Every few years, Kawasaki comes up with something that makes the motorcycling world sit up and take note. In the early 70’s it was the three-cylinder two-stroke H1 and H2. In 1983 it was the GPz 750 Turbo. And while the H1 and H2 were maiming their owners, Kawasaki started developing an inline 4-cylinder that was to become the norm of the mainstream bikes. But Kawasaki was not done yet. With the established 1000cc engine dominating the World Superbike series, they decided that it was time to shock the world again. They came up with a supercharged H2. It looks like something from an origami class and it goes like stink.
Fortunately, someone with some sense saw that the H2 was not for mere mortals and they decided to make a more sedate version of it: the H2 SX. The idea of the SX was to make it into a Sports tourer. The problem is that Kawasaki already have a 1000cc Sports tourer, the Z 1000 SX. The H2 SX is not merely a Z with a supercharger, neither is it an H2 with upright handlebars. Even though it shares a lot of the design elements of the H2, the SX got a significant amount of updates to turn it into a two-up long distance machine. The trellis frame has been beefed especially to allow for the extra weight of a pillion and luggage. The steering head has been moved forward to provide greater steering lock and to aid with straight line stability.
One thing Kawasaki had to address was to cure the H2’s thirst. They claim an overall improvement of 25% in fuel consumption. To achieve that, they lowered the compression ratio and tweaked the power delivery. Where the standard H2 delivered its power all at once, on the SX the power comes in phases. Under 4000 rpm the bike feels utterly sedate. Between 4000 and 6000 you get little hints that the power is coming. Above that, you realise that the SX is very quick as the frontend gets light. Add that supercharger noise and the ride becomes a symphony of petrol-head sounds.
This bike comes in two spec levels: the H2 SX and the H2 SX SE. The instrumentation on the SX is the familiar unit from the ZX10 with the large rev-counter and small LCD. In SE trim there is a full colour TFT display, cornering lights, heated grips and a quickshifter among others.
The H2 SX has much larger fairings than the standard H2 and that makes riding a pleasure. The bike also has all the electronic gizmos to keep the bike upright. Handling is surprisingly easy for such a large bike. The seat is plush and you do sit a bit more forward on this than you would on a Z 1000 SX. This bike is unmistakably an H2, but one that normal people can live with every day. I could go for miles on this bike.
Words and Pictures: Brian Cheyne