The ride

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Reader Restoration -

The el­e­gant ally choke lever on the right-side switchgear and lengthy chromed kick­start lever give lit­tle clue as to the ca­coph­ony that will be un­leashed fol­low­ing their op­er­a­tion – hav­ing first lifted the right-side rider footrest to let the kicker swing past.

A vi­cious in­tent is an­nounced by the three Hig­gspeed span­nies, blue clouds bil­low­ing across the yard as the en­gine warms.the five gear ra­tios are all ac­cessed in an up­ward pat­tern, neu­tral be­ing lo­cated at the bot­tom of the ’box – a point well worth re­mem­ber­ing when slow­ing to a stand­still.with first gear en­gaged I trickle gin­gerly down the rut­ted dirt track lead­ing from Dave’s yard.

A hand­ful of revs grabbed to launch the H2 onto the open road chucks a vir­u­lent cloud of smoke out the back, clear­ing some of the hy­dro­car­bons build­ing in the still-warm­ing mo­tor and pipe while we’ve been dawdling down the drive­way. I can see the fumes blan­ket­ing the road in rear view, de­spite the blur­ring of the mir­rors as the revs rise.

Still gaug­ing the char­ac­ter of an un­fa­mil­iar bike that’s not yet up to tem­per­a­ture gives time to as­sess such es­sen­tials as the brakes. The front re­veals it­self to be lack­ing in ini­tial bite and in­deed any bite there­after. For­tu­nately, the rear drum re­veals it­self to be a more than use­ful ad­junct to the disc front and in com­bi­na­tion the two in­spire some­thing like con­fi­dence.

Mon­day af­ter­noon traf­fic on the main road over the Nor­thy­ork­shire moors is mov­ing at some­thing like na­tional speed limit pace and al­though equipped to get past most of it I’m not yet fa­mil­iar enough to re­ally go for it on roads still dry­ing af­ter a down­pour.

Away from the main road and with con­fi­dence grow­ing and tar­mac dry­ing, there’s an op­por­tu­nity to prop­erly ex­plore what the H2 is all about.with­out the ben­e­fit of reed valves or any other method of

“The tourist coach dawdling over the moors that had seemed so far ahead ter­ri­fy­ingly got an aw­ful lot closer”

con­trol­ling in­duc­tion other than the pis­ton ports, the in­line two-stroke three is bound to hunt at low rpm, even with dif­fer­ent pi­lot jets as sug­gested by Rick Brett to mit­i­gate the ef­fect. Kawasaki had spec­i­fied fairly mild port tim­ing to de­liver de­cent torque across the rev range and there’s lit­tle ar­gu­ing that it’s pretty good. How­ever when you open the throt­tle wide some­thing mag­i­cal hap­pens and things re­ally come to­gether. It’s as if the throt­tle cable is less a wire lift­ing the slides and more a draw­string pulling the whole thing to­gether. As the rev-counter nee­dle passes 5000rpm, the H2 smoothens out and feels like it’s get­ting its head down ready to charge. Dave told me be­fore the ride that he loves play­ing tunes on the H2’s gear­box and I soon un­der­stand why.when the bike was first re­stored Dave had a prob­lem with clutch slip and this was traced to mod­ern syn­thetic oil in the gear­box. New plates and a change to some­thing more tra­di­tional and the is­sue has been dis­pelled. I await the straight­line twitch­i­ness th­ese short swingarm H2s are re­puted to have – the swingarm was length­ened by 3in with a longer swinger in the 1974 H2B – but it never comes, even rid­ing along far from per­fect hill roads, the front wheel light­en­ing as the power is piled on. Dave doesn’t miss the steer­ing dampers and nei­ther do I for now.

I won­der if the wider than stock front tyre is help­ing with the track­ing but have big­ger things to think about than my own half­baked physics the­o­ries. Plus there’s al­ways the thought that good straight­line sta­bil­ity al­ways comes at the ex­pense of some cor­ner­ing agility.

For now, as the power builds, the H2 re­minds me that it was the hard­est charg­ing, fastest ac­cel­er­at­ing bike of its era. Quicker, even, in that depart­ment than Kawasaki’s Z1. The tourist coach dawdling over the moors that had seemed so far ahead be­fore I glanced down at the rev counter has quickly and ter­ri­fy­ingly got an aw­ful lot closer. For­get­ting that the front brake is very much of its era, things only get back in con­trol when the back is ap­plied and bal­ance is re­stored.

Now I have the mea­sure of things in a straight line, it’s time to have a go at the cor­ners. It would have been im­pos­si­ble for Kawasaki to ig­nore the han­dling rep­u­ta­tion of the H1 500 triples, so for the H2 there were thicker tubes and much gus­set­ing.again I find the oft-re­peated crit­i­cisms of the H2 to be un­war­ranted when rid­den within its own con­text and recog­nis­ing that it’s very much a prod­uct of its time.that said there’s al­ways a feel­ing that if things did go wrong they might go south very quickly with lit­tle warn­ing and even less op­por­tu­nity to cor­rect the sit­u­a­tion. All part of the ex­cite­ment, a qual­ity the H2 boasts in spades.

Peo­ple go nuts for the H2 and in re­cent years prices have gone strato­spheric.a good one will rush you 14 grand, no small con­sid­er­a­tion when you’re mess­ing around on some­one else’s bike. Dave has told his kids that he plans to con­tinue spend­ing their in­her­i­tance on Kawasakis, two-strokes in par­tic­u­lar. Even if they weren’t such a riot to own and en­joy they’re also pretty good in­vest­ments, so Dave’s chil­dren’s legacy is as­sured.

As it is I’m pleased to be able to hand the H2 back to Dave in one piece.the early 1970s were an ex­cit­ing time for mo­tor­cy­cling and bikes like the H2 were a ma­jor part of that.and the Mach IV still has the power to ex­cite to­day – 74bhp may not sound much to mod­ern ears but the way it’s de­liv­ered and the pack­age it’s wrapped in make the ac­tual num­ber as ir­rel­e­vant as the price you need to pay to get one.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.