- Borderline insane acceleration force
- Thrilling to ride
- Marvel of motorcycle technology
- Could be more agile
- Muffler puts out excessive heat to rider’s right foot
- Burns through tires and fuel
Kawasaki emphasizes its position atop the sportbike world with the re-introduction of a classic: the Kawasaki Ninja H2 ($25,000). Like its predecessor did 40 years ago, the H2 showcases the latest in engineering and manufacturing technologies born from the might of Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The H2 is designed to be the fastest, most high-tech production motorcycle on the road. So Kawasaki invited us to Southern California’s Auto Club Speedway, cutting us loose for 20-something laps to find out if the supercharged H2 lives up to the hype.
“Faster, Faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.” – Hunter S. Thompson
No other quote better encapsulates the visceral, adrenaline-infused thrill of riding the H2 around a racetrack, with throttle pinned to the stop. Thanks to 200-horsepower available at the back tire, the H2 is easily the fastest street-legal motorcycle on the road.
(Top) The bodywork of the Ninja H2 was designed to punch the smallest hole through the air at speed. It is a surprisingly comfortable motorcycle to ride at triple digit speeds.
(Center) The Ninja H2 sports a purpose-built 1000cc Inline Four with an in-house designed and manufactured forced air induction system (supercharged).
(Bottom) The Ninja H2 gets a high-tech looking mixed analog and digital dash display. It was a little hard to read while riding but we appreciated the way the tachometer flashes signifying it’s time to make an upshift.
Swing a leg over the H2 and there’s no denying its formidable size. It’s especially wide at the front and feels about as heavy as its spec chart indicates (525 pounds). Grab a hold of the clip-ons and the H2 offers a sporty riding position, but not overly so. Conversely, the seat junction is slim, but there isn’t a whole lot of surface area from front to back, making it challenging for taller riders to get a clean tuck behind the windscreen at speed.
Speaking of speed, the H2 offers a lot of it. Exiting pit lane the responsiveness of the H2’s supercharged Inline Four engine is immediately apparent. The throttle is so touchy that it’s pretty easy for the bike to get away from you. Without a doubt, the H2 is oriented toward advanced riders – especially those blessed with an especially delicate throttle hand.
Nowadays there are plenty of 200-horsepower sportbikes. But the way in which the Ninja H2 smears rubber against tarmac is a downright thrill. With its forced-air induction system, the H2 pulls as hard in fourth, fifth and sixth gear as it does in the first couple cogs. There’s so much torque on tap it punishes even the freshest Bridgestone race slick, laying thick strips of rubber as the rider accelerates away from turns. Still, it’s impressive how well the H2 puts the power down, resisting the urge to wheelie excessively.
Ninja H2 Settings
- Preload: 6 (Turns in)
- Compression: 5 (Turns out)
- Rebound: 10
- Preload: 18 (turns in) / 11.7mm
- L/S Compression: 3
- H/S Compression: 1
- Rebound: .75
- TC: +1
- Launch: 1
- Engine Brake: Light
The H2 sounds the part, too, unleashing a roaring intake and exhaust note infused with the subtle whistle of the supercharger as it blows off excess boost.
The factory-fitted quick shifter helps maximize acceleration and is a welcome feature considering how short the H2 is geared. In fact, we were surprised by how much shifting is required – especially for a liter-class bike with the H2 reaching sixth gear well before Auto Club’s start/finish line (for reference a stock ZX-6R only gets into fifth gear). Curiously, the H2 doesn’t offer any auto-blip downshift functionality like some other 2015 sportbikes. It’s certainly not a deal breaker, but would be a handy electronic piece nonetheless.
The Ninja handles well for a motorcycle of its size. It did require considerable muscle though to make quick direction changes. Once turned the chassis felt planted with favorable flex characteristics which make it fun to ride.
(Top) Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Kawasaki’s supercharged engine is how hard it pulls in fourth, fifth, and sixth gears as it does in the first few cogs.
(Bottom) The Ninja H2 is one of the most thrilling motorcycles we’ve ever ridden. From the feel and sound of the engine to the way the chassis flexes off turns the H2 is an absolute blast to ride on track.
The H2 is equipped with a variety of rider aids, including an updated specification of Kawasaki’s traction control system. The system allows the rider to push the motorcycle harder than they might otherwise be comfortable with. The H2 also comes equipped with launch control and adjustable engine braking control, however, due to time limitations we weren’t able to give either feature a true shakedown.
Keeping tabs on everything is a fancy looking mixed analog and digital dash display. It offers a variety of different readouts including a gear position indicator and boost gauge. We also like how the tachometer flashes, signifying it’s time to make an upshift.
Handling-wise the H2 certainly isn’t as agile as its Ninja ZX-6R or 10R brethren, yet it handles surprisingly well for a 500-plus pound motorcycle. Although quick direction changes require some muscle, get the H2 pointed and it tracks well with favorable chassis flex characteristics that reward hard riding – like flat track bike hard – only with gobs more power.
Sure the chassis is a little more ‘loose’ as compared to its Supersport-racing family, but it still performs well delivering ample feel through turns with loads of stability everywhere on track. The suspension also functioned well providing adequate pitch control whether hard on the throttle or when it’s time to shed excess speed for the next turn.
In the stopping department Kawasaki tapped Brembo, sourcing the latest version of its one-piece monobloc-style calipers that bite into twin 330mm cross-drilled discs. The set-up is augmented by a racing-style Brembo master-cylinder. ABS is also standard and the system worked at even an elevated track pace.
After two brief 20-minute riding sessions it’s clear the H2 is worth every dollar of its 25k price tag. Considering the technology and engineering resources that Kawasaki invested into building such an exquisite machine, paired with the sheer excitement it delivers, it’s a motorcycle capable of overpowering the senses of even the most daring of riders.
2015 Kawasaki Ninja H2 Specs
- Engine: 998cc liquid-cooled Inline Four, supercharged 16-valve
- Bore x Stroke: 76.0 x 55.0mm
- Compression Ratio: 8.5:1
- Fueling: Fuel-injection
- Transmission: Six-speed
- Clutch: Wet multi-plate slipper; hydraulic actuation
- Final Drive: Chain; 18/44 gearing
- Frame: Steel-trellis
- Front Suspension: KYB 43mm inverted fork with spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 5.7 in. travel
- Rear Suspension: KYB gas-charged shock w/ spring preload adjustment, high/low-speed compression and rebound damping; 5.3 in. travel
- Front Brakes: 330mm discs, radial-mount four-piston Brembo monobloc calipers w/ ABS
- Rear Brake: 250mm disc, twin-piston caliper w/ ABS Tires: Bridgestone; 120/70-17, 200/55-17
- Curb Weight: 525 lbs.
- Wheelbase: 57.3 in.
- Rake/Trail: 24.5 deg. / 4.1 in.
- Seat Height: 32.5 in.
- Fuel Tank: 4.5 gallon
- MSRP: $25,000