Kawasaki Motorcycles History and Famous Bikes
Kawasaki Motorcycles History and Famous Bikes

Kawasaki Motorcycles History and Famous Bikes

They are some of the most well known bikes. Famous for its bright green coloring, you can see Kawasaki motorcycles coming from a mile away. The company has made a name for itself by being a top performer on the track. The experience gained on the track has led to some impressive innovations for its bikes meant for the street. These days, the motorcycle lineup features track, street, off-road, dual sport, motocross, and cross country bikes. This means there’s something for everyone.

Take a moment and learn more about the history of Kawasaki and the bikes that have made it great.

Founding and Origin

The Kawasaki legacy began in 1896. Shozo Kawasaki established a company that began as a railroad rolling stock, shipbuilding, and electrical generation plant builder. Motorcycles weren’t even a thought and only later became a small part of the massive Kawasaki Heavy Industries company.

The First Motorcycles

It wasn’t until after World War II that Kawasaki acquired Meguro motorcycles. Then in 1961, the first full motorcycle was produced. It was a B8 125cc two-stroke. Over the next few years, the bikes made their way to the US and began to attract attention. Around this time, the company started its production of impressive speed machines. In 1966 the 650W1 was released, which was the biggest bike to be made in Japan at the time.

American Headquarters

The first American Kawasaki Motorcycles Corporation had its headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. It opened its doors in 1966 with offices in what was formerly a meat warehouse. How the company expanded in the American market is almost mind boggling. They came with nothing, no customers, no image, no distributors. Instead of wasting their budget on a fancy office, the team poured every resourced into bike production. This early forging of the American market also made it the first foreign motorcycle company to open a factory on American soil.

The first bikes rolling off the American production line weren’t Kawasaki. They were Omega motorcycles. Americans weren’t impressed with the small two-strokes, so they were quickly replaced with high performance the Samurai and Avenger. These later bikes were sold under the Kawasaki name. This strategy was brilliant because it gave the Kawasaki team time to figure out what the American market wanted without risking the brand name. Then, they could come out strong with the right bikes, strengthening the reputation of Kawasaki right out of the gate.

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Solving Problems for Riders

One of the biggest struggles motorcycle riders faced was durability. The parts used to construct the bike weren’t sturdy or durable enough to hold up when the bike was crashed or even dropped. Kawasaki fixed this problem. It continued to use plastics, but it improved upon that plastic. Soon, the bikes developed a reputation for being sturdy yet lightweight. The high quality materials gave the bikes a more rugged design without sacrificing performance abilities.

The Racing Legacy

Over the next several decades, Kawasaki built a name for itself as a racing powerhouse. There was Dave Simmonds winning the first World Championship in the 125cc class for the company in 1969. Kork Ballington winning the 250cc and 350cc World Championships in 1978. Then there was the epic battle by Eddie Lawson to win the AMA Superbike championship in 1981. Scott Russell won the World Superbike Championship in 1993. In 2002 Bubba Stewart won AMA 125 MX championship. You get the idea, this could go on and on.

Famous Kawasaki Motorcycles

There are a few motorcycles that stand out as exceptional. These bikes made history for their innovative features and performance capabilities.

Kawasaki Z1

Despite it first being introduced in 1972, this four-cylinder air-cooled and carbureted motorcycle would blend right in with the modern vintage inspired bikes you see getting produced today. It made waves for being the first Japanese large-capacity production bike to use a double-overhead-camshaft system. If you can’t find one of the originals, check out the 2018 Z900RS that was designed as a tribute to the original Z-1. What’s nice about this modern update is that it also comes with modern technology, like water cooling, a 6-speed, mono-shock rear suspension, and ABS brakes.

Kawasaki ZX1400

The first model of the ZX14 was introduced in 2006 and could achieve 0-60 in 2.5 seconds. It’s famously rivaled the Suzuki Hayabusa for years, with devoted fans of each arguing for their chosen bike as the best. Unfortunately, tighter emissions regulations have forced Kawasaki to discontinue production as of 2020. The last few model years of the bike featured a 1,441cc engine that could reach a top speed of 186 miles per hour.

Kawasaki Triple

Kawasaki produced the Triple lineup from 1968 to 1980. They were the first production street motorcycles with a capacitor discharge ignition (CDI). The bikes immediately made a name from themselves for their impressive acceleration abilities. The power to weight ratio was one never seen before, which led to a reputation for danger with beginner riders. These bikes are the ones that help establish Kawasaki as the speed manufacturer. They are also the predecessor to the modern H2 on the market today.

Kawasaki Ninja H2R

This bike has the honor of being the most expensive. It features everything Kawasaki has to offer when it comes to technical racing prowess and know-how. This limited production supercharged hypersport bike is meant for race use only with slick tires, 320 horsepower, and 136db exhaust. It’s not street legal. First released in 2015, this bike has only grown more mind bendingly faster and responsive.

Where Are Kawasaki Motorcycles Made?

Because Kawasaki motorbikes is a division of the Kawasaki Heavy Industries, the motorcycles are produced in the parent company’s factories. Models are manufactured in Japan, Michigan, India, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Bangladesh.

Which Is Better Yamaha or Kawasaki?

Both are top performers in the motorcycle industry. Both companies excel in their particular goals. Yamaha will give you reliable performance from a well-balanced bike. Kawasaki will give you maximum power and style for the money. The motorcycle brand you choose should be based on what you find the most appealing, comfortable, and suitable to your riding style.

How Do I Know What Model My Kawasaki Is?

Most modern Kawasaki bikes have the engine size printed on the rear fairing. However, this can wear off or get removed by a previous owner. The second place you can look is for the model number on the side of the engine. It’s a white label with black text.

What Is the Best Kawasaki Motorcycle?

The answer to this question is up for debate, as everyone has their personal preferences. However, The 2016-present Ninja ZX10R is a front runner. Unlike the powerhouse H2R, you can actually ride the ZX10R on the road. This powerful yet lightweight bike has outsold the Honda CBR 1000RR and the Suzuki GSX-R1000R.

Why are BMW and Kawasaki not in MotoGP?

It’s incredibly expensive to fund a successful racing team. Kawasaki focuses on the world superbikes for their race team. The company pulled out of the MotoGP so that it could dedicate its entire budget to one successful team instead of splitting it between two mediocre teams. One reason for the high sales numbers are the impressive reliability stats. Since you don’t have to worry about it breaking down, you can spend more time enjoying its comfortable ride and responsive handling.

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