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Squint and you'll see one of a couple of things: A Meriden Triumph twin, or Kawasaki's own copy of the Triumph/BSA format from a few decades ago. Well it's back, and Kawasaki is quite happy to admit to the British heritage of the overall layout

As you'd expect the final result is considerably sweeter in a number of areas, if not as highly strung as the last of the legendary Brits.

HISTORY

This is a new on our shores, though the yarn of Kawasaki's own efforts in this area bears telling. The story starts way back in 1961-62 when Kawasaki bought out the Japanese Meguro factory. One of its models was a 500 twin that was a direct rip-off of the BSA/Triumph equivalent. In 1967 Kawasaki released its 650 version of the Meguro which, if you squint, could easily be mistaken for today's bike.

UNDER THE SKIN

The basis of the plot is a 676cc, 360-degree, four-stroke vertical twin that's air-cooled. It runs a five-speed gearbox with multiplate clutch and chain final drive, all wrapped in a double-cradle steel frame is familiar enough.

The four-valve-per-pot head runs a single overhead bevel-driven cam, while there's a clean-burn fresh air injection system for the exhaust side and a balance shaft somewhere in the bottom end. There's a claimed 48-ish horses pushing the 195-kilo dry weight. Add in a 15-litre fuel tank and modest tyre sizes (100/130 widths front/rear) on laced rims and you have the general plot.

Starting: Look Ma, there's electric and a real kickstarter! The bike responds to both instantly, as you'd expect.

Suspension: Quite basic - it runs conventional 39mm forks plus twin shocks with preload adjustment. It works okay, though the rear struggles with a heavy load.

Brakes: Single disc front and drum rear make a nice combo - plenty of feel and sufficient power for the job.

Stability/steering: No complaints. The very wide stock handlebars help to keep the steering light, and the modest performance of the bike isn't enough to tie anything in knots. It's a very easy-going thing that's a joy to punt in the tight stuff and around town.

Cornering clearance: Enough for the job. The footpegs give plenty of warning before anything too substantial scrapes.

Performance: This depends on what you're expecting from this sort of bike. It'll cruise happily at 120-130kmh, and runs out of puff at 160 or so. Acceleration is lively without being arm-stretching.

Rider comfort: So long as you're happy with an upright seating position, you'll be satisfied with this. It's roomy enough for big folk and small enough for more modestly-sized people.

Pillion comfort: Not bad in theory, as the riding position has plenty of legroom. However this is a relatively small bike (so space is at a premium) and it needs a pillion grab rail.

Vibration/harshness: Much better than you might expect from a parallel twin - it gets harsh at the upper end of the rev range, but is good elsewhere.

Finish: Generally good. The chrome and paintwork looks fine, though owners might be tempted to toss the plastic indicators for something with a metal finish.

Looks: Have yet to meet anyone who doesn't like it.

Extras: We were surprised to find a digital clock in the trad-looking instrument set-up. The knee pads are a nice touch, though they're deeply dished and low for long-legged folk.

Value for money: At $10,990, it's priced between a Honda Hornet and Triumph Legend.

SUMMING UP

This is a thoroughly pleasant retro middleweight that is likely to make a number of owners very happy over the long term. Assuming it's reliable, it should be a cinch to maintain and quite cheap to run overall. Well worth a look if the looks and modest performance grab you. (Guy Allen)

SPECS

Model: Kawasaki W650;
Engine: 2-cyl, 2-valve, air-cool, 4-stroke;
Comp: 8.7:1;
Power: 48ps @7000rpm (claim);
Torque: 51.9Nm @5500rpm (claim);
Weight: 195k dry;
Wheelbase: 1450mm;
Front tyre: 110/90-19;
Rear tyre: 130/80-18;
Fuel tank: 15lt;
Top speed: 160kmh;
Price: $10,990.




Published : Thursday, 11 May 2000
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