Monday, January 19, 2015

NEW METAL 2015: Kawasaki Ninja H2R vs. H2

There’s some good news following the full release of specs for the supercharged new Kawasaki Ninjas: The H2R trackbike remains the fire-spitting, glowing hot 300-horse no-holds-barred monster (check out the H2R dyno video), even though its $50,000 price tag means most of us will never throw a leg over one.

But our shoulders slumped a bit when we saw that the H2 streetbike tipped the scales at a claimed 525 pounds wet and that its output had dropped into the “200 hp” range.
There’s some good news following the full release of specs for the supercharged new Kawasaki Ninjas...

Insiders have said the actual output is higher than stated, which is essential for the success of this model. Crushing horsepower and a supercharger really are the H2’s key selling points; other machines have all the electronics (or more), plus you can get a steel trellis frame and a single-sided swingarm elsewhere (cough, Ducati, cough) for less money.

But face it: Building an “extreme” motorcycle for the street forces a manufacturer to make concessions not only to emissions and sound regulations but also potential liability, which doesn’t seem to be the case with cars.

That is, it seems a little discriminatory that in a world where people don’t blink at 250-mph production cars with 1,000 hp, a motorcycle manufacturer feels compelled to limit streetbike top speed to 186 mph and get cagey when claiming more than 200 hp. Let’s set ourselves free!

Sermon over: We’re happy to report that the only changes to the reduced-power H2 engine are camshafts, head gasket, clutch, and a street-legal exhaust. So a little software hacking and an aftermarket silencer ought to pump things up to more astronomical levels. Anybody out there in ECU land able to hit CTRL-C on an H2R box and paste it to the H2’s?

Whether you will or won’t buy an H2 or an H2R is now a moot point because online ordering ended December 19. But we sure enjoyed reading the fine print on the track-only H2R’s purchase page, which included a list of guidelines for potential H2R buyers to acknowledge before they could place deposits.

First and foremost was a firm reminder that the H2R is for closed-course use only. But what if you own an H2 and simply want to buy the parts necessary to convert it to R spec? Denied! You need proof of H2R ownership (“product registration, VIN confirmation, etc.”) to buy spares. Further, “In addition to regular periodic maintenance, service inspections are required every 15 hours of engine operation above 8,000 rpm.” And, finally, there’s no warranty.

Nevertheless, we have seen nearly all the new 2015 models, and the H2/H2R Kawasaki very much remains in a class of one. But we’ve got a free trackday and dragstrip rental for the first owner who presents us with a hacked H2.