Jay Leno provides us with a unique perspective being one of a handful to ride both the original and the reincarnated H2. On the latest Garage episode he has Jeff Herzog, Senior PR Coordinator for Kawasaki along for the show as he rides both bikes back to back. What's most fascinating is how true to the spirit of the original Kawasaki got with the newest Ninja.
Back then there really weren't that many ways to go fast, Kawasaki engineered a new way. Compare that with the development of the Ninja H2. Sure there are more ways to go fast now then in the '70's but emissions and regulations have constrained the creativity somewhat. We all know the story about the supercharger, no one could build it, they said it couldn't be done. Kawasaki did it anyways. But its not a new ethos for Kawasaki, very far from it..."When this came out [original H2], OH MY GOD, 74 horsepower, which doesn't sound like anything now, but the Vincent Black Shadow had 55 horsepower and that was considered crazy. So when these came along with 74 and lightweight and of course that power band..."
"You have to understand how Kawasaki thinks, they think different then the other manufacturers. They're always trying to one up, which I love, when the Honda 750 came out Kawasaki was ready with a 4 stroke and said lets wait, let Honda have their thing. And then they came out with the 900 after that. The z1 was the future, but the last gasp was the 2 stroke. They knew emissions were coming, they knew you wouldn't be able to make these for much longer so they just went kinda all out to build the fastest accelerating production motorcycle you could buy and that's what this is the Kawasaki H2"
Even the riding impressions are difficult to separate from one another. Before Jay swung a leg over the original he gushed poetic about its 'virtues'. "its hard to convey how fast this motorcycle was, I mean it just blew off everything on the street back in the day...its not so much even how fast it was, it felt even faster, when that power band kicked in it was like WOAH, the front end would come up I mean just really really exciting" Sound familiar...its a whole different power band, it just comes on so hard"
If Jay was impressed with the original imagine his joy when riding the Ninja H2 for his first time. "a supercharged motorcycle, is it heavier then a standard sport bike? yea it is a little bit, but I think that doesn't detract from it at all, it still makes it the fastest accelerating motorcycle ever" and the acceleration didn't leave him lacking, it left him speechless "...that midrange torque, to think that H2 was the fastest thing in the world back in the day, I'm mean it couldn't even hold...ahhh unbelievable"
Jay stressed several time through the set that the Ninja H2 "is not a race bike, its a road bike" and stood in awe that Kawasaki even dared to build the thing, "even at 25K a bike I don't even think they break even on these, if this was a European motorcycle it would be $150K easily"
Although you could sum Jays experience up quite succinctly "JEEEESSSSSUUUSSSSSSS" as he screws it on for the first time.
Jeff Herzog isn't the most chatty but Jay does get some interesting tidbits out of the PR man. When discussing the sonic booms on overrun Jeff says "the impeller itself is spinning faster then the speed of sound when its moving in the upper RPMs" and then smacks out every single member of the commentariat with a Turbo Gixxer, "the whole motor was made to take the superchargers power delivery, you can take some of our competitors stuff and put a supercharger on it and get the power out of it, but the crankcase, the crank the rods, the tranny none of that was made to take that kinda power. This thing was made to last and it comes with a warranty"