and luggage rack (both great for touring), a mighty powerfully upgraded horn (would have never thought of this but it’s actually genius) and the full official aftermarket exhaust (sold by Kawasaki but built by Remus). This last item is a pricey extra but really gives the W800 a lot more character as the stock pea shooters make the bike sound like a sewing machine. The price was right and it’s now been two weeks that I’m the proud and happy owner of this lovely steed. I have already taken it for a 120 mile ballad through the English countryside and it’s perfect. Let the adventures begin 🙂
If you asked a 5 year old to draw a motorcycle, it would look like a W800.
It’s a simple 800cc twin cylinder air-cooled machine made entirely of metal. It’s not very powerful (48 Bhp) and it’s not the latest technology. In fact it’s positively retro in both design and outlook but it is built to modern standards and reliable (fuel injection, no oil leaks, bullet proof engine). It’s a descendant of the 1965 Kawasaki W1 that was inspired by the BSA A7 of the 1950s. I think it’s absolutely beautiful. For a good review of the bike read this great piece by Kevin ash.
I chose it because it kind of embodies the essence of motorcycling for me. It also doesn’t have any kind of image baggage that say a Harley (rebel/bad boy), a BMW GS (astronaut), or sports bike (Power Ranger) might have. Most people don’t really know what it is. It has very little Kawasaki branding and people generally respond to it as just being a nice motorcycle. It also rides in a way that invites one to enjoy the environment. It has enough power to enjoy the ride but not so much that riding becomes the sole focus. It’s also not intimidating in any way and it can pretty much go anywhere. The perfect bike to go exploring on. Ted Simon went round the world from 1973 until 1977 on a Triumph Tiger 100 (very much like the W800) and wrote the definitive RTW classic Jupiter’s Travels upon his return. I’m hoping the W800 will be the bike on which i do the same.
To begin this story.
To begin this story and why this blog exists, I have to say a little bit about me (and it will be a little as this is after all the Internet).
I live in London. I am in my late forties and have a high pressure job which takes me all over the world. Very few weeks go by without me taking a plane to somewhere. It’s a constant in and out of many of the world’s cities without ever truly seeing anything. London has bad traffic and about seven years ago I started riding motorcycles to beat the traffic and avoid the jam packed public transport. Riding has become a true passion of mine.
I like all bikes. Sports bikes, adventures bikes, cruisers, nakeds, dirt bikes, you name it, I like them all. They have different personalities and are a bit like different mistresses for different occasions. A perk of having a good albeit demanding job is that I have been able to afford to sample all of the above and own quite a few bikes (and the stable is ever changing, bikes are easy to buy and easy to sell here).
I like bikers. My experience over the past seven years riding is that you constantly meet nice, varied, passionate people who all share a common love of motorcycles. It’s a true community of like-minded souls who are out and about enjoying the real world in a visceral way. It’s very un-digital. Braving the elements, out in the sun, the wind, the rain, through cities and countryside and just experiencing life mile by mile. They know the journey is the reward (in life as on a motorcycle).
I like travel. Experiencing new places, new people, new landscapes, new cultures has always been a passion of mine. I have found that the simplicity of travel by motorcycle is for me the best way to get to do this. You can’t carry much on a bike and you’re very exposed to everything : people, places, climate. You have to stop often and you have to engage with your environment. To quote Robert Persig’s fantastic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance “you’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming”.
That’s enough about me for the purpose of this blog. Next post will explain why the Kawasaki W800.