by Brian Robinson
Over the years Kawasaki has provided a lot of interesting rides. But, few are more notable than the Z1, which in the 70’s was the most powerful Japanese 4-cylinder bike yet. Well, hoping to capitalize on that heritage, Kawasaki gave us the Z1000 in 2010, and is now following up with the Z800. Yes, it’s smaller, but, as our two-wheelin’ guru Brian Robinson observes, it might be the right size for an even bigger impact.
BRIAN ROBINSON: “In the highly segmented motorcycle world these days we got cruisers, adventure bikes, sport bikes, touring bikes, even sport touring bikes. Well, it’s good to know there are still some bikes that don’t need a label, they’re just plain fun.”
While many people ride for many different reasons; let’s face it, we all got into it because it was just plain fun; and maybe because it offered a kind of freedom that was hard to find anywhere else.
Throw a leg over this 2016 Kawasaki Z800, and it’s hard not to flash back to when you first starting riding. Before you needed tour packs, heated seats, a radio, 10-lbs. of chrome, or neon lights on your bike.
It may be hard to describe the overall design theme of this Baby-Z, with its mishmash of surfaces, colors, and lines; there’s even a mix of dull and sparkly blacks, as well as plenty of Z references. But really, simplicity says it all, in a good way. There is no windscreen so you’re fully in the elements.
There’s a lot going on with the gauges and they can be hard to read at times, just keep an eye on the rapidly escalating numbers in the upper right.
The seat doesn’t appear designed for long distance comfort or any comfort at all really, but it surprises you with just enough coziness for a couple of hours’ worth of twisties.
Putting the fun in this fun machine, is an 806cc water-cooled inline-4. It has more than enough performance for potentially running afoul with Johnny Law, but not so much that you’d be nervous about letting your cruiser-riding brother-in-law take it out for a spin. In other words, just about perfect.
Low RPM lugging through traffic will result in some vibrations coming through the seat, but open it up and things smooth out nicely. Clutch is very light, and the transmission finds the next gear as soon as you start putting pressure on the shifter.
Weight is a touch over 500-lbs., due to the steel frame; so it doesn’t necessarily feel like a lightweight. Still, it’s plenty nimble; and the 41mm inverted fork along with the Uni-Trak rear shock are adjustable for rebound.
If there’s anything that needs addressing, it’s the brakes. They get the job done, but the fronts feel a little wooden, and you really have to squeeze the lever.
But, for the best news of all, the Z800 keeps the fun well in the 4-figures, starting at just $8,399; and that’s with standard ABS.
So if you’re in the market for a bike that doesn’t necessarily do it all, but puts the priority on keeping it simple fun, then the 2016 Kawasaki Z800 may be the bike you’ve been waiting for.