A Supercharged Hayabusa on the Way to Take Down the Ninja H2R?

A supercharged 1,400 cc ballistic missile – that’s what Suzuki is rumored to be working on for an all new Hayabusa which hasn’t had a serious up date in many, many years. This rumor is from a variety of sources in Japan and SE Asia, although we’re obviously fairly dubious about it.

That said, like the GSX-R1000, the Hayabusa is in dire need of an overhaul. The last major update to the bike was in 2008 and since then it’s really only gotten minor changes. That does then give some credence to the rumor as Suzuki is begging to ramp up production on new bikes. Also, Suzuki has filed numerous patents in relation to forced induction motorcycles over the last few years so we know they’re interested in going down that route…

But a 1.4 litre supercharged machine? If it does happen, it will be strictly for track use only. The original Hayabusa was partly responsible for a government crackdown which saw a gentleman’s agreement among manufacturers to limit their bikes to a top speed of 300 kp/h. One can only imagine the power and speed of a force induction bike with that kind of capacity…

A 1,400 cc normally aspirated bike for the street (100 cc larger than currently) and a supercharged one for the rich and famous who like their toys is much more likely.

hayabusa supercharged young machine


Kawasaki Promise Twelve New Models for 2016/17

As far as EICMA went for Kawasaki this year, it was very quiet. Not only did the not show a single new bike, they didn’t even bring any concepts either. The best they could muster was some renders of what they’re calling the ‘SC-02 Soul Charger’ – an image of a supercharged motorcycle that was probably mocked up in a few hours. But good things come to those who wait and hopefully there’s some big things coming from team green…

Despite the lackluster showing at Milan, Kawasaki Motorcycle President Kenji Tomida gave us a glimpse of the near future, and it will feature 12 brand new bikes over the next two years. Of those, there’s no doubt that some of those will be supercharged motorcycles – successors to the Ninja H2.

The Soul Charger concept is an example of Kawasaki’s supercharger technology but in a downsized form. That means we’ll hopefully see supercharged bike(s) from Kawasaki that shed some of the excess weight of the Ninja H2 and potentially in machines with capacities between 600 and 800cc.

Trawling through patent filings, Kawasaki continues to register more designs for their superchargers, so we wouldn’t be surprised if more than one of those 12 new bikes features forced induction.

But at the same time, a lot of Kawasaki’s lineup is in need of upgrade. The Ninja ER-6 platform is now heavily out-muscled by competitors. Other than the Vulcan S, Kawasaki hasn’t released anything new cruiser wise for a long time. And while the W800 is an underrated bike, it’s a complete sales failure and Kawasaki desperately needs something to capitalise on the retro/scrambler craze happening at the moment.

The new 2016 ZX-10R Ninja is a start, so let’s hope they can keep up the momentum.

Kawasaki Sould Charger


The History and Future of Forced Induction Motorcycles

In just a few weeks, the first forced induction motorcycle to be produced since 1985, the Kawasaki Ninja H2, will hit showrooms – a hiatus of 30 years for a technology used in not only performance cars but increasingly in family sedans and hatchbacks. So why have there been so few forced induction motorcycles and is the Ninja H2R just a gimmick or a sign of things to come? Let’s take a look at the past and possible future of forced induction motorcycles.

The Past

While Kawasaki sold a turbocharged Z1R-TC made by the Turbo Cycle Corporation in the late 70’s, the first true production forced induction motorcycle was released by Honda.

The Honda CX500 Turbo was released in 1982 and based upon the technologically advanced (at the time) CX500. In addition to its turbocharger, it also featured computer controlled fuel injection, ignition and turbo control. The base CX500 featured the first V-twin ever built by Honda and it became the perfect base for its turbocharging experiment. According to Motorcycle Classics, air was routed from the front of the CX through an oiled foam air filter and then into the compressor part of the turbocharger. From the turbo mounted in front of the engine, air traveled to a plastic box (called a surge tank), and then through reed valves and intake tubes into the cylinder head. Fuel passed through a fuel filter before being pushed under pressure by an electric fuel pump, where it was fed to fuel injectors that released a precisely calibrated flow of fuel to the intake tubes.

Reactions to the CX500 Turbo was mixed. Most journalists either loved or loathed the turbo sensation. Detractors stated that the bike became too hard to control when the boost came on, especially in the corners. The following year Honda bumped the capacity of the engine up to 674cc and increased the compression ratio to 7.2:1 which increased power to 97 hp, but it was short lived. The turbocharged model was discontinued by the end of the year.

Soon following Honda’s release of the CX500 Turbo was Yamaha’s response – the XJ650LJ Seca which had the distinction of featuring in the Bond film Never Say Never Again. It featured a four stroke transverse four cylinder turbocharged DOHC, 2 valves per cylinder engine with a capacity of 653 cc. Unlike the Honda CX500 turbo, it was air cooled and pumped out 90 hp at 9,000 rpm. It was also far more low-tech than the Honda – something that many actually preferred – using carburetors instead of electronic fuel injection.

The Yamaha XJ605LJ Seca Turbo was also preferred when it came to riding in comparison to the Honda. The transition from off-boost to on-boost power was less sudden than the CX, making it easier to ride over mountain roads. That said, the same criticism that that was leveled at the Honda was also made of the Yamaha – turbo lag. The reduced lag and extra low-end and mid-range power made the Seca easier to ride hard than the Honda, but for sport use both required far more concentration and skill than for any good non-turbo bike

Suzuki was the third of the Japanese giants to enter the turbo game, with the brand new XN85. Specifications wise it was quite similar to Yamaha’s offering – same engine configuration, similar weight and a capacity only 20 cc more than the XJ650LJ. However, unlike the offerings from Honda and Yamaha, the Suzuki XN85 was developed from the ground up exclusively as a turbo bike, rather than modified to fit an existing platform. It featured the first 16-inch front wheel on a production bike, low clip-on handlebars, rearsets and a single shock rear suspension – a rarity for the times.

The bike was a commercial failure however. Only 1,153 examples were actually produced and it was discontinued after less than a year.

Last to the party and last to offer a turbocharged motorcycle for sale was Kawasaki with their E1 and E2 GPz750 Turbo bikes. As far as performance went, the GPz750 was the king of the turbocharged bikes thanks to its larger displacement – 112 hp @ 9,000 rpm and a massive 99.1 nm @ 6,500 rpm. Upon its release it was claimed to be the fastest production bike in the world. In addition to having the best performance figures, it was generally regarded as the best example of a turbo motorcycle. Lag was down and the turbocharger actually did what it was intended for – to make it quicker than a comparable normally aspirated machine. Commercially it did well too – being sold for three years in comparison to the other makes one year stint.

But economics of production and cost of ownership meant that even Kawasaki’s machine was eventually withdrawn and we wouldn’t see another forced induction motorcycle until the announcement of the Kawasaki Ninja H2 and H2R last year.

The Present

The year is 2014 – 32 years after Honda released the CX500 Turbo and Kawasaki announces the Kawasaki Ninja H2, the world’s first production supercharged motorcycle. The Ninja H2R would be for the track only.

We’ve talked in great length about both the Ninja H2 and H2R and while we’re extremely impressed by the specifications of the H2R, we’re a little less enthused about the road legal H2 which suffers from excessive weight. The H2R makes nearly 300 hp from one litre of engine capacity and it does so by forcing far more air into the system than a normally aspirated engine can. And that’s probably the reason why the H2 is so heavily detuned – that process will create a lot of heat. That’s not good for longevity and ironically, heat will actually decrease air density and therefore reduce power. Kawasaki have innovated a whole host of new technologies to overcome these issues, but that’s not cheap. Nor is tested in the real world and Kawasaki probably don’t want a lot of money on warranty claims eating into their profits.

But Kawasaki aren’t alone in looking at supercharging. Patents were discovered late last year showing Honda is seriously looking at a supercharged bike based on the NC750. The Honda NC750S and NC750X are unique motorcycles as they stand, with huge amounts of luggage space located where the fuel tank usually sits. This makes it an ideal candidate for forced induction as it provides an easy solution to placing a supercharger, related plumbing and an intercooler.

Then we have Suzuki and their Recursion concept which if the rumors are correct is heading into production this year as the Katana. Unlike Kawasaki and Honda though, the Suzuki Recursion makes use of a turbocharger. If and how Suzuki has overcome the issue of turbo lag remains to be seen.

So why after three decades of absence is forced induction making a comeback? The reason for it’s renaissance is actually quite boring but very important – the environment.

Yes, forced induction, whether it be provided by either a turbocharger or supercharger gives an increase in performance. But increasing performance isn’t really necessary for most motorcycles today. Just take a look at the specifications for the latest normally aspirated superbikes like the 1299 Panigale and Yamaha R1 and you can quickly see that a turbocharger or supercharger would just add unnecessary weight, complexity and cost to the machines for probably little gain. Where they do improve things dramatically is in emissions.

And that’s going to become increasingly important. It’s expected that by 2017, the European Union will require all motorcycle manufacturers to quote C02 emissions for their bikes which will lead to tax implications. Governments will continue to pressure vehicle manufacturers to lower their emissions which contribute a sizable percentage to most western nations overall carbon emission figures.

So how much can forced induction reduce emissions? Quite a lot actually.

The Ninja H2 has the exact same output as the current Kawasaki ZX-10R. But the H2’s carbon monoxide emissions are 1g/km compared to 3g/km for the ZX-10R – a reduction of 66 per cent.  Similarly, the hydrocarbon emissions of the H2 compared to the ZX-10R reduce from 0.3g/km to 0.2g/km – 33 per cent down. Just imagine the reductions when the technology becomes more mature.

Like it or not, motorcycle manufacturers ignoring both emissions and fuel consumption of their machines is coming to an end which means this time, forced induction is likely to not be a small flash in the pan but part of the ongoing motorcycle landscape – just like electric bikes. And for that, we’re more than happy as the more choice available to consumers, the more riders we’ll get on our roads.


The Kawasaki Ninja H2R is Stupid Good

Kawasaki has held nothing back with their new Ninja H2R. It looks unlike any other bike before it. Its ugly and beautiful at the same time. These pictures are not of a concept, this is the real deal.  It looks insane and has an equally insane amount of power. This is the type of bike that motivates western governments to introduce legislation curbing the outputs of motorcycles and restricting their use to professionals only in an effort to protect people from themselves. The Kawakaski Ninja H2R is the opposite of a sensible, polite, practical motorcycle – and how good it is!

Kawasaki hasn’t fully divulged horsepower figures, but the track only Ninja H2R will produce almost 300 bhp. That’s not a typo. By comparison, a current model Hayabusa produces 197 bhp and KTM 1290 Super Duke makes 177 bhp. It’s likely that the rumored 225 bhp output will be for the street legal H2 – but that will be confirmed in November.

You can read the full press release below the photos.


When Kawasaki first conceived the Ninja H2R, the driving development concept was to offer the kind of acceleration no rider had experienced before.  

That a motorcycle be “Fun to Ride” is one of Kawasaki’s guiding principles.  But while there are many ways for a motorcycle to be enjoyed, it was felt that having incredible acceleration was a major factor in delivering ultimate riding exhilaration.  

Powering the Ninja H2R is a supercharged engine with a design target of 300 PS allied to a compact design on par with power units found in supersport litre-class models.  The key to achieving this incredible performance lies in the engine’s supercharger—a motorcycle-specific unit designed completely in-house with technology from other companies within the Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) Group: the Gas Turbine & Machinery Company, Aerospace Company and Corporate Technology Division.

KHI Group technology was not limited to the supercharger.  Advanced technological know-how shared from other group companies is found throughout the all-new engine and chassis design.  For example, the carbon-fibre upper and lower wings that ensure stability when riding in the ultra-high speed range were designed with assistance from Kawasaki’s Aerospace Company.  This is but one example, and this inter-group collaboration combined with the level of technology poured into this model is the reason the Kawasaki River Mark* is displayed prominently on the front of the Ninja H2R.  

When it came time to name this model, using “Ninja”—a name synonymous with Kawasaki performance and shared by many legendary models over three historic decades —was an obvious choice.  But this model is also named for another epoch-making model, whose 2-stroke 748.2 cm3 Triple gave it an intense acceleration that made it a sensation around the world: the Mach IV 750, also known as the “H2.”  For a model designed to offer “the kind of acceleration no rider has experienced before” we can think of no better name.  

Built Beyond Belief. In 2014, Kawasaki is once again ready to unleash a new sensation upon the world.  

*The Kawasaki River Mark is a long-time symbol of the KHI Group dating back to the 1870s.  As a policy, its use on products is rare and limited to models with historical significance.  But for the Ninja H2R permission to use this symbol was granted.  


Never-before-experienced Acceleration

In order to be able to offer intense acceleration and a top speed in a range that most riders never have a chance to experience, it was essential that the engine be able to produce big power.  While a large-displacement engine could easily provide a high engine output, to ensure a lightweight, compact overall package a compact engine was also desired.  Using a supercharged engine—essentially enabling a high-performance engine to be downsized—allowed both of these engine design requirements to be met: maximum power output has been targeted at 300 PS, and the engine size of the 998 cm3 In-Line Four is on par with other supersport litre-class power units. 

In-house-designed Supercharger

The supercharger used in the Ninja H2R was designed by Kawasaki motorcycle engine designers with assistance from other companies within the KHI Group, namely the Gas Turbine & Machinery Company, Aerospace Company, and the Corporate Technology Division.  Designing the supercharger in-house allowed it to be developed to perfectly match the engine characteristics of the Ninja H2R.  The highly efficient, motorcycle-specific supercharger was the key to achieving the maximum power and the intense acceleration that engineers wanted to offer. 

Chassis Design

The objectives for the Ninja H2R’s chassis were to ensure supreme stability at ultra-high speeds, offer cornering performance to be able to enjoy riding on a closed course, and finally to have a highly accommodating character.  Ordinarily, high-speed stability can easily be achieved with a long wheelbase, but a shorter wheelbase was selected to achieve the compact overall package and sharp handling that were also desired.  The frame needed not only to be stiff, but also to be able to absorb external disturbances—which, when encountered while riding in the ultra-high speed range, could easily unsettle a lesser chassis.  A new trellis frame developed using the latest analysis technology provided both the strength to harness the incredible power of the supercharged engine, and the balanced flex to ensure the stability and feedback for high-speed riding.   


As speed increases, wind resistance increases exponentially.  To be able to operate in the ultra-high speed range, a combination of high power and slippery aerodynamics is needed.  With power requirements taken care of by the supercharged engine, the next step was to design bodywork that both minimised drag and ensured control when riding at ultra-high speed.  Assistance from Kawasaki’s Aerospace Company was enlisted in creating the aerodynamically sculpted bodywork to ensure maximum aerodynamic efficiency.   

Intense-Force Design & Craftsmanship

Wanting to ensure a bold design worthy of a model that carried both the “Ninja” and “H2” names, the prime styling concept chosen for the Ninja H2R was “Intense Force Design.”  As a flagship for the Kawasaki brand, it required presence, and a styling that reflected its incredible performance.  But the design is much more than cosmetic.  While it certainly looks the part, the Ninja H2R also possesses a functional beauty: each piece of its bodywork was aerodynamically sculpted to ensure stability at ultra-high speeds; the cowling design also maximises cooling performance and heat dissipation, aiding in achieving the engine’s roughly 300 PS output; and the Ram Air duct is ideally positioned to bring fresh air to the supercharger.  More than any motorcycle Kawasaki has built to date, the Ninja H2R is a showcase of craftsmanship, build quality and superb fit and finish—right down to the high-tech mirrored-finish black chrome paint specially developed for this model.