Kawasaki’s Ninja H2R has been the talking point of the decade ever since the firm unveiled their new 300bhp supercharged flagship at the Cologne show four week’s ago. Always mentioned in the same breath has been the even more keenly awaited H2, the road-bike derivative of the track-only R model. And while the styling differences between the two bikes have been one source of intrigue, the big question was how much of the R’s 300bhp would make it into the road bike. Now we know: it’s 210bhp, and it arrives at a relatively low 11,000rpm.
Once again, Kawasaki are banging the heritage drum, and referencing the original H2 (also known as the 750SS Mach IV) as the inspiration for this new bike. It’s not about the power, per se, by how the acceleration is delivered, something for which the visceral 1970s H2 was well renowned.
The engine in the road bike is almost identical to that in the H2R, with a few notable exceptions. The road bike is obviously subject to stringent emissions regulations, for both gas and noise, which have led to changes to the cams, and a fully road-legal exhaust being lead amongst the power-sapping culprits.
The headline is still the same though, with the in-house supercharger stealing all the attention. A big criticism of the unit from some quarters (mainly other manufacturers) has been the lack of an intercooler, the suggestion being that the H2 won’t be able to keep the air cool enough to be effective. The proof will have to wait until we’ve got the pudding to devour, but Kawasaki are certainly aware of the need for heat management.
The aluminium airbox is claimed to offer excellent surface heat dissipation, helping to cool the intake air, while large coolant passageways are laced throughout the cylinder head to cool the combustion chamber. The water jacket extends between the twin exhaust ports of each cylinder, and large coolant passageways around the spark plug holes and the valve seat are all aimed at battling the heat. Spark plugs and valve seats, made of steel, have a greater tendency to retain heat than the aluminium cylinder head, so cooling them should have a greater impact, while a large coolant exit means a greater volume of fluid can flow through the cylinder head. Oil is also used as part of the cooling system, and even the oil-cooler is liquid-cooled to maximise its efficiency.
Spot the difference
The headline difference between the H2R and road-going H2 is the whopping 86bhp power drop, which is effected primarily by the different inlet and exhaust cams, and the road-legal exhaust system. It still leaves the road bike with 210bhp at full chat, so it’s not going to be a slouch. That said, the 238kg kerb mass is a bit of a shocker. It’s hard to fathom where it’s gained 37kg over a ZX-10R. Other key changes include the addition of the centrally mounted Cyclops LED headlamp, the removal of the large waist aerofoils, and the replacement of the top ones with aerodynamic mirror stalks, which also incorporate the front indicators. There’s obviously a numberplate hanger on the road bike, and the offside air intake is blanked off. There are also two, presumably aesthetic-only, lower cowls at the lower front of the engine, and the front cowl and induction tube are plastic, rather than carbon, on the road bike.
It’s all about pressure
The engine was designed to be able to handle stresses 1.5x to 2x greater than a naturally aspirated litre-class engine. The compression ratio is low by comparison, to compensate for the more dense air:fuel mixture’s big bang. To ensure the engine receives sufficient fuel for its consumption rate, the H2 also uses a high-pressure fuel pump.
To facilitate smooth, quick shifting, a dog-ring type transmission is used, something that came out of learnings from the firm’s MotoGP project. Unlike a standard gearbox, which uses shift forks to slide the gears into position, with a dog-ring transmission the gears all stay in place, only the dog rings move, sliding into position to engage the desired gear.
The supercharger is driven by a planetary gear train that runs off the crankshaft, using a gear train to increase the impeller speed to 9.2 times the crank speed. So, at 14,000rpm, the impeller shaft will be spinning at almost 130,000rpm.
Aluminium air box
Pressurised air exiting the supercharger is directed up into the 6-litre airbox, made of aluminium to help dissipate heat, and to withstand the additional pressure (or up to two atmospheres). A blow-off valve controlled by the ECU regulates pressure gain inside the intake chamber.
Tuned for the road
The intake ports are polished to ensure smooth flow and minimise resistance, while the straight exhaust ports – one for each exhaust valve – do not converge in the cylinder head, giving the most exhaust flow, and contributes to efficient chamber filling. The cam profiles have also been changed in the road bike to offer strong low-speed torque.
The 4-2-1 style exhaust uses oval header pipes to match the dual exhaust ports, and each header pipe tapers from oval to a round cross-section. The 45mm headers are stainless steel, and all four header pipes are connected, while an exhaust valve helps maintain the optimum back-pressure in the system, before exiting from the somewhat unsightly end can.
The two variants use the same trellis frame, made primarily from high-tensile steel, which is aimed at balancing stiffness and flexibility, and helping to facilitate the effective dissipation of engine heat. The pipe diameter, thickness and bend of each piece of the trellis frame were all tuned to achieve the balance.
The fork is a KYB AOS-II racing system, based on the Air-Oil Separate cartridge fork developed for motocross. It’s the industry’s first use of this type of fork on a road motorcycle, and used for its low-friction smooth initial action, followed by strong damping at the end of the stroke, and is fully adjustable.
The fully adjustable mono-shock is also by KYB, sitting in the firm’s Uni-Trak linkage. The rear shock is gas-charged with a piggy-back reservoir to aid stable damping performance, and is adjustable for compression damping (high/low-speed), rebound damping and preload.
The 330mm Brembo semi-floating discs are gripped by radial-mount Brembo cast aluminium 4-pot monobloc calipers. At the back, there’s a 250mm disc with Brembo 2-pot caliper. Kawasaki’s ABS system (KIBS) is fitted as standard.
Five star wheels
The cast 5-spoke star-pattern aluminium wheels were designed specifically for the Ninja H2, and feature knurling on the inside of the rear wheel rim to help prevent the tyre from slipping on the wheel. The tyres choice is Bridgestone’s new Battlax RS10.
Hold it down
In order to maintain both straight-line stability and the control to change direction while running at high speed, the upper cowl incorporates a chin spoiler that is claimed to genuinely contribute to the creation of downforce.
It’s more of a statemtent of intent than anything else, but the H2 features hip supports which are adjustable 15mm forward/backward to suit rider size, and ensure that you can keep your arms relaxed by bracing against the hip supports.
KTRC (Kawasaki TRaction Control)
The new KTRC system’s multi-level modes give riders a greater number of settings to choose from. Mode 1 is for the track, Mode 2 for the street, and Mode 3 for wet conditions. A Rain Mode is also available separately, which limits power by more than 50%.
KLCM (Kawasaki Launch Control Mode)
There’s no need to fear the supercharger for fast getaways, as the H2’s launch control will prevent wheelspin and minimise wheelies off the line. Riders can choose from three modes, each offering a progressively greater level of intrusion. Simply hold the throttle wide open, and let the clutch out. KLCM can be used concurrently with KTRC.
KEBC (Kawasaki Engine Brake Control)
The KEBC system allows riders to select the amount of engine braking they prefer. By selecting ‘LIGHT’ in the KEBC settings, for example, the engine braking effect is reduced, providing less interference when riding on the circuit.
All lighting equipment on the H2 is LED – except for the license plate light. Kawasaki claim the sidelights ‘brings to mind the sharp fangs of a predator’. Er, ok. The front LED turn signals are built into the mirror housings.
The special mirrored-finish black chrome paint used on the H2R has also made it onto the road bike. In the shade the paint appears black, but once in the sunlight it’s highly reflective. A chemical reaction between a solution of silver ions and a reducing agent in the paint mixture forms a layer of pure silver.
The H2 is expected to be a massive 50% cheaper than the R, coming in at around £25,000, while both bikes are expected to arrive on our shores in early 2015.
Ninja H2 – The Facts
Engine 998cc, supercharged, 16-valve DOHC, liquid-cooled, in-line four-stroke
Claimed Power 200bhp @ 11,000rpm (210bhp with Ram Air)
Claimed Torque 98.46lbft @ 10,500rpm
Bore x Stroke 76.0 x 55.0mm
Gearbox 6-speed, dog-ring
Chassis High-tensile steel
F Suspension KYB 43 mm inverted AOB fork, fully adjustable
R Suspension Uni-Trak with KYB gas-charged dual-speed shock, fully adjustable
Front Brakes Brembo radial-mount, 4-piston calipers, 330mm discs
Rear Brakes Brembo 2-piston caliper, 250mm disc
Seat height 825mm
Kerb weight 238kg
Fuel capacity 17 litres