First of all came the light switch power delivery of the 500cc Kawasaki H1 of 1969, then common sense prevailed and things calmed down considerably. Engines grew in capacity, and became tamer too, but still crazier than the rest of the early 70’s Japanese pack.
Although a basic engine by design, there is something strangely attractive about any multi-cylinder two-stroke. Whether it’s the array of pipes necessary for the engine to function correctly, or simply the noise it makes, kicking a full-blooded stroker into life always turn heads. This is most certainly the case with any of the Kawasaki triples as, at any part in the rev range, the characteristic burble produced is quite unlike anything else. Combined with the resonance of the cylinder fins as they ring in time with the slap of the pistons the sounds is in a class of its own.
The engine is pretty bullet proof too; over engineered crank components keep the bottom end well cared for, while the hefty crankcases hold it all together nicely. Even those big bore pistons pumping up and down the cylinders rarely give any cause for concern as the loads they encounter remain negligible, mainly thanks to the power and torque sitting so low in the rev range. To add to that, the bottom end is well balanced, employing a triangular crank-web design, rather than the usual round section items found on other two-strokes. The H2 is a substantial machine too, matching the size of the three-cylinder engine perfectly to create an aesthetic balance that is still attractive, and modern looking, nearly 40 years on.
The mix of one pipe down one side, and two passing by the other, creates unmistakable look that is uniquely Kawasaki, the only other Jap triple producer of the 70’s opted to split the centre cylinder into two silencers slung below the two outer ones, to give a four pipe look that technically, at least, isn’t supposed to work for a two stroke engine. The Kawasaki, with its correct exhaust set up, does work however and the engine produces power in abundance albeit, in such a manner that makes it among the most manageable of its generation, while being right up there as the fastest too. It’s a great package that, suspect handling apart, adds up to being a really special production motorcycle with a real personality, the like of which we rarely see from the modern bunch of plastic rockets.
Keeping any Kawasaki triple running shouldn’t prove difficult with several, comprehensive, online sites offering advice and help while a burgeoning owners club has all you could ever need in the shape of support to keep your Kwak triple on the road and in great shape. There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of bikes either and many are finding their way over to the UK from the States, many in immaculate condition and with few miles on the clock too, even so prices remain high for as new examples so be prepared to dig deep if a bit of 70’s stroker madness is your desire.
In use the Kawasaki has a number of different personalities from mild mannered street machine to a full on heart pumping Superbike. The combination of high levels of horsepower and torque produce one of the best rides on the planet, unfortunately this isn’t matched by its spindly steel chassis and is always the first to cry enough well in advance of either the rider or the engine. Japanese chassis design was well behind the development work beng carried out in the go department and as such the H2 is among the worst of the 70’s wobblers, especially when pushed or ridden aggressively. It is one of the few machines of the period to feature an effective hydraulic steering damper, and it needed it too. To make matters worse, there is precious little ground clearance to play with, so cornering can be fraught with many fears, be it not being able to hold a tight line as the frame flexes or the pipes dragging along the ground and trying to lift the wheels off. Compounding the chassis woes is the single front brake, it is barely adequate if the H2 is allowed up into the upper reaches of its performance, many owners fitted a second unit to the mounting lugs already on the right hand fork leg and this improves things no end.
It isn’t all bad news, in fact this was the case with most machines of the period and beyond, it is simply how things were back then and in reality a bit like taking a trip back in time. The H2 has a few quirks that adhere to the old ways, neutral being right at the bottom of the gear box being one such thing, requiring the gearbox to pass all the way through the five ratios, before it will sit in a safe position for traffic lights etc.
Keep the revs down around the 5000 mark and the big Kwak will potter around all day, never suggesting it might oil a plug or even produce a cough in disgust of such treatment, let the revs rise a further 1000rpm however and the story changes quite dramatically. The peak torque and horse power occur within 300rpm of each and they produce a massive hit when they sing together, the front wheel becomes lights in the lower gears, easily leaving the ground in the first two, and requiring a good throttle control or risk looping the whole show as the full force of the 74 horses has its way. Once the foibles are factored in, the H2 is a delightful bike that exudes personality. The engine is almost talking to the rider and there is little need to check the tacho dial, such is the surprising spread of power on tap, the five-speed gearbox even makes sense in this package too each ratio being spot on in relation to the next one either up or down while the well set up 30mm Mikuni carbs allow precise metering of the fuel and with it the way the bike behaves when the throttle is opened up. It isn’t hard to see why the H2 was such a hit in its day, there was nothing around, certainly not a standard road bike, to hold a candle to it performance wise while its looks were both sleek and stylish.
Kawasaki H2 Model history
First seen in 1971 the H2 was little more than a scaled up, and mechanically beefed up, version of the already popular 500cc H1 of 1969. The H2 was a child of the 70’s when bigger was viewed as better and among the current crop of dated designs it certainly was. Opting to remain with the air-cooled formula, much weight was saved compared to the similarly designed Suzuki GT750, and the outright performance was high as a direct result. 120mph was a seemingly unattainable figure for a road bike back in the early 70’s and yet the Kawasaki triple could achieve it daily, and without the help of a tail wind, while standing start times were even more impressive. The engine was usable too, the piston port design proved to be tractable and a real pussycat compared to Kawasaki’s earlier attempts with large capacity two strokes. The H2 quickly gained a reputation a serious tool, while its racing counterparts proved to be equally as effective, the basic engine design living on in the staggeringly fast, liquid-cooled, KR750 race machines with Mick Grant being timed at 192mph at the TT in 1977.
By 1975 the pressure from the environmentalist movement had grown and the writing was on the wall for all but the most technologically advanced two-stroke machines, this left the air cooled motors with little future and the H2 was removed from the Kawasaki line up. Kawasaki switched from making high performance two strokes to concentrating on the up coming four-stroke machinery that they excelled at too, although the H2’sreplacement was a relatively dowdy performing four-stroke twin. The type remained a legend however and is now a highly prized machine that can still turn heads among a sea of modern machines.
Kawasaki H2 750 Specifications
Engine – air-cooled, 3-cylinder, piston-port, 2-stroke
Capacity – 748cc
Bore/stroke – 71 x 63mm
Power – 74bhp @ 6800rpm
Torque – 57ft-lb @ 6500rpm
Carburetion – 3 x 30mm Mikuni VM30SC
Transmission – 5-speed wet clutch chain final drive
Frame – steel tube double cradle
Suspension – 36mm telescopic forks. Twin shock rear
Brakes – 275mm disc single-piston floating-caliper, 180mm single-leading-shoe drum
Wheels – 3.25 x 19 400 x 18
Weight – 206kgs
Top speed – 120mph
Wheelbase – 1410mm
Fuel capacity – 17ltrs
H2 Model Timeline
1969 Kawasaki H1 500
The first of the Kawasaki triples, the staggeringly fast H1, was borne, easily the fastest bike around if a little wild.
1971 Kawasaki H2-750 chassis number H2F-00001
Kawasaki goes one better in 1971 when the 750 H2 was launched. Controllable power and huge amounts of torque combine to take the world by storm.
1973 Kawasaki H2-A chassis number H2F-23671
Chrome front mudguard and graphics apart, there was little separating the first model from this later version.
1974 Kawasaki H2-B chassis number H2F-32201
This model saw a number of changes not least a complete redesign bringing the styling in line with the new range of middleweight triples. Numerous engine enhancements were implemented too, along with a lengthened swing arm to keep the front wheel on the ground a little more often.
1975 Kawasaki H2-C chassis number H2F-42547
A new longer tank was introduced for this year while the hydraulic steering damper shifted sides from the right to the left. This marked the end of the line for the big Kwak stroker.
Kawasaki H2 750 Gallery