You hear much ballyhoo about the decline of supersport bikes, of the increasing on-board tech on adventure bikes, of the mammothication of cruisers, but one class that seems often ignored is the retro bike.
It’s not as widely hyped as other segments of motorcycling, but the Japanese were consciously producing retro-styled bikes as far back as the 1980s. Today, we’re spoiled for choice, as just about every manufacturer has some sort of retro machine in the lineup, intended to recall an earlier period of motorcycling. Today, we’re going to compare the Triumph T100 Bonneville, the Moto Guzzi V7 III Special, the Kawasaki W800 Street and the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650, because – why not?
Parallel twins are the name of the game here — the Triumph, the Kawasaki and the Royal Enfield are all parallel twins, with the Moto Guzzi the only outlier, with its transverse V-twin.
Why the parallel twin? Partly because that’s what a lot of classic bikes used, so it looks right. Partly because they’re affordable to make, when compared to triples or four-cylinders.
There is significant difference between the twins, though. The Royal Enfield is air-cooled, with a single overhead cam, and 648 cc displacement. It makes 47 hp at 7,100 rpm, and 38.4 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. The 773 cc Kawasaki is also air-cooled and SOHC; while we haven’t seen official specs yet, it’s expected to make about 52 hp at 6,500 rpm and 44 lb-ft at 2,500 rpm.
The T100 is liquid-cooled, with DOHC setup, and the rad artfully concealed between the frame’s downtubes. It’s 900 cc, making 54 HP at 5,900 rpm and 60 ft-lb at 3,230 rpm.
The V7 III Special is air-cooled; its 744 cc transverse V makes 52 hp at 6,200 rpm, and 44 lb-ft of torque at 4,900 rpm.
All in all, the bikes are pretty much in the same ballpark. The Interceptor 650 is understandably a bit down on power due to its smaller displacement. The T100 is surprisingly a bit low on power, considering it has at least 120 cc on every other bike here.
The Interceptor 650 has a smaller engine, but it also weighs less, coming in at 202 kg at the curb. The W800 and V7 III Special are pretty much the same, at 220 kg and 213 kg respectively. The T100 weighs in at a portly 230 kg.
The W800, Interceptor 650, V7 III Special and T100 all use old-school dual-shock rear suspension, with preload adjustability.
The Kawasaki has 106 mm of travel, the Royal Enfield has 88 mm of travel and the Triumph has 120 mm of travel. The Moto Guzzi has 93 mm of rear wheel travel.
Suspension suitability can be a personal preference, but the Triumph has quite a bit more travel than the others.
All these bikes have an upright seating position, with no cafe racer pretensions (all of them are available in a cafe racer version, though). Seat height on the T100 is 790 mm. The Interceptor 650 has an 804 mm seat height. The V7 III Special has a 770 mm seat height, same as the W800.
The Royal Enfield has ABS as standard, and that’s it. Same for the W800. The V7 III Special has ride-by-wire throttle, which enables three-level traction control. The T100 also has throttle-by-wire, which opens the potential for other electro-trickery down the road, although at this bike’s price point and horsepower output, don’t expect anything too crazy. Nobody’s screaming for wheelie control on the T100.
Ah, the great debate: Which bike looks best?
The Triumph has a wide range of paint schemes available, and you can save a few bucks by getting it in black. You can also pay more, and get it in two-tone paint. The Interceptor also has a wide variety of paint available. The Guzzi and the Kawi, not so much. Too bad, because the W800 in particular would be a real looker if it had the wide range of paint options that the Royal Enfield and Triumph do. Those peashooter pipes and that faux pushrod (actually a gear drive for the camshaft) on the side of the engine are particularly fetching!
Aside from that, all these bikes have pretty classic lines, based on models from their respective manufacturers’ histories. Pick whatever suits you.
The Triumph T100 Bonneville tops the list here at $ 11,350 (more for flashy paint, less for boring black paint). The Moto Guzzi V7 III Special is $10,290. The Kawasaki W800 Street is $ 9,999. The Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 is $7,499.
That’s quite a range, but you’d expect it, to a certain extent: The T100 is more advanced than the Royal Enfield at the other end, with ride-by-wire throttle and traction control. It’s also got that made-in-England heritage — or does it?
The fact is, the T100 is made in Asia (specifically, Thailand) and only designed in the UK, and it’s the same for the Royal Enfield. The Interceptor is made in India, but a lot of its design work was actually done in the UK, and the Royal Enfield marque has its own storied history that can match up against Triumph’s.
Of course, the Kawasaki is also made in Asia — it’s made in Japan, as many of the Big Four’s more prestigious models are. As for the Moto Guzzi, it’s the only bike here that actually has Euro manufacturing, made in Italy just as the V7 line has been for decades.
Given the scarcity of Royal Enfield and Moto Guzzi dealers, the Triumph and Kawasaki are likely to be easier to get your hands on, and probably have a better reputation for reliability.
So, what’s the bike to buy here? If money isn’t a problem, this is a situation where a test ride might be the best way to decide, as none of these machines are that different from each other on the spec sheet — your best bet to make a selection is saddle time. But if you’re cash-strapped, well, that Royal Enfield is looking like a lot of bike for the money. You’ll just have to find one to test ride, and then be confident your dealer will keep it running.