Has it really been 20 years since the world didn’t seize up at the stroke of midnight, as we feared it might? Yes. Every time I walk out into the garage, my 2000 R1 sitting dormant on its stand (the last year of the first-gen R1) reminds me of what a long time ago that was. Next to all the new bikes it sees come and go, the old girl is positively archaic. In a good, Ann-Margret way, but still. While we’re still quarantining seems like a good time to look back upon what bikes have moved the game forward the most since the millennium.
Only a company like Red Bull could pull together the resources to rent the largest airport in the world to stage the world’s ultimate drag race. Seeing as how this yet-to-open airport is in Istanbul, Red Bull called up seven of the fastest vehicles and pilots – including fighter pilots – Turkey has to offer to go head-to-head in this exhibition of speed.
Kawasaki announced a number of updates to the 2019 Ninja H2 and Ninja H2 Carbon, making the supercharged engine more powerful, while maintaining the same fuel efficiency as the previous iteration. While Kawasaki USA hasn’t released any power figures for the H2, its European counterpart claims a substantial increase from 197.3 hp to 227.8 hp. We’ll have to wait to see if the North American-spec version gets the same boost. The 2019 Ninja H2R also receives some updates, though its engine remains unchanged.
A few days ago, some images began floating around reportedly depicting a supercharged 600cc Kawasaki expected to be called the “Ninja R2.” But just like we did last week with a design patent for a 125cc Honda Monkey prototype, we’re going to explain why these reports probably aren’t true.
Crouched down behind a wing-festooned carbon-fiber fairing about one-third of a mile down an Oregon airstrip, I shifted into fourth gear at wide-open throttle and was both thrilled and alarmed when the front wheel departed the tarmac. I stole a furtive glance at the speedometer and saw three mind-blowing digits unexpected while wheelying: 170.
In one of those deals that’s frightening to watch but probably hilariously fun to do, Trick Star of Japan takes its hot rod Kawasaki H2R for a nice spin around Tsukuba in the company of what pass for “vintage bikes” in Japan. I find I don’t mind the narration nearly so much when I can’t understand the words.
It has been a year now since Kawasaki strung us along with what seemed like endless teaser videos for its Ninja H2 and Ninja H2R superbikes. Let’s revisit what made them so popular. Boasting 998cc from its inline-Four, the H2 brethren represents Kawasaki’s flagship motorcycle. Let’s not forget the supercharger attached to both models, giving them a healthy amount of torque without the need for an intercooler. The trellis frame, Brembo M50 brakes, and traction control, among other things, helped the H2 line handle about as well as it accelerated.
Kawasaki’s H2 street machine and H2R racebike are likely the most talked about motorcycles of 2015. Engineering a supercharger into a liter-class sportbike is a mighty technological feat, and the H2/H2R shifts the paradigm of what’s possible in a sportbike engine. The EPA-legal H2 is said to produce about 200 crankshaft horsepower, while the closed-course-only H2R claims at least 300 hp.
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.