“From day one, Kawasaki has always been a fearless and innovative manufacturer. Even 50 years ago, when everything was still in black and white, they surprised the world by wheeling out their latest racers at Daytona in the now famous lime green livery.
“No one can argue that they aren’t equally as brave when it comes to their current bikes, as they continue to produce incredible machines like the Ninja H2R. “It may not be practical or a must-have machine for the masses but it’s still a masterpiece even if it is completely mental. Just as the world’s biggest bike manufacturers have spent 10 years getting their flagship bikes to deliver 200bhp, Kawasaki rock up with a mind-blowing 300bhp on tap! Ok, it’s not for the road but it is reasonably rideable for most and at just over £40,000 not expensive, considering its capabilities.
“When it comes to my Kawasaki of choice through the model designation for me would have to begin with a Z. The Z1R and Z1300 were two amazing bikes but I’m choosing a modern version of an old icon. The 1970s Z900 was simply an unobtainable pipe dream for us poppers growing up at the time, however, fast forward 40 years and we have the brilliant and very reasonably priced Z900RS. And along with looking every bit as gorgeous as it’s past relative it also handles, goes faster and stops better than ever. I love this bike.”
“If you look at their dominance in world superbikes you can’t fail to be impressed. Winning the title for four years in a row is unbelievable. The way they approach the championship is different to the other manufacturers and I think it explains their success. They are constantly improving their ZX -10R road model and tweaking it to suit the constant rule changes in the Superbike World Championship.
“I can’t lie, I’ve always been a massive Team Green fan from when I was young. I used to race schoolboy motocross as a kid and have some of my best memories riding KX80s and 100s in the 1980s. I raced for the late, great, Doug Hacking,
who ran a dealership in Bolton. Fast forward 10 years and I was lucky enough to ride for the factory WSBK team in 1998. Although results wise it wasn’t my best season, it was always an honour to wear the official team green uniform. Being in
a factory team like Kawasaki was a whole new experience. Literally, every time you went back into the garage, all you could see was very serious looking Japanese people waiting to hear what you thought about their bike. Nothing was a problem, and
any changes or special parts you needed would be ready the day after you asked!”
Another of the most recognisable Motorbike brands is Kawasaki, with its long and varied history the number of differing bikes that Kawasaki have released is huge. If you have one you will want to talk to Mackenzie Hodgson about our Kawasaki motorbike
Whether you use your Kawasaki for commuting, touring or to ride on some of our countries beautiful roads, you will need quality insurance. Whatever the level of cover whether you want fully comprehensive insurance, third party fire and theft or third
party only, Mackenzie Hodgson can get you exactly the cover you desire and your bike deserves!
Get in touch with us on 0333 0053 100 to talk now about your Kawasaki bike insurance.
Kawasaki is a huge corporation that began by building ships in the 19th century, but its motorcycling story started as recently as the early Sixties, when the firm’s Akashi factory began producing a 125cc two-stroke single called the
B7. Since then there have been many spectacular bikes from a marque that has become known for high performance, and for racing success from machines with distinctive lime green paintwork.
Early Kawasaki motorcycling history is complicated, because the company had actually produced bikes years earlier. That’s because Kawasaki entered the motorcycle world not with its first product, as its rivals Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha had done,
but by taking over an established manufacturer.
In fact, Kawasaki motorcycle production arguably began in 1954, when Meihatsu, a subsidiary of the Kawasaki aircraft firm, built its first complete bikes. The single-cylinder Meihatsus weren’t a great success, and Meihatsu did no better when it
started building scooters. Looking for a different route into the bike business, Kawasaki settled on Meguro, an old marque, best known for a parallel twin BSA copy called the K1, that had fallen on hard times.
Kawasaki’s bosses saw the opportunity to make a rapid entry to the motorcycle market by combining both existing marques. The firm built a new factory to produce the small-capacity Meihatsus, starting with the B7 which, like Yamaha’s YA-1 and
BSA’s Bantam, owed much to DKW’s RT125. For 1963 the little two-stroke was given a revised engine and suspension, and called the Kawasaki B8, becoming the first model with a Kawasaki badge.
The second phase of the grand plan began in that same year, when Kawasaki bought ailing Meguro, acquiring the large-capacity machines to complete a range from 50cc scooters to 650cc four-stroke twins. The firm instantly became a significant player in
the motorcycle market, at least in Japan. Meguro had a 248cc single-cylinder model, the 250SG, which was rebranded the Kawasaki 250SG, essentially unchanged apart from some relatively minor engine updates.
Meguro’s parallel twin was updated by Kawasaki’s engineers to create the K2, then enlarged to 624cc and relaunched in 1965 as the Kawasaki W1. The roadster became popular in the domestic market, as did its twin-carburettor follow-up - the
W2. Kawasaki also attempted to export the W2, notably to the USA, but neither the W2SS roadster not its dual-purpose relative the W2TT Commander matched the impact of Yamaha’s XS650.
Kawasaki’s export division had more success with smaller strokers, notably in 1966 with the launch of the sporty A1 Samurai. Its 247cc, 31bhp disc-valve parallel twin engine gave lively acceleration and a claimed 100mph top speed, though the reality
was a few mph short of that. The Samurai sold well in the States, especially, and was followed by a racing A1R and a 338cc roadster derivative, the A7 Avenger.
But it was when the engineers added a third cylinder to create the 500cc H1, launched in 1969, that Kawasaki shot to prominence – in a high-revving, blue-smoke belching, wheelie-pulling frenzy of speed and excitement. The H1 (also known as the Mach
III) produced a claimed 60bhp, screamed to over 120mph and drank fuel at a ferocious rate. It led to an even faster racebike, the H1R, on which New Zealander Ginger Molloy finished second in the 500cc world championship in 1970.
In 1972 Kawasaki followed the H1 with the 750cc H2, or Mach IV, which was faster and nastier still, and even more of a weaving, wheelie-happy challenge to its similarly flimsy steel-framed chassis. A pair of similarly stylish and sporty smaller triples,
the 250cc S1 and 350cc S2, completed a family that firmly established Kawasaki’s reputation for outrageous performance.
Kawasaki was on a roll, and in 1973 unleashed its greatest model of all: the Z1. The firm’s four-cylinder project had been delayed five years earlier when, with a 750cc four almost ready, rival Honda had launched their CB750. Kawasaki’s engineers
enlarged their DOHC engine to 903cc and returned with the 82bhp four that established the firm as the Japanese manufacturer for high-performance superbikes. That reputation was upheld with Z900 and Z1000 models as the aircooled eight-valve
four was developed. Kawasaki ended the Seventies in spectacular style with the mighty six-cylinder Z1300.
The marque’s greatest Grand Prix racing era began in 1978, when Kork Ballington won world championships on the KR250 and KR350 tandem twins, then repeated the achievement in the following season. The South African was succeeded by German ace Anton
Mang, who rode the KR250 to the title in 1980, won both classes the following year and added another 350cc championship in 1982, making a total of eight for the beautifully engineered two-stroke twin.
There was plenty of four-stroke racing success, too. Green bikes won endurance world titles in the Eighties and Nineties; while riders including Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey and Doug Chandler won multiple AMA Superbike championships. Texan Scott Russell
followed victory in his home series by winning the world superbike title in 1993.
Kawasaki has not quite produced another superbike to match the Z1’s dominance, but there have been plenty of highlights since, mostly involving powerful four-cylinder engines. Highlights include the GPz1100 models of the early Eighties; the liquid-cooled,
16-valve GPZ900R of 1984, which was the first bike to carry the now legendary Ninja name and famous for its cameo in the iconic movie Top Gun, and the ZZ-R1100 whose ram-air assisted output was unmatched in the early Nineties.
Standards have slipped at times, as President Shinichi Morita admitted in his famously frank speech at Munich’s Intermot Show in 2002, when he said: “We at Kawasaki are aware that over the past few years, our machines have not fully met the
expectations of our customers.” But that year’s aggressive new naked Z1000 and racy ZX-6R confirmed the Big K’s comeback as a builder of cutting-edge bikes. A year later they were joined by the super-sports ZX-10R Ninja, which made
up in speed and aggression what it initially lacked in sophistication.
Recent years have seen Kawasaki’s main models repeatedly updated and backed up by varied newcomers ranging from the practical Z1000SX and retro Z900RS to the gloriously crazy supercharged Ninja H2 and H2R.
The has also been a return to the scooter market with the J125 and J300, developed in alliance with Kymco, while Kawasaki’s reputation for performance has also been reinforced on the racetrack, thanks largely to the Ninja ZX-10R on which Tom Sykes
and Jonathan Rea have dominated the superbike world championships. Not half bad for a giant corporation for which motorbikes still comprise only a tiny part of the total business.