BIKE OF THE WEEK KAWASAKI 750 H2/H1 500
A BRIGHTLY BURNING STAR?
In 1969, Kawasaki revealed a new bike, a mad 500cc 2 stroke triple built only for acceleration, the H1. Reputation made, they then turned it into a 750, the H2.
5 gears all up, weirdly.
Frame made of playdough.
H2 74hp, 126mph.
Disc front brake. Nicknamed “wheelie king” and “widowmaker”
Cycle Magazine's 1973 superbike test concluded “the Kawasaki 750 delivered the test’s low ¼ mile ET, second-highest quarter-mile speed, the fastest lap time, the strongest braking force, the highest torque and horsepower readings on the dynamometer, the highest power-to-weight ratio, at the lowest price”
Current owners say:
“Reality is, the H2 is an awful bike.”
“it vibrates badly”
“They just vibrate so much.”
“Then you have to stop, and that side of an H2 is pretty poor as well.”
“they are hinged in the middle”
“handling is savage”
“ the H2 is at it's best on a twisty road”
“my H2 bucks like a rodeo bronco”
“they do 27mpg”
“you can get 60mpg on a run”
“So much has been written about the H2 and such is the myth surrounding it, that its hard to know what is true and what is not. “
Is this all the same bike? Are all Kawasaki triple owners right and wrong? Or not. Eh? What?
The Strange case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde
Although actually it seems it's mainly Mr Hyde in this case, and fans of the early Kawasaki triples wouldn't want it any other way. They love the madness.
Even more than most other old bikes, there's no point in comparing any of its qualities with what we are used to today - the smoke, pollution, noise, safety, reliability, maintenance, design, roadholding, handling, braking, styling are all firmly “period” as they say in estate agents.
Today in the UK, many (most?) 500 and 750 triples will be imports from the USA, where fuel was cheaper and roads are straighter - and fewer of them rusted away to nothing.
Aficionados, connoisseurs, experts and cognoscente all want early models of the 500 or 750 - they are considered the maddest and most hair-raising, and consequently command the highest prices.
On the other hand, a late KH250, for example, can still be bought for earthly money by a normal human.
On a slight tangent here, but not really, is the subject of styling.
Those early triples are good looking, everyone agrees, they look tough and mean and fast, and a bit sexy and gorgeous too, because they've got a little beautiful decorative panel fixed on behind the seat! What's that? That's a tail fairing mate.. and it was so pretty that everyone immediately copied it.
The 1972 H2 had a tail fairing. Stand back, admire it, and be amazed. The same year Z1 had one too, but it looked like a duckbill and was a bit weird looking.. was this the first year that a dual seat had a tail fairing? I think it was.. and from here it became a design norm for any sporty bike.
One sandwich short of a picnic
I wonder if the bloke who designed it got an employee of the month bonus or anything? It certainly made the bike look more racy and streamlined, and provided bikers for years to come with a place to store one sandwich (with the crusts cut off).
As youth would say, lol. Although in reality it's just s. (smirk).
Well, they couldn't have been wider of the mark really, could they? 2001? This gas guzzling pollution monster? s.
And interesting that in those days “sound barrier” and "Astro” and all the other spaceship analogies were considered de rigeur. I do like those white boots though. I wish adverts now were as basic - all they go on about is the mental performance - nothing about warranties or meeting friends or safety.
My brother had a 250 S1, which was often in bits being spannered. I say often, in fact it hardly ever ran properly. Problems all over the place, I seem to recall he only spoke of jets and needles for about 2 years...
The sound it made was odd to my ears, a blend of whining, rattling and burbling at low revs which was both irritating and exciting, and in the powerband it howled and produced enough smoke to safely move a division undetected by the enemy.
However, it wasn't as quick as it sounded, and I remember the front brake, after much fettling, improved to the stage where it was only awful and dangerous.
For some reason he loved it, and was sad to see it go.
All bikes are decent now, and to get those thrills and madness we have to modify our bikes to effectively make them worse, to get back the crazy passion that has been lost to efficiency.
These Kawasaki triples aren't efficient in any way, their obvious flaws only make them strangely desirable to those that are attracted to gambling, addiction and the generally disfunctional.
As in modern politics, it would be nice to be offered an actual choice, something different, and in the bike world, these brightly burning stars are still doing it, baby.
Any thoughts on this bike of the week? Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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