There aren’t many other bikes to have divided opinion like Kawasaki’s H2. Then again, there aren’t many other manufacturers with the swingers to release such a techno queen. To some, it’s an ugly monstrosity that’ll never challenge garage space. To others, it’s the perfect vanity mirror and 200bhp supercharged companion. Either way, I’m not sure how I could live with continually buffing the H2’s chrome paint and removing paltry boot scuffs, although I could certainly live with the Ninja’s dynamics.
Despite 200bhp, menacing looks and supercharged status, the H2 is actually rather affable – vastly more so than the heinous H2R. Much of this is due to clever ride-by-wire strategies and a versatile engine with binary manners. I wouldn’t torment my gran by insisting she rides it, but there are no nasties in the H2’s armoury. There’s a tight, compact feel to the riding position. Your limbs are well within reach of one another, but it’s not cramped. If anything, the ergonomics provide a sense of control to proceedings. That seat design isn’t purely for cosmetic reasons – it’s there to prevent the pilot from falling off the back under acceleration.
Thrashing an H2 comes with a unique soundtrack. It’s a cross between being stuck in a bird aviary and a bass bin at a rave. With every portion of revs dished out, there’s a different noise to accompany the mayhem. Euro 4 compliancy hasn’t affected the H2’s noise, nor has it affected the power in any way. It still pulls cleanly from 2,000rpm but doesn’t start busting your balls until 10,000rpm where the dash starts having a fit. It may not boast stupefying peak power but it’s the way in which it gets to the redline that impresses with a constant surge of meaty torque. It’s not revolutionary fast, but the noise and supercharged methods mean a heightened sense of speed.
A soft throttle response makes light work of slow-speed drudgery and the H2 oozes smoothness at less committed speeds. With super-wide working parameters, the engine allows cruising around in top gear at 30mph without any hesitation, and the gearbox and other ancillaries just add to the silky output, bar the clutch. That’s a tad heavy. Chasing Alan, who was aboard the K5, myself and the H2 marmalised them through traffic with instant grunt on tap. It’s only when the roads opened up and the K5 was allowed to breath that the power deficiency was palpable.
Ridden hard, the electronics offer far more than a safety blanket, which is useful when there’s a supercharged lump underneath you. Far from sluggish, it takes some bossing in change of direction – no surprise given its quarter-of-a-ton performance on the scales – and the anti-wheelie acts as more than just an anti-flip device, helping the bike steer under hard acceleration.
On the road its mass feels well centralised and utterly controllable, with an assuring dollop of mechanical grip at either end and a very planted mid-corner stance. It’ll take a well-spanked conventional superbike to shake the Ninja, though its weight and idiosyncrasies soon intervene. I say conventional, as the H2 carries something unique to the supersports sector other than wearing a blower. On track, it’s a good few seconds off the latest litre bikes thanks to its quirks. Top-shelf Brembo braking halts 240kg with ease and a plush lever to boot. Soft suspension dives and delivers oodles of comforting weight transfer, yet a positive by-product of the softness is bump management and coping with UK surfaces. The damping is exquisite, regulating its weight and supplying stroke control that you’d expect from a £25k beast.
The H2 makes blitzing around a doddle.