Is the Kawasaki Ninja H2 A Good First Bike?

Dear TheRideAdvice.com. I’ve been wanting to buy my first motorbike for a while now but nothing has quite caught my eye. That was until Kawasaki announced the Ninja H2. I love cars with superchargers (like the ones on The Fast and the Furious) so I knew I had to get an H2. I know I could get a Busa or a Fireblade for cheaper, but my father is giving me the money to get the H2.

My dad’s really good like that. He wasn’t around much as a kid and I only see him when I need some cash these days, but he’s always generous and gives me everything I want. He’s all you’d want in a father I suppose. Anyway, he did raise one good point that perhaps I should start out on a normal literbike for my first motorcycle, just to be safe. What do you think?

Yours sincerely, Chaz McGuire.

Hi Chaz, thanks for your email. It’s good to see that your father is looking out for you. He raises an interesting question about whether you should get a normally aspirated literbike or start out with or an H2 straight away. Chaz, you sound like a likable fellow and I’m sure you’re a real winner at life, so here’s a number of reasons why we think the Kawasaki Ninja H2 would be a great first bike for you.

1. You won’t need to change gears

The top speed of the Ninja H2 is limited to 300 kph, or around 186 mph. It’s geared so that you don’t have to shift into second gear until you’re well past 60 mph (100 kph). That means you don’t have to worry about changing gears – think of it like an automatic motorcycle. That’s good news for you Chaz, as shifting gears can be hard for people like you and takes away the focus on looking cool.

2. You can speed out of trouble

Chaz, the Kawasaki Ninja H2 produces a massive 210 horsepower – almost more than any other street-legal production bike. That means should the police try and pull you over for not wearing a helmet, you can speed away from them no problem. Sure, you’ll need to change gears but you’ll be able to work it out – necessity is the mother of invention (or learning to change gears on a motorcycle).

3. It’s supercharged

How many people do you know Chaz that can say that their first motorcycle was supercharged? Maybe a few, but you and I both know they’d be lying. Your friends probably ride wimpy first bikes like R6’s or GSX-R750’s. Lame! The best way to learn to ride supercharged motorcycles is to own one. You’re almost at the first step!

4. It’s practical

Some may think the Ninja H2 is just a track weapon, but for you Chaz it makes sense as a daily rider. You probably won’t ever take it to the track, or even the drag strip but don’t let that stop you from getting the H2. When you think about it, the H2 is just like every other motorcycle. Sure, you can’t carry a pillion and there’s no storage space, but you can always stuff the milk and bread from the corner store down the front of your jacket.

In our view, the H2 makes a perfect bike for lane splitting too. Lane splitting is always easier when you’ve got a supercharger. You’ll be able to get through peak hour traffic like it’s standing still – which it probably is!

5. Like the Apple Watch, it’s super technomological

The H2 has all sorts of great stuff. It has traction control (you won’t need it), launch control (but then you can’t wheelie from the traffic lights), ABS brakes (but then you can’t do cool skids), and a quick shifter (it’s like V-TEC). You won’t need any of these things Chaz, but it’s nice to know they’re there.

6. It will make you a better rider

Do you think the best riders in the world started out on tiny dirt bikes or small capacity road bikes? Of course not, Chaz. They went straight to the big toys and learned from there because they’re awesome. You’re awesome too, Chaz and there’s no way to be a better rider than to get one of the fastest motorcycles available today.

So there you have it, Chaz. I’m sure no matter what we said you would have ended up buying a Ninja H2 with your dad’s money, but it’s also no doubt good for you to have some positive reinforcement of what will perhaps be your last major decision in your life.

Enjoy!

2015 Kawasaki Ninja H2

2015 Yamaha R3 Review

The brand new Yamaha R3 is the latest learner friendly sportsbike to hit the market. Given that Yamaha has had longer to work on their entry into the now ultra competitive beginner bike segment of the market, does that mean that the R3 is the best choice for new riders? Can the Yamaha R3 better the Honda CBR300R’s comfort and practicality or the Kawasaki Ninja 300’s outright performance?

If it seems like we’ve been reviewing a lot of smaller entry level machines of late it’s because that so many have been released in the past six months. Consider that only four years ago, the Ninja 250 was all on its own but now is joined by faired and naked bikes from Honda, Suzuki, KTM and Benelli, with BMW joining the party later this year. Alongside the popular adventure bike segment, learner bikes are the biggest gig in town for motorcycle manufacturers.

Not only are they cheap, but they offer the consumer a gateway to the brand. Yamaha no doubt hopes that first time riders who buy an R3 will over time upgrade to an R6 or even an R1. And they may well be very tempted to do so, because Yamaha has made a nearly perfect little motorcycle.

The Yamaha R3 is powered by an all-new 321cc inline twin cylinder engine. According to Yamaha, the development concept behind this new engine was to create a ‘supersport machine you can ride every day’, and the architecture of the new powerplant is designed to ensure good rideability in the low to mid-speed range, together with a strong and responsive character at higher rpm. Thankfully, they’ve nailed it.

While the Yamaha has a small horsepower advantage over Kawaski’s Ninja 300, it’s not really noticeable in a straight line drag. What is noticeable is that you don’t have to continually keep the engine at high revs to access that power – power delivery is available across the rev range and makes for a very rideable machine. That means there’s a good amount of roll on acceleration and you don’t necessarily have to bang down one or two gears to overtake – an impressive thing for a low capacity bike.

The two-into-one exhaust also elicits a nice note and the aftermarket pipes from Akropovic that are already available sound absolutely brilliant. The engine has been mated to an excellent gearbox – shifts were smooth and the gearbox didn’t hesitate once. The fueling of the bike is excellent too – none of the jerky throttle response that earlier CBR250R’s suffered from. In fact if anything, the throttle response is slightly too soft – when throttle blipping on downshifts I really had to twist the right grip to get the engine to rev. This is a very minor criticism of what is an otherwise near perfect setup.

The brakes on the Yamaha R3 are another highlight. Both initial bite and progression were excellent and there’s a good amount of feedback provided for such an entry level machine. Depending on where you live will dictate whether you can get ABS or not. In Australia it sensibly comes standard and in the UK it’s available as an option. For some extremely strange reason, Yamaha USA decided that they wouldn’t even offer ABS – a frankly baffling decision for a motorcycle aimed at new riders.

Up front there’s a 298 mm disc attached to a 2 piston caliper, with 220 mm disc at the back. Our bike launch was hosted on a track with over 20 corners and the brakes felt great throughout – no fade was noticeable. And it was also noticeable how well the front end performed under heavy deceleration with minimal front end dive.

In fact, the bike felt composed all day. While the suspension is hardly groundbreaking it did a good job in providing feedback as to what was happening where the rubber met the road. Perhaps this is Yamaha’s greatest achievement with the R3 – it feels like a small racebike when on the track but on the road manages to be a comfortable commuter. They’ve somehow managed to combine the best of the CBR300R and the Ninja 300 into one package and have done it successfully.

That perhaps is partly due to the fact that our test bike was fitted with Dunlop Sport Maxx tires and not the Pilot Road rubber that comes standard. Unfortunately, those Pilot Road tires aren’t what you’d expect – they’re apparently specifically designed for the Yamaha R3 and use ancient bias ply technology. While we didn’t ride with them, the general consensus is they’re pretty poor. Yamaha’s not alone in taking the cheap option on tires – both Honda and Kawasaki fit bias ply tires to their beginner bikes too and it’s a practice we’d love to see cease.

That is probably our only real criticism of the Yamaha R3. Looks wise, it’s a beauty. The fit and finish is top notch and Yamaha have produced a bike that looks more expensive than what it actual. They also haven’t tried to mimic the appearance of either the R6 or R1 – it has a style and character of its own. Even the stock exhaust doesn’t look too bad, a rarity of late.

Overall, the Yamaha R3 ticks all the boxes. It’s lighter than the Ninja 300 and more powerful than both it and the CBR300R. Its suspension is better sorted than the KTM RC390 and it seems to offer a better riding experience both on the track and on the road than the competition. Yamaha may have been late to the party, but they made their appearance count.

 

Honda CB300F vs Kawasaki Z300 vs KTM Duke 390 – Beginner Naked Bike Comparison

Didn’t you hear? Naked bikes are the new sportsbikes. Well, not exactly but the demand for naked bikes that offer virtually the same performance levels as their faired brethren has rocketed in recent years, so much so that many of the major bike manufacturers have begun offering naked entry level machines. After recent testing, we’re going to take a look at whether out of the Honda CB300F, Kawasaki Z300 or KTM Duke 390 there’s a clear winner, or if each offer something different for a new rider.

Appearance

Let’s get the most subjective measure out of the way. The Duke 390 is probably the most polarizing of all three bikes based on its orange and black paint scheme alone. This is no shrinking violet – the Duke (like so many KTMs) screams “Look at me!” The bright orange frame and wheels are certainly recognizable, but otherwise it’s a fairly standard looking naked.

KTM also seems to pay attention to the smaller details including the design of the swingarm, engine covers and underside exhaust which all demonstrate that this is a quality machine and not a cheap runabout.

At the other end of the scale, Honda’s CB300F is certainly the most conservative, a typical Honda trait. It’s by no means ugly, in fact it looks quite handsome but it certainly isn’t anything special to look at. Honda has also appeared to save on costs by using a lot of black plastics on the bike, most notably on the half fairing at the front of the bike and the belly pan. It just seems a little bit underwhelming.

The Kawasaki however seems to straddle the line perfectly between classy and ostentatious. Its design isn’t restrained but it still looks attractive, with lots of angular and muscular lines really drawing your eye across the bike. The styling takes cues from its bigger naked brothers, the Z800 and Z1000 but we think the baby Z nails the look. Colors available on the bike also look great, especially the matte grey. In fact, out of the three bikes here, we say that the Kawasaki looked a great deal more expensive than the Honda and KTM just by the way it’s put together and finished off.

Comfort and Ride

None of the three bikes here are overly deficient in how they ride which is a credit to the three brands at this end of the price scale. You won’t get razor sharp superbike handling but given the price range we’re playing in, they all do an admiral job at carving through corners.

The Z300 has the most aggressive seating position of the three bikes, you sit further back and lean forward more than the other two. It’s all relative though – it feels very casual compared to say a Triumph Daytona 675 and you certainly won’t get a sore back from the ergonomics.

The suspension on the little Kawasaki is fairly good, though definitely dialed towards the firm side but the damping is spot on. So while the slightly more aggressive seating position creates a small sacrifice when it comes to weaving through traffic, it comes ahead on the ledger when tacking the corners.

The Honda is definitely tuned to a softer setting than the Kawasaki. It makes for a more pleasant ride on poor surfaces but it’s not as sharp. The seating position is more upright and relaxed as well, with slightly more legroom available too thanks to the pegs being slightly lower than that of the Z300’s. Trail and rake is 98 mm/25.3° compared to 82 mm/26° for the Z300 and it’s definitely apparent.

The Duke is a whole other story, though. You sit upright like the CB300F but much further forward – you get a feeling of sitting over the bike rather than on it. Riders of dirt bikes and motards will feel right at home while newer riders may be a little intimidated about how much you sit over the bars.

But if you can get your head around it, it’s a thoroughly rewarding experience. You feel in command while going through both traffic and canyons on the 390 Duke. It almost demands to be pushed through corners at silly speeds. I’d put forward an argument that the Z300 would be potentially more capable in the the corners, but the 390 Duke just feels that more willing.

Braking

Of the three bikes, only the 390 Duke comes with ABS as standard worldwide. Certain markets offer both the Z300 and CB300F with or without ABS which we have a strong dislike of. This is an entry level bike for learners – let’s ensure they have the best safety and get ABS as standard.

The Kawasaki has the smallest brakes of all three bikes, with a 290 mm single front disc compared to the 296 mm of the Honda and 300 mm of the 390 Duke’s. That said, the Z300 provides more bite and feedback than the CB300F by quite a margin and surprisingly so. On paper there shouldn’t be much between them, but the brakes on the little Honda just feel squishy and lacking in power.

I’d argue that even compared to the 390 Duke, the Z300 provides better feedback and it feels like it grips the disk better. In testing though, the Duke definitely comes to a complete stop quicker thanks to its four piston caliper as opposed to the two on the Kawasaki – but it does so in a less confidence inspiring manner. At the rear of the bike, the Z300 maintains a 2 caliper arrangement while both the KTM and Honda make do with 1, though you’d struggle to tell the difference.

Power

Looking at the specifications, you could probably guess that the order from best to worst when it comes to speed is the 390 Duke followed by the Z300 with the CB300F taking up the rear. And you’d be right, but the difference between the Duke and the Z300 is actually a lot closer than you’d think.

In fact, it almost comes down to personal preference.  There’s no denying the KTM 390 Duke will go from stop to go quicker than the Kawasaki in a straight line. It’s 373cc single produces 43.5 hp (32 kW) @ 9500 rpm and 35.3 Nm  @ 7000 rpm while weighing 154 kg wet. The Z300 and it’s 296 cc parallel twin makes 38 hp (28.3 kW) @ 11,000 rpm and 26.9 Nm @ 10,000 rpm while mated to a bike that tips the scales at 168 kg with all liquids. There’s a clear performance advantage to the KTM.

But because the KTM employs a single and the Kawasaki a parallel twin, it becomes a closer story in real life than on paper. Riding the Kawasaki, you’ll definitely hit the power band quicker and more easily than the KTM which really only gets going once you clock up about 6,000 rpm. It means that you’ll be downshifting far more on the Duke, trying to keep power delivery up while the Kawasaki is happy to stay in gear more often.

That parallel twin is also much nicer to live with – vibration from the engine is less than that of the Duke. My hands got sore from vibrations after only 30 minutes with the 390 Duke – and that wasn’t even at overly high speeds. That said, the Z300 isn’t as smooth as I would have guessed and in fact, the Honda with its single is probably the best of the bunch when it comes to vibrations.

But that’s probably largely in part to the engine not doing as much. While it weighs 10 kg less than the Z300, it’s just too far down on power to compete with it or the 390 Duke. The 286 cc single manages to produce only 30.4 hp (22.7 kW) @ 8 500 rpm, albeit with a respectable amount of torque 27 Nm @ 7 250 rpm. That means the Honda is willing if not always able.

Equipment

At this end of the price spectrum, there’s little difference between the three machines. All offer only preload adjustment on the rear shock and the most sophisticated piece of technology shared between them are ABS brakes.

The dash on the Duke 390 is fully digital and provides by far and away the most information including even a gear shift light. But it’s awfully difficult to read and I much prefer the mixture of analogue and digital displays as used by both Honda and Kawasaki.

One big card the Z300 can play is the inclusion of a slipper clutch. This is usually only offered as standard on higher end superbikes so to be included at this price point is a big deal. It’s definitely something that comes in handy at the track and in the mountains and is a welcome feature. It was recently announced the the 390 Duke will also be fitted with a slipper clutch this year bat as things currently sit, the Z300 takes the lead here.

While not really a piece of equipment, the Z300 has the largest fuel tank by quite some measure – 17 liters (3.6 gal) compared to the CB300F’s 13 liter tank and the Duke’s 11 liters – which gives some indication as to why the Kawasaki weighs the most of the three (and the KTM the least).

Overall

From a performance perspective, the fight really is only between the Kawasaki Z300 and the KTM 390 Duke. But given this is an article on naked machines and not sportsbikes, perhaps that’s not a completely fair way to make a decision.

The Honda is no doubt the most placid machine to ride as a daily and we don’t mean that in a negative way. Despite being down on power and handling, it’s the most comfortable of the three to ride and still manages to be enjoyable when pushed hard. It’s most at home in surburbia as opposed to twisty roads though so it depends on where you itnend to spend the most time riding.

The 390 Duke is almost the polar opposite to the Honda. It’s quick (for it’s capacity), it demands to be ridden fast and feels more motard than entry level machine. But for that, you do sacrifice comfort and practicality and as stated at the beginning, it’s aesthetic appeal is definitely debatable.

The Z300 however manages to stay close to the 390 Duke when it comes to both straight line speed and cornering, but without sacrificing too much in the way of comfort or practicality. It’s also (in our view) the best looking of the three tested her and we feel that from a long term perspective it is the machine that most riders would be satisfied with.

 

Honda CB300FKawasaki Z300KTM 390 Duke
Engine
Engine Type286cc 4 stroke, single-cylinder296cc 4 stroke, parallel twin373 cc 4 stroke, single cylinder
Bore And Stroke76mm x 63mm62mm x 49 mm89 x 60 mm
InductionPGM-Fi, 38mm throttle body32 mm x 2 keihin with dual throttle valveBosch EFI (throttle body 46 mm)
Compression Ratio10.7:110.6:112.6:1
Valve TrainDOHC; four valves per cylinderDOHC, 8 valvesDOHC, 4 Valves
Horsepower30.50 hp @ 8,500 rpm38.89 hp @ 11,000 rpm43.5 hp @ 9500 rpm
Torque20 lb ft @ 7,500 rpm19.91 lb ft @ 10,000 rpm26.03 @ 7000 rpm
Drive Train
TransmissionSix-speedSix-speedSix-speed
Chassis / Suspension / Brakes
Front Suspension37mm fork; 4.65 inches travel37 mm telescopic forkWP-USD Ø 43 mm
Rear SuspensionPro-Link single shock with five positions of spring preload adjustability; 4.07 inches travelUni Trak with gas charged shock and 5-way preloadWP-Monoshock
Front BrakeSingle 296mm discType Single 290 mm petal discSingle 300 mm disc 4 piston radial caliper
Rear BrakeSingle 220mm discType Single 220 mm petal discSingle 230 mm disc 1 piston caliper
Front Tire110/70-17 radial110/70-17 M/C 54S110/70 -17
Rear Tire140/70-17 radial140/70-17 M/C 66S150/60-17
Dimensions
Rake25.30 degrees26 degrees25 degrees
Trail98mm (3.9 inches)82 mm / 3.6 in98mm (3.9 inches)
Wheelbase54.3 inches55.31 inches53.8 inches
Seat Height30.7 inches30.9 inches31.4 inches
Wet Weight348 lb383 lb340 lb
Fuel Capacity3.4 gallons4.5 gallons2.9 gallons