When you are offered a bike as a Termer, it’s hard to say no to something you’d rather not have for fear of sounding ungrateful or like a spoiled kid. When I was offered a Kawasaki Z-H2 SE, I didn’t have to make any fake noises or feign any signs of pleasure. I have only covered a few miles on one of these bikes before now, when FB put one through its paces in last year’s supernaked test, and I remember how I was left feeling that I wanted more time on it. I must be truthful: the chirping sound that comes from the blow-off valve when you close the throttle appealed to my inner child – and I’m sure it would to most petrolheads. It might be interesting as part of this Termer test to see if this novelty factor can wear off within a short space of time.
The H2 engine doesn’t need a big introduction as it has been around since 2015. The supercharger was developed by Kawasaki as a way to help the firm keep power figures up, while also tackling the oncoming problems with emissions standards. The engine has been used for a few models in its range from the track-only 300bhp H2 R to the H2 SX sports tourer. Having a claimed 197bhp in a naked bike might sound unnecessary to some, but if I’m honest, that kind of figure is right up my street. When it comes to willy-waving down the pub over who’s bike is better, then it would be nice to boast that this is over the magic, round 200bhp figure, but when you throw in the fact that this bike is supercharged, this can add a lot of weight to the debate. In the real world and out on the roads, I doubt the extra ponies would be noticed when we are talking figures like this.
Collecting the bike from Kawasaki, I was reminded immediately how easy it is to manoeuvre on foot in the car park and while loading it into the van, despite weighing 240kg. It carries its weight well, not feeling top-heavy, and the wider ‘bars that are a feature on most naked bikes helps when it comes to pushing the Zed around.
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Aesthetically, it has a few areas that I’m not completely sold on, but having a supercharger helps ease that feeling I have for not being the biggest fan of the wide plastics around the front end, and the ‘bars sit a little bit higher than I’d like, despite this being a naked bike. As with most machines in this category, the absence of any screen and having only a small plastic cover over the dash means I’m sure that I will get very little wind protection at speed, if any. Having said that, these supernaked bikes are not built with top speed in mind, so much as they are for getting on and having a blast. The class is gaining in popularity, with more people turning to this style of machine over the more focused sportsbikes. As much as I love the full-blown sports machines, for everyday use and getting around on real roads, I am now sold on these nakeds and can appreciate their appeal. They now boast the big power, high-quality suspension and all the tech you find on their track-biased cousins.
As the sun was shining when I returned home with a new Z-H2 SE in the van, it was a forgone conclusion that I would have to get straight out to cover some miles, strictly in the name of journalism, obviously, and not because I was like a kid with a new toy. As I first set off and was riding through the built-up areas of my home town, I felt instant dread, thinking I wasn’t going to like this bike due to the aforementioned handlebars. Unsurprisingly, not only do they look higher, but they also feel higher and further back from the top of the forks to other bikes I’ve spent time on. This was quite a concern as I felt a bit disconnected from the front, however, after a few miles out on the open roads and getting used to this arrangement, the feeling proved not to be quite as bad as I first feared.
As with most new bikes I have ridden, the clutch and brake levers were set just a little high for my personal preference, but within a couple of minutes of returning from the first ride out, these were adjusted with the usual 5mm allen key. The gear lever is also set a bit low for me to get my boot under comfortably to change up through the gears; again, this was a quick fix but it had to wait until I could find my elusive 10mm spanner.
The SE Performance model that I have boasts some great extras, including Showa electronic suspension and an Akrapovic titanium end can designed specifically for the Z-H2. The TFT dash, on first impressions, looks to do the job well and is laid out nicely, with the most important information being the most prominent for those quick glances. At the time of writing this, I have only had limited chances to ride, so I have not been through the menus in detail enough to comment, so this is something I am keen to have a good look through as the experience of living with any bike of this nature can vary so much when you can dial in a setting you are happy with.
You may have guessed that I am keen to get out and about as much as possible and I do have some longer rides lined up that I am hoping the riding position on this Z-H2 will allow. Time to get clocking up some miles.
Stayed tuned to find out what Andy thinks of the Kawasaki Z-H2 SE after a little longer on test.Enjoy more Fast Bikes reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.