Up-Close with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

11/11/2014 @ 11:26 am, by Jensen Beeler44 COMMENTS

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With the track-only Kawasaki Ninja H2R putting out 300hp from its supercharged 998cc displacement, the 200hp Kawasaki Nina H2 street bike seems positively demure, by comparison.

Of course, any 200hp machine is more than a handful, and we doubt many H2 owners will keep their machines street legal for very long — it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2…we’re just not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though.

Ostentatious might be the best way to describe the new H2. Bringing back forced induction to the sport bike scene is a pretty bold move from Kawasaki, and something we will likely see more of from the Japanese manufacturers. The styling of the H2R was certainly…eye-catching…with all the winglets and dramatic lines, the H2 street bike is only slightly watered-down from that lurid design.

The steel trellis frame is a painted radioactive green, and glows under critical lighting. The long sweeping carbon fiber intake runs down the side of the motorcycle, to the red-painted centrifugal supercharger. We go back and forth as to whether we like the exposed belly of the H2 — is it a throwback or a misstep?

The half-fairing look is a design language that we haven’t really seen in the market the past decade, which can lead the eye to tell the brain that the Ninja H2 is “missing” a piece. It does leave the exhaust headers visible though, which soothes our motolust. We’ll have to chew on it further.

What we don’t have to chew on is how Kawasaki integrated the requisite signals and lights into the H2, keeping the lines of the track-only H2R intact, without having a “last-minute addition” effect on the machine.

For those who don’t know, the Japanese invented the single-side swingarm for motorcycles, so it is refreshing to see an OEM from the island nation reclaim that design element from the Europeans. The star pattern on the exposed wheel is an interesting choice to our eye though, as it adds to the busy nature of the H2’s lines.

Everything about the Kawasaki Ninja H2 screams over-stimulation, which is a double-edged sword in terms of design vs. engineering. We imagine though that if you’re dropping the $25,000 to own an H2, then you don’t mind on making a scene at your local bike night…and the H2 certainly will do just that.

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Photos: © 2014 Rob Harris / Canada Moto Guide — All Rights Reserved

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  • Superlight

    Here is Kawasaki snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. First they unveil the H2, all 300 HP of track bike fantasy. Then they follow up with the H2 volume model, which drops almost 100 HP and weighs 524 lbs. How can they be serious? $25k for just over 200 HP and 524 lbs when competitors are at 200 HP and weigh 75-100 lbs less. All Kawi had to do was keep about 240-250 HP on the H2 and most customers would forgive (and maybe even embrace) the Transformer design.

  • harlan

    Well, HPs aren’t everything on a bike…

    I’m sure it’ll have stupid amounts of torque to compensate. I’ll rather have this than a Panigale…no one is gonna take this to a track anyway

  • Superlight

    If HP isn’t a big deal, why did Kawasaki make such a big deal about this bike? What caught people’s attention was the 300 HP number (and perhaps the weird Harold design).
    What will people do with this bike, given it is heavy, powerful and expensive?

  • n/a

    “What we don’t have to chew on is how Kawasaki integrated the requisite signals and lights into the H2, keeping the lines of the track-only H2R intact, without having a “last-minute addition” effect on the machine.”

    Ironic!

    Isn’t that what Honda accomplished with the RC213V-s too?

  • Joe

    Superlight,

    Can’t disagree with you.
    Supercool bike. Fantastic, bold concept. But if, in the end, after all the hype, you’re not the baddest thing on the road ( the extra heft notwithstanding ) then there’s a significantly diminished appeal.
    Little doubt there will be aftermarket or even factory options to jack up the hp, but after paying 25 large why should that be necessary?

  • Superlight

    All they had to do was keep about 240-250 HP in the H2 to differentiate it from the superbike hoard and it might have been a sales winner.

  • garrett morris

    ” it’s been explained to A&R that it doesn’t take much work to uncork the H2″. This is what I’ve been waiting to hear.

  • Terry Lenhardt

    Did the Japanese invent the single sided swing arm? I first saw it on an ELF racer before I saw it on any production bike.

  • FranktheTank

    @superlight

    Your reading comprehension skills are not very astute. The article stated not much is needed to “uncork” the H2. So think exhaust (obviously) and an air filter with a tune. Bam, there is your extra HP. Also all you are looking at is peak HP. What about the rest of the curve, down low and in the middle where it really counts. I bet nothing on the street will be able to compete there. As for the weight. I don’t really have an argument. But I think it’s about what a SV650 weighs and those still handle great.

  • BrianP

    I wonder if part of the reason Kawasaki released it with a “paltry” 200 HP is that 1) They actually *don’t* want to sell zillions of the things; and 2) It won’t attract the negative attention from the mainstream press that, say, 250 might.

    Seems like the main goal here may have been to boost the Kawasaki brand with a “halo” product. I can’t imagine they’re making much money on the bikes themselves (from a $$ perspective it’s probably far better if this inspires more people to buy ZX-14Rs and ZX-10Rs). And anybody who actually buys one of these is gonna understand that they can easily get another [insert large number] horsepower with relatively minor mods.

  • Superlight

    @FranktheTank: I’ll ignore your comments on my reading skills, as that isn’t pertinent to the topic. Fact is, it appears Kawasaki might have “blown it” on the H2 after all the good marketing hype on the H2R. The 207 HP number combined with 524 lbs is neither competitive nor class-leading, especially at $25k. No owner should be expected to lay out extra dollars after purchase to uncork an extra 30-40 HP. Buyers expect that to be done by the factory.

  • Damn

    Cant wait for the test.
    it wil awnser all youre questions and doubts.

  • Shawn

    Everyone’s got their opinion and entitled to such, but I’ve just got to correct an obviously incorrect statement:

    @FranktheTank, the SV is in the range of all other typical sportbikes, which is in the low 400lbs, NOT mid 500lbs. Get your facts straight.

    Anyway, we’ll see what the H2 brings to the real world in a few short months, but here’s hoping that the H2 is half as good as the hype.

  • Shawn

    Need to correct my own correction: “the SV is . . . in the low 400lbs, not LOW 500 lbs.”

  • “For those of you that don’t know, the Japanese invented the single sided swingarm”…Bla,bla,bla… ELF is French.

  • FranktheTank

    @superlight

    Your forgetting that factories have to be able to legally sell these for the street. That means emissions and other things HAVE to be considered. Once the bike is in your possession the customer can do whatever they want (legal or not). There could also be legal or other circumstances that we don’t know about. I’m not trying to get into a pissing contest. All I’m trying to say is look at that exhaust com paired to the h2R, of course it’s going to restrict some power. And again peak power isn’t everything. I have a a suspicion that this is going to have a crazy amount of torque down low. But ultimately we can speculate and armchair engineer all we want. I just want to test the damn thing as soon as possible.

    @shawn
    Your right. I could have swore my wives 650 was 520lbs wet. I was wrong. I accept my shame.

  • The whole time I look at it I think “where is the intercooler?” The supercharger will heatsoak the intake charge relatively quickly and the power will drop off in dramatic fashion. I understand packaging is incredibly difficult, but man that seems like an oversight in a chase to get a huge number for a very limited amount of time.

  • DogDBountyHunter

    Bike looks amazing. Can’t wait to see what aftermarket does for it. I imagine, there is a boost limiter or blowoff valve that’s preventing the full 300 hp as in the track model. Once that is uncorked, it’s going to be crazy!

    Superlight sure is a whiny little girl!

  • Rob

    The H2 is RIDICULOUSLY overpriced. It is NOT worth TWICE what I paid for my NEW ZX10 ABS. If you disagree, then you better put up YOUR $25k, or just STFU. I would have paid a $3,500 premium for the bike over my ZX10 ABS. If you laugh, you obviously know NOTHING about the real manufacturing costs.

  • Pete M

    I think the mirrors need to be larger and further apart…

  • Jaybond

    Dear Kawasaki, your customers expectation is very high for the H2 – TURN UP THE SUPERCHARGER BOOST AND SLIM DOWN THOSE BARREL MUFFLERS!

  • cammo3000

    I would happily pay 25 large for this bike.

    It’s unique selling point is that it has a supercharger people, and don’t tell me you could whack one on any old bike for le$$, the rideability would be shit without serious $$ invested in developing the package as a whole.

    Of course the boost will be able to be wound up – if Kawasaki doesn’t offer a ‘track only’ package it won’t take long for savvy tuners to get inside the ecu.

    Good one kawasaki!

  • Neil

    Wonder what the insurance quote would be on a supercharged street bike???

  • Mark L.

    To Rob et al-

    As an engineer for 29 years, (BSEE, ME) and being lead engineer that worked on The Roehr 1250SC, (that would be the supercharged V-Rod powered sport bike that Walter/Roehr built in limited quantities a few years ago), so yes, I do know about production costs. We could not buy the components for the 1250SC for $ 25,000 let alone retail it at that price.

    All of you seem to think this stuff just jumps off of shelves and onto showroom floors. Not really.

    Try literally tens of thousands of man hours of all disciplines on the project, and then amortize that over a short/limited production run. Can you say “Loss leader”? I would bet some bean counters at KHI can.

    I would be willing to bet that a LARGE amount of the development cost of this bike came from the marketing branch of KHI, not from the product planning department.

    I would also guess that Kawasaki has north of $ 10 million in engine development on this bike alone, and would guess that mid $ 20 million range on the development of the bike as a whole.

    By the way, not many people thought that a KZ1000R was worth $ 10,230 in 1982 either, nor an RC30 in the late 80’s…….

    I would guess that this bike cost that much to build, and it will not lose much in value either.

    And in regards to paying $25K and buying a restricted bike, that did not seem to stop Ducati from selling 1,500 Desmosedici bikes at $ 75K each that were severely restricted.

    There is an old saying, best to be quiet and thought the fool than to open your mouth and prove it.

    I’m just saying……

    Mark L.

  • Nick

    So….is this it? Is this THE machine that will legislate sportbikes into the Draconian era most of the public already thinks we belong? God I hope not…

  • Nick

    In regards to “uncorking” the H2;
    I think I saw a post on FB by one of the bike magazines that had been given the full press book for the H2. In terms of the power producing differences between the H2R and the H2, supposedly it is Exhaust, Clutch, Cams, Head Gasket and ECU (+ tune). The internals of the engine are identical apparently.
    If this is true, while it’s not exactly a 5 minute job to get your H2R spec power, I can certainly see some people going to the trouble.

  • TonyS

    “I don’t care what they have to say about me, as long as it’s one front page.”
    Marketing ladies and gentlemen makes the world go round.

  • M

    <>

    Or let buyers take responsibility. 250 HP sounds too much like lawyer bait. Not that something like the H2 doesn’t make *that* just a matter of time.

  • M

    quote above in marks :
    ” All they had to do was keep about 240-250 HP in the H2 to differentiate it from the superbike hoard and it might have been a sales winner. “

  • edward

    Rob says:

    The H2 is RIDICULOUSLY overpriced. It is NOT worth TWICE what I paid for my NEW ZX10 ABS. If you disagree, then you better put up YOUR $25k, or just STFU. I would have paid a $3,500 premium for the bike over my ZX10 ABS. If you laugh, you obviously know NOTHING about the real manufacturing costs.
    ————-

    Too many people getting worked up about this bike here.

    Yeah its not a rational decision to buy it – but if it were about spending money wisely we would all be riding sv-650s.

    it looks awesome and its something different – i wish there were more bikes that would break from the standard bike design and mix things up.

  • Keith

    I don’t think weight is an issue with this bike; with that kind of horsepower crossing the prairies at speed you’ll be damn glad of that extra weight.

    Keith

  • DuckDuckBang

    i’m not huge on the exposed bellypan half faired situation but im guessing it is because the exhausts get crazy hot. theres a few vids out there of the bike being revved and cranking away on a dyno and the belly area goes from normal to glowing white hot in half a second..

    anyone crying about the specs is clueless, obvs they have laws/regulations to meet. its beyond obvious that people will mod this bike close to the R spec territory.

    and anyone doubting this will sell need only look around at the guys on zx14’s, busa’s and even gixxers to generalise. theres a mass market of dudes who ride bikes purely for the penis extension brag factor. i don’t doubt for a second that they’ll be shifting a lot of H2’s to the boner brigade.

  • Damn

    what a bunch a moaners and whiners. think its heavy? dont buy it. think its ugly? dont buy it.
    Think 200bhp with alot of torque is great and it looks good buy it.

    What does the so called spec panigale cost for sbk? dont buy it its overpriced, way overpriced. double the cost of the kawasaki and it cant even win a race.!

    want a 200bhp bike that weight 199 kilo buy the new R1.

    wich duc in the past was cheap? non and they got alot of followers even those damn things break down after 5000km.

  • Bob

    The reason for no fairing lowers is obviously to try and keep it cool.

  • JoeD

    I find it hilarious how folks blather on about HP. Another interesting design but the real benefit will be using the technology in small displacement engines and the effect on tiered licensing.

  • Superlight

    @ JoeD: Folks are blathering on about HP because that’s how Kawasaki promoted the bike. I agree it will be interesting to see manufacturers use this supercharging technology on smaller displacement models, but not if it adds excessive weight like on this H2.

  • Johnny H

    It’s a pitty… the big exhaust is in front of the rear wheel… you can’t even see the single side swingarm… bummer… I would love to try it ;-) probably laying on my back with bike on top of me after 15 meters….

  • Jonathan

    Seems like a lot people have a love/hate relationship with this bike. It’s not exactly my cup of tea, but if I ever got a chance to ride a H2R at an event like the Texas Mile, then that would be one hell of a day.

  • Superlight

    Not surprised about the polarized views on the H2/H2R – just about everything is to the extremes including power, design and price. I think Kawasaki is getting just about everything they wanted from this product release.

  • Jeram

    Neither Honda nor elf made the first single sided swing arm.

    It was the germans in the 1940 with the imme R100

    But the Italians were the first to put on I to production in the 1950s

    Moto-guzzi

    Honda tried to sue ducati when they made the 991 with the single sided swingarm. After days of toying with japan lawyers the owner of ducati invited everyone out for a scenic ride with the bikes supplied: moto guzzi step thrus with single sided swing arms.
    Honda packed up their lawyers and left

  • paulus

    There was a gentleman’s understanding with the European governments and Motorcycle manufacturers. Under 300KM/h and under 200 HP. Flirting with the 200 BHP level may be OK… but 50-100 BHP over it, is possibly too blatant.

    What customers do after is not the manufacturers concern

    There are a whole bunch of aftermarket turbo/supercharger kits for many models. Bolt on 300 BHP is possible with a 14 year old Hayabusa… this is not extreme.

  • MikeD

    Nick says:
    November 11, 2014 at 6:45 PM
    In regards to “uncorking” the H2;
    I think I saw a post on FB by one of the bike magazines that had been given the full press book for the H2. In terms of the power producing differences between the H2R and the H2, supposedly it is Exhaust, Clutch, Cams, Head Gasket and ECU (+ tune). The internals of the engine are identical apparently.
    If this is true, while it’s not exactly a 5 minute job to get your H2R spec power, I can certainly see some people going to the trouble.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Disclaimer: If this happens to be true . . .

    I’m sorry, but after dropping $25k for a motorcycle that it’s builder was heralding around like THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS to Earth the last thing i would want to do is DIG in the engine of my BRAND NEW, VERY EXPENSIVE (to me) AND SOPHISTICATED MOTORCYCLE.
    I can live with swapping the exhaust (that thing is right up there for size with the Yamaha Warrior’s Water Heater) and having the ECM reflashed by some re-programing genious like Don Gulh.

    What’s that old saying ? If it’s to good to be true it probably ain’t. Yeah, THAT. (-_- )’

    Oh . . . and to ALL the “contented and easy to please” boys and girls being contemptuous about others people complaints:

    DEAL WITH IT, is what you will ALWAYS get after u OVER-PROMESS and later UNDER-DELIVER.
    It applies to EVERYTHING in life . . . not just motorcycles.

  • BrianP

    MikeD, with your YELLING IN ALL CAPS and general tone you sound just like “Rob” further up the thread. I don’t suppose you’re the same person?

    Anyway, it sounds like this is really getting under your skin. Why, I haven’t the slightest clue. Has some law been passed requiring you to buy the bike? And anyway, where did Kawasaki “promess” 300hp in the street-legal version of the bike?

  • Superlight

    I agree there will be a viable market for the H2/H2R; others have reminded us of the Hayabusa/ZX-14 sales successes, to those who just had to have the fastest bike on the strip and/or top speed, though the price of entry might dissuade a few buyers on the H2. Its “kissing cousin” appears to be the Mopar “Hellcats”, which trade agility and all-around performance for pure horsepower. To each his/her own, but I’d take a 1299 Pani or Aprilia RSV4 over this Kawasaki any day.