Here in 2022, many a fan of motorcycle history knows the broad strokes of the original Kawasaki H2. In the early 1970s, the three-digit magic code seemed to be 750 among multiple OEMs, so Team Green had to find a way to stand out from the pack. 750cc, but make it wicked quick.
Of course, that quickness depends on context—as do most other things to do with motorcycle technology and how it’s developed over time. That’s a thing I often contemplate, particularly regarding bikes that were Big Deals (capitalization intentional) well before I was born. Sure, I can try to absorb the opinions of people who experienced it when it was new. However, unless someone invents a time machine, I can never have that experience for myself—and even riding that same bike now won’t help.
That seems to be some of what Bike World’s Chris Northover (a former BSB racer and general bike nut since childhood) is wrestling with as he contemplates this stunning 1975 Kawasaki H2. It is, as he puts it, a bike where his experience has been seeing photos of his dad and his dad’s mates when they were young, flogging this and other bikes of the era around for fun. It’s not something he grew up with, or had any personal memories or experiences about.
The original H2’s reputation as “the widowmaker” has preceded it throughout the years, to the point where you almost can’t think of “H2” without hearing “you know, the widowmaker” in your head shortly afterward. That air-cooled, two-stroke triple was an engineering marvel in its day—but handling and brakes in no way matched its insane (for its time) amount of power.
Thus, as Northover says, the riding experience is completely different from any modern bike. You have to reconsider almost everything about the way you ride it—from the kick start procedure to early anticipation of every little move you’re going to make on the thing.
This is not a bike you simply think through corners, or you will not have a good time. You could, in fact, seriously hurt yourself. Even though this is a later-gen H2—where the kinks of the first-gen H2s were already ironed out—it's still more than a handful to handle on the road in a straight line, let alone around corners. Also, keep in mind that the bike in this video was outfitted with modern rubber, which is already a huge leap ahead of what it could have had at any point when it was new.
That purple colorway is admittedly gorgeous, though. Would you ride one if you could? Have you ridden or do you own one of these classics?