Flashback. 1973 Kawasaki H2. The King Of The Road Or The Widow Maker?

It has a reputation, both very good and very bad. Either “The King Of The Road” or “The Widow Maker” or both…It was the fastest thing on two wheels. Faster than any Suzuki. Faster than any Triumph. Faster than any BSA, and Honda, any anything.” The H2 engine was a 3-cylinder two-stroke with an engine displacement of 748 cc (45.6 cubic inches) which produced 74 horsepower at 6,800 rpm, a power-to-weight ratio of 1 hp to every 6 lb of weight. The H2 was designed for one thing and one thing only: speed. Noise, pollution, fuel consumption, even handling were all afterthoughts.

There was just one problem the H2’s lightweight tubular cradle frame was simply incapable of containing the vicious performance of the motor. It flexed under cornering, weaved horribly on uneven roads. Kawasaki fitted two steering dampers (one friction and one hydraulic) but they didn’t make much difference. On top of that, most of the weight was over the rear wheel, which – combined with a short swingarm – caused the front wheel to go skywards, if the rider wasn’t easy on the throttle. This particular time machine has only 4400 original miles and with the exception of the air in the tires and fuel in the tank all else has been untouched since it was ridden home from the dealership. Sold from September 1971 through 1975. (photo @ Doug Mitchel 630-605-6276)


22 Responses to “Flashback. 1973 Kawasaki H2. The King Of The Road Or The Widow Maker?”

  1. 1 Darrel Apr 7th, 2017 at 9:10 am

    What a fantastic bike!!! Thanks for the write up. Great memories.

  2. 2 Sharkey Apr 7th, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Having started riding in 1968; I have to endure many of my peers recounting tales of the performance of bikes of the era. They were dogs compared to whats available today..but as they say “the older I get, the faster I was”

  3. 3 Xenu Apr 7th, 2017 at 10:21 am

    I rode one and the narrow power band and weak frame was scary, although the power was just okay.
    Bikes today, even racebikes are designed with more linear power bands and real frames.

  4. 4 rebel Apr 7th, 2017 at 10:34 am

    my ’74 was king of our local roads most of the time but the 900’s won sometimes

  5. 5 daddyeo Apr 7th, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    When these first came out, the local dealer had a Saturday where anybody with a motorcycle license, could take a 15 minute ride on one around the area. After one of them was dropped in the parking lot from the massive wheelie the rider inadvertently pulled and 2 more were returned scratched and broken from being dropped; the dealer stopped it. Too bad as I was ready to try one and never got to.

  6. 6 B.D. Apr 7th, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    While in high school, I knew one guy who had one of these and got killed on it – he hit a tree. I’ll never forget my first time riding one – I had a water buffalo and I whacked the throttle on the H2 and said, ‘I thought these things were fast. WTF?’ Then it hit the power band, the front wheel came up and I said ‘Whoah’! and backed off. Thrilling to say the least. If only they’d had the handling and brakes to match the acceleration! Lousy street rides, but they made spectacular drag bikes.

    I recall on a cross country trip in the eighties, I stopped in Lincoln Nebraska to get some new rubber on my bike. As I was leaving the shop, a young kid rolled up on an H2 smiling because he had just bought it as his first bike. I promptly asked him if he wanted to live to see his next birthday, saying that if he did he probably ought to sell that thing and get something else because those things were dangerous in the hands of novice riders.

    Sure do wish I had kept mine. Always thrilling to ride and worth a bunch these days!

  7. 7 mike switzer Apr 7th, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    They also were great for killing mosquitoes with all of the smoke

  8. 8 BadMonkeyMW Apr 7th, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    Such a great bike and so unique in the pantheon of vintage Japanese bikes. I was up at Deal’s Gap a few years ago when there happened to be a Kawasaki 2-Stroke club having a weekend meeting and got to see some beautifully restored/maintained H2’s up there. Great to see some of these wild bikes still out there on the roads.

  9. 9 domino Apr 7th, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    ………… I love 2 strokes ………. D.D.

  10. 10 Industryguy Apr 7th, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Better hold on tight!!!!

  11. 11 calif phil Apr 8th, 2017 at 7:42 am

    I rode a Kawasaki 500 Triple to high school. How I survived is a mystery. Even the 500 was way too fast for a 16 year old kid. I would love to have it back.

  12. 12 Blind Man Apr 8th, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Incredible. I rode one set up for WERA racing. A religious experience!!

  13. 13 burnout Apr 8th, 2017 at 11:08 am

    For the time plenty of power. Not much in the handling department. A cool bike nonetheless. peace

  14. 14 Heavy Metal Apr 8th, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    I well remember how blazing fast these bikes were. Now when you see an original one restored or a survivor you are looking at something special. They had their moment in time. They were very loud with three expansion chambers.

  15. 15 sicko Apr 8th, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    had a 69 h2 500 brought it, painted it matt black and rode the piss outta it for a couple of years before i could afford a real bike lol, still have the memory and the scars

  16. 16 Hillbilly Jim Apr 9th, 2017 at 9:37 am

    I owned two of these fine machines and if I find another reasonably priced one I will own a third. The handling problems of this bike are greatly exaggerated and can be fix very easily and for not much money. The horsepower rating in the article might be a bit low though and no one ever kept their H-2 stock for long. Expansion chambers, pod air filters and Wiseco pistons made an easy 100 horses which translated into 11 second quarter mile times.

  17. 17 Lugnut Apr 10th, 2017 at 8:23 am

    A buddy of mine had one. My old Honda 500 4 cylinder was my pride and joy. Seeing him blast away on this stick of dynamite was a thing of wonder and a cause for worry. Fast don’t describe it. It was soon after that that Kawasaki came out with the 900. It took a lot of the steam off Honda 750 sales.

    As far as old bikes go, just give me the Honda 750. Honda sold them by the boatload.

  18. 18 Jay Horton's Private Shop Apr 10th, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Anyone remember Dave Shultz back in the 80’s…… Later Jay

  19. 19 takehikes Apr 10th, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Great engine, chassis was made out of old licorice I think, real junk compared to the engine. I helped a buddy put one of these in a go-kart….now that was wicked stupid fun. Kind of like the bike was.

  20. 20 EzJ Apr 10th, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    ’74-’75 commuted to UCLA from Marina Del Rey/Culver City on my 2nd hand 73 H2. (Paid $1100 for her.) Early one Sunday morning I was headed to campus ‘doin 80 & the red lights & siren went off about a 1/4 mile back. Crap, but smugly cranked the throttle. Hung a gnarly left at Centinela, made a right turn into a residential neighborhood, ducked down an alley and waited. Minute or so later the black & white sped by a la Smokey & The Bandit. Ha! NO CONTEST. Waited a while and snuck the few miles back home. Left her in the garage for a few days before going out again. Moved to Mammoth in ’76 & sold her for $850….nuts! Anyone else had similar experiences?

  21. 21 1550tc Apr 10th, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Guys still drag race these bikes due to their simplicity and power

    The 500 was wild then the 750 was nuts, pure grey hound all c–k and bone

    thank god for the 900, cbx, xs 1100 and 1000 gxr, with their brakes and better engines 🙂

    EzJ in 96 a guy at coffee shop was selling his mint 900 Kaw for 1100……..on our city blocks these could do 100 and stop with ease………but in 76-78 a low rider was just plain out cool

  22. 22 Keith Apr 10th, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    I had a 73H2in 1977.We lived on a street of 3 bedroom ranch houses that were pretty close together.
    I could go from 0 to 100 and stop in 25 houses. Man did my neighbors love me!

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