• The Kawasaki Z H2 is a naked bike with 147kW.
• At 239kg wet, the Z H2 is by no means light.
• The power application is smooth and predictable at low revs in traffic.
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Is it just me, or is the thought of a supercharged 147kW naked bike the epitome of impracticality? I mean, what is the use of having a top speed in excess of 280km/h with only a tiny screen, little more than the size of a side-plate, to hide behind? These were the questions that occupied my mind when I first swung a leg over the blower-boosted Kawasaki Z H2.
But before I got onto it, I took a good look at the naked version of Kawasaki's much-vaunted (and in some circles, much-maligned) H2 series. The styling follows that of the other H2s – sharp, angular and aggressive, almost menacing. However, I'm not convinced that the naked interpretation does the design language any favours – without the lines of a fairing to lead the eye backwards, the forward portion of the bike seems excessively bulky.
But the Z H2 is not meant to be parked in your living room and gaped at in awe – it is meant to be out on the road, for its raw power and handling to be savoured, for its astounding acceleration throughout the rev range to be appreciated. It's meant to give you a smug feeling of superiority that comes from knowing that you can out-accelerate just about anything that dares to challenge you.
And that brings me back to my opening question – how practical is all that power in a naked bike? Surprisingly enough, in the case of the Z H2, the answer is: "Imminently so."
The annals of motorcycling are replete with examples of machines that were remarkably powerful, but a royal pain in the nether regions to live with on a day-to-day basis (Yamaha's classic RD350 and Kawasaki's own first-generation ZX-10 come to mind).
Team Green, it would appear, has learnt a lesson or two in power delivery since then, which they applied to the H2 range – I recall being favourably impressed with how manageable the H2 and H2 SX felt. I am happy to report that the Z H2 has confirmed this impression. The power is there in abundance, but only when you call upon it. At low revs in commuting traffic, the power application is smooth and predictable. How fast you go depends solely on how fast you want to go – the bike is not hell-bent on smashing you into the mom's taxi in front of you of its own accord.
That said, the Z H2 is not exactly a beginner's bike: it can, and will, go very fast if you call upon it to do so. And that's where the second surprise comes in: that little side-plate-sized screen, aided no doubt by the bulky-looking semi-fairing is remarkably effective at keeping the wind at bay even at speeds on the naughty side of 200km/h – provided that you lie as flat on the tank as you possibly can.
At 239kg wet, the Z H2 is by no means light, and it shows somewhat in high-speed cornering, but it is still a bike that you can fling at the twisties with confidence. This, combined with a healthy range of electronic safety aids, means that you can enjoy its capability even if you are not blessed with Rossi-like riding skills.
And then, come Monday, you can take on the commuter traffic with equal confidence. I would almost be tempted to call it a split personality, except that there is no noticeable split as such – there is just a seamless transition from one into the other.
And if that isn't practical, I don't know what is.
Model: Z H2
Type: Four Stroke, transverse four-cylinder, DOHC, 16 valve, Supercharged
Displacement: 998 cm³
Maximum Power: 147 kW @11 000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 137 Nm @ 8 500 rpm
Fuel supply system: Electronic Fuel Injection
Fuel type: Premium unleaded
Type: Transmission 6-speed sequential
Final drive: Chain
Overall length x width x height (mm): 2 085 X 810 X 1 130
Kerb weight: 239 kg
Fuel tank: 19 litres
Front: 2x 290mm discs, Brembo M4 monobloc callipers
Rear: Single 226mm disc, 2-piston calliper
Front: Showa SSF BP forks
Rear: Showa Uni Trak
WHEELS & TYRES
Wheel, front: 17M/C × MT3.50
Wheel, rear: 17M/C × MT6.00
Tyre, front: 120/70ZR17 M/C 58W
Tyre, rear: 190/55ZR17 M/C 75W
PRICE: R329 995