Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned...
I bought a Kawasaki W650 the other day at an auto auction, of all places! The auction number was S2 (S for Silver and 2 for Gemini II), so I knew it was going to be mine.
My astrological sign is Gemini, the twins, so I seem to duplicate myself rather often. I had a twin to this bike, when I lived in Hawaii back in 2007, which was the only example of that model in the state. I studied up on the specs and modifications to make them “run better” and instituted them all, at the time. It was a blue/silver model, just like this one, too. Kawasaki only sold a couple thousand of these machines in the US from 2000 to 2001, although they were sold before and after in many other countries. Despite already being in production, the 2000 models had some “issues” surrounding cracked rear fenders, a somewhat unstable feeling at high speeds and complaints about the comfort level of the seat, all of which were addressed in the 2001 editions.
This current acquisition showed up on a Craigslist search page, when I was looking for a new car to replace my stick-shift Dakota and Civic Wagon rides. I wound up with a PT Cruiser, which is a silver twin to the car I had, also in Hawaii. It seems I am stuck in a time warp…
This new bike has minimal modifications done to it, in the form of a “tombstone” tail light and smaller turn signals. It is a California model with the god-awful carbon canister system strapped to the front of the frame downtube, along with the pulse-air system for emissions controls. The last tags on the license plate are from 2009, so I wasn’t expecting it to even run, but they did get it fired up at the auto auction, but it was spitting and sputtering, probably due to clogged idle jets.
I picked up a new battery from the local Honda shop, which was just a couple of miles from the auction site and put it in late in the evening. The engine fired up instantly and ran well with the choke pulled out. As soon as the choke was pushed back in, then the misfiring started up again. I had to fill the tires up with air, as they were both down around 5psi, making it difficult to even push the bike up the driveway.
For a quick history of the model, you can go to: http://kawasakiw650.co.uk/5.html as the bike’s heritage goes back into the 1950s, as a Japanese copy of the BSA A7 twin. While the original bikes made due with a pushrod engine design, the new editions sported a bevel-drive OHC motor with 4 valves per cylinder and a counter-balancer to help quell the engine vibrations caused by two pistons moving up and down together.
An entertaining comparison with the “retro” Triumph Bonneville and the W650 is here: http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/roadtests/retro_bike_comparison/ both bikes came to market about the same time and were the subject of inevitable comparisons. The bikes were discontinued in 2008, but Kawasaki retooled parts of the machine and has reintroduced it as a new W800 in the UK and Australia!
The bikes are now 12-13 years old and parts in the US are scarce, now. You can find the odd junkyard bike or send to Europe or Japan for bits, but they are not inexpensive or easy to locate, anymore. Fortunately, this bike hasn’t hit the pavement on anything but its tires, so no need for much, so far. Once the carbs are sorted, the bike should be fine for the future. Here’s what I found when I removed the carburetors.
The ROACH MOTEL
I have NEVER found anything inside of a carburetor float bowl that was a former life-form before. After the chore of dragging the carb rack out of the bike’s innards and placing them in a large pan to catch fuel and any loose parts that might try to escape, I removed the float bowls, one at a time. Imagine my surprise to find a tiny roach body, wedged into the bottom of the float bowl! How in the world????
Well, I don’t know if he/she/it was floating around and fouling the jets, but I did ensure that this insect found a final resting place in the trash can. Another surprise was that there was little of any kind of debris or leftover varnish or fuel deposits left behind, considering that the last license plate tag was 2009! I did run my jet reamer through the idle jets, just to clean up the inside of the bored holes, but not enough to remove metal. I drilled out the aluminum plugs which covered the idle mixture screws, which were set at 2 1/3 turns out. Forum wizards suggest 3 to 3.5 turns out, so I set them at 3 to begin with. Kawasaki actually over-jetted these bikes on the main jets, so the hot ticket is to actually put smaller jets instead of larger ones. This is, reportedly, the hot setup for a basically stock bike.
My machine was, as mentioned, basically stock with the OEM air filters and stock mufflers. However, the mufflers seemed to have more of a bark than I recalled with my first W650. When I put a strong flashlight down the ends of the mufflers, it was obvious that someone had punched/bored out some thumb-sized holes in the rear baffle section, so the mufflers became more of a straight-through design, which explained the extra decibels. The exhaust system does have an interconnected cross-over tube which helps to balance the exhaust volume and dissipate the noise even further. It is certain that I won’t be sneaking out of the neighborhood without someone hearing me leave.
At the local DMV office it was my great, good fortune to discover that there were no back penalties on the registration, as it was put on a “non-operational” status. The PNO (planned non-operation) status kills any further fees/penalties that can be incurred from disuse. Total fees ran just under $300, but that includes the registration tags good to May 2014.
Currently, the plan is to keep this big guy around for awhile. I am putting my low-miles NT650 Honda for sale, so I have room to park the W650 and a little more room in my bank account. I was so fortunate to be able to land another one of these neo-classic retro bikes this year and I hope to continue to refine the fuel metering so that it can achieve the maximum fuel economy and be easily rideable, hot or cold. I know that it seems like “MrHonda” has gone over to the dark side, but I do still have my 1961 CB77 Super Hawk as my “calling card” when I go to real vintage bike meets.
It’s been a good month!
Bill “MrHonda” Silver