Riding the First Supercharged Production Motorcycle

Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ aerospace and turbine engine departments have produced an incomparable bike.

At 19 years old, I got my first motorcycle. It was a black 1994 Kawasaki Ninja 250 with purple wheels and a graffiti-style font. It was a hand-me-down, from my brother. I didn’t care it wasn’t new. I didn’t care it had purple wheels and Ninja “tagged” on the side. I finally had a bike. My brother was supposed to teach me to ride it, but instead he just leaned it my way and told me to take it for spin around the block. I asked him for some pointers. “You can ride a bicycle, can’t you?” he retorted. “And you can drive stick? Then you know how to ride a motorcycle.”

I put my full confidence in my brother, grabbed his helmet, slipped on a jacket, and threw a leg over my first motorcycle. I rolled into first, then second, third and on into fourth. Once my limbs got the hang of their clutch and shifting reassignments, it was like I had been riding since birth. With each gear shift, my confidence ratcheted up. It was the fastest machine I had ever been on, and on my virgin journey I was doing full-speed sprints to 60 mph in around six or seven seconds. That kind of acceleration resonated.

I outgrew the Ninja 250 in a season and a half, and then my brother handed me the key to his ’96 ZX-11. This time, he included a disclaimer: “Going from a 250 to an 1100 — some people might say that’s literally the stupidest thing you can do. Don’t prove them right.” That ZX-11 became the most important bike I ever rode. Coming off the Ninja 250, it taught me to respect real power and speed. From there I graduated to the ’08 ZX-10R I own now, and with that bike and every bike I’ve tested on the road or track, my confidence and comfortability with power and speed has grown. And yet, despite this backdrop of ample velocity, nothing prepared me for the Kawasaki H2.

Kawasaki H2 Specs


Engine: 998cc centrifugal supercharged in-line four
Transmission: six-speed
Horsepower: 210
Torque: 98.5 lb-ft
Weight: 522.5 pounds
0-60 mph: 2.6 seconds
Top Speed: TBD

Kawasaki won’t release official numbers in the US, but the European Kawasaki website has the H2 at 210 horsepower. At 522 pounds, the H2 has about 1,187 horsepower per ton: more than twice that of the original Bugatti Veyron and enough to trump a modern Formula 1 car. To help the rider stay on the bike during acceleration, Kawasaki forewent a passenger seat and added adjustable hip huggers, the motorcycle equivalent of a bucket seat. On an empty, long straight, I gave the throttle a serious twist and quickly found myself buried in them.

At 522 pounds, the H2 has about 1,187 horsepower per ton: more than twice that of the original Bugatti Veyron and enough to trump a modern Formula 1 car.

The sensation that followed, I have nothing to compare it to — no bike, nor car nor rocket. The way the power is delivered, the acceleration is so intense that during my test I hardly had time to comprehend what I was experiencing. The centrifugal supercharger whines, speed piles on, the front end goes light, and the g-force won’t relent. When I let off the gas, there was that addictive flutter of induction noise, reminiscent of big, turbo’d rally cars. The only time you feel the heft of the bike is in the turns. In a straight line, the engine doesn’t seem to care how much it’s hauling. This bike is a bomber, not a fighter: it can bank, but its strength is in its raw power.

The River Mark symbol that adorns the H2 has been reserved, since the ’60s, for Kawasaki’s motorcycles with historical importance. Since the H2 represents the first time Kawasaki Motors has worked directly with Kawasaki Heavy Industries, specifically the aerospace and turbine engine departments, to create the first supercharged production motorcycle, it’s safe to say the H2 has earned the badge. As the H2 sits in my own personal riding history, it regrettably puts my ZX-10R in its shadow the same way my ZX-11 dwarfed the Ninja 250. And the H2 will be hard to top — that is, unless the nod ever comes to saddle up on the 300 horsepower, track-only H2R. Because 210 horsepower is one thing — but 300? Some people might say that’s literally the stupidest thing you can do.

Buy Now: $26,000+

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