Fast, loud, thirsty and anti-social, Kawasaki’s H2 triple embraced the Seventies’ spirit of excess. The 748cc two-stroke burned briefly but intensely, lighting up the scene in 1971 before being squeezed out by the even-faster Z1 in ’73. But by then the H2 had cemented its place in folklore.
In those pre-political correctness days, Kawasaki’s press release trumpeted: ‘The Kawasaki 750 Mach IV has only one purpose in life; to give you the most exciting and exhilarating performance. It’s so quick, it demands the razor-sharp reactions of an experienced rider. It’s a machine you must take seriously…’ It wasn’t just hype.
The claimed 125mph top speed and a 12-second standing quarter-mile time tells part of the story. But it’s the maximum torque being so close to maximum power in the rev range – 57.1lb.ft at 6500rpm and 74bhp at 6800rpm – that underlines the H2’s peaky delivery. There’s precious little kick low down in the rev range, making it a very single-minded motorcycle.
Handling is better on post-’73 machines, thanks to revised frame geometry and a longer swingarm. Power drops to 71bhp, but you won’t notice it and the more predictable handling is a worthwhile trade-off.
If you can live with the fuel consumption (which can drop to 17mpg), all-or-nothing performance and scarcity of some parts (notably gearbox internals) the H2 is hugely entertaining. Its sheer presence, glitter paintjob and expanse of chrome are enough to guarantee an audience wherever you turn up. But shy, retiring types need not apply.
Beefing up the front brake makes sense. Kawasaki offered an optional extra front disc – a few machines had it. Z Power can supply a Japanese kit using a four-pot AP Lockheed caliper for about £400 (depending on the exchange rate).
Another weak point, especially due to the abuse that it will have endured. Pattern clutch plates and springs are readily available, and fitting heavier springs is a good idea.
A weak point on the H2, so check the gears all engage properly and don’t jump out under load. Genuine gearbox parts are almost impossible to find. A company in the USA makes complete gearboxes – but at £3500, they’re only for the well-heeled and committed.
Expensive to replace, with pattern systems from Japan available at a price – budget around £1400. David Higgs of Higgspeed makes a full set of expansion pipes with silencers for around £600, if originality isn’t paramount.
Find a classic Kawasaki two-stroke for sale at MCN Bikes for Sale.