Top 10s

Why you should always meet your heroes

We spent a fast and frantic month with Kawasaki’s fantastic H2 SX SE. Here’s what we have learnt

KAWASAKI’S H2 family first caught my eye when some clever sod in PR dreamt up the idea of plonking one on a dyno at the NEC show a few years back. The sight and sound of some lucky sod wringing the neck of that thing in Hall Four left a big impression on me.

So, when Kawasaki got in touch and told me they had a spare H2 SX SE just loitering around their HQ, my leathers were on before I’d ended the call and I was hammering down the M40 to collect it.

After a month with the green beast of mostly shit weather and boring commutes, today was the first dry, sunny and fairly mild day we’ve spent together. I’m just back in after hammering along my favourite routes for an hour and thought I’d better let you know what I’ve found out.

1. It’s fast.

You know this already and we ‘thought’ we knew this already but, until you sit on the thing and ask it to fire you at the horizon – you’re possibly not ready for what’s about to happen – especially if you’re not used to big-bore Busas and ZZR14s. And I’m not talking about the power or the torque, because they’re only the ingredients, I’m talking about the thrust, and the way it just keeps on pulling. An H2 delivers almost all its torque from about 5.5k right up to 10k rpm, meaning there is rarely a problem if you miss a downshift or just fancy pootling around town in third all day.

2. The panniers are excellent

Waterproof, easy to take on and off and bigger than those offered by the Multistrada. Kawasaki has also set the pannier boxes inside the subframe top rail, meaning they don’t stick out a foot either side of the front fairing, where they’re free to murder fuel economy and the wing mirrors of cars.

3. Pillions like it

Until you floor it that is, and then the only people I took on the back started shouting and punching me in the ribs furiously – can’t think why!

On a serious note though, the pillion seat is big and flat, grab rails come up to greet your hand and the panniers give you an extra bit of security you can lock your legs against. The riding position is also neutral enough that a passenger can easily get a big enough handful of my waist, should the mood take them!

4. It’s comfortable – to a point

The rider ergos of a bike that’s capable of near 200mph speeds are always going to be compromised in some way, and the SX is no different. But it’s a good enough compromise that allows you to ride for two and a half hours or so before you’ll be eyeing the next service station or café for a leg stretch.

The pegs are high and rear set and the seat to bar distance is quite long, shorter riders (I’m about 5’7”) may find the stretched-out demeanour a struggle. Sliding to the front of the seat won’t help either as that tends to put a bit of pressure on your knees which will eventually become painful; I found that the head-down and bum to the back of the seat position worked best.

5. The TFT dash is great, day or night

It’s flanked by a big, typically Kawasaki, rev-counter and is bright, clearly laid out and easy to use if switching between the lean angle gauge and trip computer are your thing – I managed 51° by the way. There is also a big button on the righthand instrument binnacle that flips the display from white on black to black on white – great if the weather can’t decide between shit or really shit!

And while we’re on about tech, I also found the switchgear, menus, and modes all really easy to use. I generally have a week of faffing about with a new bike, fumbling about not really knowing what I’m doing. And then I’ll give up and read the handbook, or worse call the manufacturer. But the SX is well laid out and very user-friendly, even for this technically minded dunce!

6. The quickshifter is a rough diamond

By diamond I mean it can change gear quickly and even match the revs with a deftly placed blip on downshifts. By rough I mean it does need to be treated with caution. It seems to notice the presence of your foot telepathically, if you’ve left it too close to the lever after shifting it may not want to play ball. Like most quickshifters, it’s also best used when the revs are up in the mid-range, anything below that is just clumsy and a waste of the electronics.

7. With fast comes thirsty

Thousands are thirsty bikes, bolting a supercharger onto one and making it such a hoot to ride is going to do nothing good for the MPG. Add to that a 19l tank – that clicks onto reserve with about 3l to go – and I struggle to get from Coventry to London and back without a splash and dash at Northampton.

Look, I’m sure that an average speed of 75mph on the motorways would yield a more positive economy figure but, this bikes not about getting great mpg, it’s about slipping through traffic and disappearing into the distance and shrinking your favourite long straight into a barely-big-enough braking-test.

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