If publicity was their goal, Kawasaki’s insane Ninja H2 is a winner, the world of journalists and bloggers spouting forth in celebration of this supercharged sensation. But what’s it really like? Only owners know for sure…
Henry Morgan, 35, Construction Site Manager
I was wondering where to go from the 2005 ZX-10R. I wanted something that would give me a feeling of progression, but the ZZR1400 is so big and heavy that I didn’t feel I could dick about on it in the same way I do on my 10R – kneedowns and wheelies, that sort of thing.
I would have bought the Kawasaki Ninja H2 even if it was a 600 because outright power isn’t that important to me – you can’t ring the neck of a litre bike on the road without it getting silly, never mind anything more powerful. But with its supercharger, the H2 sounded like it was going to be something different.
And then coincidentally, the day before Intermot (the German bike show where the H2 was revealed), I got an inheritance which was enough for a deposit. So I put the deposit down the day before seeing it, to make sure I got one of the first batch of bikes. I was so nervous. When I saw it I thought, ‘that looks different,’ but thankfully it’s grown on me ever since.
I was dying to know if Kawasaki were telling the truth about the power figure of 197bhp, which they claim for the ZX-10R, ZZR1400 and Ninja H2. I put it on the Track Electronics dyno, which is reliable, and it made 212bhp and 99 lb.ft of torque from 6000 rpm. Then we stuck a Power Commander 5 on it to try and sort the on/off throttle snatchiness, and the power went up to 217.5bhp. The Power Commander is a stop-gap though – what I really want to do is flash the ECU [reprogram it directly, rather than plug in a secondary module like a Power Commander], but no-one can do it yet in the UK. Gill Motorsports have done one in the US and the power jumped to 248 bhp at the wheel.
When I finished running in, I began to realise it was a better road bike than my 10R. The added weight and longer wheelbase makes the Kawasaki Ninja H2 more stable, and because of the extra power it’s faster. Not that you need it be faster, but it is awesome. When I rode it at Rockingham, it got out of corners like nothing else.
My only real bugbear is there is no storage space. It’s a great bike to ride and you want to be out on it all day – the thing is you can’t even bungee stuff to the back. But the speed is amazing. The first time I overtook a line of five or six cars, I did exactly what I do on my ZX-10R, thinking, ‘I could do all of those in one go,’ and on the 10R when you pull in, you see the cars disappearing in your mirrors. But when I did that on the Kawasaki Ninja H2, the mirrors were empty. There was nothing there…
Neil Murray, 57, Journalist
As soon as I read it was going to be supercharged I had to have one. Every now and again someone builds a bike that rewrites the rule book – the Z1, GPZ900R, CBR900RR – and I thought the Kawasaki Ninja H2 could be one of those. I think I was right too – there’s only one bike standing out this year and it’s the H2.
When you ride a GSX-R1000 or a ZZR1400 you adapt very quickly to the power because it’s not actually
that savage. But the Kawasaki Ninja H2 takes time. It is so different from anything else that you have to learn to ride in a different way. I like that. Riding a motorcycle shouldn’t always be easy. When I was riding around London I just stuck it in rain mode and the power below 6000rpm is like an old steel-framed CBR600. In normal modes the slightest twitch of the throttle and it doesn’t wind itself up, it fires off like bullet. It’s hard to ride – a violent motorcycle. Even with all the electronics, you have to be careful. Never mind traction control, you need a ‘self control’ button.
Kawasaki Ninja H2 is a bastard in traffic though. Waves of heat come off the engine when you’re sitting in queues, but the worst thing is the indicator switch which is too high because you’ve got a scroll button underneath it. You’re forever stabbing for the indicator and finding you’ve changed from the clock to fuel consumption. You’ve almost got to take your left hand off the grip, so even when you get used to it it’s still annoying. The fuel consumption is shocking.
It takes me back to the Kawasaki triples where you had to ride with one eye on the trip meter. I’m getting 25mpg in town, 30+ out of town and the fuel light comes on around 100 miles. But it doesn’t matter. The Ninja H2 is the most thrilling bike I’ve ever ridden. The difficult thing was insuring it. The first quote I got was £5000, and I haven’t made a claim since 1979. Carole Nash came in at £1300 and I was getting desperate. Then someone suggested using Kawasaki’s own insurance which I did – it was £830 fully comp, plus £300 to put a tracker on it.
Chris Neeves, 43, Company Director
I love it… ! I’ve had lots of 1000cc bikes but until this my favourites have been Ducatis. I loved their grunt, but did miss the insanity of my 2004 ZX-10R. So when I heard about the Kawasaki Ninja H2, being an engineer, I knew it was going to have silky smooth torque at the bottom end and then just go mental at the top. And that’s exactly what it’s got.
It also has a connection – it’s like when you ride an air-cooled desmo twin and you get a particular connection between the throttle, the engine and the road. You just don’t get that with a Japanese inline four. The Kawasaki Ninja H2 has that. I think it’s a love it or hate it thing, and I love it.
It’s got as much power and torque as you could ever want, so no matter what gear you’re in, it just goes. I like that in a road bike. However, of all the motorcycles I’ve owned, this is the only one where I’d say you really could not have an inexperienced rider on it. Most big sportsbikes are relatively easy to ride unless you open the throttle wide. But from 3000rpm, this Ninja H2 can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.
The quality of finish is the best I’ve ever seen from the Japanese. I’ve taken bits off it to stick on a protective fairing wrap and even the nuts and bolts are a better quality than you normally get. Saying that, out of the box, the indicator switch is set too high so you can’t just move your thumb to it without adjusting your grip. I disassembled the switchgear and then very carefully drilled a new locator pin hole in the bar. Also, I find the clutch quite stiff so I’ve moved the lever down the bars to gain an extra 15mm of leverage. It’s a little thing, but it makes enough of a difference to stop my puny office wrists from getting arm pump in traffic.
Insurance was a problem because there are only three companies in the UK who will insure bikes worth over £20,000. I’m hoping the bike reduces in value next year and then I can get it for £300 fully comp. The fuel consumption is really poor. If you make progress, but don’t go mad, the light comes on at 85-90 miles. Even during running-in I only just managed to stretch it to 95 before the light came on. You couldn’t do distance on it. But these Kawasaki Ninja H2 are just niggles.