Was the 1969 Kawasaki H1 Mach III really this simple?

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Surely this can’t be all the parts that went into the 1969 Kawasaki H1 Mach III. 60bhp and 50lb/ft from a 498cc two-stroke can’t be that simple, can it? Oh right, they left out the handling.

via Motosblog.fr

  • Sean Smith

    Drum brakes, flexy-flyer frame and (once you tune it and add a set of decent pipes) a deranged 500 smoker?

    I had a boss that used to ride one of these, and he told me it was terrifying. This is coming from a guy who raced top fuel dragsters.

    • Zeitgeist

      Yeah the weird thing is you can not see the hinge in the frame! Those bikes were freaky fast and sprung demons out of the bars whenever I sat on them. lol

      • Sean Smith

        Just cause you can’t see it, doesn’t mean that hinge isn’t there.

        The funny thing is, a modern 600 makes nearly double the power, but it comes on in such a tame way that you’d never really know it.

      • Cameron Baum

        You beat me to it.

        The one I had definitely had a hinge in the frame somewhere.

        Oh, and the brakes didn’t much…

  • Zeitgeist

    By the way in those old pics the snowon the ground looks like lovely riding weather for tights and no gloves.

  • http://twitter.com/greatistheworld will

    I’ve met three people that’ve ridden one, each has mentioned the words “taught me what a highside was” to some effect.

  • Mike

    My favorite comment I ever heard was about the H2 and turning, “I’d rather ride my mother around a turn.”

  • Hiwatt Scott


    (And yes, I owned one once. Once.)

    • Tom V

      UMMM – At the time — THAT bike was the “World’s fastest production motorcycle” Sooo – If THAT is over-rated – What does/did it make any of the other bikes “back then” ??

  • John Grinde

    The red bike’s got a front disc brake so it isn’t a ’69. In the mid 70s a friend of mine had a blue Kawa 750 triple; I couldn’t ride behind him for more than a few minutes without risking asphyxiation.

  • W

    The 750 was pure evil.

    The photo seems short on fasteners but then again they used to shoot out from various locations at irregular intervals….

  • Telekom

    I like the exploded view pic, but I can’t see a chain or sprockets. Are there a few things missing?

    • TeeJay

      Chain is the near the handle bar (mid-right), front sprocket shall be on the gearbox (cannot see), rear sprocket is 2nd piece right from the rear wheel (bottom of the page).

      Dial again “Telekom”. ;-)

      • Telekom

        Cheers Teejay, My browser doesn’t allow me to see the pics from this site full size, so I was looking at a pic the size of a credit card. I stand corrected, you eagle-eyed grease monkey. :)

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Join the majority of Internet users and download Firefox already! It’s free and, unlike Internet Explorer, it actually works.

        • TeeJay

          Cheers m8!
          Further to comment from Wes: if there is any stupid company police on that machine disabling installations or web-scripts, you are still free to use the “save target as” on the picture from the context menu (right click).

          Grease monkey: I lol’d on that, thx! :)

  • Cru Jones

    A much better ‘exploded’ parts image from a much cooler bike (RC166):


  • TeeJay
  • JT

    Hey fellas, take a closer look at that frame…It ain’t that bad. Way sturdier and better braced than a contemporary Triumph. In fact, if you were looking at the frame out of context, it could easily be mistaken for an 80′s Japanese streetbike frame. The frame wasn’t the problem for these motorcycles. It was in fact inverted weight transfer and chain pull angles, exacerbated by a narrow and abrupt powerband. Everyone that found themselves in the weeds on one of these will tell you that they had just engaged the powerband as they were taking a corner, or over irregular terrain. The engine was too low, not enough angle on the swingarm, compressed rear suspension, extended forks, out of whack trail values, etc, etc. The physics of dynamic motorcycle chassis articulation were still in infancy, and the H1 and H2 were great learning exercises for Japanese engineers (not so great learning exercises for their owners). — JT

  • Recce

    Come on guys, it was 1969, take a look at the cars from that era. It was all about straight line performance. These bikes were capable of embarrassing nearly everything else on the road in the quarter mile, 12.0 et as I recall. They represented an incredible value and established Kawasaki as the major performance player. Curves? Brakes? All in due time.

  • Ian

    They weren’t all that bad ..a lot of myths as well.
    The CB 750 also wiggled really bad.
    So did the Triumph 650 .
    man this was the 60′s .
    The Triples are pretty tame by today’s standards BUT a still LOT of FUN to ride!!

  • porschedave

    First that is a 1970 model,
    The 1969 is worth up to
    20 times the value it sold for?

  • Tom V

    The least they could have done was some “proper” research :) As stated – THAT bike is a 1970 – the ’69 was white with a blue streak on the tank – aptly named the “Blue Streak”. They are actually showing “extra parts” that a ’69 didn’t have – one of which is the punch plate that covered the A & B boxes. AND – that bike could easily blow away any of the larger displacement bikes of the time at the strip – 883 Sportster – 750 Norton – Honda 750 – the list could go “on and on” :)

  • John

    I know a “bit” about triples, as I have been modifying, riding and road racing them since 1978.

    I will admit, “stock” handling, (or lack of)can be very scary as was mentioned. It wasn’t the frame as per Kevin Cameron.

    It was as mentioned, a rear weight bias, wrong rake and trail, shocks with no damping, and hard springs. Swingarm bushings made of plastic that wore out in 1000 miles from new. Add in fish oil in the front forks, and bad spring rates. Combine that with the easy wheelies that beat the steering stem bearings into “click stop” movement crap tires, and you get the picture.

    The good news, is you can make the bigger triples (H1/H2)very nice handlers with upgrades in those areas.

    If you want to see some great bikes, stock and modded, go to:

    You won’t find a better bunch of enthusiasts!

    And if you want to see my bikes in action, just put in johnnydanger57 in the search on youtube.com

    These bike are a blast when done correctly……

  • Showbiz

    Man I sure could use some of those sweet parts on my 1970 Candy Red H1 500 triple! Awesome machine back then and even more Awesome now.

  • Eric Bickel

    I’ve STILL got one (a blue 1971 – prettiest one they made) and I’ll never sell it. At one point I had FIVE of them at once and also an H2. I took a bunch of spare parts and grafted on a 1974 front end. This gave me decent forks, a disk brake, and a steering damper. Then I added swingarm bushings, slightly longer (decent) shocks, chrome Wirges chambers, K & N filters, a voltmeter (ask me about stator failure) and a few other accessories. Except for crappy mileage, I have run down NUMEROUS modern sportbikes IN THE TWISTIES and walked away from them. I’ve been riding since 1969 and these things aren’t that bad once you make them work. Not that scary either. Rode the Feather River canyon with a bunch of guys on FJR Yamahas. Many would purposely leave ahead of me after the rest stop to hear me come through the tunnels! BTW, I have 41 bikes and an Aprilia Tuono is my regular street ride. Blue smoke forever!

  • Allan

    I used to own a 69 H1 after buying in in the mid 70s. I had 2 issues, wires that fed the CDI fractured from vibration and a tendancy to have tank slappers. The tank slappers ended when I replaced the Yokohama tires with BTs. Yes, it had a flex frame so I rode within the limits of the bike. In its day, it was fast and reliable outside of the cdi wire problem. I loved how the power went vertical at 5500 rpm and would mousetrap in 1st gear if I wasn’t careful. I loved the way it would keep a 750 Honda at bay until about 90 mph. I retired it in the 80s and sold it in 2000. Right now, I wish I had kept it, it would be worth a lot of $$$ as it was mint. I will hang on to my 86 GSX1100R for the same reasons.

  • Allan

    Something I forgot. I did replace the swing arm bushings with bushings from a trials bike which were the same specs other than being lubed steel. The swing arm only went up and down after that and handling did improve vastly. There were other areas where Kaw could have done better in frame design. Having said that, design is a moving target and the bikes we have today are as good as they are because of the mistakes in the past from which we learn. People were critcal of the drum front brakes but if properly set up, they did a great job once and once (at a time) is all you need. Metalic slintered linings would have been a real improvement. Disk brakes even better still but this was 1969 – 41 years ago.

  • Bob

    I had a 1970 back in the day. Never should have sold it. Now have a 69, had it on the road a few times to check it out. what a blast, the sound always turns heads! Had it to 70= mph on the original tires then backed off,only 3rd gear, Cool bike