my favorite drink is synthetic oil

CHRISTOPHER MCKITTERICK

GALLERY OF MOTORCYCLES

My last H2

AH, YES, the Kawasaki H2 Mach IV 750cc two-stroke triple... I have a soft spot in my heart for these dangerous brutes. I guess it's because of my history on Kaw two-strokes. I'd learned to ride on a 1976 Kawasaki KE100 enduro bike. My first street bike was a 1976 Kawasaki H1 500 -- an extremely souped-up one which put out nearly 120 horsepower: 0-60 in just over 3 seconds, 60-90 in 3 more, and a top speed well over 150 (the fastest I ever dared take it). Not the best choice for a beginner's street bike, especially back in 1985 when most race bikes didn't put out that kind of power, and other "superbikes" of the period hovered around 100 horses.

Anyhow, I (of course) crashed it spectacularly, got pretty banged up, and wrecked it utterly. The cause was a bad front brake which locked at highway speed, so the dealer gave me back the money for my traded-in KE100 and a bit more to cover medical expenses and the extra I paid for the H1. I rode my dad's bike (utterly gutless next to that, a 70's Honda 450) for a few weeks until I crashed it, too -- "Unlicensed Cadillac-Wielding Woman Pulls in Front of Motorcyclist" -- so I didn't ride for a year or so after that. My next bike? Another two-stroke, of course <g>.

My last H2


Back in 1972 when this bike was introduced (this one was a '72, too), this was by far the fastest factory-built machine on the roads. Among other things, it was called "the Widowmaker," because so many people killed themselves on this thing. Imagine the period: The fastest cycle in your town was probably a modified Norton, sputtering out 40 or so horsepower. This bike, straight from the factory, had 76 horses and with only some minor carb work and expansion chambers (like the pipes on this one) you got 90 horses. Do some chamber work, install high-compression pistons, and this monster could put out a reliable 150 horsepower! All this in a frame and suspension that could withstand a good 40 horses.

I think you can see where the nickname comes from.

     Gotta love that butt

I love this view -- three tailpipes; nothing else looks like that.

I bought this bike after the 1150, because I missed the brutish power-delivery of a high-performance two-stroke. Not that this was as fast as the 1150 (it wasn't), but the power came on all at once. Riding one of these things is like riding two bikes: The first is gutless, easy to kill when you first take off; the second is a full-on sport bike... and there's no transition between the two states of being. It's as if the throttle has an "on/off" switch at 5000 RPM. I bet that's what nitrous is like.

      So 70's!

This is a custom cafe-racer true to its period... in fact, the original owner (from whom I bought it) did the paintjob and other customizations back in 1976. It had been blue originally, but a neighbor kid "helped" him wash the bike... with a riveted cloth. Thus the paint. The fairing is a Dunstall 1/4 fairing, painted to match the body repaint. I installed the expansion chambers, which are period-correct (gotta love eBay!). I also replaced rusty bar-end mirrors with modern replicas, and installed those little blinkers for legal reasons.

I also polished all the aluminum on this machine, replaced the ORIGINAL tires right after a harrowing experience on the road, and replaced lots of rusty bolts with stainless ones. New chain and sprocket, of course, because these bikes ate those for lunch.

Look ma, no switches!

What a great cockpit. Sigh. That fairing is still the best wind-protection I've ever had on a bike, and I've imprinted on this shape as being "correct" for cafe-racers, so I'll need to get one of these again for my next bike. Or when I customize the Bandit... Those miles were actual. Sweet machine.

The big black dial is what served as a steering damper. Riiiight. It sorta tightened up the steering head. Boy, the frame on this thing was known as the "Flexi-Flyer" because of its insubstantial size and strength, but I found it pleasant to lean into a corner and let the bike sort of shape itself to the curve. Just don't expect to change directions in mid-corner!

I sold this bike when we moved to Kansas. Sigh again. I'll get myself another some day... I'm especially enthused about building an H2R replica, with stiff frame, modern suspension, and super-stout engine. Once a two-stroke addict, always a two-stroke addict.

NEXT MOTORCYCLE

MAIN PAGE

CYCLES INDEX

MAIL