Kawasaki S2 350SS MKII


Make Model

Kawasaki S2 350SS MKII


1973 - 74


Two stroke, transverse three cylinder


346 cc / 21 cu-in
Cooling System Air cooled
Bore x Stroke 53 x 52.3 mm
Compression Ratio 7,3:1


3x Mikuni VM24SC, Ø 24 mm carburetors


Battery and coil 
Starting Kick

Max Power

45 hp / 33.5 kW @ 8000 rpm

Max Torque

30.7 lb-ft 41.6 Nm @ 7000 rpm


5 Speed 
Final Drive Chain
Frame Double cradle tubular

Front Suspension

Telescopic Hydraulic forks

Rear Suspension

Dual shocks, Swing arm

Front Brakes

180mm Drum

Rear Brakes

180mm Drum

Front Tyre

3.00 -18

Rear Tyre

3.50 -18
Trail 109 mm / 4.3 in
Dimensions Length 2010 mm / 79 in
Width 1095 mm / 43.1 in
Wheelbase 1330 mm / 52 in
Seat Height 800 mm / 31 in

Dry Weight

151 kg / 332.8lbs

Fuel Capacity 

14 Litres / 3.7 US gal

After the success of Honda it was not so easy in the late sixties for a new Japanese marquee to create an image of itself. Kawasaki, however, succeeded brilliantly in establishing a reputation as an exclusive specialist in sporting motorcycles. It hung on to its reputation in racing, even though its range is considerably larger nowadays.

Bone Splintering Acceleration

It all began in 1969 when Kawasaki introduced the 500 H1, a three cylinder machine with terrifying acceleration that gave a new dimension to the concept of sporting bikes. Then Kawasaki's French importer, Xavier Maugendre, had the vision to form the Kawa-Godier endurance racing team, which finished first and second in the 1974 Bol d'Or and went one better in 1975 event by coming in 1-2-3.

One Make Formula

In 1971, Maugendre, a dyed in the wool racing enthusiast, inaugurated the "Coupe Kawasaki-Moto Revue", a one make formula that would be copied all over Europe. Initially, the Coupe Kawasaki was based on the 350cc Avenger twin but enjoyed its greatest success from 1972 on, when the formula centered on the three cylinder 350 S2. this was derived from the famous 500 H1, probably the most explosive motorcycle of its era, and - though it performed better on a circuit than on the road - the S2 was a little more civilized than the H1.

Road Test

When Kawasaki sprang their 500 triple on the market in 1969 they obviously hadn't anticipated the full impact that the scorcher would have on the market. Their production fell short of demand at first but it wasn't long before they geared up to meet it. Hardly had the 500 story cooled off when POW! There was their 750, hairier than its smaller brother and in many ways a better motorcycle. Soon after they hit with another three cylinder, a 350. This year their big news is of course their 903 four and, somewhat overshadowed, another three—a 250. Aside from the big new four Kawasaki seems to have all the roadster bases covered with their full lineup of triples. And we still haven't caught up with road testing them.

Previously Modern Cycle tested the 500 and just last year the 750. What with all the other strange and wonderful products on the market we weren't able to work the 350 in, until now, and we're quite happy that we waited because it's considerably improved over the earlier one and fits into what we believe will be an interesting project for this year. More on that later.

The 350, like the two larger triples, is a piston port design constructed with Kawasaki's standard horizontally split crankcase scheme. Despite being a total scale down from the larger engines the 350 enjoys a stout lower end that appears as though it would handle a great deal more displacement. The crankcase is heavily webbed and the crank assembly is set in generous ball bearing mains. Rollers on the big end and needles at the wrist pins neatly tie the reciprocating machinery together.

Injection lubrication is employed with progressive, demand metering that produces oil smoke only at startup; when the engine is warmed to operating temperature the exhaust is acceptably clean with exhaust residue at the muffler exits minimal.

The intake tract consists of three Mikunis mounted on short manifolds. The carburetors connect to the air box through a triplex hose arrangement. Low speed intake velocities are apparently brisk; the engine pulls extremely well off the bottom end for its size. And if one chooses to wind it past 6000 in low and second it really begins to work, almost automatically aviating the front wheel as it gets its second wind. This bit of sport is never missed, however, if gear changes in the lower cogs are made before 6000; the engine is still impressively strong.

Intake and exhaust noise are very low and pleasantly throaty — on a small scale. The noise is well within current standards and the engine really has to be on the boil to be heard 100 yards away. The ignition is a conventional pointed type which works well throughout the engine's 9000 rpm range. While an electronic ignition might be hoped for it seems to be of little benefit.

The 350's gearbox is smooth, precise and with well chosen ratios. Selector movement is light and short and neutral is instantly acquired.

Like the engine, the 350's chassis is a scale down of the larger units. A full double cradle number, the main frame feels less flexible than that of the 500. To be sure, the torque of the 350 is considerably less than that of the 500, and too, the shorter chassis offers less mechanical advantage for twisting the swing arm out of alignment.

The front suspension uses Kawasaki's Hatta pattern fork legs, again scaled down from the larger units. The forks damp well in both directions and offer more thane adequate travel for road use. They offer the advantage of chassis tuning through standing height adjustment in the triple clamps. The rear suspension units respond nicely and enjoy better than average damping for Japanese made shocks, although some of this must be attributed to the motorcycle's relatively low weight.

We're pleased that Kawasaki has graced the 350 with a disc brake on the front wheel. The brake offers a wide margin of stopping power with excellent control and feel. Puck life should be long, again because of the weight or lack of it. The brake is

quieter than most discs on the market and would indicate that Kawasaki has cured the chattered problem that plagued them in the past. The rear brake, a pedestrian drum effort, also evidences a good deal of stopping strength. It too has excellent control and feel. In combination, during maximum effort stops, the brakes scrub the little whistler down to a walk in less time than it takes to tell about it.

The 350's electrical system adequately handles the demands of all those wonderous lights. The tail and stop lights are comfortingly bright and the unit is one of the better design solutions, integrated neatly into the Kamm-type tail. The headlight is likewise a nice piece of packaging, very efficient looking. The nacelle is found throughout Kawasaki's line and is certain to be popular with Café racer builders. Its focused beam is acceptably bright, and the unit is circuited with a high-beam flasher connected to the dipper switch. All of the lighting controls are readily accessible with no extra hand movements required.

The little Kaw's instrumentation is nicely positioned, in full view even when a full coverage helmet is worn. The indicator lights are bright and can be seen in daylight. The speedometer reads surprisingly close to true speed, and the tachometer responds as though it really is connected to the engine.

Rider comfort is exceptionally good, even for larger than average bods. Despite being a triple the engine is quite narrow and provides a natural leg spread. Peg-to-pedal distances offer an instant homey feeling. The level and angle of the handlebars are well done, requiring no stretching or twisting of the wrists. Unfortunately, like the bars on Honda's 350 Four, the Kawasaki units are homely and spoil the otherwise overall excellent scale of the motorcycle. Two-up riding—with the inevitable qualification—for a 350 is comfortable for rider and passenger alike. The passenger pegs are well placed on auxiliary loops which invite the installation of a pair of rear-sets for the pavement scratchers.

With the exception of the bars and a hideous front fender the 350's styling is super. Just as we defended the shape of the bars we must also defend the fender in that it offers really good protection from water. Perhaps if it were painted rather than plated it wouldn't be such an eyesore. The sporty Kammback houses the tool box with room enough left over to accommodate a camera, or a lunch bag, or a change of underwear, depending upon your mission. As an urban transport the Kawasaki 350 is a pleasant, spirited piece that breezes nimbly through traffic. It gets underway with no fuss and doesn't require throttle blipping to keep it running clean. It motors contentedly along on surface streets in third and fourth without losing its edge.

On the highway the Kawasaki's displacement exacts its inevitable toll and makes it a little small for serious long-distance touring for anyone of average or larger size. However, if one is willing to exchange the instant torque of the big fellows for a little patience, and accept the bonus of outstandingly nimble handling the Kawasaki 350 is more than adequate for a traveling companion.

In our final tally we rate the Kawasaki quite high. It's a well sorted out little motorcycle that is at once quite friendly and docile and yet always ready to offer some scaled down racer-like thrills with very little urging. With its inherent mechanical simplicity and robust rolling pieces it's perhaps very close to being bulletproof. We like it so much, in fact, that we're going to keep it, ride it like it is for awhile, and then use it as the basis for an upcoming project bike, a maximum effort GP class racer in street-legal trappings. Already the details are being worked out and the goodies gathered. Be sure to watch for it at a race track or Diary Queen nearby.