Pino has two bikes, both of which are parallel-twins. Why parallel twins? I’ll hand over to Pino and let him explain.

What is it about parallel twins that make them in any way appealing? They can shake and rattle, but thankfully they don’t roll! They can sound as if they are about to blow up, and you would hardly say they provide the smoothest of rides – unless you consider that a little (and sometimes a fair bit!) of vibration is a good thing. Some say it is what gives them character and defines a genuine riding experience. Whatever it is, I have 2 parallel twins. They’re both Kawasakis; a Ninja 650R and a W800. But unlike the aforementioned bikes I have described they are quite civilized in comparison.
My journey towards the parallel twin commenced nearly 3 years ago. I was a mature age rider who's first bike went down the road a little way when we didn’t get around the roundabout in the manner intended. As a replacement I bought a Kwaka ER6F; partly on the strength of a review by an "old bloke" (I wonder who that could be? Elwyn) which reflected reviews from various bike mags. As his review had no barrow to push, off I went and test rode one. I liked it, and bought the bike.
However I always felt that it was frowned upon as something of a pretend sportstourer meant for beginners and members of the fairer sex, despite having a fair turn of speed and agility to go with it even with my wife on the back. However she eventually made me aware that she would prefer being on the back of a cruiser and so I acquired another V-twin – and another Kwak; the VN800 Classic. A lovely bike she was too which, with modified pipes, sounded better than many Harleys she was designed to imitate. However on long trips the pipes would get to my wife and for that matter me too, as would the short suspension-travel and lack of real adjustability and so she and I parted company recently.
Not too long after, the ER6F was replaced by a real sportstourer and yet another Kwak – the ZZR600 which I bought from a lady rider – as you do when you are looking for a bike which is replacing a bike which is tarred with the lady-rider brush! Go figure. Until you remember that the ZZR pumps out nearly 100hp and has some serious sportstourer heritage. I rode her to the Moto GP last year and she performed faultlessly. But this year it was time again for another change. I had so many bikes to ride, and being middle-aged definitely not enough time to ride and own them all.
As with all of the bikes I had bought I did my research first. I remembered the ER6F and its upright riding position and relative ease of ride around town. The ZZR is marvelous out on the open road but not so much around town. I read about the Ninja 650R and that the bars were rubber mounted as was the engine and rubber on the pegs in contrast with the ER6F. It is also a little heavier than the ER6F so sits on the road a little better. It is sportier looking and no longer has the buzz in the fairing reported on by Elwyn which turned out to be an endemic problem with the model. It has a better screen and a rear hugger. In short, Kawasaki had made a good thing better.
Mine is the 09 model which does not have ABS which would have come in handy recently after locking up the rear when too much reliance was placed on the back brake.
I took her out recently on a reunion ride with the fellows I rode with to the MotoGP and remembered why I had liked and missed the ER6F. Although the front suspension is non-adjustable the rear is able to be accessed and adjusted easily, in great contrast with the ZZR. It is fuel injected so no cold start problems – again in contrast to the carburetored ZZR. Admittedly the ZZR has better tie-down points but there are a host of racks and other accessories reasonably priced on US web-sites where the 650 is enormously popular. Go figure that; the home of big v-twins and super-sizing and they love a little parallel twin sports tourer from Japan!
Speaking of love, that is how I feel about the W800 which I bought very recently. I previously fell in love, from a distance, with the W650 which had a mixed reception both here and in the US when released but which is now highly sought after and with prices reflecting this. I found one I liked with lots of accessories including Staintune pipes, Corbin single seat and progressive front springs. But disappointingly it just vibrated too much for me to enjoy the bike at anything over 80ks. Maybe it was just me and not being used to that style of bike – coupled with the fact that I was not supposed to be buying another bike – but I was reluctant to buy it.
I became resigned to just salivating over the W650 and to not buying one and contemplating a Bonneville which for me would mean breaking with my brand loyalty to Kawasaki. Then along came the W800. I read and read about her and not an unkind word apart from the pipes being too quiet. Indeed she was said to be more British than the Trumpies I had contemplated. I was not supposed to be looking for a retro bike as I was looking for a cruiser to replace the VN800. But off I went to a dealer and test rode her. Oh dear she seems to vibrate a bit like the W650 I thought as we started off. But it smoothed out quickly once the revs got up and did not vibrate anywhere near as much as I remembered the W650 vibrating.
Once on the open road she pulled like a train – maximum torque at 2500rpm – soaked up the bumps, turned where pointed, wanting to tip in much earlier than I thought she would, and generally provided a very comfortable and enjoyable ride which I did not think possible. The stock suspension is perfectly sorted for me and the rear suspension is meant to be easily adjusted with a screwdriver supplied in the tool kit – according to the owner’s manual but yet to be verified by me – so my wife, who thinks the bike is ultra cool, can get on the back. She is yet to do that but it may obviate the need for a cruiser. How cool is that?! Oh and did I mention she is fuel injected, has lots of metal and chrome instead of plastic, and is drop dead gorgeous.
One of my mates who has a Harley Road King and Norton Commando said that of all the modern retro bikes if he were to consider getting one it would be the W800. High praise indeed methinks. This is a bike I feel will be one I keep for a long time despite my penchant for turning over bikes ….. a definite keeper!

Thanks for the story of your bikes, Pino. Sounds like you’ve got an excellent pair of bikes there! I’ve read some good reports on the W800 too, and as you say, it’s almost more like a Triumph than Triumph! I’d like to get a ride on one when I can.
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