March 17, 2018

Riding Naked – 2016 Kawasaki Z800

2016 Kawasaki Z800 review – Photos and story by Jay Newman

Well, this is a great start to the 2016 road season. I got acquainted with Kawasaki earlier this year and we started working together with this first bike, the Z800.

The Kawasaki Z800, looks like a beast ready to pounce on pavement prey. At first glance, I felt as if the bike had been to the gym and in great shape ready for the coming season. The tank has a very distinct shape that seems to lead all the lines in the design.
The seat is a bit angled forward and slightly gives the feel of a current sport bike. The bars are riser bars and make for a super comfy feel, even for a tall guy like me.

I originally laid eyes on the bike at the Toronto motorcycle show, and thought it was an engaging design. I have been drifting a bit from the conventional dress of the sport bike and leaning more toward the naked look. The Z800 looked like it was built for me. In my mind, I feel that a 600 in the R series of sport bikes is a decent power plant but I don’t want to always be wound out in the power band riding around town.

So I was thinking that something between 600cc and 1000cc would be a great fit and out pops this Z800. I know it has been around for a couple years already, in North America, But I hadn’t gotten to that place yet to “see” it.

With the nakedness, Kawasaki did dress it up a bit with sweet looking headers that curve their way down and join into a large pipe, just under the bike. This exhaust set up is a very visible feature that drew my eye the first time I saw it. I love the flow of the lines.
The tank is an interesting design as well. It’s very curved, everywhere. Seeming asymmetrical when looking from the side, but definitely symmetrical when seated in the cock pit. It feels like your legs are cupped by the tank. I couldn’t find any details on it but I think they are “wing” things, mounted to the tank housing the GPS and satellite data services and a compact cloaking device, so you’re completely plugged in, with James Bond features, while riding… JUST KIDDING!!!  I’m sure they are filled with helium to reduce the over all

One of my first thoughts was wondering about tank bags and if there would be one to fit the uneven surface. I’m sure there is, I didn’t bother to look tho.

This is one good looking machine. In fact… While I was zipping around the streets, it felt like I got a few more looks from random drivers than on previous bikes. Maybe they were just looking at my super cool ARAI helmet.

So… First impressions… Great looks. Comfy cockpit. The seat has an embossed Z as the pattern all over it. Tres cool fer sure.

The bike has riser bars to help with the relaxed, comfy fit. So it’s like getting two bikes in one, a sport bike with loads of power and a comfortable “cruiser” with loads of power that corners great.

The wheel base looks a bit short with this styling at a first glance, but there is nothing that feels short about the bike. I’m 6’1″ with long legs and felt very comfy in the cockpit. I don’t mind being a bit upright riding around at city speeds, but I did feel the fight on the freeway. Taking a whole lot wind in the chest for a long period of time wasn’t great, but was manageable. There isn’t a wind shield to tuck behind, which wouldn’t match the look of the machine, and shouldn’t be an issue for anyone.


Features for discussion

The seat.… Ok, I have heard that I’m not the only one that felt this way about the seat as one other rider also thought it might be a bit on the hard side.

After spending a week with the bike, getting to know it and feel it, this seat, for me, was uncomfortable. I spent 2 separate days on long rides. The first one was a good 5 hours in the saddle and 6.5 hours on the ride total. There were a couple stops. One for breakfast and another for a snack break and rest.
I felt a bit sore when we finished the first day but I initially thought that I was just out of saddle shape. It was in the overnight that it really kicked in. I had numb bum extraordinaire. It actually didn’t go away for the rest of the time I had the bike. So when the second long ride came about, I started sore. By the time it ended, I was done like an over cooked piece of meat. I felt bruised to the bone.

I went over it in my mind, how and why I got so sore. I didn’t feel cramped in the cockpit. The riding position is comfy. I think, for me, being a taller rider, that the angle of the seat and the hardness of it, and my long legs made my sitting angle to be slightly weird. However, it was the first ride of the season, and I can’t really complain to the masses. This has just never been like this with any other bike I’ve ever ridden. I don’t think this is a major issue with the bike for 99.9% of the riders out there. I just have to document the process of my ride and the feel the bike lays out for me. I think maybe i just have to get in the saddle more often. (So I answer myself with a resounding… Yes please!)

Gear read-out:
There isn’t any visible read out on the instrument panel for what gear you’re in. This feature isn’t super important, but it would be handy to know. It does show you when you shift into neutral.

The power plant is good on this bike. At any speed or any position in any gear, you can grab as much as you need to get the current job done, whatever it is. There is plenty whenever you need it, so why is it a complaint for me? Well, after a few days I got used to it very quickly and I started thinking that maybe a 800 isn’t enough. My idea to have a power plant between 600 and 1000 was a great thought which turned into a solid reality, but… I could see having a 1000 in this bike. (So, it’s really not a complaint)

Mirrors… these things seem to get me on every bike I ride. I use mirrors a lot and find that these ones left me wanting to see more. Maybe its my size but I found it was tough to see past my arms at the perfect angle to see that spot one car length back, in either lane. I always shoulder check as well, and after a quick glance in the mirrors and a quick shoulder check to be sure, there was a car in the blind spot. It wasn’t a risky situation but I like to be able to see my surroundings in the mirrors before I do the extra shoulder check. I do prefer mirrors mounted more forward like on a fairing of the sport bike style. They seem to give more distance from the rider to have a better angle to see those items just behind you one or two car lengths back before turning your head for a visual.

Also, when I was on the freeway, trying to get out of the wind hitting me in the chest, I would get down on the tank. In this position it is impossible to use the mirrors at all. In fact this is the one time that i thought the bike was too compressed. If I had a tank bag to lean on, it “might” be different, but my head would still be right on top of the instrument panel, and I tried to see the mirrors while in that position… not possible.

I did a stretch of freeway for 30 minutes, and decided to find fun side roads for the trip back. That of course paid dividends in many areas.

Lastly, the location of the exhaust: Not a serious item.

When my foot is on the foot peg, my heel was sitting on the exhaust. It wasn’t hindering anything I needed to do, but was noticeable. It was kinda like a heel rest, but over time it would get scuffed and scratched. I have not encountered this yet with many other bikes. So it’s not a big deal.

One last thing… I may not be the only that feels this way but, I am disappointed with color options for this bike for Canada. After seeing whats on the web, I personally like more color in the styling of my bike. Maybe it’s just that this is Canada and with our population, we can’t get groovy in the available options because of our small-ish population.


Throttle response. It’s tight. Smooth. Gentle at low speeds. very easy to roll on power lightly. Some throttles are a bit edgy, making the roll on at low speeds difficult., which leaves you bucking thru a corner off a stop light/sign. The rest of the throttle felt perfect too. The spring rate was easy on hands and, being this is the first of the season on a bike, I didn’t get sore or achy hands. Where as on other bikes I’ve ridden with lots of seat time, I did get hand pump after a short time in the saddle.

Tire sizing feels great. Getting into and out of corners was very smooth. I have found that a few bikes I’ve ridden, have had a big back tire and a very thin front, and it feels awkward entering a corner. This Z800 was nothing like that. I would use the word, “plush”. Complete confidence is all I felt in and out of corners. The bike comes with very good tires, so good in fact, that  didn’t bother to write down what they were. Now, I don’t drag my knee in ANY corner, but if I was capable of doing so, I’d be slicing my corners with complete confidence.

Power… Lots of power. Very smooth delivery. Just like I thought an 800 would be. Lots of low rpm grunt. Zero issues with that side. If you put on your favorite flavor of silencer I’m sure you’ll get even out of this bike.

Final thoughts in a nut shell:

I am stoked on this bike. How’s that?

An extended thank you to Arai for keeping my lack luster melon protected but looking especially sharp!.


If you are looking for technical specs you can download the spec sheet from Kawaski BY CLICKING HERE

About Jay Newman 9 Articles
Jay Newman is an accomplished international model, actor and photographer. Jay brings two decades of experience from both sides of the camera. Jay has traveled and lived in many parts of the world and currently calls Ontario, Canada home. He is an extreme sports enthusiast, an active kite-boarder and has been a passionate motorcyclist since his early years. Jay enjoys street bikes but won't pass up a day in the dirt either. You can contact Jay at