Triple Trouble: 800cc, 130-hp Kawasaki two-stroke triple from Ralf Kraemer…
The Kawasaki H1 Mach III hit showroom floors in 1968, a 500cc two-stroke triple that cost less than $1000 and could outrun nearly any muscle car of the time, smoking through the stoplight-to-stoplight drag races of the era. With its flexible chassis and wheelie-happy weight bias, the Kawasaki Triple quickly earned a reputation as a “Widowmaker.” Motorcycle historian Clement Salvadori, writing about the bike for the Guggenheim Museum’s 1999 The Art of the Motorcycle exhibition, said of the Kawasaki Triple:
“Motorcycle lore has it that very few original owners of the Mach III survived.”
In 1970, Kawasaki introduced the H1R as their 500cc GP road racer, finishing second in the constructors’ championship that year. In 1974, Kawasaki went to work on a water-cooled triple. The result was the KR750, a two-stroke “Green Meanie” that was incredibly fast from the outset:
“Riding the KR does open the rider’s eyes somewhat, the triple is a real screamin’ demon, unlike the relatively tame TZ and TR750 Suzuki, a real man’s two stroke with a power delivery more akin to a highly tuned motocross machine than a big capacity road race bike.” —Classic Motorbikes
Enter our new friend Ralf Kraemer of Germany, a 59 y.o. rider, builder, and enthusiast who bought his first Kawasaki Triple at the tender age of 20 years old — a KH500 he still owns! Today, he runs the only German-speaking Kawasaki Triples forum, Triple Klinik GL, and owns a whole stable of Kawasaki two-strokes — some of them original restorations, some of them custom conversions like this “KR800.”
The bike you see here started life as a 1972 Kawasaki H1B, but only the frame is original. Says Ralf:
“The motorcycle was supposed to resemble the Kawasaki racing machines (Green Meanie) from the 1970s. Modern components and more performance.”
The engine, originally a 750cc unit, has been bored to 800cc, paired with Mikuni TM34 carbs and a trio of self-made pipes calculated to match the powerplant. The forks are from a Ducati, the swingarm from a Honda NC30, and the seat and tank can be adjusted to fit the rider’s needs. Overall, this is one of the meanest Triples we’ve ever seen, and Ralf says the performance is off the charts.
“The motorcycle can now be ridden like a modern motorcycle. No more wobbling. The performance is sensational.”
Below, we get the full story on this lime Green Meanie.
Kawasaki KR800: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Ralf Kraemer and I am 59 years old. I live in Bergisch Gladbach near Cologne. I bought my first Kawasaki Triple (KH500) when I was 20 years old. It was a KH500 that I still have today. Many more triples followed. After the restoration of many original triples, conversions were added. I run the only German-speaking forum. Name is Triple Klinik GL. The Kawasaki Triple is my hobby!
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
The basis (only the frame) was a 1972 Kawasaki H1B. Modification in 2003/2004
• Why was this bike built?
I built it for myself.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The motorcycle was supposed to resemble the Kawasaki racing machines (Green Meanie) from the 1970s. Modern components and more performance.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The engine was a 750cc. This was bored out to 800cc. The fork is from a Ducati and the swingarm from a Honda NC30. Carbs are Mikuni TM34-2, pipes self-made, tank from Habermann, and seat unknown.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Yes, it’s my KR800.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
The motorcycle can now be ridden like a modern motorcycle. No more wobbling. The performance is sensational. The seat and tank can be adjusted in two stages.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The exhaust system was replaced with the one that’s installed today. It was calculated with a program suitable for the engine. The performance corresponds exactly to the calculation.