Kawasaki H2R – When a Manufacturer Slaps on a Supercharger on a Bike
When we talk about supercharged engines, we fantasize the likes of those fast as light supercars, namely the Chevy Camaro, the Dodge Charger, the Jaguar XJ, so on and so forth. No bike manufacturer in this world, well, the sane ones at least, had thought about what a bike can do when slapped with a supercharger. They think it would be an unnecessary addition to the weight of the bike they’re desperately trying to make light.
Written by Hafiz Akbar, Edited By Tanishka Vashee
Kawasaki Motorcycles was not one of those sane manufacturers. If you look at their track record, none of their sister businesses are either. For example, they build, wait for it, actual ships for the Japanese Navy, namely the Shokaku-class aircraft carrier and the Harushio-class submarines. ACTUAL WARSHIPS. Based on that alone, we can clearly see that Kawasaki is not the type to hold back on innovation and crazy thoughts on what a motorbike can be. The executives at Kawasaki must’ve thought “Hey let’s try making a bike that goes so fast, it will most probably be banned from the road entirely.”
Absolute speed maniacs.
They spent an awful long time developing a devil of a bike with more horsepower than kilograms, making it one of the few bikes in the world with a 1:1 power-to-weight ratio. It was meant to break the world record for the fastest production bike at that time and till this day, no production bike has ever come close to breaking the record, let alone setting a new record. It went so fast, it was banned from competing in the World Superbikes Championship (because it had superchargers, duh). It was built to serve one master and one only: speed.It was the definition of raw power and speed.
As for the bike specs, it’s kitted out with a 998cc inline-4 DOHC engine with a bore size of 76mm by 55mm wrapped in a tubular, thin-wall steel trellis frame with full carbon fibre bodywork for maximum grams shaved. Combined with the supercharger, it produces upwards of 310hp at 14.000 rpm and max torque of 156 Nm at 12.500 rpm. That’s a total of 15,6 kgs pulling you back as it speeds down the long straight up the highway. The brakes are manufactured by Brembo, the same manufacturer of MotoGP bike and F1 car brakes. The adjustable front upside-down fork suspension system was made by KYB, whilst the rear suspension features a single-sided swingarm, a very unusual type for a Japanese manufacturer, with a Monoshock produced by KYB.
The reason Kawasaki chose the literbike platform as a base to develop the concept of a supercharged bike, instead of using their already existing hyperbike-the ZX-14, because the literbike platform is seen as the center of the high-performance motorbike market. If we take a look at other literbikes, for example, we have the Yamaha R1M, the Honda CBR1000RR-R, the infamous Ducati Panigale V4R, the BMW Motorrad S1000RR and last but not least, Kawasaki’s own ZX-10R. As you can clearly see, the market is very much homogenized between the mentioned manufacturers (there are more than the ones I mentioned) and thus, makes it the perfect breeding ground for innovation.
Kawasaki first announced the production of their H2 lineup at the 2014 Intermot motorcycle trade show. Along with the street-legal H2 and the naked sports version the ZH2, they announced the track-only variant of the H2, the H2R. The bike would be fully unveiled for the first time in North America at the AIMExpo show at Orlando, Florida the same year. They made some details of the bike’s engine available to the public at Intermot. It was confirmed that the engine would be a supercharged 998cc inline-4 capable of producing 300hp in the racetrack-only variant. Though only for racetrack use, it’s still by far the highest rated engine ever for a factory production motorcycle- 50% more than that of its nearest competitor, the BMW Motorrad S1000RR which, at its highest power setting (the one used for WSBK) can produce 201hp.
Following the announcement at Intermot, media from all over the world raced to get their story out about the bike. Amongst many, German motorsports magazine, Der Tagesspiegel, said that the machine “will beat up the supersport scene with a steam hammer”. Bloomberg Businessweek commented that the bike is simply “ludicrous”, whereas Road and Track added that it was “the poster child of 2-wheeled insanity … so extreme it’s hard to comprehend.”
To this day, the H2 series continues production but there have been rumours of Kawasaki cutting the line on H2 production as an effect of the pandemic. For now, we can still see the H2 (and buy one, too) roaming and speeding in streets and highways near you.