The Kawasaki Ninja H2 Is In Grave Danger Of Falling Flat On Its Hype

The track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R stepped on the scene last month with a sinister look and output figure that blew out pants to smithereens: 300 Freakin' Horsepower. Now we meet the H2; a friendlier road version with way less power, more weight, and an ambitious price tag. So, will the riding experience make it worth the money?

The Kawasaki Ninja H2 Is In Grave Danger Of Falling Flat On Its Hype

The track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R stepped on the scene last month with a sinister look and output figure that blew out pants to smithereens: 300 Freakin' Horsepower. Now we meet the H2; a friendlier road version with way less power, more weight, and an ambitious price tag. So, will the riding experience make it worth the money?

Kawasaki is pouring a lot of gas on the H2 hype-fire blazing around right now; half of which is riding the coat-tails of the H2R's on-paper awesomeness (DID WE MENTION THREE HUN-DRED HORSEPOWER?!), the other half is dazzling us with descriptions of "bespoke components" that are "meticulously hand-assembled" and of course one hell of a paint job.

But first, consider the specifications of the H2 against Kawasaki's current powerhouse: the 1.4 liter ZX-14R.

SpecH2ZX-14R ABS
EngineSupercharged 998cc1,441cc
Horsepower197189
Torque98.5111
Curb Weight (Ready To Ride)524.7 lb590.9 lb
Transmission6-Speed Dog Ring (supposedly very fast)Regular-Ass 6-Speed
MSRP$25,000$15,000

H2 specs via RoadRacing World, ZX-14R specs via CycleWorld.

As you can see, Kawasaki's own one-step-down superbeast of a bike is a lot less money... and quite a few fast-movers from other brands in the 200 horsepower-neighborhood are around $15,000 too. Not just also-rans; the blazin'-saddle BMW S1000RR starts at $14,something.

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Granted the H2 is a lot lighter than the 1.4 liter ZX, and it's supposed to have god's gift to gearboxes between its supercharged engine and wheels. But I'm having a hard time imagining anyone spending 25 g's on a bike that's so heavy and complex when you could buy proven racing pedigree and/or European swagger for so much less.

Here's Jay Leno's take on the H2 and its ready-ready big brother the H2R. Check it out, then read on and we'll figure out if we can agree with his assessment.

How Does The Kawasaki H2 Seriously Cost $25,000?

As far as the spec sheet reads, the H2 is nothing short of an engineering marvel.

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A fairing aerodynamically dialed-in by Kawasaki's Aerospace Company is wrapped around a steel trellis frame, making for the most stable experience Kawasaki's engineers could conceive.

That aero kit is meant to provide a "neutral stance" at high speed, while the trellis-style frame basically provides the most direct connection from one end of the bike to the other.

Each H2 will be built to order, with one expertly-skilled technician personally managing the assembly of each one individually.

The 998cc inline four-banger is completely new; with one of the most robust cooling and lubrication setups rolling on two wheels. A five liter ocean of oil is pumped through the engine and through jets spraying on the cylinders, transmission, and supercharger.

And Oh Yeah, There's That Supercharger

CycleWorld found out that Kohei Yamada, who planned this bike and one of its predecessors, got Kawasaki's own Gas Turbine & Machinery Company (must be nice) to make the centrifugal compressor for the H2 because nothing on the market could handle the insane amount of heat it'd have to deal with.

The supercharger compresses air so aggressively that engine compression was set down at 8.5:1 (that ZX-14R we were talking about earlier is set to 12.3:1). It blasts air into the bike's 6-liter pressurized rigid airbox, and apparently hangs in with the engine all the way up to its reported redline of 14,000 RPM. One third of the H2's front end is an air intake.

What Makes The Transmission So Special

Taking after MotoGP and F1 gearboxes, the H2's "dog ring" transmission replaces the shift-forks that slide gears into place on most other bikes with a sliding ring. This is meant to make for a significantly lighter shift effort helping you get right up to the speed limit even quicker, because you have places to be my friend.

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A back-torque limiter supplements it to cut wheel hop if you downshift a little too aggressively. Also known as a "slipper clutch," the back-torque limiter basically keeps the drive wheel from running away on the rider.

But Does It Have Enough Electronic Aids To Prevent Me From Killing Myself?

Yes and no.

A motorcycle this powerful and this heavy is a great way to get into a lot of trouble very quickly if you don't know what you're doing. You're committing a lot of momentum, and you're liable to be beyond-saving by even the most judicious ABS system available.

That said, the H2 has:

  • KTRC (Kawasaki Traction Control) which is selectable through three levels of "intrusion" and can cut power when it doesn't trust you.
  • KLCM (Kawasaki Launch Control Mode) which makes you look like a hero off the stoplight.
  • KIBS (Kawasaki Intelligent Anti-Lock Brake System) which keeps you from pulling the stop-lever wrong.
  • Engine-brake control.
  • And an Öhlins electronic steering damper that changes steering weight based on speed.

Rolling Stock

Large (330mm up front, 250mm rear) Brembo discs are hooked up to Kawasaki-made wheels with knurling (criss-crosses in the metal) inside them to prevent the tire from slipping on the wheel which Kawasaki says "could be caused by the massive torque generated by the engine." That rear drive wheel, by the way, is almost 8" wide.

You're Riding Solo, And Very Secure

The H2 is a single-seater only; a lone seat with a big old ass-pad to lock you in "during intense acceleration" according to the brochure. If the previous owner was scrawnier than you, the seat support is adjustable 15mm backwards.

Any Color You Like, As Long As It's Mirror Coated Black

The color was developed by Kawasaki; appearing black in the dark then becoming highly reflective in sunlight. Kawasaki likes to think "the stark difference in the way the paint appears in the light and shade emphasizes the beautiful curvature of the bike's sculpted bodywork."

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It is undeniably a fine-ass finish, and hand-applied at the Kawasaki factory save for the last layer.

That All Sounds Great, But I'll Wait And Ride It Before I Say It's "$25,000 Great"

The H2 sounds impressively engineered, and it certainly looks like it's going to be built to an extremely exacting standard. But for $25,000, all that tech is going to have to translate to one hell of a riding experience to make any sense at all.