One of the questions I’ve heard frequently asked about the Kawasaki Ninja H2 and H2R can be summed up with one word: Why? Why the H2R? It doesn’t fit the requirements of any international racing series. It’s not street legal. And why the H2? Isn’t it just a detuned H2R, designed not to break the European and Japanese manufacturers’ gentleman’s agreement of keeping streeting machinery to under 186 mph (300 kph)? As if a motorcycle we expect to make in the neighborhood of 200 horsepower and go right up to an expected software-limited top speed can be called detuned. That’s before we even consider the massive torque bump the supercharger should deliver.

Discuss this at our Kawasaki Ninja H2 Forum.

Sake Barrel Breaking

The evening featured a sake barrel breaking ceremony which is used to bring good luck. Taking part are KMC COO Richard Beattie (left) and Kawasaki Motors Corp, USA CEO Masafumi Nakagawa (center).

Well, after watching 26 teaser videos, receiving tweets from factory test riders and racers about speeds well in excess of 200 mph, reading the product details from EICMA, and, now, after attending the U.S. unveiling of the Ninja H2 last night at the Japanese American National Museum, I think I can answer the question as to why Kawasaki built the H2 and H2R: Because it can. Because Kawasaki Motorcycles is part of Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) which, as Shigehiko Kiyama, President of Motorcycle & Engine Company and Senior Vice President of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., explained on the opening page of the H2’s collectible, hardcover press kit, “Tapping into the technological know-how possessed by the KHI Group, [the Ninja H2] has elevated motorcycle technology to a new level.”

Kawasaki Japan Tour: A rare look inside the colossal Kawasaki empire

While certainly the campaign is designed to build excitement for what is sure to be a groundbreaking motorcycle, Kawasaki is doing more than simply promoting its flagship bike. Kawasaki is wrapping the H2 in the mantle of KHI’s combined engineering capabilities which, in turn, is reflected back and seemingly intensified, as are the winding roads seen reflected in the H2’s mirror black chrome paint in the H2’s press photos.

2015 Kawasaki H2 Action

Innovation for the $25,000 MSRP H2 started on the inside and worked its way out. According to the press kit, “Even its high-tech mirrored black chrome paint has been adapted for mass production for the first time.”

The term flagship is tossed around in the motorcycle industry quite a bit. I’ve taken part in a ton of shootouts that had the word flagship in the title. Usually, we, in the motojournalism biz, are looking at the flagship model of a certain category of bikes, like cruisers or sportbikes, meaning the biggest, bestest, most expensive bikes in the class – the bikes each manufacturer wants to represent them as the best they offer in that group. Brands often have a flagship product representing how they want the public to see the company as a whole (Think of what the iPod and iPhone did for Apple). If you consider any of the major motorcycle manufacturers, you likely know intuitively what model carries the corporate banner.

2015 Kawasaki Ninja H2R Studio

“This 300-hp machine somehow or another has to stay on the ground, so the downforce designed through the aerodynamic flow of this bike is one feature that the aerospace division brings to these bikes.” – KMC COO Richard Beattie

However, if you go back to the origin of flagship, the term seems even more appropriate to Kawasaki since KHI builds ships and other large-scale marine products. According to, the first definition of flagship is “a ship carrying the flag officer or the commander of a fleet, squadron, or the like, and displaying the officer’s flag.” (Consider why Yamaha made such a big deal about Valentino Rossi being integrally involved in the testing of the new R1 and even featuring photos of him riding the R1 in his signature helmet and leathers.) Once you dig down beyond the definitions directly associated with ships/planes and passenger companies, flagship means ”the best or most important one of a group or system.”

As I sat through the keynote speech by KMC COO Richard Beattie and the physical unveiling of the H2, I noodled over why the company had gone to the expense of gathering so many company officials and press members to an exceptionally impressive location. Why would Kawasaki provide traditional Japanese entertainment in the form of Taiko Drummers and a Shodo Calligraphy demonstration followed by food from a world-class Japanese chef and reveal essentially no new information other than seeing the H2 in the flesh and another promotional video.

Shodo Calligraphy demonstration

The evening began with a Shodo Calligraphy demonstration by Mrs. Hiroko Ikuta.

As the evening wound down and I continued to puzzle over how nothing new had been revealed, it hit me that what Kawasaki was promoting (other than bringing general media into the loop about the top-of-the-line Ninjas) was shown in the opening video for the event, which was appropriately entitled the KHI Company Kickstart video.

The answer had been present in many of the previously released videos: The H2 is all about showing how the synergies amongst KHI’s many companies can create products that no other company can. Oh, and they built what looks to be a pair of kick-ass motorcycles. If you’re wondering why now, how does in celebration of the Ninja’s 30th anniversary strike you? This summer Kawasaki announced the 30th anniversary of the machine that essentially created the sportbike market, the Ninja 900, through the unveiling of the 2015 30th Anniversary Ninja ZX-6R, ZX-6R ABS, ZX-10R, and ZX-14R. The only thing that Kawasaki could do to outdo those special editions of those already formidable anniversary models was create a bike that could, from what we can only surmise from spec sheets, beat the ZX-14 at it’s own game of raw acceleration, in addition to being a bike that is quicker (because of the fatter, supercharger-enhanced torque curve) but not faster (because of the assumed, self-imposed top-speed restrictions), a little bit lighter, better handling and cutting edge in every way possible (rider adjustable engine braking, launch control, traction control, and intelligent ABS that alters the ABS function based on engine dynamics and lean angle on top of just the traditional wheel speed).

2015 Kawasaki G2R Action.

All you need is $50,000 and access to a closed course to ride an H2R. If you meet these requirements, downpayments are being taken, now.

Other manufacturers also use anniversaries to release special motorcycles and make broad statements about what motorcycling means to their company. (BMW’s Munich unveiling and worldwide release of the nineT had a similar feel.) Kawasaki’s previews of the H2 have focused largely on the technology – but Kawasaki is a technology company. Still, the press kit speaks of a passion for riding in a way that even an Italian manufacturer can relate to: “Neither practical tool nor race machine, the Ninja H2 was created purely to offer the joy that comes from deftly controlling a motorcycle and expertly tracing an elegant line.”

As you would expect from a technology company, the overall tone is one of form following function, whether it be the aerodynamic wings on the H2R or the blades of the supercharger’s impeller that – despite spinning at up to 130,000 rpm, being capable of pumping 44 gallons of air per second and increasing the atmospheric pressure by 2.4 times – doesn’t require an intercooler for air about to enter the combustion chambers.

2015 Kawasaki H2R River Mark

The River Mark was “chosen on this bike as a signal of the collaboration of all the Kawasaki divisions or companies that helped produce this bike. Not just the motorcycle division. This marque goes back to the company’s founding as a ship-building business in 1878. So, you have the symbol here on a motorcycle… as a recognition of the joint effort and collaboration involved in this amazing bike. “ – KMC COO Richard Beattie

So, while the unveiling of the H2 was short on empirical information when compared to the H2R, Beattie revealed a few little tidbits about the differences. For example, only one intake on the H2’s nose is operational while the H2R utilizes both nostrils – a difference fairly apparent from the previously released photos. The engine maps are different – file that under painfully obvious, given the drastic differences in power delivery requirements in street versus closed course environements. Oh, and the H2 has lights and a license plate, but I have to think that I – and you the reader – wasn’t the intended audience for this unveiling. I’m preaching to the choir, here. We already know tons of information about the H2.

Kawasaki was opening the eyes of the non-motorcycle press last night, showing titles like DUB Magazine, Men’s Journal, Motor Trend, Road and Track, Snob Magazine, Super Street, and The LA Times – the public that is largely unaware of this beast whose components are working their way down the production lines as this is being written. The motorcycle press was invited to simply share in the celebration, learn a little about Japanese culture, and provide one more opportunity for the H2 and H2R to be put in front of salivating enthusiasts.

Taiko Drummers

The evening was punctuated by several Taiko Drummer demonstrations.

As I was gathering my gear to ride home at the end of the event, I made a passing mention to Kevin Allen, Kawasaki Manager, PR + Brand Experience, of my feelings about how the H2 highlights the relationship between KMC and the other divisions of KHI, and was given such an impassioned response that I got out my recorder and asked him to repeat himself. While this statement is a little more measured and refined than his unrehearsed comment just moments before, it captures the essence:

“Kawasaki’s motorcycle and engine division utilized some of the other divisions for technology advancement with this product. While it’s not something that we can tap into on every occasion because those companies have other things that they need to produce and technology they need to develop, it demonstrates what is possible and that we have the intelligence and the know-how within our organization to tap into whenever the need arises.”

Because language is always evolving, like technology, and new ways of expressing the same old thing are constantly required, the term flagship is beginning to sound a bit dated. Instead, PR folks talk with increasing frequency of the “halo effect” a product can have over buying public’s impression of the company that designs and produces it. Again, Apple’s iPod and iPhone can act as a kind of shorthand to understanding this. I firmly believe that Kawasaki isn’t just building two impressive motorcycle models; Kawasaki is machining its halo – with the same attention to detail as the H2’s supercharger impeller blades. Fortunately, the devil will be in our right wrists.

We await with bated breath.


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Kawasaki Communities

  • ‘Mike Smith

    The new R1 is much more exciting to me. I doubt I’ll ever even see an H2 on the street.

  • DickRuble

    ‘This 300-hp machine somehow or another has to stay on the ground” – Richard Beattie
    If they are so focused on quality, how come they hired an American COO who cannot speak proper English?

    • Evans Brasfield

      I always expect you to complain about something; it’s in your nature. But is that the best you’ve got, Dick. You’re slipping…

      • DickRuble

        Incompetence and idiocy in leadership position is pretty high on my gripe list. The H2 is fine. No complaints there. Pretty sure Beattie had no contribution to it.

        • Ser Samsquamsh

          Orchestrating a huge conservative corporation to do something non-essentially artistic demonstrates leadership better than punctilious punctuation.

          • DickRuble

            “non-essentially artistic?” Do you mean unnecessarily artistic? “punctilious punctuation?”.. The punctuation cannot be punctilious. You could try to be punctilious about punctuation. For that, you would need knowledge of punctuation. Besides, punctuation wasn’t the topic of my gripe.

          • Ser Samsquamsh

            I meant what I said and said what I meant.

            Don’t you have some TPS reports to hand out?

        • Evans Brasfield

          His words, not mine, but I did choose the quote out of a 12 minute speech. Personally, I like his use of language. It gets the point across. However, if you really want to get persnickety, I transcribed the keynote address, making me responsible for any punctuation errors.

          Again, if this is the best you’ve got to complain about, you’re slipping, Dick.


    What is the deal with the gargantuan mufflers on Kawasaki ? That is ugly to look at.

    • Ser Samsquamsh

      Unlike a certain Italian despot at least gargantuan mufflers don’t mustard gas Africans.

      • DickRuble

        You’re on a roll.. Ease up on whatever gas you’re inhaling.

        • Ser Samsquamsh

          Don’t be offended. I don’t know what you look like in a tailored suit but you can still be a fashion fascist like CLARITY if you want to be.

      • Stuki

        But they do help keep quiet about it, when hard on the gas……..

    • Chris

      Yeah, I’m not a fan, either. The one on the H2R is much less obtrusive.

  • Kevin

    Kawasaki is building this bike because they can? How is it they can do this, but can’t figure out how to put cruise control on a touring bike?

    • Stuki

      Because the Connie doesn’t have ride by wire. Thank goodness, compared to the RbW systems I’ve ridden. The Kawi dual valve throttles (main valvve mechanical, secondary ecu controlled for smoothing) are infinitely more engaging and alive than RbW setups. Kawi has cruise on their Vulcan tourers, which does have RbW.

      At some point, in not too long, all new bikes will have RbW. And cruise. And be “provably better” than the old ones. Smoother, more fuel efficient and with less abrupt traction control intervention. While pre RbW bikes will be collectors items, because they don’t feel like dead, computerized lumps taking the rider out for a spin….

  • TalonMech

    All that money and technology, and it still looks like hammered dog shit. Shouldn’t your flagship bike be nice to look at? Looks like they cobbled it together in Hank Hill’s garage, and used a garbage can as a muffler. I’m sure it’s a hoot to ride, but at some point you’d have to look at the damn thing. Bleh..

    • Stuki

      It has to look distinctive. Not like something cheaper and less special. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Hence ugly to some is OK. Non distinctive, no matter how “pretty,” would not be.

      • WTF

        Well said!

    • Juan M. Sotelo

      What do you ride?

  • Old MOron

    Gentlemen, please: this bike may not be your cup of tea (it’s not mine, either), but it is badass.

    It’s got all the electro-magic you can ask for, like smart ABS and programmable engine braking. And it’s got mechanical genius, like the supercharger impeller blades.

    You want to scoff? You want to disparage and dismiss? Okay, sure, but save it for the Harleys and their clones. This bike is a f’ing beast.

    I can’t wait for MO to ride it and tell us how it works.

    • JoMeyer

      But they really could have paid a little more attention to the look of the thing. Why not wrap that beautifull black fairing all the way around? What I’m seeing is essentially a naked bike with a hood and a skirt. And could they save everyone the trouble and just bring the thing out stock with a proper performance pipe and not that missile silo that doubles as an exhaust?

      • Evans Brasfield

        According to Kawasaki, the fairing is abbreviated to give more airflow around the engine. Regarding the pipe: EPA restrictions on the H2. The H2R’s pipe is nowhere near EPA legal.

        • JoMeyer

          So the engineering might of the full Kawasaki Heavy Industries, so well used in the design of the rest of the bike, could not have been stretched just that little bit further to also design a pipe that looks poison but is still regulatory compliant? It just shows a total lack of commitment… 🙂

          • WTF

            Hahaha, we do get greedy. Don’t we 😀

      • Ser Samsquamsh

        It looks totally badass. I might actually $30k like this. I’d be terrified to ride it though.

  • MrBlenderson

    This was a great article. No H2 in my near future, but it’s nice to dream. Makes my little Ninja 250 proud.

  • Murat Oğuz Kanpak

    I didn’t know that the H2 had lean sensing ABS. Does that mean it can brake while leaned over and not crash?

    • Old MOron

      See, that’s one of the things Evans can test for us. He can go flying into turn 1, get his knee down just before the apex, then clamp on the brakes and see what happens. Go, Evans!

      • Stuki

        For what it’s worth, I’ve finally mustered up the courage to test it affirmatively on the 1190 Adventure. Not dragging knee, but leaned over enough that I made darned sure my leathers were on tight and right for my little foray into product testing………

        Grabbing a handful of powerful Brembos while leaned some ways over, sure ain’t my most natural instinct after decades of riding…… The crazy thing is, the kids who grow up racing now, won’t even know it’s unnatural. Hence won’t be slowed down by such petty fear and timidness with the controls. They’ll shave time off their laps by braking late enough to be max on the brakes all the way to the apex, then max on the gas out. With the electronics sorting everything out more reliably than even Marquez could hope to……..

  • JMDonald

    I like the idea of this motorcycle. I look forward to see it’s real influence in the marketplace and across the product line. Go Kawasaki.

  • Ser Samsquamsh

    I don’t know if I like it but it is definitely memorable! The material reason Kawi has to do this is because container ships, while world changing phenomenon with 100000HP engines are not sexy. You can’t make a viral video out of carbon fiber wing assemblies. Rightly or wrongly “Passion” and “Quality” go together in the public consciousness.

    Looks like a killer party too 🙂

  • john phyyt

    I was thinking of a way to buy this creation; I was going to use the company to lease it
    in my sons name ; to slide it past my wife; then I could ride it when I wanted and he could have heaps of fun for a year or so:I am no better than the average ride ; It is many years since I’ve been near a racetrack and even back then others were much faster.

    But I want the bragging rights to 300hp; what’s the use of 200hp and I’m not
    going to be bothered with the H2R:

    Like Bugatti need to limit top speed and horsepower; come off it.

  • Probey 76227

    What the heck, this is the unvailing and all we see is a stock photo of the bike, a painter, guys banging drums and breaking a sake barrel, where is the bike?

    • Evans Brasfield

      I’m still trying to get photos from Kawasaki. I’ll update the post when I get them.

  • Y.A.

    I just hope the tech triples down. My 650 could use a supercharger. Real bad.