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courtesy Rod Ratzlaff

A look back at Kawasakis

I feel compelled to comment about an article that appeared in the January/February 2023 issue of Motorcycle Classics entitled Kawa-Kollector, Rich Hobbs and his collection. He’s a man after my heart. Seeing those Kawasaki triples brought back many great memories from days gone by. I’ve owned three 500s (H1) in orange, grey, and blue. I can’t remember the corresponding years. Also, two 750s (H2), in the original blue. In later years I also had a Z1 (900) and a KZ650. On the dirt side, I’ve had a couple of 350 Bighorns, a 175 and a KDX200. I currently ride a KLR650, and a Triumph Bonneville. I’ve had a variety of bikes over the years, 23 total, but I’ve always had an affection for Kawis. Kudos Rich …

Regarding the handling of the H1s, they weren’t as terrible as some have represented. I did some local production-class road racing with one back in the ’70s, and survived. As Japanese bikes go from that period, they were manageable. Of course, all that power and a light-switch powerband required some very delicate throttle control. They did well on fast tracks, but the Yamaha 350/400s gave everyone fits on tight circuits. Kawasaki had a performance reputation, and the big triples (and Z1) were among the first so-called “Superbikes.” They were quite super in their time, but I’m astonished by the current generation. We now live in the era of 200 horsepower street bikes! Back in the day, full factory race bikes put out less than half that. I guess we need that much power to keep up with the 800 horsepower cars. A bit over the top, I would surmise. I can’t quite figure out where I could ride 200mph, or how I would pay the resulting ticket! But, perhaps, I’m just getting old. Smile …

Rod Ratzlaff/Florissant, Colorado

  • Updated on Jun 14, 2023
  • Originally Published on Jun 6, 2023
Tagged with: Bultaco, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, reader letters
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