Story: Spannerman; Pic: Lou Martin
Kawasaki’s W650 missed out by a whisker from being included in the Learner Approved Motorcycle scheme. It’s a shame because in some ways, with its torquey long-stroke engine, it’s better for learners than the 400 version.
By changing the crankshaft and conrods, Kawasaki converted the 650’s 72 x 83mm bore and stroke to an engine with the same bore but a stroke of just 49mm. Torque dropped from a respectable 57.2Nm (42.2ft-lb) at 5600rpm to a still healthy but lower 29Nm (21.4ft-lb) at 6000rpm.
Surprisingly, you can’t feel much loss of a change in performance when you ride the smaller-engined bike. This is largely because the gearbox ratios have also been changed to lower the gearing overall. The 400 will stay with the 650 up to the legal speed limit but will run out of legs earlier.
The W400, though, isn’t about performance. Kawasaki started making vertical twins in 1967 (earlier, if you include the Meguro versions which Kawasaki acquired). Think about this: Kawasaki has been making vertical twins for longer than Ducati has been making V-twins. The company has a proud heritage and this is reflected in the styling of the W400. Yes, it resembles the look of earlier British vertical twins, but it’s very much its own bike.
With near-identical chassis specifications to the 650 (the seat height on the 400 is slightly lower), the 400 shares the 650s attributes of small dimensions and nimble handling. The upright riding position makes it easy to ride around town and it would be fine for shorter-distance touring. Fuel consumption will range between 20 and 24km/l depending on your throttle use. A tank capacity of 14 litres gives it a range of around 280km.
While production of the W650 started in 1999, the W400 wasn’t introduced in Japan until 2006. The W400s now available in Australia are grey imports – second-hand from Japan but generally with very low kilometres. Our oriental brothers love modifying ‘classic’ bikes and you’ll have a variety of styles from which to select.
Our W400 testbike came from Sumoto in North Melbourne (Vic) and prices there range from $9000 – $10,000. There’s a lot of competition in this bracket from LAMS bikes which are both new and faster, but nothing else available - other than perhaps the Enfield Bullet - has the classic style and class of the W400. Ride with pride. n
Type: Air-cooled, four-stroke, vertical twin
Bore x stroke: 72mm x 49mm
Compression ratio: 8.5:1
Fuel system: Keihin CVK30 carburettors
Type: Five-speed, constant-mesh
Final Drive: Chain
Frame type: Welded steel, double-cradle
Front suspension: Telescopic fork
Rear suspension: Twin shock
Front brake: Single disc with two-piston caliper
Rear brake: 130mm drum
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Dry weight: 193kg
Seat height: 765mm
Fuel capacity: 14 litres
Max power: 21.6kW (29hp) at 7500rpm
Max torque: 29Nm (21ft-lb) at 6000rpm
Price: From $9000
Testbike supplied by: Sumoto (03) 9329 6066