I don’t really get nervous when riding different bikes. It’s not really in my nature to worry, but before taking the Kawasaki H2 SX SE out, the butterflies were let loose.
I’ve ridden fast bikes before and I’ve also ridden expensive bikes before. I have never ridden an expensive, heavy and powerful bike before. At 260kg’s, and 200hp from the supercharged engine and a starting price tag of 18 grand, it was daunting.
Eicma launch excites the crowds
Watching the launch shows at EICMA back in November, the in thing now is to add a Tourer version to an existing model. Every manufacturer seems guilty of this.
Add a funky name with a few extra letters and numbers. Strap some panniers on, fit a comfort seat. Add heated grips and a bit more of a screen and it is good to go as a “new” bike. The H2 was never designed to be practical so adding these causes a problem. Glueing a pillion seat and adding panniers isn’t an easy task.
Is the Kawasaki H2 SX SE a ZZR1400 Replacement?
The ZZR1400 is becoming an ageing beast. Necessary was a new way of thinking. With the ZZR unlikely to hit the next batch of Euro5 rules. That way of thinking must have been to strap a Saturn V rocket thruster to two armchairs.
If your mind hasn’t wandered away thinking how good that would be, you are probably thinking that if the ZZR won’t hit euro5, then a Saturn V will have no chance. Despite this, Kawasaki maintains it isn’t a replacement for the ZZR.
Everybody knows that the H2 and H2R’s supercharged 1000cc engine was ballistic, I’m not lucky enough to have ridden either. I have seen videos and seen them in the flesh and it really is something special to behold. Would it work on a bike where outright speed isn’t key?
Is a supercharger better?
Supercharging gives other benefits. Large displacement engines can often be thirsty. Fitting a smaller capacity engine equipped with a blower, gives the economy figures a good boost. No pun intended. The engine is still the same supercharged 1000cc 4 pot. Detuned from the track focused H2R and the roadgoing H2 to make ‘only’ 200hp.
Compared to a standard superbike where the power tends to be very peaky, this is super smooth, linear and usable. Modern bikes seem to be midrange and high end focused, I presume to help with emissions. Supercharging helps the entire rev range and even makes low down torque better. Cruising at 60, in 6th, the Kawasaki H2 SX SE just pulls.
Its looks are very marmite. Some love its futuristic look, whereas others can’t stand it. Personally, I am a fan, I think it looks great. Much like the stealth bombers of the ’80s and ’90s. It seems very fitting to compare it to those, utterly brilliant tech, and full of bombshells.
The styling is fantastic, it looks mean and aggressive exactly how it should be. The ZZR looked mean and aggressive, but also ugly from the wrong angle. I can’t seem to find that angle with the H2 SX SE. The metallic green paintwork complete with metal flake give it a stunning glimmer in the sunlight and the black, diamond cut wheels stand out in contrast. Its angular fairings look mean but not quite as mean as the H2 and the H2R.
Despite the aggressive styling wind protection is very good. The mirrors are spot on and provide ample view behind, not that there will be anything to look at in them.
The chassis is a work of art. Despite most of the trellis frame being hidden from view, what is visible it looks fantastic. Thickening of chassis tubes, on the frame and rear subframe, accounts for the extra weight of a passenger and luggage.
Handling changes over the H2
The suspension has had subtle geometry tweaks. The steering allows greater steering lock, which is handy for town riding. The beautiful single-sided swingarm has been lengthened, slightly compared to the original H2. This gives more stability in both cornering and under acceleration. The suspension is fully adjustable front and rear, with a remote adjuster on the rear handy for adding or removing a few clicks easily depending on passengers and luggage.
Available in SE and SX SE variants
I had a date with the H2 SX SE model. The SX SE being the top-spec model complete with a TFT dashboard, cornering lights, heated grips and an up and down quick-shifter to name a few perks.
The dashboard is a work of art, it is so pretty. So much data is available to the rider it’s more science than anything. Everything from inlet temperatures, boost pressures, lean angles, throttle percentages and so on and so on.
The cornering lights use the previously mentioned lean angle sensor to progressively illuminate lights on the fairings. I’m not completely sure of the reason why, they don’t really add anything during the day, maybe at night in the dark, they might illuminate more but as this is untested I will refrain from comment. I can’t decide if it is just a gimmick or not though.
Full electronics suite of rider aids
Also equipped with cruise control, cornering ABS, Traction control and anti-wheelie and adjustable rider modes, all of which are not necessary but very nice to have. Launch control is available for those red light drag races. Much to my disgust, it was disabled on the demo bike.
The handling for such a large bike is phenomenal. I felt like I was riding a sports bike, the brakes were good, the initial turn-in is sharp and predictable. The high clip-on bars allow easy input into the bars. The Bridgestone rubber gives a good feel from the front end. Some of the engines adjustability proved interesting with different levels of engine braking available.
I loved the noise from dropping a few cogs and powering out the corners. It just sounds pure evil. The supercharger howls and flutters away, making noises which makes the child inside you giggle. The standard can sounds good, and even better, Kawasaki and Akrapovic have teamed up and made an aftermarket can.
Double bubble screen would make a massive improvement!
One of the only gripes I do have is about the windscreen. For a touring bike, I found it very low, and non-adjustable, like some other touring style bikes.
I’m a short, and when sitting in a normal riding position the screen only stopped wind draft up to my chin. An inch higher would have kicked it nicely over the top of my head to cut down on some noise, and buffeting. For taller riders, this might pose more of an issue. The riding position seems a nice balance between comfort and sport. Very roomy, and padded on the behind, this really is a mile muncher seating position.
Another slight gripe was the switchgear on the handlebars. It seemed a little fiddly and awkward with gloves on. The buttons for cruise control didn’t seem to press easily. The button itself pressed, but the button didn’t seem to engage or it was awkward to press down enough with thick gloves on, I’m hoping its user error.
Easy to ride, whatever the situation
This bike is ballistic which normally is not good for a road-going machine, but the H2 SX SE is useable. It cruises nicely at Mach 1 and gets there in no time at all. The engine provides good pull low down which makes overtaking a doddle.
Normally I slate modern bikes for how rubbish they sound, and how awful the cans look. This is an exception, the can looks good, and it has a decent noise from it.
The noise is addictive, especially when coming off the throttle. That noise is not just audible to the rider and pillion though, even others I was out with complimented how obscure but awesome it sounded.
I forgot to check the MPG after the ride. I put a tenner in the tank did 100 miles of brisk-paced riding, and handed the bike back with more than when I started. That is about as scientific as it gets. For something as big and as powerful as Thunderbird 2 I was rather impressed.
H2 SX SE, a great alternative to other touring bikes
Overall my thoughts are that this bike is a serious piece of kit. Kawasaki says it isn’t a direct replacement for a ZZR, which feels true.
The H2SX does have a more sit-up position. Not as sit up as a Z1000, but then not as racey as a ZX10R. A happy medium. Despite the small windscreen, I would still be happy to rack up the miles, and boy it does that easily.
Price starts at £15,100 for the base SX with £18,100 for the more tech-laden SX SE version, with additional performance, touring and performance touring variants.
With many other tour bike options being around the similar price tag, the H2SX really could become the common bike seen at service stations up and down the French autoroutes.
For more information on the Kawasaki H2 SX SE see here.